GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba - Here's a new twist in the U.S. military's Islamic sensitivity
effort in the prison camps for suspected terrorists at the Guantánamo
Bay Navy base:
Military medical staff are force-feeding a
secret number of prisoners on hunger strike between dusk and dawn during
the Muslim fasting holiday of Ramadan.
The prison camps
spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Bradley Fagan, says it is U.S. Southern Command
policy to no longer reveal the exact number of detainees being shackled
by guards into restraint chairs for twice daily feedings.
Instead, he said, ``less than 10'' captives among the 176 held
for years at Guantánamo were last week counted as hunger strikers.
``Detainees who are fasting get their meals before dawn,'' he said
Wednesday, disclosing only the hours of that day's feeding ``in
observance of the Ramadan schedule'' -- before 5:26 a.m. and after 7:28
``Please note,'' he added, ``that not all hunger strikers are enteral feeders.''
As prison camps spokesman, Fagan has clamped a new level of secrecy
on the Pentagon's practice of pumping protein shakes into the stomachs
of captives who refuse to eat meals catered to the prison camps by
Defense Department contractors.
A fact sheet dated June 28 on
the Guantánamo website disclosed some other figures: ``Each detainee
receives 5,500-6,000 calories per day and has six menus to choose from.
Feast meals are served two times per week.''
It put the price of meeting the captives ``cultural and dietary needs'' at approximately $3 million a year.
Fagan's predecessors had scrupulously referred to a complex matrix
that calculated the number of skipped meals and weight loss to disclose
the numbers of hunger strikers versus those being shackled to a chair
and fed twice a day by tube.
On Feb. 11, 2009, for example, the
prison camps reported that 41 of the 245 captives held at Guantánamo at
the start of the Obama administration were classified as hunger
strikers. That day, 35 were getting twice-a-day, one-hour feedings.
Guantánamo detainees have turned to hunger strikes across the years
as a method of both protest and challenging authority in the remote
prison camps in southeast Cuba. The military has responded with a range
of methods to try to disrupt the strikes -- introduction of the feeding
chair, segregation and isolation of those who take part, banishment from
the most communal of camps where captives can pray and eat together.
Prison camps commanders have argued the procedure was painless and
two admirals said they had personally had Navy medical staff nourish
them through ``enteral feedings'' to check it out.
Fagan did say that the prison camps is hewing to past practice of using military medical staff for feedings.
To demystify it a bit, Navy prison camp hospital workers some years
back created a display of different flavored supplements and let
visiting reporters handle a sample yellow rubber feeding tube.
By last summer, staff were pointing to Butter Pecan flavored Ensure as
popular with the chair-shackled captives. Flavor made no difference
going down, one nurse explained, but a captive could taste it if he