Of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, philosopher Giorgio Agamben wrote in 2004 that they are “subject now only to raw power; they have no legal existence.” Almost a decade later, Agamben’s conception of the prison camp as inhabited by “bare life” — inmates outside and at the limits of law, 11 years without charge or trial — has been played out to its logical extension. According to a military spokesman at Guantanamo Monday, 100 of the 166 inmates are hunger striking and 21 are receiving feeding through nasal tubes — they are truly subjects of raw, sovereign power over life and death.
According to reports, the Navy last weekend sent in some 40 extra medical personnel to deal with the strike and, as Al Jazeera noted, of the five hospitalized detainees it is not clear whether they are in life-threatening conditions. Via Al Jazeera:
More and more critics have called for the immediate closure of the facility.
Among them is former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, Air Force colonel Morris Davis, who warned that “unless President Obama acts soon, I believe it is likely one or more of the detainees will die.”
Andrea Prasow, senior counterterrorism counsel and advocate at Human Rights Watch, said “there has never been such a critical moment in the history of Guantanamo.”
For a number of years Gitmo has exemplified a suspension (and so a troubling re-constituting) of legal norms: habeas corpus, Geneva Conventions and the right to a fair trial have long been suspended. The ever-deteriorating situation at the camp illustrates the reality of sites like Gitmo — where the exception to law is the rule, the only resistance available is a refusal to keep living, and even that protest is suppressed.