It has been clear from the start of the current hunger strike at Guantanamo that the military is carrying out its own information operation against a strike that it views as an information operation carried out by the prisoners. Back on March 17, Carol Rosenberg reported that commercial flights to Guantanamo will be terminated as of Friday of this week, and I asked whether the flights were terminated in order to quash coverage of the strike. Just a few days later, attorneys for Guantanamo prisoners made the same accusation to CNN:
“We are very concerned that the commercial flights have ended at a time when it’s critical to have more regular contact with our clients (not less!) in light of the hunger strikes and their potentially perilous health conditions,” Ranjana Natarajan, one of the lawyers representing Obaydullah, wrote to CNN.
Navy officials said lawyers and others who regularly take the commercial flights from Florida to the base may now take a once-a-week military flight from Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington.
But Anne Richardson, also with Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick, said the flights “are also capable of being canceled, at the last minute, without warning and at DOD’s discretion.”
David Remes, a Washington-based lawyer who represents 15 clients held at the detention facility, said authorities “are canceling these flights because they want to keep the public in the dark about the mayhem in the prison.”
“For the past several months, bad news has been streaming out of the camps,” Remes said. “The authorities are taking one hit after another for the way they’re running the camps, so they’re doing what comes naturally – choking off the flow of information.”
In that same March 17 report from Carol Rosenberg, we have this statement from Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale:
“That there is any concrete, mass hunger strike — that is an utter fabrication,” Breasseale said. “Some who claim to be hunger striking are in fact eating handfuls of trail mix, nuts, and other food. They are taking in plenty of calories.”
Reality is beginning to catch up with Breasseale and the military jailers at Guantanamo. As Rosenberg reported yesterday, the military now admits to 39 hunger strikers (making 23% of the 166 prisoners now held):
At Guantánamo, officials counted nearly a fourth of the captives, 39 of the 166 prisoners, as meeting the minimum U.S. military definition of a hunger striker for having lost enough body weight and skipped at least nine meals in a row. Eleven of the captives were being fed nutritional supplements by tubes snaked up their nose and into their stomach. Two were hospitalized for intravenous drips as well as the tube feedings.
Lawyers for the detainees described a much more dire situation, with one of the best known cleared-for-release captives, Shaker Aamer, telling his attorney on Friday that about 130 of the 166 captives were taking part.
Aamer estimated he had lost 32 pounds, according to Stafford Smith, who quoted him as saying, “You can see the bones in my chest.”
“Shaker understands that one detainee is reportedly 85 pounds, another 107 pounds and a third 117 pounds,” said Clive Stafford Smith, who spoke via a monitored telephone line between the camps and Britain, where Stafford Smith is based.
That there is an ongoing battle over whose reports can be believed is quite clear from Jason Leopold’s thorough article posted yesterday, where we learn that the military is following the same script it used during the last major hunger strike by Guantanamo prisoners: Read more