Theatrical depiction of tortured prisoners from Guantanamo, a well as a conversation with an eyewitness of torture in another war zone.
January 11, 2014, around the United States and around the world, individuals and groups marked this day to commemorate the ugliness, and the brutality we have all come to recognize as Guantanamo – “Close Guantanamo Now.”
Marking this date, the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 156 of Rogue Valley Oregon, gave a performance of street theater in Vogle Plaza, downtown Medford, Oregon. It was a wintery day – grim, cloudy-dark on that noon day – an appropriate setting for a theme of death, as an introduction to six prisoners who died while imprisoned at Guatanamo Bay Prison, Cuba. These men had not been not convicted of any crime … unless the mere act of waiting has been deemed a crime.
View an interview on Rogue Valley TV, Channel 15, with Robert Doell, who played the role of the Sergeant in the play. And video here.
The eight prisoners were dressed in typical orange jumpsuits with black hoods, each carried a sign saying they had died while incarcerated at Guantanamo. One of the Veterans for Peace played the role of a sergeant. Robert Doell is a large man who fit the role well as he towered over each prisoner, and read each name aloud as they turned their sign around to show they “Died, waiting for justice.” Then the Sergeant tore off each black hood to display their humanity.
Viewers could see the progression of change in the Sergeant’s expression, from indifference, to sadness and emotional pain by the end of the row of dispatched prisoners – all had died in Guantanamo, six supposedly by suicide. He felt the prisoners angst, and we saw it on his face.
A ruling of suicide is disputed – However, before his death, one of the men had just heard he would be released. A person would be unlikely to commit suicide if he knew were going to be freed. Three of the men had died on the same day, June 10, 2006. Also, from records and eyewitnesses to the bodies, each of the suicides, had their throats cut away, rendering them impossible to show if their deaths were self-inflicted.
On September 8, 2012, a prisoner was found dead in his cell. He was the ninth prisoner to die since the prison was opened … and the 4th to have died since President Obama’s inauguration, says Glenn Greenwald in 2012, “Whereas Bush preferred to detain people without due process or judicial review, Obama simply kills them.”
How death comes – In February, 2011, 48-year-old detainee Awal Gul died in Guantanamo of what was said to have been a heart attack, but heart attacks are common occurrences after “strenuous” interrogations, says a witness (name withheld) to such tortures as water-boarding, force-feeding, etc.…when he was in MI during the Korean War, “The guys (North Koreans) were so scared, they often had a heart attack, or drowned, right there, shaking, when water was poured through a funnel down their throats; a heart attack or drowned – they were terrified and died.”
One of the three U.S. Court of Appeals judges on a panel, Judge David Tatal, hearing on Feb. 11, stated, “Absent exceptional circumstances prison officials may force-feed a starving inmate actually facing the risk of death,” Judge David Tatel wrote his opinion as, “This is a court of law, not an arbiter of medical ethics.” But it is a misnomer to refer to the proceedings as a court of law, when none of the prisoners have had an actual trial. The US claims there is insufficient evidence for conviction of any of the current 155 prisoners. How can that be.
In the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama reiterated the vow he made five years ago when he first became president, and true to form, he offered no new “prescriptions” for Gutanamo’s demise. “President Obama’s legacy is at stake and his time is slipping away,” said Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program. Veterans for Peace say the same is true for the 155 current prisoners remaining at Gitmo, but it is their lives that are slipping away.