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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion ...
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Opinion page editor Rick Holmes and other writers blog about national politics and issues. Holmes & Co. is a Blog for Independent Minds, a place for a free-flowing discussion of policy, news and opinion. This blog is the online cousin of the Opinion section of the MetroWest Daily News in Framingham, Mass. As such, our focus starts there and spreads to include Massachusetts, the nation and the world. Since successful blogs create communities of readers and writers, we hope the \x34& Co.\x34 will also come to include you.
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By Rick Holmes
June 5, 2013 6:21 p.m.

It’s just a guess, but history may find the conflict between what Obama says and what Obama does to be the defining conflict in his second term.  If so, we can expect the story of the heckler at his counter-terrorism policy speech last month to be often repeated: She protests his policies; he  makes little effort to defend them, then says we should listen to voices like hers. “These are tough issues. And the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong,” he said.
But while Congress shares the blame for Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo, what goes on there is Obama’s responsibility, and, as Joe Nocera notes in a couple of recent columns, what’s been going on there is ugly indeed.
First, Nocera explains the new procedures that are preventing detainees from consulting with their lawyers:
Today, if a lawyer asks to speak with his or her client, a meeting — and even a phone call — must take place at another location. And before they are moved to the location, the detainees are searched for “contraband.” According to the legal filings, the search includes touching the genitals and the anus of the detainees — which, as the military well knows, violates the detainees’ Muslim faith and will cause them to refuse the meeting. If the detainee does decide to go forward with the meeting, he is then shackled hand and foot, and chained to the floor of a van, in a purposely painful, bent-over position.
These guys, scores of whom have been informally declared innocent, have already been locked up for more than a decade, with no chance of escape. Why are the guards punishing them further?
No wonder they are on a hunger strike, which was the topic of Nocera’s next column. “Is force feeding torture?” Nocera asks, then provides citations in international law that seem to answer “yes.” For those who, like me, figured force-feeding of a prisoner on hunger strike was as benign as a IV in a hospital patient’s arm, Nocera (or the Gitmo lawyers feeding him the info) provides the grisly details:
… the detainee shackled to a special chair (which looks like the electric chair); the head restraints if he resists; the tube pushed painfully down his nose; the half-hour or so of ingestion of nutritional supplements; the transfer of the detainee to a “dry cell,” where, if he vomits, he is strapped back into the chair until the food is digested. Detainees are also apparently given an anti-nausea drug called Reglan, which has a horrible potential side effect if given for more than three months: a disease called tardive dyskinesia, which causes twitching and other uncontrollable movements.
Nocera pointedly asks why, if Obama knows Guantanamo is a mistake, he hasn’t at least ordered the officers running the place to stop the unnecessary humiliations and force-feeding of the detainees. I’d ask why, since he’s already announced he’ll send nearly half of them back to Yemen, he hasn’t already sent them to a temporary transfer site, removing at least some of the inspiration for the hunger strike.  Instead, he seems to be making a bad situation worse.
 

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