Monday, April 09, 2007

Mmm, Prison Camp

Yesterday the New York Times reported that there is currently another long-term hunger strike being carried on by the detainees at the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to protest treatment they're receiving. (1) For those of you who haven't been paying attention since 2002, a portion of the Guantanamo Bay Navy base currently serves as a military prison and interrogation camp for people suspected of being Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives. Hunger strikes there aren't anything new, but the latest one boasts the highest number of participants to undergo the current regimen of force-feeding that the guards are using to keep the detainees from starvation and at healthy weights. Considering the role of fasting in Islamic fundamentalism, this number must surely be staggering. As there are currently around 435 detainees cooling their heels in GTMO cells, what can should we venture as an estimate for this current protest? 100 prisoners? 200? More? Try thirteen. That's right, out of all the big, bad terrorists only thirteen of them feel strongly enough about their horrible and shocking treatment to have to be forced to eat the num-nums that not only are reportedly of a similar quality to those we feed our own troops, but which also take into consideration Muslim dietary needs.

The guards at Guantanamo have been drawing global and national criticism for allegations of mistreatment and torture for a long time, especially from organizations that view the indefinite incarcerations of the detainees as a violation of civil liberties. Such accused actions include forcing the prisoners to maintain uncomfortable positions for long periods of time, sleep deprivation, and beatings. While these understandably don't sound like the most enjoyable ways to spend one's time, they bear a marked resemblance to the conditions that members of the armed forces active during the era of the Vietnam War(2) were trained to expect in the event of their being kept in a POW camp. Granted, the repetitive music was different, beatings were restricted to shoving and slaps so hard to cause head rotation, and torture methods then didn't include Harry Potter, but the similarities are there. The main difference seems to be the cells in which the detainees are kept.

According to a personal first-hand source, POW training involved spending the majority of one's time in a small, wooden box that forced the position of back against the wall, legs out and hands on thighs. The cells at GTMO are (again, according to the New York Times) 8-foot-by-10-foot cells, in which the detainees spend at least 22 hours a day. Some prisoners are kept in wire mesh cages that allow free communication with each other, while others have cells that are closed except for a window and a flap in the steel doors. Apparently the closed cells are "27 square feet larger than the old ones and have air-conditioning, nicer toilets and sinks, and a small desk anchored to the wall." They are allowed to come out to shower and exercise in small cages. Evidently there was a fenced common area where they were allowed to play soccer, but a detainee riot in May of 2006 nixed that priviledge.

The New York Times story quotes one as saying, “We are living in a dying situation.” Considering that this quote was passed on through the speaker's lawyer, I have a hard time believing that things are that bad. Clearly the detainees are unhappy guys. They. Are. In a prison. What part of this is supposed to spell Terrorist Disneyland? (3) Human rights and civil liberties for the win, but as it looks right now we're not dishing out anything we aren't prepared to take.

That's all for now.

(1) Original story here:

(2)Yes, I know it was never formally declared and was therefore technically a conflict. You knew what I meant, didn't you? Shush now.

(3) What sort of rides would that place have? Discuss.

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