What can the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay teach us about empathy for those accused of terrorism?
As of Saturday, 100 of the 166 men being held at Guantanamo Bay prison are on hunger strike, with 20 being force-fed and five hospitalized, according to U.S. military officials.
This number has swollen since soldiers raided the camp where the men were being held and placed them into isolation cells on April 13. Detainees have told their lawyers that every prisoner is participating in the nearly three-month-old protest, and, as one put it in a New York Times op-ed, they “will not eat until they restore my dignity” and begin releasing people.
Another detainee, a client of Up w/ Steve Kornacki guest Ramzi Kassem, echoed that sentiment in a phone call to Kassem on Friday, when he said, “I will remain on hunger strike until I leave this place. I have not lost hope. My protest is not driven by despair, but I will maintain my protest until I regain my dignity and freedom.” Some political leaders seem finally willing to revisit the issue of transferring the men who have been held—most of them without charge or trial—for as many as 11 years.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sent a letter this week urging the administration to “renew its efforts” to transfer the 86 men cleared for transfer out of the prison by a multi-agency task force, but the events in Boston have led multiple Republican politicians to call for a return to the Bush-era policies of enemy combatant designations and indefinite detention. The Justice Department has been informing lawyers that their clients are being force-fed, which means it is now easier to view these men in human terms rather than as shadowy, unnamed characters from an earlier era in the global war on terror.
Why is there still so little public will to close the Guantanamo Bay? Why has Congress blocked even the President’s most perfunctory attempts to untangle the legal quagmire the prison represents? On Saturday’s Up with Steve Kornacki, Kassem, John Knefel, co-host of Radio Dispatch, Michelle Ringuette, Chief of Campaigns and Programs at Amnesty International and Former Rep Nan Hayworth, R-N.Y., talked about the challenge presented by Guantanamo and how to remove the “stain” that indefinite detention has left on America’s reputation.