Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Guantánamo Hunger Strike

"The exact number participating in the hunger strike is unclear because the military will not talk about it, but based on accounts emerging from the base through attorney-client notes as they get “cleared” by the military, we know the number is large. According to my Algerian client, Abdul Razak Ali, more than 46 prisoners are on hunger strike, but he is only in one section of the base, so presumably there are many more. The men participating in the hunger strike are force-fed “Ensure” twice a day. Each man is strapped to a chair (the model I saw was made of wood). A plastic tube approximately 30 inches in length is forced
down his esophagus... This is what your country is doing—in your name...

Every morning they insert the tube through Al-Haj’s left nostril and every afternoon, his right—presumably to avoid excessive pressure on a single nostril. According to Al-Haj, the pain of putting the tube up his nose is considerable; the tube’s diameter is 12 millimeters, (three times the clinically recommended width of a nasogastric tube) and he gags when it passes through his throat. As it descends into his body, the attendants blow air into the tube to hear where it is, and then they put a stethoscope near his heart to listen. Most days he suffers in silence until tears stream down his cheeks. Three times they have inserted the tube the wrong way, so it went into his lungs. When they think that has happened they check by putting water into the tube, which makes him choke. Al-Haj says that never once have the hospital personnel apologized when the tube entered his lung...

Why does Al-Haj continue to endure this torture? He said, “Food is not enough for life. If there is no air, could you live on food alone? Freedom is just as important as food or air. Give me freedom, and I’ll eat. Every day they ask me, when will I eat. Every day, I say, ‘Tomorrow.’ Every day. It’s what Scarlett O’Hara says at the end of
Gone With the Wind: ‘Tomorrow is another day.'’"

The Guantánamo Hunger Strike -- In These Times

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