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All Politics is Sexy ~ Cathy Elliott Jones

Sorting out the political from the sexual, and is there room for love?

Cathy Elliott Jones

Been around, seen and done some stuff

Other Mothers, Other Sons ...

That’s all I can say ... He’s died.
— Rosaleen Sands, mother of Bobby Sands, May 5, 1981

Today is Mother's Day in America. It is also exactly 32 years and one week following the death of Bobby Sands -- political prisoner, member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and elected representative to the British House of Commons -- following his 65-day hunger strike in the "H-Blocks" at the Long Kesh Prison in the United Kingdom. His mother wept. 


Thirty two years and one week after a haggard Rosaleen Sands announced her son's death to the media, it would be not only appropriate, but crucial to reflect, among the flowers being delivered and last-minute, long-distance telephone calls being made today by other sons to other mothers, that what killed Bobby Sands and broke his mother's heart continues to occur, only this time much closer to home. The present act of desperation, largely ignored by mainstream media but ongoing since February, 2013, is being demonstrated by a number that has grown to more than 100 of the 166 political detainees of the United States government, at the military facility located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Eighty-six of those remaining at Gitmo have been cleared for release by our government yet continue to languish there, suffering "a plight almost Kafkaesque in its cruel absurdity: though the United States believes they should be released from their concrete cells at Guantanamo Bay, they have stayed in prison, often for years, not because of any crime they committed or immediate threat they pose, but because of diplomatic and political hurdles out of their control." Max Fisher,  The Washington Post, April 23, 2013.


U.S. military guards watch detainees in a cell block at Camp 6 in the Guantanamo Bay detention center. (John Moore/Getty Images)

On March 4, 2013, 14 lawyers representing the detainees signed and delivered a letter to command at Gitmo, whose credentials are reminiscent of those boasted by the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men: Rear Admiral John W. Smith, Jr., Commander, Joint Task Force, Guantanamo U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Captain Thomas J. Welsh, JAGC, USN Staff Judge Advocate, Joint Task Force Guantanamo U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Included in the letter:

[W]e understand through reports by several detainees to their counsel that conditions in the camps have worsened to the point that all but a few men have now gone on a hunger strike in protest.

Specifically, we understand that since approximately February 6, 2013, camp authorities have been confiscating detainees’ personal items, including blankets, sheets, towels, mats, razors, toothbrushes, books, family photos, religious CDs, and letters, including legal mail; and restricting their exercise, seemingly without provocation or cause. Moreover, we understand that Arabic interpreters employed by the prison have been searching the men’s Qur’ans in ways that constitute desecration according to their religious beliefs, and that guards have been disrespectful during prayer times. These actions, and the fact that they have affected so many men, indicate a significant departure from the way in which the rules have been formulated and implemented over the past few years.

As a result of these practices, we understand that the men are suffering greatly and that a large number have gone on a hunger strike, which is now in its third week. As their health has deteriorated, we have received reports of men coughing up blood, being hospitalized, losing consciousness, becoming weak and fatigued, and being moved to Camp V for observation. Detainees have also expressed feeling increased stress, fear, and despair. It is clear that their health will only worsen unless and until the hunger strike ends, which requires taking immediate steps to address the reasons for their protest.

The actions taken by camp authorities cannot be evaluated in isolation. As you are well aware, prior instances of mistreatment, including mistreatment of the Qu’ran, have led to protests, including widespread hunger strikes that have placed the prisoners’ lives and health in jeopardy. The practices occurring today threaten to turn back the clock to the worst moments of Guantánamo’s history, and return the prison to conditions that caused great suffering to our clients and were condemned by the public at large. If prior experience serves as any guide, the current practices risk dire consequences and will only invite outside scrutiny.

The letter concludes: 

"We look forward to hearing from you by March 6." 

"The practices occurring today threaten to turn back the clock to the worst moments of Guantanamo's history, and return the prison to conditions that caused great suffering to our clients and were condemned by the public at large."

As chronicled by Jason Leopold, who for Truthout has almost singularly been reporting about the 2013 hunger strike since its outset, this was a direct reference to riots and a hunger strike waged by the detainees in May, 2006 -- again sparked by deliberate mishandling of the Qu'ran -- which culminated in the deaths of three men on June 9, 2006, who took part in the hunger strike: deaths which "were ruled suicides, although evidence presented by Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, a former Guantanamo guard, suggested foul play." Jason Leopold,   Truthout, April 1, 2013.

No doubt also of concern to the attorneys for the detainees was the death of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni who had been snagged in 2001 at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and thereafter transferred to Gitmo, where he remained until his writ of habeas corpus was granted by a federal district judge in 2010, and he was ordered free. But before he could pack his Qu'ran, the decision was promptly overturned by the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. Thereafter Mr. Latif engaged in a hunger strike and other acts of protest, and was eventually found dead in his cell on September 8, 2012. He was described by his attorney, David Remes, as a "talented poet and deeply devout" man who was "mentally fragile and at times sedated, placed on suicide watch, and sent to the prison's psychological ward."

Every hope held out to him was dashed,” Mr. Remes said. “He felt that his spirit was dying, that he couldn’t continue to bear his conditions.
— Charlie Savage, The New York Times, September 11, 2012

Hope. In 2008, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama campaigned on a theme of "hope." And "change." And a promise to close Gitmo

We are going to close Guantanamo and restore Habeas Corpus...No more FEMA Justice...We are going to have...a Justice Department that believes in Justice. And, you will elect a president who has taught the Constitution, and believes in the Constitution and will obey the Constitution of the United States of America.
— Barack Obama, February 11, 2008

That promise was reiterated following the election of President Obama: 

Although closing Guantanamo Bay was scarcely mentioned  during the 2012 campaign, less than a month before the election the incumbent President Obama, whose base had become unstable, renewed his long-standing pledge to do so:

‘I still want to close Guantánamo,’ he said during an interview on ‘The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’ in mid-October. ‘We haven’t been able to get that through Congress.’
— Opinion Pages, New York Times, November 25, 2012

Yet following his reelection in 2012, and shortly after taking his second oath of office in January, 2013, the Obama administration abruptly scrubbed the department charged with repatriating or resettling those still being held at "Camp Delta" at Gitmo. Further, as reported by Charlie Savage in the New York Times on March 25, 2013: "[T]he United States Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo, has requested nearly $200 million to renovate facilities that were built to be temporary but are now deteriorating, including barracks and a meal hall for the guards."

Astonishingly, however, Obama's promise to "return to habeas corpus," now six years old, was revived as recently as April 30, 2013, when at a press conference President Obama reaffirmed his intention to close Gitmo.

In reality: a mere six months before Mr. Latif lost his "hope" on September 8, 2012, the White House had issued a press release noting: 

In the Archives speech, the President recognized there are certain Guantanamo detainees who have not been charged, convicted, or designated for transfer, but must continue to be detained because they ‘in effect, remain at war with the United States.’ For this category of detainees, the President stated: ‘We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.’
— Fact Sheet: New Actions on Guantanamo and Detainee Policy

Camp Delta at Guantanamo Naval Base (AFP Photo/Mark Wilson)

In their March 4, 2013, letter to Guantanamo command regarding the ongoing hunger strike, the 14 signing attorneys representing the detainees requested a response by March 6. Unofficially, they did not have to wait that long. That very day, prison spokesman Naval Capt. Robert Durand denied that any such activity was taking place.

A prison spokesman has said that the Department of Justice will address the lawyers’ letter of complaint, he also claimed that there had only been six people on strike for a year now. Other detainees simply didn’t skip enough meals to be considered on strike at all, according to military rules. The spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, said that ‘some detainees have attempted to coordinate a hunger strike and have refused meal deliveries. Most detainees are not participating.’ He tried to describe the reasons the inmates had for going on strike as blown out of proportion, claiming that they ‘have chosen one routine search in early February as the rallying point for their grievances.’
— RT, March 5, 2013

After an additional 36 lawyers for the detainees joined the original 14 and demanded a more cohesive response from the government about the abuse and extent of the hunger strike at Gitmo,  Capt. Durand released a formal statement on March 20, 2013,  stating that "the recent allegations" made by the Guantanamo Bay detainees were "patently false." He acknowledged that "only 25 of the 166 detainees are currently designated as hunger strikers," and employed the euphemism "enternal feeding" that was deemed necessary to "ensure sufficient nutrition, fluid, and calorie intake" because "the health and well-being of the detainees" is the "primary mission" of the "medical staff ... at GTMO."

The following day, Gen. John Kelly, head of the U.S. Southern Command that oversees Guantanamo Bay Naval Facility, downplayed the controversy. He told the House Armed Services Committee that some prisoners were "eating a bit, but not a lot."

Gen Kelly called the accusations ‘nonsense’ and put the hunger strike down to ‘frustration.’
— BBC NEWS US AND CANADA, March 21, 2013

Guantanamo force-feeding kit. (Source: Pentagon/Wikimedia)

Prior to the unexplained death of hunger strike participant Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif  on September 8, 2012, another detainee at Camp Delta had also refused food and died. Thirty-one-year-old Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih succumbed on June 1, 2009, after refusing to eat to protest his indefinite confinement without his right to habeas corpus. He was also subjected to "enternal feeding" before his death. In an OpEd piece written by detainee Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, and published in print by the New York Times on April 15, 2013, Mr. Moqbel described force-feeding as follows:

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 ... During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not.

It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me. As they were finishing, some of the ‘food’ spilled on my clothes. I asked them to change my clothes, but the guard refused to allow me to hold on to this last shred of my dignity.

When they come to force me into the chair, if I refuse to be tied up, they call the E.R.F. team. So I have a choice. Either I can exercise my right to protest my detention, and be beaten up, or I can submit to painful force-feeding.
— Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, The New York Times, April 15, 2013

An 85-page review by the Pentagon, prepared by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh and released in February, 2009, concluded that force-feeding of the detainees "is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions' mandate that the lives of prisoners be preserved." (This, of course, is the very same Pentagon that concluded during the Bush administration that water-boarding was not in violation of the Geneva Conventions. And what is force-feeding but a form of water-boarding with Ensure?) However, Human Rights organizations world-wide disagree with that Pentagon interpretation. In October, 2006, the World Medical Assembly of Malta on Hunger Strikers stated: 

Forcible feeding is never ethically acceptable. Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied by threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the forced feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting.
— WMA Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, October, 2006

Further, the International Red Cross disputes the conclusion about force-feeding asserted by Adm. Walsh: 

A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only organization with unfettered access to the prisoners, said the group supports the recommendations for increased socialization for all detainees but disagreed with Walsh’s conclusion that force-feeding is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions.
— William Fisher,, February 25, 2009

And what is our Commander-in-Chief's response to force-feeding detainees at Gitmo? When asked about it at a recent news conference,  President Obama responded as follows:

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.
— Max Fisher, The Washington Post, May 10, 2013 (graphic photos of force-feeding procedure)

On the day the OpEd written by detainee Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel appeared on the pages of the the New York Times, CNN's chirpy Brianna Keilar began a segment on the piece: 

Top of the hour, I’m Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin. Fights between detainees and guards with improvised weapons, hunger strikes, it might sound like a prison riot, but it’s not. This is all happening in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. You may not have even thought about the U.S. detention facility lately, but you can be sure there is a lot going on down there.
— -- Transcripts, April 14, 2013

Who could make this stuff up? Perhaps Newswoman Brianna Keilar and her viewers had not "even thought about" Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "lately." Perhaps if they diverted their attention from an endless murder trial involving a now-convicted crazy woman, or whether pretty Amanda Knox is, indeed, "Foxy Knoxy," as she is known in Italy, they may have thought a little about the human suffering, degradation, and denial of basic rights occurring in the "U.S. detention facility there." But they didn't. However, now that it was splashed all over the pages of the Old Gray Lady, a producer must have thought it warranted some "thought." Brianna began her interview with Brig. Gen. James "Spider" Marks (Ret.), CNN Military Analyst. He got right to the point about a man who has never been tried or convicted of anything, except being Yemeni:

Let me tell you, that guy has no rights. I have no sympathy for that guy. He is a prisoner of war.

He made a very bad choice leaving Yemen and going to Afghanistan and getting into a fight post-9/11. I’m not going to attribute any veracity to that guy’s op-ed piece. All I’m telling you is that he has no rights. He is a prisoner of war. There is a job that needs to be done at Gitmo. And they chose the conditions under which they are living.
— -- Transcripts, April 15, 2013

Can't you just hear: "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" booming in your ears? 

Next, Brianna turned to Ohio Federal Public Defender Carlos Warner, an original signatory on the March 4, 2013, letter, and who in September, 2009, along with his colleague Andy Hart, filed a document in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., accusing CIA officers of chaining the hands above his heart of the alleged translator for Osama bin Laden -- for days at a time. Mr. Warner was quoted at the time as saying:

’Mr. Rahim was made to wear diapers, so he would not have to be unbound when he urinated or defecated,’ the documents said. ‘When Mr. Rahim would enter sleep, his captors would wake him by remotely jerking his shackles.’
— Mary Ann Whitley, The Plain Dealer, September 2, 2009

Carlos Warner was on fire when he was finally given a national television platform -- by those who "may not even have thought about" his 11 clients and the remaining detainees at Gitmo "lately":

Listen, General Spider Marks, he has a cool nickname, but it ends there. He knows nothing about Guantanamo. I doubt he’s ever been to the base. I can promise you his words go straight there and drive the resolve of these men deeper.

Listen, this individual that was described in ‘The New York Times’ has an amazing amount of rights, because, first, he’s a human being. Second, our own government has said that he’s cleared for release, that he should be released. People like Spider Marks have told our government and President Obama that this person shouldn’t be there, and he remains there dying, starving himself to death because President Obama refuses to pick up and follow through with his promise.

He’s letting these men die. He’s not only not intervened in — with his promise, but he could end this hunger strike today and he’s chosen not to. So the left has to wake up and I come from the left. The left has to wake up and recognize that President Obama is causing this hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay.
— -- Transcripts, April 15, 2013

Carlos Warner continued, at rapid-fire pace, to express his outrage about the conditions at Camp Delta. And although Brianna never asked a single question of "Spider" Marks, her talking points did instruct her to challenge Carlos Warner: 

Now, but let me ask you about this, Mr. Warner, because it is not just an issue of the hunger strikes. Around the same time in early February, you started to have detainees who were obstructing surveillance cameras and windows.

They were obviously trying to it appears prevent being seen by some of the guards who were there. There was a scuffle just this last weekend as guards tried to move some of these inmates into basically individual cells so that they could keep a better eye on them because of some of the things that were taking place here over the last couple of months.

What is going on with that? And obviously you can see there is a concern for even the safety of the guards as they ultimately had to file fire some less-than-lethal rounds at detainees.
— -- Transcripts, April 15, 2013

As Attorney Warner attempted to respond, he was abruptly cut off by Miss Brianna: 

Carlos, I’m so sorry ... We have some — we have some breaking news. Otherwise, I wouldn’t cut you off so abruptly. Carlos Warner, thanks for joining us.

WARNER: Thank you, Brianna.

[BROOKE] BALDWIN: Let’s get now — let’s get now to Boston. Apparently, there has been an explosion at the Boston Marathon, I’m told.
— -- Transcripts, April 15, 2013

On May 1, 2013, Jason Leopold reported for Truthout  that Carlos Warner's legal partner, Andy Hart, was found dead of an "apparently ... self-inflicted gunshot wound."

Happy Mother's Day