The U.S. military says 89 detainees at the facility, which houses some 460 enemy combatants captured on the battlefield, are starving -- possibly to death. Oh, but that’s not the abuse. After all, the hungry prisoners are actually starving themselves. They’re on a hunger strike.
The supposed abuse? American forces are feeding their prisoners, by force if necessary.
Such life-preserving measures are too much for some doctors. In March more than 250 medical professionals signed an open letter to the British medical journal The Lancet. “We urge the U.S. government to ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians and that techniques such as force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned,” the doctors wrote. They insist that, if the prisoners want to starve themselves to death, they ought to be allowed to.
Many Americans would probably agree. Few would stand in the way of detained terrorists who want to kill themselves (without taking anyone else with them). Maybe we could even provide some tall buildings in case the prisoners want to jump off. Not one of these prisoners is incapacitated, as Terri Schiavo was. They’re all capable of taking action.
But that assumes these men are really trying to kill themselves. In fact they just seem to be attempting to get some press. “The hunger-strike technique is consistent with al Qaeda practice,” Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand told reporters, “and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention to bring international pressure on the United States to release them back to the battlefield.”
The prisoners’ ploy is certainly falling on fertile ground. Plenty of international organizations want these men released.
Amnesty International insists Guantanamo Bay “must be closed down” in part because many “detainees allege they have been subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” Torture -- which in this case involves being fed.
Human Rights Watch is even more direct. “Any detainees implicated in criminal acts can and should be charged now. The rest should be released,” Joanne Mariner, the group’s terrorism and counterterrorism program director, wrote last month.