I am going to be sick

From a Navy Seal Kodak momentOne of 17 techniques authorized by Rumsfeld. This is non-fatal duress, permitted so long as it does not induce organ failure. Here Navy Seals put a hood over a detainee and strike his head unpredictably from directions unforeseen.

Today an American doctor was forced to reveal through an affidavid that he and the medical staff at Guantanamo have been force-feeding the hunger-striking detainees through nasal tubes.

Remember Guantanamo? When the Abu Ghraib photos emerged, the White House responded indignantly that Rumsfeld had never authorized such interrogation methods for anywhere except Guantanamo.

Guantanamo is where we’ve been sending suspected terrorists. We’ve now already released most of the Gitmo detainees for lack of charges. We hang on to several hundred more but still have not filed any charges.

Over 80 prisoners at Guantanamo are currently protesting their general inhumane treatment and their detainment without charges, some for up to four years. They have been maintaining a hunger strike, now nearing its sixth month.

The hunger strike has been kept largely out of the American press. Thus the doctor’s recent confession would have little context for typical American viewers.

To counter the hunger-strike, the prisoners are bound at up to “six points of restraint” and force-feed through tubes which are inserted through their nose and wind down to their stomachs.

I have experience with that tube.

A couple years ago I had a ruptured appendix. My recovery required the use of a nasogastric tube through my nose. It was the most miserable experience of my life.

Having the tube inserted into your nose, coaxed around the bends of the nasal passage and down the throat meant an interminable sequence of gagging, regurgitating, and frantic reflexive swallows. Afterward the first order of business was to dry both patient and bed of what was thrown up.

Never before had I felt my life so fragile and helpless. I could not help but reflect that I had gone within minutes from being a defiant patient to being utterly subdued. My sense of dominion over my physical self was gone. I hoped only to emerge from that first night with my sanity.

Torture
I myself have no concept of torture, nor even of physical violence. I can read about the torture we have sanctioned and applied against our enemies and it all looks awful, although perhaps most of us can comprehend its awfulness only in the abstract. Is that perhaps why we permit it?

The nearest I have come to identifying with the terror felt by a torture victim was hearing of the Iraqi general who was shoved head first into a sleeping bag and sat upon until he suffocated. Probably we can all recollect in our youth the panic induced by the combination of claustrophobia and being unable to catch our breath.

From my hospital experience I have a very vivid first hand experience to compare to the treatment meted to the Gitmo detainees. And we’re not even talking about interrogation or punishment, we’re talking about medical procedures. My nasogastric tube was for emptying my stomach. It was not the 3 millemeter tube they are using to feed the prisoners. Nor certainly was it the 4.8 millemeter tube the US medical staff was originally using because they wanted to feed the prisoners more quickly and get them back to their cells. Which suggests that they are repeating the insertion process for each feeding.

Torture is illegal. The United States ratified the 1996 Torture Convention. Torture is wrong regardless of whether you are signatory to an agreement. It’s inhumane, it’s abhorrent, it dehumanizes those who commit it, and it may invite our opponents to justify it as well. As if it were even our place any longer to expect their mercy.

Force-feeding a person who is intent on fasting is another sort of crime. It is assault, plain and simple. And committed by a medial practitioner it is against their professional oath.

I don’t know how to be afraid of the depths to which we are sinking. I do know I feel sick to my stomach.

Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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