It is a common technique of governments faced with hunger strikers to suggest that they are the weak-minded puppets of unscrupulous leaders. In 1981 Thatcher insisted that hunger-striking IRA prisoners “are of more use to [IRA leaders] dead than alive” and had therefore been “persuaded, coerced or ordered to starve themselves to death”. Similar claims were made about Irish hunger strikers in the 1920s. In 1914 the British home secretary claimed that hunger-striking suffragettes were paid by rich suffragettes to go to prison, hunger strike and be forcibly fed. So we are now told that “This technique (hunger striking) is consistent with al-Qaida training and reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention and bring pressure on the United States Government to release them.” The phrase “consistent with” implies a causal relationship, suggesting that the prisoners are Al Qaeda members, that they have received some sort of training in not eating, and that they are under orders, without actually having to prove any of that.
We are told that the number of hunger strikers increases whenever lawyers are coming to Gitmo, and on September 11 (that the recent increase came on Christmas is not mentioned), suggesting that the hunger strike is a response to outside factors and clever PR strategies, not to anything that might be happening to them in Guantanamo. Indeed, any actual demands made by the hunger strikers are never mentioned, suppressed along with their individual voices and indeed their names.
But lest you think that all seems a little “consistent with” Kafka, Solzhenitsyn, whatever, we are informed that Gitmo, in accordance with its “mission of providing safe, humane care, ensuring the custody of all detainees, and intelligence gathering in support of the global war on terror,” affords the
I thought about writing to Col. Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org) and asking him to clarify some of his statement (what does it mean to be “consistent with Al Qaeda training, what is the longest someone has been fasting, what is the longest someone has been forcibly fed, what demands have they issued, etc), but I didn’t think there was much likelihood of a response to an anonymous blogger, except perhaps an invitation for an extended tour of the facilities...