A Day in the Life of a Guantanamo Detainee

copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

Imagine for a few moments how your life would change if you were suddenly charged as an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay as a detainee.

You’d be transported under conditions of sensory deprivation to maximize your disorientation.

Brooke Anderson, Flickr, Creative Commons (reenactment)

Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)

Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons   (reenactment)

If you were really unlucky you’d end in Camp Delta.

Lorri 37, Flickr, Creative Commons

In any event there would be guard towers all around the place.

USMarine0311, Flickr, Creative Commons

You might be allowed to exercise, or maybe be gathered as a group in an enclosed pen.

ManilaRyce, Flickr, Creative Commons

Your day would not begin or end with regularity.  From the LA Times the story continues:

It’s a dreary winter afternoon, but the scene could be any time of the day or night. The hour for rec time is one of the few unpredictable features in a day in the life of a detainee.

Reveille is at 5 a.m., when guards collect the single bedsheet allotted to each detainee. That precaution has been in effect since June 2006, when three prisoners were found dead, hanging from nooses fashioned from their bedding.

When they do leave their cells, prisoners are shackled and escorted — to and from showers, recreation pens, interrogation interviews, and a meeting or two each year with their lawyers. They leave their cells in the “hard facilities” of Camps 5, 6 and the new 7 for no other reason, unless they are found to need medical or dental treatment when corpsmen make periodic rounds.

Once a man has refused nine consecutive meals, he is considered a hunger striker and brought to the detention medical center. His head, arms and legs are strapped to a “restraint chair” while a tube is threaded through his nose and throat into the stomach. A doctor-recommended quantity of Ensure is administered.

Under those circumstances forced feeding is one more nice way of saying “torture.”  Put yourself in the prisoner’s place and imagine the pain and distress of being strapped down and having a tube forced into your body.

A schoolroom was added to the predominantly Afghan camp last year to teach basic written Pashtu and Urdu to the illiterate.

Leather-and-steel shackles protrude from the floor beneath each desk where prisoners’ ankles are tethered during classes.

mushroomandrooster, Flickr, Creative Commons  (reenactment)

Lights are kept on in the cells 24/7 for what military jailers said were security reasons.

The full story has many more details than my excerpts.  You should read the entire article.  And put yourself in the  place and time as you read.  Then remember this is our nation at work.  We, the citizens of the United States are represented by the actions of every day in Guantanamo.  We cannot let this continue.

jemstaht, Flickr, Creative Commons

The United States needs to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay as soon as possible.  All detainees deserve the right to a fair trial or release.  We cannot continue to hold human beings in the conditions of Guantanamo if we as a nation hope to hold any measure of moral high ground.



copyright © 2008. Jerry Northington.  campaign website or on the campaign blog.

In the first 90 days of 2008 the United States reports 103 troop deaths in Iraq.  Since the invasion we have commemorated the 5th anniversary we have commemorated 5 years and more than 4000 soldiers lost.  Today we hear of costs near $12 billion per month and estimates of $3 trillion overall before all is said and done.  

Meanwhile our mainstream media continues to play down the ongoing failure with barely a mention any more of the deaths let alone stories of the families and friends left behind.  The death count also fails to reflect the numbers of US contractors killed in country.  No mention is made of the many thousands of life altering injuries such as limbs or eyes lost.  Nor do we hear much of the many minds broken beyond repair.  Suicides related to service time are also not counted and often not mentioned.  Coalition losses are not counted in the total.  The Iraqi losses count many thousands more, yet those are dismissed often without a thought.  Every death rends the fabric of humanity a bit more.

activefree, Flickr, Creative Commons

Recent news of increasing violence in Basra is characterized by President Bush as a “defining moment” for the Iraqi forces.  The time is defining alright, but not in the way Bush meant.  US and British troops are being put back into the fray once again.  There are increasing reports of US air attacks in which civilians are killed.  Bombing a populated area always results in casualties among the innocent.

While the ground war continues day by day and our losses mount, the insanity of Guantanamo Bay continues.  Several hundred detainees remain confined in legal limbo.  While the military would have us believe the prisoners are held in relative comfort

US Navy, public domain

we know better.  Reports of abuse may be found most any day.  Justice is a fleeting hope for the detainees as the only court on the horizon is a military proceeding in which the rules of evidence favor the prosecution.  We know the prisoners spend their days in shackles.

US Navy, public domain

Even transport for medical reasons or for exercise may result in the shackling of a detainee.

US Navy, public domain

US Navy, public domain

Razor wire surrounds the compound.

US Navy, public domain

Pictures of Camp Delta suggest conditions far removed from the reality we know exists today.


US Navy, public domain

In 1970 I came home right off the helicopter pads of Vietnam only a few days out of the field.  I came home a changed person.  In 1967 I enlisted in the US Army filled with the patriotic vigor only the young seem to possess.  I came home well aware of the terrible tragedy war represents.  I saw first hand how war affects the people on both sides as well as the havoc wreaked across the land.  Since those days I have stood firm in my opposition to war for almost all reasons.  Today I stand opposed to the ongoing occupation of Iraq with every fiber of my physical and moral being.  The costs are far too high in both dollars and blood.  We as a nation can ill afford to continue one more day let alone the years predicted by most in the administration.

Today the reaction of the public in our nation reminds me of a line from a song

a nation blinded by its disgrace

Today I am ashamed of my country’s actions.  Recent years have seen a drift in this nation our Founders would never have imagined.  We have watched the atrocities of Abu Ghraib along with the aforementioned Guantanamo Bay and all the damage done in Iraq.  And yet we as a nation continue to survive.

CID image

Is there any hope for us?  Of course there is.  So long as good people stand to fight the good fight our nation will survive this trauma the same way we have survived so many past times of trial and tribulation.

How are we to resolve the morass?  We must withdraw ALL our troops from Iraq.  The Iraqi people do not wish our presence to continue.  The international community does not support our continued occupation.  The time has come to end the occupation and let diplomatic maneuvers replace military force.  We must act to bring stability to the entire region through the cooperation of all nations around the globe.  We stand to be much more successful if we use the carrot rather than the stick approach.

If we withdraw will there be blood shed in Iraq?  Of course.  Will the situation be made worse than the one we see today?  Maybe or maybe not.  Who can predict that future?  The one indisputable fact remains the longer we continue as an occupying force the higher the cost to our nation.

We who believe the war is wrong headed must stand steadfast in our opposition.  The blind stubbornness of the administration will ruin our nation forever if we fail to fight.  We cannot afford to lose this one.  There is no room for failure.

Out the door, people.  Hit the streets.  Talk to every person you encounter.  Tell everyone you can corner the truth.  Show them the images of war and of Guantanamo.  Let them see the facts for a change.  It is only by our continued action and ongoing protest that we stand to win in the end.  

Peace to one and all.

Please remember I am running for Congress, DE-AL.  Please check out the website and consider a contribution  Your help is needed for the effort to succeed.  Contributions of all sorts, both moral and monetary are most appreciated.

Forced Feeding; A Form of Torture

copyright © 2007 Possum Ponders.  Sedalia Tales

Torture is defined as

The act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.

Acts that qualify as torture under this definition come in a wide variety.  The forced administration may qualify in terms of inflicting pain. The purpose of such forced feeding is to keep a detainee alive long enough to get information or confession.  Precise information is difficult to obtain given the shroud of secrecy covering Guantanamo Bay today, but in 2005 as many as 128 detainees were participating in a hunger strike.  At that time attorneys for the detainees put the number of striking participants at 200.  At least 13 were being force fed by tube at that time.

Guantanamo Bay is located in a picturesque coastal part of Cuba.

US Marine 0311, Flickr, Creative Commons.

Today the view is marred by the presence of guard towers,

US Marine 0311, Flickr, Creative Commons

and is accompanied by a gate leading to Camp Delta.

Lorri37, Flickr, Creative Commons

Camp Delta is the facility that replaced the temporary facility, Camp X-ray, and was first occupied in 2002 following the transfer of 300 detainees.  Camp Delta consists of a series of facilities including a prison hospital. It is within the hospital that forced feeding is most likely to take place.

First hand accounts (PDF) of treatment at the hands of their captors by Guantanamo detainees include being shackled

mushroom and rooster, Flickr, Creative Commons

both during transport and during detention.  Shackles were used to restrain detainees for interrogation and for punishment. 

Forced feeding by use of tube feeding is the procedure reported by detainees and their attorneys.  In this procedure the tube may be inserted either into the mouth and down the esophagus or through the nostrils into the esophagus.  Solzhenitsin describes the procedure in his book, Gulag Archipelago:

Artificial feeding has much in common with rape. And that’s what it really is


They pry the mouth open with a flat disc and broaden the crack between the jaws and insert a tube.
The sensation is one of being morally defiled, of sweetness in the mouth, and a jubilant stomach gratified to the point of delight.  (p 470)

Forced tube feeding has been used by internment staff members against Falun Gong practioners.  Many of the prisoners treated this way died as a result.  Tube feeding has several attendant risks.  The procedure requires a measure of technical skill which most non-medical persons do not have in their skill set. 

Feeding tubes can traumatise and erode the lining of the nasal passage, oesophagus, stomach or intestine.


  . . . abdominal bloating, cramps, or diarrhoea may occur. Regurgitation is common, and the feed may be inhaled into the lungs.


Physicians have called for the end of forced feeding saying

. . . this amounts to medical therapy and that no competent patient can be subjected to such intervention against their will.

  Nonetheless the procedure continues to be employed at Guantanamo and likely at other places where detainees are being held.

We have all seen the pictures of detainees in various Guantanamo compounds.

ManilaRyce, Flickr, Creative Commons

And we have seen the sensory isolation techniques put to use including total deprivation of sight, sound, and smell

Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons

and touch.

Carlos Ferrer, Flickr, Creative Commons

There on no pictures readily available to show the degree of restraint and the procedure involved in forced tube feeding.  That must be left to our individual imaginations.  The continued use of force feeding by tube insertion is tantamount to torture by its very nature.  The Bush administration continues to assert its right to use a variety of ?alternative procedures? for the interrogation and treatment of detainees.  Until and unless this treatment, including that of forced tube feeding is ended, there can be no justice for the detainees and no moral standing for the United States in the eyes of the world.

Crossposted from Never In Our Names.

anajemstaht, Flickr, Creative Commons