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"Humane and compassionate"

Eli Stephens, Left I on the News

February 9, 2006

The chief military spokesman at Guantanamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, said yesterday force-feeding of hunger strikers is being carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner." And really, who can disagree?

In recent weeks, the officials said, guards have begun strapping recalcitrant detainees into "restraint chairs," sometimes for hours a day, to feed them through tubes and prevent them from deliberately vomiting afterward. Detainees who refuse to eat have also been placed in isolation for extended periods to keep them from being pressured by other hunger strikers.

The lawyers [for the "detainees"] said other measures used to dissuade the hunger strikers included placing them in uncomfortably cold air-conditioned isolation cells, depriving them of "comfort items" like blankets and books and sometimes using riot-control soldiers to compel the prisoners to sit still while long plastic tubes were threaded down their nasal passages and into their stomachs.
And why are they doing this exactly? Out of concern for the lives of the hunger strikers? Out of "compassion"? Hardly.
Some officials said the new actions reflected concern at Guantanamo and the Pentagon that the protests were becoming difficult to control and that the death of one or more prisoners could intensify international criticism of the prison.
And, since "freedom of the press" is so much in the news of late, let's pause for a moment to remember just who one of those people being deprived of all semblance of human rights in Guantanamo is:
Sami al Hajj was a journalist working for the television station al Jazeera. He was visiting his brother and sister in Damascus when the station called him to ask him to go on his second ever assignment. It was around 22 September 2001, less than two weeks after the attacks on the US mainland on 11 September, and he was being asked to cover the international conflict in Afghanistan.

His brother told Amnesty International that Sami al Hajj was reluctant and nervous about going to the conflict zone, but decided that it would not be his best career interests to turn down such a prestigious assignment.

Sami al Hajj travelled with a film crew to Afghanistan, via Pakistan. After 18 days covering the conflict he returned to Pakistan, thinking his assignment over. In December 2001 he was asked by the television station to return to Afghanistan to cover the inauguration of the new government there. Before he and his crew managed to reach the border, they were stopped by Pakistani police. Sami al-Hajj was the only one of his crew taken into custody.
That's just the start of the story, of course. Since then al-Hajj has been held in both Bagram, Kandahar, and Guantanamo, been tortured, and subjected to treatment I won't even repeat here; you can read about it on the Amnesty International site linked above. But, since we're talking about hunger strikes, here's what happened to al-Hajj when he began a hunger strike -- he was beaten severely, thrown down a set of stairs, and placed into isolation.

His only offense, as far as we know (to be clear, he hasn't been charged with anything)? Being a journalist from al Jazeera. And no, he was not "picked up on the battlefield" as the Bush administration repeatedly claims about all the "detainees" (with little or no rebuttal from the media or the "opposition" party, I might add).

Freedom of the press indeed.


:: Article nr. 20455 sent on 09-feb-2006 21:54 ECT

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Link: lefti.blogspot.com/2006_02_01_lefti_archive.html#113945947816385715



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