Food for thought

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 for the birds

Borrowing a page from Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy on non-violence, inmates at El Paso County Jail in Colorado went on a brief hunger strike to combat unnecessary cruelty.

After surviving five straight days of turkey dinners the prisoners protested this inhumane punishment by refusing to eat.

(And all this time I thought convicts were fed bread and water in prison. Silly me.)

Officials finally reasoned with the inmates and explained that the turkey meals were not a form of punishment – unlike the threat of water boarding (dripping water into a wet cloth over the suspect’s face so it feels like drowning).

And since U.S. policy has embraced such novel interrogation methods for detainees, prison officials have toyed with the possibility of instituting these new policies across the board at all U.S. detention centers, for all prisoners.

Within 30 minutes the strike ended.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe in Iran, investigative reporter Akbar Ganji is also on a hunger strike. The journalist, imprisoned in April 2000 and charged with acting against national security for participating in an academic conference in Berlin, was sentenced to ten years imprisonment plus five years of exile.

Ganji staged this hunger strike to protest his treatment in prison. His health is in serious decline after losing more than 50 pounds in 55 days. He is very weak, frequently loses consciousness, and is in danger of starving to death say human rights groups who continue to monitor his condition.

Now forgive my ignorance – but what exactly is the point of a hunger strike?

I know it’s a form of non-violence and political protest, but how does it motivate a tyrant to action? Government officals in Iran obviously don’t care about an enemy of the state starving to death in prison. Eight nobel laureates fom three countries have appealed to Iran to release Ganji and still nothing – no response.

And in a surprise move, even President Bush issued a statement expressing outrage at Ganji’s imprisonment and in Iran’s refusal to allow him legal representation and access to family.

Now you can just imagine how well that went over. I think I can still hear hoots of laughter coming from that region of the world.

But getting back to the purpose of starving yourself in protest. Remind me – what IS the point?

I mean if I went on a hunger strike today to protest against the war in Iraq, my maintenance guy would find my dead body in October and chalk it up to another incident of DC mortality.


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