By now it is quite obvious to the most oblivious observer that President Obama has failed miserably in his attempt to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay. You'll remember that he told everyone who would listen back in 2008 that one of the first things he would do as president was close it down.
Like many of his other promises for progressive reform, his promise to close down GITMO has fallen to the wayside. He has been far too interested in killing innocent men, women and children with remote controlled drones to put any effort into closing Guantanamo. He was more concerned about smoothing over the summary execution of three US citizens than in ending the program of torture on Cuba.
If you follow the mainstream media you probably aren't aware that more than 100 of the detainees at Guantanamo are on hunger strike to protest the conditions in the prison. These are men who have been held without charge for, in some cases, over a decade. History will not judge the US kindly over its treatment of the detainees - the constant hysteria for the war on terror has been used to dull the American people's senses when it comes to concepts such as due process and rule of law.
Now the government is fearful that its power to compel the detainees to do what it wants them to is waning. In order to show the detainees who's boss, prison officials have begun force-feeding 30 of the hunger strikers.
This memo obtained by Al-Jazeera spells out the program of forced compliance. You see, it just wouldn't do for a detainee to drop dead from starvation at GITMO. That might just garner a bit of press attention (though just a bit). That might just pique the American public's interest in what is being done in our name. It might re-ignite a debate on the regime of torture started under Bush and accelerated under Obama.
For those detainees who are subject to being force-fed a liquid diet, they are strapped to a chair while a feeding tube is fed through their nose down to their stomach. A mask is placed over the detainee's face and liquid is fed through the tube for up to two hours. Afterward the detainee is placed in a so-called "dry cell" and observed for 45-60 minutes for any signs of induced vomiting. If the detainee vomits he is placed back in the chair and the process is begun anew.
These forced feedings are nothing more than an extension of the torture regime that detainees around the world have been subject to - ever since the Bush administration decided that torture wasn't torture if you called it something else. If there were justice in this world, George W. Bush would sit in a courtroom in The Hague facing charges of human rights violations at the International Criminal Court. Maybe one day Barack Obama could be his cellmate.
The men who are being held illegally at GITMO are adults who are more than capable of making medical decisions for themselves. They have the right to withhold their consent from being force-fed. They have the right to refuse to eat. They have the right to die with dignity, if they so choose. Sadly it is the only form of protest that is garnering any attention to the ways in which the United States is imposing the law of rule.
The Obama administration and other apologists for GITMO claim that the remaining detainees can't be released because there are no assurances they won't immediately take up arms against the United States. Well, to be quite honest, who the fuck could blame them? If they weren't already inclined to take up arms you can bet they sure as hell are now after the way they have been treated and the myriad ways in which the US government has violated their human rights.
It's time to man up, President. Either the men in Guantanamo have committed crimes against the United States or they haven't. If they haven't, it's time to set them free. If they have committed crimes, set their cases for trial.
If President Obama had any humanity he would put an end to the forced feeding of hunger strikers and he would address the problems at Guantanamo. Unfortunately for the detainees, they don't have an effective lobby and they don't have millions of dollars to funnel to Super PACS. All they have are their lives to give in their cause.