Why I Am on a Hunger Strike to Shut Down Gitmo


As a fourth generation shrimper and an environmental activist on the Texas gulf coast, I have gone on hunger fasts to protect the seas that my community of fishermen depend upon. I know how far I would go to be heard. To have a voice. To push for justice. So I can vouch for the experts who say that the 100+ hunger strikes happening now in Guantanamo prison reflect the level of desperation and despair felt by the prisoners there. The detainees are screaming for justice from the outside world. And now they are being heard.

Here is one despairing voice:

Adnan Latif spent 10 years in Guantanamo without being charged. He was a poet, father and a husband and had been cleared for release four times. Yet he continued to be imprisoned. He was found dead in his cell, one of 9 men who have died at Guantanamo. In his own words, Latif asked, “Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?”

My question is a lot more personal: Where are we, citizens of America?

This is a US detention and interrogation center. A prison, by all counts. Many have called it a gulag, a shame, a scandal, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The vast majority of the 166 men still trapped at Guantánamo have been held for more than 11 years without charge or fair trial. Eighty-six Guantanamo prisoners were cleared for release more than three years ago. The Navy, Army, and Marines have no reason to press charges.

Currently, more than 100 detainees are on a hunger strike, with 21 being force-fed and 5 hospitalized. The forced tube feeding, according to prisoners who have experienced it, is itself an act of torture and very debilitating. A medical back-up team of at least 40 has arrived at Guantanamo Bay as the number of inmates taking part in the hunger strike continues to rise, fueling speculation that the condition of the hunger-striking prisoners is deteriorating.

If the chains of good ol’ American indifference continue, hard and unabated, as they have currently been, then the men of Guantanamo Bay might remain there until hell freezes over.

Where are you, Mr. President?

When President Obama took office in 2009, he vowed to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year. It’s 2013 and the prison still stands, prisoners remain– but in solitary confinement, ostensibly to reduce camaraderie and hopefully those hunger strikes! Some consider Guantanamo President Obama’s Shame. However, according to President Obama’s speech on Tuesday, he wasn’t a bit surprised they were having problems. Obama called Guantanamo unsafe and expensive to the US taxpayers and said it lessens cooperation with US allies. He said he would really like to shut it down and he is going to work on it!

Okay, President Obama, the time to talk and ruminate is over with. Now is the time for action. And what can you do? Well, pardon a back woods shrimper from the gulf coast for saying this: Congress may have imposed unprecedented restriction on detainee transfers, but you, Mr. President, still have the power to transfer men right now. You can and should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees.

According to the ACLU, there are two essential steps the president can take. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantanamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantanamo population.

You, President Obama, must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo, or the men who are on hunger strikes will die, and you will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.

Where are you, Congress?

Well, Congress, you must not sleep well at night.  And contrary to what you believe or what you might believe the American people believe, you can not incarcerate forever a group of people who have not been tried.  Sticking them in Cuba will not hide the fact, either. Just as the infamous prison in Northern Ireland where men such as Bobby Sands conducted hunger strikes, died, and stained forever Britain’s human rights record, so Guantánamo stains America.

And where am I? Well, I know where this one American is.  I stand in solidarity with the Guantanamo prisoners on their hunger strike and I have been, and will continue to, fast indefinitely until justice comes.  Shut Guantanamo down!

Diane Wilson is a fourth-generation shrimper, environmental activists, and peace advocate from the Texas Gulf Coast.

Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation
Sheldon Richman
Let the Refugees In
James Anderson
Reframing Black Friday: an Imperative for Déclassé Intellectuals
Simon Bowring
UN Climate Talks 2009: a Merger of Interest and Indifference
Ron Jacobs
Rosa Luxemburg–From Street Organizer to Street Name
Aidan O'Brien
Same-Sex Sellout in Ireland
David Stocker
Report from the Frontline of Resistance in America
Patrick Bond
China Sucked Deeper Into World Financial Vortex and Vice Versa, as BRICS Sink Fast
Majd Isreb
America’s Spirit, Syrian Connection
James A Haught
The Values of Jesus
Binoy Kampmark
British Austerity: Cutting One’s Own Backyard
Ed Rampell
45 Years: A Rumination on Aging
Charles R. Larson
Chronicle of Sex Reassignment Surgery: Juliet Jacques’s “Trans: a Memoir”
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
CounterPunch’s Favorite Films
November 26, 2015
Ashley Nicole McCray – Lawrence Ware
Decolonizing the History of Thanksgiving