SouthCom Commander Calls Gitmo Hunger Strikes “a Joke”

The government has made 10 of the videos showing the force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab available to his lawyers. They are reportedly watching the video this weekend.

In a piece seemingly meant to diminish concerns about the claims the government tortured detainees, in the guise of force-feeding them, to break up a large hunger strike last year — and to pre-empt whatever claims his attorneys will make after viewing the videos — Southern Command Commander Marine Gen. John F. Kelly gave an interview to the AP. In it, he made the absurd claim that Gitmo does not force feed anyone.

Military officials, who call the hunger strike a propaganda stunt, reject the phrase “force-feeding.” They say the video will show nothing more than guards and medical personnel doing their jobs in a difficult situation.

“We don’t force feed anyone,” said Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who oversees the prison as commander of U.S. Southern Command.

Worse, in an apparently effort to redefine hunger strike as he also redefined force feed, Kelly called hunger striking “a joke.”

“The whole hunger strike thing was kind of a joke anyway before. Now it’s based on nutrition and a medical exam as opposed to missing meals,” he said.

The general said “very few” detainees now qualify for the feeding procedure and he believes none are truly on hunger strike — “if the definition of a hunger striker is someone who is no-kidding attempting to hurt themselves by starvation.”

Of course, the hunger strikes aren’t about “attempting to hurt themselves by starvation.” They are attempts to regain some sort of autonomy and dignity and — yes — to call attention to the injustice of detaining men who could be released for over a decade.

Whether a judge will ultimately rule that force feeding, as done to the men most committed to hunger striking, amounts to the water torture or not, Kelly’s disdain for the hunger strikers lays bare the coercion involved.

11 replies
  1. Don Bacon says:

    A Marine general who enjoys humor — this reminds me of another Marine general, James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
    WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2005
    General: It’s Fun To Shoot People
    Comments Get Marine General In Hot Water
    “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot… It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.”
    He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil,” Mattis continued. “You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

  2. orionATL says:

    what his comments lay bare is the character of marine general john kelly; he does not display an iota of empathy or compassion for the circumstances prisoners at guantanamo have faced for over a decade. i expect more from an american general; i expect a sense of honor and of humanity in circumstances like these

    these men are marine general john kelly’s prisoners – kept penned up and restrained as badly as cattle set for slaughter. general kelly has total control over all but his prisoners’ conscious will and their bodily functions.

    general kelly dismisses with contempt this effort by his guantanamo slaves’ to assett a tiny bit of personal control over their bodies in order to protest ten years of imprisonment and mistreatment. the general directs trivial sneers at his prisoners’ in just the same way that adolescents sneer at each other to one-up the other with whom they are competing.

    marine general kelly is focused on winning the guantanamo “war” the u.s. military has been in for 12 years. doing so requires “winning the information space” ** of this war against the mighty army of <200 shackled, drugged, blinded, handcuffed, psychologically abused, force-fed maybe-terrorists imprisoned in the general's jail.

    ** "information space" seems to be pentagon jargon for the news media. "winning the information space" seems to be pentagon jargon for (mostly) lying to the media. always remember the last war – tet tet tet tet tet.

    • Don Bacon says:

      These are not terrorists and not even maybe terrorists. These are people who were kidnapped and stuck in this vile prison without charges to show that the US was “doing something.” So charges were impossible in any international legal sense. Not only that, that are being held illegally according to US law — even that! Where almost everything the State does is legal!
      Jun 13, 2008
      The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday that prisoners held as “enemy combatants” at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba can immediately file habeas corpus petitions in US district courts challenging the legality of their confinement. Most have been held at the US naval base under brutal conditions, enduring solitary confinement and torture, for more than six years. None has ever had the merits of his case reviewed by a court of law.
      So General Kelly is having some fun “doing something.” Kelly lost a son in Iraq and is pissed that he doesn’t get more sympathy.
      Mar 2, 2011:
      Without once referring to his son’s death, the general delivered a passionate and at times angry speech about the military’s sacrifices and its troops’ growing sense of isolation from society.
      “Their struggle is your struggle,” he told the ballroom crowd of former Marines and local business people. “If anyone thinks you can somehow thank them for their service and not support the cause for which they fight – our country – these people are lying to themselves. . . . More important, they are slighting our warriors and mocking their commitment to this nation.”
      We need to buy the whole package, Kelly says, and in the meantime he’ll have some fun with some designated enemies of the State.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    Next level of “justification by abstraction”, soon to be released: “These Gitmo prisoners aren’t really human, anyway. So whatever we do to them doesn’t count as ‘torture’ under any human legal standard.”

  4. drywit says:

    I may be mistaken, but I think there are about 800-900 General and Flag grade officers in the combined US armed forces at any one time. Does anyone here remember the last US General killed in combat? It wasn’t unheard of in the Civil War, but the most recent I’ve come across was some poor slob who who managed to get under one of his own side’s bombs towards the end of WWII.

    “Mad Dawg” may enjoy shooting his-self a passel of women-slappers, but doubt he’s present when they start returning fire. I’d go as far as saying he’s probably spent more time golfing than warring.

    Now watch this drive.

    • Don Bacon says:

      Is Jim White around? I got a Petraeus story.
      King David, whom USAToadyToday has called “a hero of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” as a two-star general, was awarded the Bronze Star with Vee (valor) for his action under fire on Mar 30, 2003. The fire? One mortar round hit between 40 and 50 meters away from Generals Petraeus and Wallace as they read a map on the hood of a Humvee. They acted nonchalant, according to observers.

      • drywit says:

        Wouldn’t be surprised if they were just lost…not a lot of difference between “nonchalant” and “clueless”.

        • drywit says:

          I was in Viet Nam (1967-’68) and our First Sergeant had cultivated a cactus garden around the entry to his hooch. Tet came along and, as the rockets and mortars signaled the late-night attack, he burst out the door and ran barefoot through the garden on his way to the bunker. Never saw a face as proud as his when the Purple Heart was pinned on.

  5. Stephen says:

    As someone who has gone through the experience of having a tube pushed down his nose and into his throat, I tell you that the process, while NOT painful. IS a process which I found IMPOSSIBLE to endure for more than a few minutes. Now I went through the process for medical reasons and went through it four times, three while I was wide awake but with my nose sedated, the fourth while I was dead to the world under a full anaesthetic. The first of the three times I went through while awake I could endure the tube down my nose for less than a minute, By the third occasion I was able to steel myself enough to endure a couple of minutes or so. If I had had to go through that same process for the length of time these Guantanamo inmates are being subjected to it, and involuntarily at that, I would have had to be strapped down. There is no pain involve. It is the IRRITATION of such tubes. What they are doing at Guantanamo is TORTURE, pure and simple; and that poor excuse for a general who thinks it a joke should undergo the experience for himself to see what it’s like. To do that he has no need to visit the CIA’s torture specialists. Any ear, nose, and throat medical specialist will be only too happy to give him a taste. That’s where I had my experiences of the technique.

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