The BBC is reporting that 13 hunger strikers at the US-run concentration camp at Guantanamo are now being force-fed. (Many of you might miss the headline, as the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s child apparently gets top bidding.) In any case, it is no surprise that the official statement on behalf of the US Navy is that the force-feeding is “required to ensure the good health and nutrition of the detainees.”
Gerry Kelly, an Irish republican ex-prisoner and Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast (soon to take a junior post in the new Office of First and Deputy First Minister in May), was force-fed 170 times over a 205-day hunger strike in an English jail in an effort to be transferred to a prison in the north of Ireland. He described the horrors of being force-fed to the North Belfast News in 2004:
They press their knuckles into your jaws and press in hard. The way they finally did force feed me was getting forceps and running them up and down my gums. I opened my mouth, but I was able to resist after that. Then they tried there’s a part of your nose, like a membrane and it’s very tender and they started on that. It’s hard to describe the pain. It’s like someone pushing a knitting needle into the side of your eye. As soon as I opened my mouth they put in this wooden bit with a hole in the middle for the tube. They rammed it between my teeth and then tied it with cord around my head. Then they got paraffin and forced it down the tube. The danger is that every time it happens you think you’re going to die. The only things that move are your eyes. They get a funnel and put the stuff down.
Still, the US government maintains that force-feeding is a very safe, common medical procedure.
Last year around this time, I wrote an article to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Irish hunger strikes in which I highlighted the horrors of Guantanamo. From that article:
Morrison and many others believe that the lack of popular British support enabled Thatcher’s intransigence and allowed ten men to die as a result of the Irish hunger strikes in 1981. There is an eerie similarity to the United States government’s arrogance regarding Guantánamo, as the Bush administration continues to deny the internees their basic human rights under federal and international law and maintains its position that the “enemy combatants” currently being held are a threat to national security despite rapidly surmounting evidence to the contrary.
This classification as a non-person, in both the legal and social realms, allows the government to manipulate people’s fear of terrorism into a calculated dismissal of the conditions of the prisoners at Guantánamo.
Has anything changed?