To the Editor:
Imagine being imprisoned in a foreign country for years without being charged with a crime. Your family at home is frantic not knowing how you are being treated or even if you are still alive.
This begins to describe the plight of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and our other “off-shore” prisons. At one time we held nearly 800 prisoners at Guantanamo. Many had been captured and turned over to American forces by bounty hunters – since we were paying $5,000 per captive. Some of these so-called “enemy combatants” were children.
Most detainees had done nothing wrong, and were eventually released or transferred. Several died at Guantanamo – some allegedly by suicide.
Today 166 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. Many have been held, and often tortured, for 10 or 11 years. Most have actually been cleared for release. Yet, they remain imprisoned.
Shaker Aamer was never charged. But he has been held for 10 years. The United Kingdom, where his wife and children live, has appealed in vain to the U.S. for his release.
Adnan Latif was repeatedly cleared for release during his 10-year confinement. His “release” eventually came last September when he died at Guantanamo.
More than 100 detainees have now decided that death is their only hope for release, so they are on extended hunger strikes. But they’re not even allowed to die. Dozens are being force-fed.
Imagine being put in a specially designed restraint chair. Your arms, legs and head are strapped to the chair so you can’t move. Then, with no anesthetic, a tube is forced through your nose, down your throat into your stomach; and liquid food is poured into it through a funnel.
The tubes are not cleaned between uses. Thus, you see blood and stomach bile from the previous victim in the tube before it is forced down your throat. When the guards and medical personnel want to inflict even greater pain, they use extra large tubes.
The prisoner is held in the restraint chair for two hours or more, not even allowed to go to the bathroom. This torture is repeated twice a day. Some prisoners have endured it for four years.
Former American military officers Matthew Alexander, Colin Powell and David Petraeus, as well as CIA director John Brennan, see the horror of Guantanamo as a major recruiting tool for anti-American “terrorists.” President Obama and Vice President Biden have expressed similar concerns.
Of course Obama had promised to close Guantanamo in 2009. But now he just offers excuses for breaking his promise.
Petitions calling for the closure of Guantanamo can be found on the websites of Amnesty International (amnestyusa.org) and other organizations.