GUANTANAMO'S COMMANDING OFFICER, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, now acknowledges that detainees who refuse to eat are being force-fed.
The commander, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, head of the United States Southern Command, said soldiers at Guantánamo began strapping some of the detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed them and isolate them from one another after finding that some were deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed.
"It was causing problems because some of these hard-core guys were getting worse," General Craddock said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. Explaining the use of the restraint chairs, he added, "The way around that is you have to make sure that purging doesn't happen."
On Tuesday, General Craddock said he had reviewed the use of the restraint chairs, as had senior officials at the Department of Defense, and they concluded that the practice was "not inhumane." General Craddock left no doubt, however, that commanders had decided to try to make life less comfortable for the hunger strikers, and that the measures were seen as successful.
"Pretty soon it wasn't convenient, and they decided it wasn't worth it," he said of the hunger strikers. "A lot of the detainees said: 'I don't want to put up with this. This is too much of a hassle.' "
Here is a description of the treatment that Gen. Craddock said the striking detainees found "inconvenient" and a "hassle":
According to newly declassified interview notes, several detainees who had been on hunger strikes told their lawyers during visits late last month that the military had begun using harsher methods more widely in the second week of January. One Yemeni detainee, Emad Hassan, described the chair to lawyers in interviews on Jan. 24 and 25.
"The head is immobilized by a strap so it can't be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and the legs are shackled," the notes quote Mr. Hassan as saying. "They ask, 'Are you going to eat or not?' and if not, they insert the tube. People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go. They have sometimes put diapers on them."
Another former hunger striker, Isa al-Murbati of Bahrain, described a similar experience to his lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, in an interview on Jan. 28.
On Jan. 10, he said, a lieutenant came to his isolation cell and told him that if he did not agree to eat solid food, he would be strapped into the chair and force-fed. After he refused to comply, he said, soldiers picked him up by the throat, threw him to the floor and strapped him to the restraint chair.
Like Mr. Hassan, Mr. Murbati said he had been fed two large bags of liquid formula, which were forced into his stomach very quickly. "He felt pain like a 'knife in the stomach' " Mr. Colangelo-Bryan said.
Detainees said the Guantánamo medical staff also began inserting and removing the long plastic feeding tubes that were threaded through the detainees' nasal passages and into their stomachs at every feeding, a practice that caused sharp pain and frequent bleeding, they said. Until then, doctors there said, they had been allowing the hunger strikers to leave their feeding tubes in, to reduce discomfort.
The military's response?
Military spokesmen have generally discounted the complaints, saying the prisoners are for the most part terrorists, trained by Al Qaeda to use false stories as propaganda.
In a letter to a British physician and human rights activist, Dr. David J. Nicholl, on Dec. 12, the former chief medical officer at Guantánamo, Capt. John S. Edmondson of the Navy, wrote that his staff was not force-feeding any detainees but "providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."
General Craddock suggested that the medical staff had indulged the hunger strikers to the point that they had been allowed to choose the color of their feeding tubes.
Right, right, right. First we are told that the goal is to make the detainees as uncomfortable as possible, so they will give up the hunger strike. We are informed that "most of the prisoners are terrorists" whom Al Qaeda has trained to make up convincing lies about being abused. Never mind that a report released earlier this month concludes (based entirely on data from the Department of Defense) that over half of the more than 500 men still being held at Guantanamo have not committed any hostile act against the United States, that only 8% had ever fought with Al Qaeda, that 40% have no "definitive connection" to Al Qaeda, and that 18% have no "definitive connection" either to Al Qaeda or to the Taliban.
Then, having been told that the hunger strikers are Al Qaeda-trained terrorists, we are asked to believe that the military command has "indulged" them to the point where they can choose the color of the feeding tubes that will be forced down their noses. And that prisoners who are engaged in a hunger strike to protest their confinement are "volunteering" to be fed intravenously.
Still, there are people who have deified Pres. Bush so much, and who are so blinded by their worshipful feelings for him, that they will believe these "explanations," even though they contradict demonstrable truth and are not even internally consistent.
Perhaps it's easier to do that than to acknowledge that this administration is condoning behavior and practices that are more reminiscent of Nazi Germany than of Jeffersonian democracy.