GTMO GENERAL ON HUNGER STRIKES: “THE POWER TO END THIS IS IN THEIR HANDS”

Recently, the hunger strikes by detainees at Guantanamo Bay have reached new heights.  The strikes began with six detainees in early March, and quickly grew to 103 detainees by mid-May.  Guards have allegedly resorted to using controversial tactics to force feed detainees if they refuse to eat their meals.

Now it seems as though the strikes may continue, at least for the foreseeable future.  Yesterday, Marine General John Kelly, chief of the United States Southern Command, put the ball in the detainees’ court to stop the hunger strikes.  General Kelly indicated that the strikes and subsequent force feeding will continue, at least until “they get tired of what they’re doing.”  He also took issue with the media’s portrayal of the strike, indicating that some detainees agree to drink Ensure through a straw rather than through feeding tubes inserted by GTMO personnel.  He went on to call the protests “Hunger Strike Lite.”  General Kelly went so far as to deny that force feeding was even taking place at GTMO, electing to call it “enterally feeding” detainees instead.

Meanwhile, a group of retired generals met with National Security Council members to further discuss the closure of Guantanamo Bay.  The panel called on the Obama administration to renew efforts to close the detention center, citing national security issues as the main concern.  Retired Real Admiral John Hutson was quoted as saying,

“Every day Guantanamo is open is another day of stain on American reputation and undermining our security. And a day closer to the end of the Obama administration.  We have to move.”

Regardless of who you believe regarding the alleged force feeding of detainees or your stance on the closure of GTMO, two things seem certain.  The hunger strikes will continue, and base personnel will not cave in.

Chris Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy and Research

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