The New York Times recently published a Guantanamo detainee’s account of the brutal treatment he’s received at his prison. In clear, cutting language, the Yemeni prisoner tell us of his hunger strike — of the tubes thrust “up [his] nose” (and, once, “18 inches into [his] stomach”) that shovel food down his throat.
The violent imagery that he conjures is powerful. But more powerful is the man’s earnest voice. It’s a helpless voice, beaten down by 11 years worth of suffering and humiliation: He tells us of when he was denied toilet usage, and of when he wasn’t permitted to change out of clothes onto which force-fed food had slopped and dribbled. But, remarkably, his is a voice not yet broken:
“And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.”
When I first read this article a few days back, I thought that, perhaps, it would effect change, that perhaps the people might rally around it and call for the closing of Guantanamo, or at least ask why it was still open. NPR, The Atlantic, Huffington Post and others took note, and Reddit raised a storm. But I don’t think attention is enough. How do we translate attention into action? When will people demand Guantanamo’s closing? What will it take for Mr. President to belatedly make good on his promise? I don’t pretend to have the answers — but I’m frustrated just the same.