Force-feeding at Gitmo: ‘What you have said in darkness, shall be proclaimed in light’

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A “feeding chair” at Guantanamo.

Today there will be a public witness in front of the White House at noon to demand the closing of Guantanamo and a restoration of the rule of law. As Ramadan starts, there are 106 prisoners on hunger strike and at least 45 are being force fed.

Luke 12:3 seems appropriate here:  “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.”

Below is a note from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in D.C. and Witness Against Torture:

“Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?”  Adnan Latif, Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner held for ten years without ever having been charged with a crime and cleared for release on four separate occasions, found dead in his cell on September 8, 2012.

July 12 will be day 156 of the Guantanamo hunger strike. As many as 120 prisoners are now participating in the hunger strike. The military admits that 45 are being forcibly fed by tubes snaked through their noses twice a day because they have lost so much weight.

Prisoners have appealed to doctors not to participate in this forced feeding. Obama, who knows force feeding is condemned by the AMA and the United Nations, said on May 17, as he once again promised to close Guantanamo, “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are?”

Apparently it is. And as Andy Worthington says, “We wait and we wait and still nothing happens.” Instead an additional 125 U.S. troops were recently sent to the prison to “contain” the situation.

On July 8 U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed a Syrian detainee’s request to end force-feeding saying she lacks jurisdiction to rule on conditions at the prison. However, she condemned the military’s practice of force-feeding detainees as “painful, humiliating and degrading” and said President Obama has the authority to stop it.

The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than 11 years without any charge or fair trial, with no end to their detention in sight although 86 have been cleared for release for years. Nearly two months has passed since Yemeni officials seeking the repatriation of the 56 Yemenis cleared for release agreed to set up a rehabilitation center to help reintegrate them. But nothing has happened since Obama lifted his ban on their repatriation.

Finally, word of the resistance actions is making it to the men at Guantanamo, and making an enormous difference to them. An attorney for several men at Guantanamo recently wrote Witness Against Torture to say:

I was at GTMO all week meeting with clients. I wanted to share with you the following words from . . . Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody without fair process since 2002.

Moath was one of the very first prisoners to reach GTMO, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). He has been on hunger strike since February and the U.S. military is now force-feeding him. Moath shared the following during our meeting, translated as accurately as I could from the Arabic:

“I recently had an interesting conversation with one of the Navy officers in charge of my force-feeding here at Guantanamo. He told he was here to make sure I was treated humanely as I was being force-fed. So I answered through the interpreter, saying:

‘What I am enduring now is torture and the American people will tell you as much. Humanitarian organizations, various human rights bodies, as well as American groups such as Witness Against Torture and Doctors Without Borders have all declared that what is taking place at Guantanamo is a violation of human rights and that it amounts to torture.’

The officer’s face changed and he walked away.”

The men at GTMO are fully aware of your work and their eyes literally tear up when I describe the various protest actions you and your fellow activists have undertaken in solidarity with their plight. To say they are grateful would be an understatement.

In response to this moving statement, WAT members Jeremy Varon and Datt Daloisio wrote: “Our eyes fill with tears as we contemplate the significance of what Moath shared: that our actions — however inadequate we feel them to be — help the men at Guantanamo resist assaults on their dignity and confront their persecutors, with added confidence in the justice of their position and the world’s concern for their plight. There can be no greater affirmation of the value of our efforts, nor greater motivation for us to work harder.”

Murder Most Vile: The Guantanamo “Suicides”

gitmo_bugFrom Jan. 11 – Jan. 22, Witness Against Torture is fasting, vigiling, and occasionally committing civil disobedience in various venues around Washington, D.C., to hold President Obama to his promise to close the extra-judicial prison camp at Guantánamo Bay and investigate torture by U.S. military, U.S. intelligence organizations, and U.S. defense sub-contractors.

In the midst of this, Scott Horton’s mind-blowing expose on the Guantánamo prisoner “suicides” that occurred in 2006 was finally published in the March 2010 issue of Harper’s. Here’s the opening:

The Guantánamo “Suicides”: A Camp Delta sergeant blows the whistle
When President Barack Obama took office last year, he promised to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great.” Toward that end, the president issued an executive order declaring that the extra-constitutional prison camp at Guantánamo Naval Base “shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than one year from the date of this order.” Obama has failed to fulfill his promise. Some prisoners there are being charged with crimes, others released, but the date for closing the camp seems to recede steadily into the future. Furthermore, new evidence now emerging may entangle Obama’s young administration with crimes that occurred during the George W. Bush presidency, evidence that suggests the current administration failed to investigate seriously—and may even have continued—a cover-up of the possible homicides of three prisoners at Guantánamo in 2006.

(Read the whole story here.)

Horton had barely released his damning account of homicides of prisoners at Camp Delta and the extensive cover up when The Official Response began gearing up in the media.

Colonel Michael Bumgarner, the former Camp America commander who has testified that the deaths of the three prisoners were suicides, commented to Associated Press reporter Pete Yost, “this blatant misrepresentation of the truth infuriates me” (Magazine Raises Questions Over 3 Detainee Deaths.) And the Justice Department is coming down with double-speak too.

But Horton isn’t backing down. For every counter-attack from the military and defense department, he just posts more evidence up at Harper’s. You can watch Horton’s interview with Keith Olbermann here.

I hate to go all 1990s on you, but “This is what democracy looks like.”

Witness Against Torture: A Different Orange Revolution

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Witness Against Torture, along with a number of other groups and individuals, launched a months of public demonstrations calling for the swift closing of the U.S. Guantanamo prison camp. Above, friend and Catholic Worker, Art Laffin stands in front of the White House. The orange jump suits are similar to what is worn by prisoners held at Guantanamo.

guantanamoOne of the speakers at yesterday’s opening event was Mohammed Sulaymon Barre. Barre was released from Guantanamo on December 20, 2009, and returned to his family in Somaliland. Mr. Barre had fled Somalia during the civil war in the early 1990s. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees granted Mr. Barre refugee status in Pakistan where he lived and worked freely for many years prior to his detention. In November 2001, soon after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistani authorities came to Mr. Barre’s house in the middle of the night and arrested him. He is believed to have been sold to the United States for bounty at a time when the United States was offering sizable sums for the handover of purported enemies. Once in the custody of U.S. forces, Mr. Barre was sent to the U.S. military base at Bagram, where U.S. guards abused him and coercively interrogated him before transferring him to Guantánamo. He was never charged with any crime.

Mohammed Sulaymon Barre made this statement this morning:

“I say to the torturers of Guantanamo, their leaders, and the politicians and people of power who back them in Washington: is it not time that you should awaken from your slumber? Is it not time that you should realize what you are doing and acknowledge the mistakes you have made? Time has passed, and time passes quickly. Hurry up and close this prison that has become a blot of shame upon all of America. Do it fast. Do it quickly.

“Closing this place should not mean just the transfer of these men to other prisons. That would only make things worse. Closing it should mean the release of these men and transferring them to where they can be safe.

“And that is not enough. There should be an appropriate and reasonable apology. “To those who say that they fear that those men, when released, would join enemy groups and therefore we should keep them in prison indefinitely, I say: don’t you know that keeping these detainees in prison is the very thing that feeds the animus against the United States? I say to those who believe in these notions: the thing you fear is the very thing you cause by your wrongful actions. This is what constitutes the real threat to the national security of the United States, not the closing of the prison and the release of detainees.  Peace be upon you.–Mohammed Sulaymon

Follow and support the Witness Against Torture events here.

Does Wearing a Cross Make You a Torture-Supporter?

witness-against-tortureorigOver at Brian McLaren’s blog he’s been responding to the the recent Pew Forum study, reported by CNN.com, that correlates “White evangelical Protestants with those most likely to say that torture is often or sometimes justified.”

More than six in 10 supported it. People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

Additionally, evangelical pastor Gabe Salguero wrote a great piece in The Washington Post also responding to the data:

Torture is morally reprehensible. Christians, who serve a Christ who was tortured and murdered by a brutal Empire should know this to be true. Torture is not just an affront to the human dignity of the person being tortured but also on the one’s who are dong the torturing. Any society that sanctions torture has lost its moral compass and threatens the ethical integrity of all its people.

What about the Catholics?

The Pew research also shows that 19 percent of non-Hispanic Catholics think that torture “can often be justified.” This is the highest percentage of the religious breakdowns in this category. Nearly half of the Catholic interviewed said that torture “can often be” or “can sometimes be” justified.

But, on the same day that the report was released, 62 members of Witness Against Torture, started by a group of Catholics, were arrested at the gates of the White House demanding that the Obama administration support a criminal inquiry into torture under the Bush administration and the release of innocent detainees still held at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.

Each of those arrested wore the name of a Guantanamo inmate who had been cleared for release or who had died in prison.

“We sent a powerful message to the Obama administration and beyond,” said Witness Against Torture’s Matthew Daloisio, “that the rule of law can be restored only if the law is enforced. President Obama cannot deny indefinitely the mounting evidence of torture under Bush, and must move to hold those who committed, ordered, and justified torture to account.”

This civil disobedience was the culmination of a 100 Days Campaign to shut down Guantanamo.

Send these folks a note of thanks for representing true Christianity at the White House yesterday.