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Should We Let the Gitmo Hunger Strikers Starve?


The Huffington Post and the New York Times (i.e. the Huffpo with fewer NSFW celebrity pics) are taking up the cause of the now 100 hunger-striking Gitmo detainees. The Times, continuing its credulous coverage of detainee claims, declares the hunger strike is driven by “despair.” There are, of course, other options. Detainee resistance and exploitation of our own legal norms is a common and popular tactic of resistance and often, when combined with activist lawyers and an activist press, represents a form of “lawfare” designed to drive us ever-deeper into civilian, law-enforcement paradigms of war-fighting.  

So, what to do? As of now we’re providing medical care and — ultimately — force-feeding the prisoners as their health deterioriates. Amnesty International questions force-feeding, wondering whether it is humane:

While Amnesty International is not in a position to know the details of these cases, the issue of force feeding protesters on hunger strike raises issues of medical ethics, informed consent, detainee autonomy, confidentiality and the treatment of detainees.

The lawyer of Yemeni national, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, who has been on hunger strike since February, told a New York Times reporter that his client had said: “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 in this way.”

“Artificial, compulsory feeding would amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of international law if it is intentionally and knowingly conducted in a manner that causes unnecessary pain or suffering,” said James Welsh, Amnesty International researcher on health and detention.

Does this mean we should let the prisoners starve? I can only imagine the howls of outrage from Amnesty International. The Left hates Gitmo, and there is nothing we can do — short of closing the prison and releasing almost all the remaining prisoners — that will satisfy their suicidal lust to appease terrorists or their perverse desire to grant them a voice in our public discourse.

Let’s be clear. To the extent we still have difficulty determining whether any Gitmo detainees are, in fact, affiliated with al-Qaeda, it is because our enemy continually and persistently violates the laws of war by trying to hide amongst the civilian population. Ambiguity is the fault of al-Qaeda, not the U.S. If there are innocents at Gitmo, they are there because of our enemy. Further, the enemy continues to exploit this ambiguity as it uses its Western sympathizers and gullible lawyers to press for the release of terrorists who then go out and kill again.  

We have an obligation to treat detainees humanely, and humane treatment in the context of a hunger strike can be difficult to discern. I do not presume to critique our current course of action. At the same time, the credulous reporting from the Times and others is simply shameful. Innocent lives are indeed at stake in this hunger strike – the innocent lives that would be lost if we capitulate and release more terrorists back into the world.


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