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The Skinny Dead at Guantanamo

by Antifa Sun Jan 22nd, 2006 at 09:24:21 PM EST

Among the hundreds of nameless and faceless Muslim captives at our Guantanamo penal colony, a bit over 250 are on a hunger strike, determined to starve to death rather than accept their situation.

Thirty men have been on hunger strike five months now, since August.  Our ultimate response has been to hold them down once a day, forcing feeding tubes down their noses into their stomachs, and pumping nutrient fluids into them.

This will not keep them alive; it only prolongs the inevitable. They're dying, and will pass away in the days just ahead.  Dozens more are determined to follow them out of Gitmo.


Poor bastards.  Their medical care is in the hands of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and the Republicans.  Poor bastards, their fate is in the hands of Americans.

The quandary at the White House is what to do with all these skinny corpses.  Muslim burials?   Ship their bony bodies home?  Disappear them, without any markers?  Let their relatives call them just once before they expire?  (It would be their first outside or familial contact in years.)  And what to tell the world?  What to tell voting Americans?  

How to keep a lid on mass suicides in our most public concentration camp?

What will they do with thirty martyrs to liberty?

What will you do?

Gentle reader, what of your persuasion or politics or personal opinions about the great questions of our day? These thirty men are beyond that now. These men are already dead to this world, already across the river, already looking down on the quarrels of this world.

They're in a whole other space.

Putting yourself down by starvation is not suicide. Suicide is some quick and easy pop, some deed that is irrevocable. You can lay back and say, "There, I've done it."

Shotguns, pills, razors, high places, even setting off a Semtex vest -- are all quick and irreversible choices.  And they are cowardly compared to starvation.  Digesting yourself is an infinity of raw moments spent choosing excruciating pain and weakness again and again, while the remedy lies always at your fingertips.

What could motivate a human being to actually carry that off?  These men in Gitmo are damn close to doing just that.

What is this thing they do?

Try a 30-day water fast yourself.  Very quickly you see this world as through a veil.  You see it for what matters, and what does not.  What used to be vital daily business doesn't count in the least. There is no money, no entertainment, no pleasure that could distract you from food, and your choice not to eat it.  You hold your life in your hands, and it is life that you think about.

It's a very clear state of mind.  Your senses are acute; you stand in your soul, utterly and intimately aware of the fragile membrane between life and death. You see a wide world full of human beings who are really only alive between one heartbeat and the next, yet they fight and kill over table scraps and creature comforts -- and pleasures.

Will power only carries you through the early rounds.  After the first week, your sole strength is your identity and mindfulness -- your desire to transform yourself by this discipline -- "I will not be as I was before."

You spend your days on the further shore; like a caterpillar you keep vigil in your own world; you hold every living moment in your two hands; you listen to the many voices of your heart; you listen for one song.

At the far end, your entire strength is, "I await grace."

That's where fasting takes a human being.  Inside, and beyond.

These thirty martyrs surely started with political and personal statements in mind, but to get this far means those initial incentives have long since been rinsed away in the rising tide of a deeper reality.  The dead do not and cannot hate the living.

Their death vigil is a political statement only to us, now.  To each of them, it is their one and only means of living their own life, by seeking to be with their own self only.

Their death vigil is a personal statement only to us, now.  To each of them, it is choosing freedom over absolutely anything else.

What is this thing they do?

From out of the deepest hole in the meanest prison on this planet, they make themselves more free than we who are walking all around.

This thing they do for liberty.

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oh man...
good piece.
how must their guards feel?
this is institutionalised cruelty, courtesy of the peoples' taxes.
this is the most wilfully barbaric assault on the collective pride of untried human beings, and the most hideously stupid provocation to far too many who have left far behind the standards we in our relative comfort try to hold most dear.

it's like an exercise in sadism: keep humilating a person, just to see how he reacts, keep posing impossible catch-22 choices till a man loses his mind just because you can.

or what are they so afraid of?

it makes you almost wish there was a hell.

maybe there is, inside the souls of all those who condone, countenance and support this travesty of humanity.


'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Jan 23rd, 2006 at 10:15:05 AM EST
Melo, you ask "how must their guards feel?" These detainees have been labeled "terrorists" - i.e. subhumans.  So the guards probably feel very little humanity towards them.

A little over a month ago the columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece defending torture.  He mentioned the prisoners at Guantanamo and complained that they were being treated too humanely: they were allowed to read the Koran when they should be subjected to continuous waterboarding. Krauthammer received a great deal of praise in the media for his "sensitive and nuanced" argruments in favor of torture.  I don't recall one response that showed any concern whatsoever for the welfare of these detainees.

Dialog International

by DowneastDem (david.vickrey (at) post.harvard.edu) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:35:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Doing unto other human beings as these Guantanamo guards do in their 9 to 5 isn't risk-free.

Doing unto other human beings while they are helpless, lost and weak, while they are under restraint, manacled, strapped down or tied up is still doing unto others.

It comes back at you, big time.

The Wehrmacht and SS had real problems with this when they set out to ethnically cleanse conquered territories to their East back in the early forties. It turns out a human being can only shoot or torture so many human beings before they start coming unglued. Too many shots to the back of the neck, and the soldier is worthless for combat, worthless even for work detail. They just want to go off in a corner and mope. Getting drunk didn't assuage their remorse; vacations didn't scratch it. These stout and staunch German soldiers couldn't be happy -- or function in any useful sense -- after just a few weeks of shooting duty.

America's stout and staunch Guantanamo guards will want to pray some day, or raise a family, or enjoy a sunset, or just live in peace with themselves, and it won't be there for them. A white sand beach and a tall gin fizz will still feel like Hell to these men trying to get back to who they were before they pulled Gitmo duty.

What they are doing right now is compartmentizing their own biological and intuitive responses to the visceral human pain and fear and horror they have in their immediate presence. They stuff it.

They stuff it, thinking it has gone away.

It doesn't go anywhere.

And there isn't anywhere they can go to get away from it.

Frames exist within larger frames. Draw a larger frame around your opponent's frame; he will appear wrong or insufficient. This is how wizards play.

by Antifa (antifa@bellsouth.net) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 09:08:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
grr, krauthammer makes my skin crawl.

a most smugly evil pontificator, so serene in his imagined superiority.

in tandem with baby-blue eyes kristol, my blood pressure rockets.

i wonder how much mdma it'll take to help these guards to forgive themselves.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 05:36:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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