With Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Caribbean, the Pentagon rushed a neurosurgery team to the Navy base at Guantánamo to operate on the spine of an al-Qaida detainee who was at risk of paralysis.
Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, awaiting trial on charges he led the al-Qaida army in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, has been using a wheelchair and experiencing pain with a bulging lower-back disc from a decade-long degenerative disease, according to his lawyers, who blamed years of “useless treatment” at Guantánamo for the situation.
But U.S. military officials described the same episode differently — as a demonstration of Department of Defense determination to provide their captives with top-notch healthcare at the isolated outpost.
At the heart of the crisis is a law forbidding any of Guantánamo’s 41 captives to come to the United States for any reason. That means the small base hospital has to import expertise to address medical care rather than med-evac captives to treatment, like any of the other 5,500 residents of the base in southeast Cuba.
Pentagon spokesman refused to name Hadi by name by addressed his condition and surgery, which took place on Tuesday in parallel terms. The surgery was deemed to be an emergency on Sunday, with a change in the patient’s condition which became dire, and the doctors remained at the facility with the patient until Thursday.
Hadi, 56, who announced his real name is Nashwan al Tamir, allegedly directed and paid insurgents to carry out attacks on U.S. and allied troops and civilians in the post 9/11 invasion of Afghanistan and take out the Taliban. He was captured in Turkey, and in April 2007 was brought to Guantánamo’s clandestine Camp 7 prison for former CIA captives. He was formally charged at the war court in June 2014.
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Photo courtesy Red Cross