On May 11, NPR gave an update on Guantanamo Bay and the hunger strike during All Things Considered. NPR reported that according to a military count, 100 of the 166 men detained at Guantanamo are participating in the hunger strike. Of those participating, 27 are being force-fed.
President Obama, who has done little to nothing publically on the issue, continues to “believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo.” In the 11 plus years that the detention camp has detained and interrogated prisoners, it’s clear that no member of Congress, neither Republicans nor Democrats, has shown any actionable interest in closing it. But, I suppose that they are just abiding by the wishes of the electorate. Polls show that the majority of Americans don’t mind, that they don’t want Guantanamo to close even though 86 (half of the total prisoners) have been cleared for release but remain in prison.
All of this, and the fact that the military is spending millions on new health care and other infrastructure to support the prison, makes me seriously question what, if any, moral compass guides our nation’s leadership. More personally, I wonder what moral compass guides each of us, as we really do have some collective power in demanding change in governmental policies and practices.
Look at the facts. None of the 166 men imprisoned are currently facing the death penalty. Some of these inmates’ lives are so ironically “valued” that 27 of them are being force-fed so they can stay alive. Yet, no words have been said or work done to actually let those individuals go who have been declared free.
Why not just kill them? No feeding tubes would be needed. No military guards required. Oh, I remember. That would be a violation of the inmates’ human rights. Yet somehow, none of the other actions conducted are inhumane.
Out of an argument for safety from terrorism for all Americans, we have become our own worst enemy. What confidence can I have in my government when so many questions are left unanswered and so many lives are kept in limbo, not free to live and not free to die.
Alberto Gonzales, President Bush’s attorney general during the September 11 attacks, says that he still believes that Guantanamo services an essential purpose. “That was the balance that we were going to strike in order to make sure that not another life here in America would be at jeopardy.”
The American life, as it was once glamorously known, is in jeopardy every day. There is a growing divide between rich and poor; between the haves and have-nots. Our schools continue to struggle to finance quality education for students. The cost of a college education continues to rise, making the perceived “golden ticket” harder to catch and hold. Health care continues to be completely unaffordable and inaccessible for millions in our country that need it.
I wonder, does allocating millions more for the military to spend really secure our freedom? Does it really make sure that our lives are not “jeopardized”?
Justice and security are out of balance. Unfortunately, it will take much more than releasing 86 prisoners to restore balance.
Gena Akers can be contacted at