We do have a few detainees who like to splash, House said.
At Camp 5s particularly high-risk, hostile cellblocks, guards don face masks and jumpsuits atop their battle dress. Even so, Sgt. M said the slime slid inside four different times. He got a medical checkup, decontamination drill and new uniform.
Its tough. You cannot be angry in that moment. Its not a pleasant thing to have to endure but you have to take that next breath, said M., who added that not all the detainees treat him poorly. He came to Guantánamo from guarding criminal soldiers at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, and said the work here takes the same skill: Maintain your composure, maintain your professionalism.
Most members of the guard force serve for nine months to a year, and call their captives by their internment numbers, not their names. They are forbidden to read the military assessments of the detainees that court-martialed Army Pvt. Bradley Manning gave to WikiLeaks, and are posted on the Miami Herald website.
Still, Sgt. M. said he does have empathy for the men he guards.
I understand these people are human beings, he said. Theyve been away from their families. Im sure they miss their families and their homes.
Last year, a Camp 5 commander said nearly exactly the same thing. Since then, the detainees through their lawyers have complained of cruel treatment, of disrespectful Quran searches, humiliating genital pat downs and horribly painful forced-feedings all of which the U.S. military denies.
In September a mentally ill captive was allowed to kill himself with a drug overdose in a disciplinary cell, according to a Southcom investigation that in November blamed both guards and medical staff for not keeping close enough watch on him. A new more rigid regime followed.
Looking back, says Navy Capt. Robert Durand who has logged the most time there as prison spokesman, a culture of communal captivity bred what he called unchecked mass indiscipline by the detainees at the once showcase Camp 6 prison building where last year about 100 captives were considered cooperative enough to roam freely last Ramadan.
In January, soldiers replaced sailors at Camp 6, and one watchtower guard felt threatened enough to fire rubber bullets into the prisons $744,000 giant recreation yard, which has been off-limits to prisoners for months.
Before the hunger strike began in February, new guards tossed the cooperative captives cells. They scooped up books, food, clothing, legal documents, an MP-3 player. Lawyers for the captives say it was stuff the men had been permitted for years and the new guards broke a sort of status quo. Detainees frustrated by years of indefinite detention, 86 of the 166 cleared for release, were furious. They declared a hunger strike, covered up their cell cameras to stop the soldiers from seeing who might be starving to death.
Before dawn on April under direction of Southcom, teams of soldiers in riot gear stormed the defiant prison building housing half of Guantanamos captives, uncovered the cameras and put them all under lockdown. What had largely been a cease-fire in splashings was over.
Prison hunger-strike participation soared, as did the numbers of detainees whose health was at risk, according to Navy medical staff, who brought in extra nurses and medics to conduct twice daily forced-feedings. At its height, the military said up to 46 captives who wouldnt relent and drink a bottle if Ensure nutritional supplement could get it delivered twice daily through a tube in the nose.
60 hunger strikers
By this weekend, the prison said the number of hunger strikers had dropped to 60 from that all-time high of 106. But nobody on either side was declaring victory.
The strike will continue until the military relearns how to communicate with the men, said Ohio public defender Carlos Warner, attorney for about a dozen captives who wont take a phone call from him because of the groin-search requirement. Meeting them with force and punishing them like children will only deepen their resolve. Its five months into the strike, and the military still refuses to have a meaningful dialogue with the men.
At the prison, medical and guard staff insisted that the overwhelming majority of prisoners took part in Ramadans nightly festive iftar meal. Some were simply not eating enough to get healthy, according to Navy corpsmen who help evaluate the captives body weight.
Zak, the cultural advisor who got there in 2005 and was around when the camps introduced the Ramadan pardon, is unwilling to say whether the strike has been broken.
We dont know, he said. Are they taking a break because its Ramadan? Thats their choice.