It's about three months into an ongoing Guantanamo Bay hunger strike, which began with a few detainees protesting guards' alleged mishandling of Korans and has escalated to a larger and nearly camp-wide demonstration against the Obama administration’s failure to close the facility as promised or to free detainees it has cleared for release.
Now, as attention on the hunger strike mounts, a U.S. Army public affairs unit has released photos from the camp that show hints of the hunger strike as well as the guards' regimen for force-feeding.
Some of those photos, taken by Sgt. Brian Godette in early April, are posted here. They show, among other things, guards discarding meals refused by detainees, a special chair used for force-feeding and a rare glimpse of a detainee, if only his hand.
Here's how the force-feedings actually happen, as reported by The Washington Post's Peter Finn and Julie Tate:
Twice a day at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, guards take a number of detainees from their cells, one at a time, to a camp clinic or a private room on their block.
The detainees are offered a hot meal or a liquid nutritional supplement and, if they refuse, they are strapped into a chair. A nurse then passes a tube through their noses and down into their stomachs; for one to two hours, they are fed a drip of Ensure while a Navy corpsman watches.
One of the hunger-striking detainees described the experience first-hand for a New York Times op-ed:
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.
President Obama acknowledged the force-feedings at a recent news conference. When a reporter asked him why the detainees are being force-fed, Obama responded, “Well, I don’t – I don’t want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can.”
The hunger-strikers, Finn and Tate write, “have forced the largely forgotten issue of their indefinite detention back on to Washington’s agenda.” The political, legal and diplomatic hurdles, which I wrote about previously, seem just as daunting as they were when the Obama administration first tried and failed to close the facility, but not quite insurmountable.