On the Hunger Strikes at Guantanamo Prison


April 8, 2013

The Honorable Charles Hagel
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon, Room 3E880
Washington, DC 20301-1000


Dear Mr. Secretary:

We are writing to express the deep concerns of Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) regarding the hunger strike of the detainees at the detention center at Guantánamo Bay. While accounts differ as to the exact numbers, all sources agree that dozens of prisoners are currently refusing food. Reports from habeas attorneys suggest that many of these individuals have lost considerable weight and that some are reaching the stage where their health may be permanently impaired.

As psychologists and other mental health professionals and behavioral scientists, we are well aware of the deleterious effects of hopelessness and powerlessness on physical and mental health and wellbeing. These conditions result in elevated rates of depression, anxiety, and other emotional disturbances, as well as increased susceptibility to disease, heart attacks, and other serious medical conditions.

The situation that has sparked the hunger strike at Guantánamo induces both hopelessness and powerlessness. All of the detainees have been imprisoned for years, many having been there for over 10 years, with no indication of how long they will remain imprisoned or if they will ever be released. The vast majority has never been charged with a crime. Most have been cleared for release for several years, but they remain imprisoned in harsh circumstances due to a lack of political will among U.S. political leaders. These detainees have been deprived of any realistic path to remedy their grievances or to restore their sense of autonomy and self-efficacy. Decades of psychological research and clinical practice demonstrate that such possibilities are necessary for psychological wellbeing.

Mr. Secretary, we request that you do all in your power to resolve the hunger strike in a manner that respects the concerns and autonomy of the detainees. We further request that you act with all due urgency to resolve the fundamentally inhumane and un-American use of prolonged imprisonment without trial that lies at the heart of the Guantánamo project. Since the opening of Guantánamo, the United States has been viewed by many around the world as a superpower that employs the abuse of prisoners as an instrument of state policy, thus setting back decades of progress on human rights. We hope that, as the new Secretary of Defense, you will reverse this disastrous course.

We further urge you – for as long as the Guantánamo detention center remains open – to allow the detainees to receive medical evaluations and care from health professionals who are independent of the military command and responsive solely to the needs and wishes of the detainees. While many military health professionals are honorably carrying out their professional responsibility to put their patients’ needs first, the pressures on them in a restricted and secret military setting necessarily interfere with their ability to do so. Further, numerous reports suggest the detainees hold a deep distrust of those assigned to treat them, which interferes with their receiving appropriate care. Only independent health professionals, outside the military, can remedy this situation. At the same time, allowing access to independent health professionals would begin to address the powerlessness that causes so much harm and would help to improve the standing of the U.S. in the international community.

Mr. Secretary, the situation at Guantánamo is approaching a tipping point. Please work to ensure that the situation turns in a positive direction for all concerned, so that it does not become an ever-greater disaster for both the detainees and the reputation of the United States.

Thank you for your attention. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance.


Stephen Soldz, Ph.D.

Co-Chair, Psychologists for Social Responsibility Human Rights Program

Contact: ssoldz@bgsp.edu


Bradley O. Olson, Ph.D.

President, Psychologists for Social Responsibility

For the Psychologists for Social Responsibility Steering Committee


cc: President Barack H. Obama

November 24, 2015
Dave Lindorff
An Invisible US Hand Leading to War? Turkey’s Downing of a Russian Jet was an Act of Madness
Mike Whitney
Turkey Downs Russian Fighter to Draw NATO and US Deeper into Syrian Quagmire
Walter Clemens
Who Created This Monster?
Patrick Graham
Bombing ISIS Will Not Work
Lida Maxwell
Who Gets to Demand Safety?
Eric Draitser
Refugees as Weapons in a Propaganda War
David Rosen
Trump’s Enemies List: a Trial Balloon for More Repression?
Eric Mann
Playing Politics While the Planet Sizzles
Chris Gilbert
“Why Socialism?” Revisited: Reflections Inspired by Einstein’s Article
Charles Davis
NSA Spies on Venezuela’s Oil Company
Michael Barker
Democracy vs. Political Policing
Barry Lando
Shocked by Trump? Churchill Wanted to “Collar Them All”
Cal Winslow
When Workers Fight: the National Union of Healthcare Workers Wins Battle with Kaiser
Norman Pollack
Where Does It End?: Left Political Correctness
David Macaray
Companies Continue to Profit by Playing Dumb
Binoy Kampmark
Animals in Conflict: Diesel, Dobrynya and Sentimental Security
Dave Welsh
Defiant Haiti: “We Won’t Let You Steal These Elections!”
November 23, 2015
Vijay Prashad
The Doctrine of 9/11 Anti-Immigration
John Wight
After Paris: Hypocrisy and Mendacity Writ Large
Joseph G. Ramsey
No Excuses, No Exceptions: the Moral Imperative to Offer Refuge
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS Thrives on the Disunity of Its Enemies
Andrew Moss
The Message of Montgomery: 60 Years Later
Jim Green
James Hansen’s Nuclear Fantasies
Robert Koehler
The Absence of History in the Aftermath of Paris
Dave Lindorff
The US Media and Propaganda
Dave Randle
France and Martial Law
Gilbert Mercier
If We Are at War, Let’s Bring Back the Draft!
Alexey Malashenko
Putin’s Syrian Gambit
Binoy Kampmark
Closing the Door: US Politics and the Refugee Debate
Julian Vigo
A Brief Genealogy of Disappearance and Murder
John R. Hall
Stuck in the Middle With You
Barbara Nimri Aziz
McDonalds at 96th Street
David Rovics
At the Center of Rebellion: the Life and Music of Armand
Weekend Edition
November 20-22, 2015
Jason Hirthler
Paris and the Soldiers of the Caliphate: More War, More Blowback
Sam Husseini
The Left and Right Must Stop the Establishment’s Perpetual War Machine
Mike Whitney
Hillary’s War Whoop
Pepe Escobar
In the Fight Against ISIS, Russia Ain’t Taking No Prisoners
Ajamu Baraka
The Paris Attacks and the White Lives Matter Movement
Andrew Levine
The Clintons are Coming, the Clintons are Coming!
Linda Pentz Gunter
Let’s Call Them What They Are: Climate Liars
Paul Street
Verging on Plutocracy? Getting Real About the Unelected Dictatorship
Nur Arafeh
Strangling the Palestinian Economy
Patrick Howlett-Martin
The Paris Attacks: a Chronicle Foretold
Vijay Prashad
Rebuilding Syria With BRICS and Mortar
Brian Cloughley
Why US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is the Biggest Threat to World Peace