Two months ago, men stopped eating at the American prison at Guantanamo Bay. By last week, the Guantanamo hunger strike had spread to dozens of other inmates. The government puts the number of protesters at about 40; lawyers for the prisoners say that a majority of the more than 160 men being held are refusing food. At least 11 are being force-fed. After a visit to the detention facility last week, the Red Cross saw “a clear link” between the hunger strike and the “emotional state” of men held in suspended animation, illegally deprived not only of freedom, but of hope.
A month ago, President Obama said, “I am not a dictator.” He lacks the power, he explained, to “do a Jedi mind-meld” on legislators who thwart his proposals. He was speaking of a paralyzed budget process, but he could have been talking about Guantanamo. On his first day in office, in 2009, he signed an executive order closing the detention facility “no later than one year” from that date. It did not happen. Almost a year later, he ordered that a prison in Illinois be readied to receive detainees from Guantanamo. It did not happen. A year after that, he signed another order, to establish a review process for detainees. It did not happen.