Guantanamo Detainee Attempts Suicide. It's been a long time since suicide attempt number 33, so this slowdown in the pace of attempts is a sign that maybe the conditions are less awful?
Well, maybe. Or maybe not. It could be that the military has just redefined what constitutes a suicide attempt in an effort to mitigate the awful publicity worldwide caused by the detainees' apparent beliefs that they were better off dead. Consider this UK report that appeared on Newsnight, a leading news show, while I was in the UK.
But this is not a holiday camp. There are currently 660 prisoners. None has any idea if they will ever be freed. In the 13 months up to August this year, there have been 32 suicide attempts. Since then, there has only been one further attempted suicide recorded. They have, however, introduced a separate category – manipulative self injurious behaviour – SIB. It is applied to individuals deemed to have merely feigned suicide attempts. There have been over 40 SIBs since the summer. This new classification troubles Britain's leading forensic psychiatrist.
DR JAMES MACKEITH
(Maudsley Royal Hospital):
It is impossible to authoritatively assess attempts at self harm in such a way as to justify confidence that a particular self-destructive act is designed to have a manipulative purpose, rather than a self-destructive purpose.
It is not a valuable clinical definition, as far as you are concerned.
It is a new one on me.
Bottom line: we have no idea what's going on there. (Cf. TalkLeft, noting that while it talks of releasing some unspecified number of detainees sooner or later, the US is also expanding the carrying capacity at Gitmo to almost double what it is now…)