Your Tax Dollars at Work: What Force Feeding at Gitmo Looks Like

Posted on by

A trend since 9/11 has been the remarkable increase in the depiction of of torture and the over-use of violence by the authorities in movies. Admittedly, there was considerable uproar over the torture scenes at the beginning of Zero Dark Thirty, which also depicted it as extracting useful intelligence when virtually all experts say it’s unproductive (people will say anything, true or not, to stop the pain). But even as only an occasional movie goer, I’ve seen some previews and ads that were stunning. One a few years back was a recruiting ad which made combat look like a music video (pumped up men, hip music, action that looked close to choreographed). It elicited hisses from the NYC audience. The action movies show more graphic beatings than they used to. And a few months ago, I saw a preview for a kiddie movie, Despicables 2, in which one of the protagonists repeatedly zapped other characters with a lipstick taser. And yes, they writhed a lot.

It’s important to see what all this Hollywood special effects, melodrama, and glamorization masks. The Guardian’s must-see video of the second Snowden interview may have served to distract attention from another important video they released on Monday. 106 prisoners are on hunger strike at Gitmo, and 44 are being force-fed. To add to the abusiveness, there are apparently not enough staff for the barbaric practice to be inflicted on the detainees before sunrise and after sunset during Ramadan, which is about to start. From emergency motion filed last week on behalf of four detainees (hat tip Marcy Wheeler):

Petitioners’ force-feeding also violates medical ethics and is inhumane. For that reason, too, it serves no legitimate penological interest. The only theory advanced to justify petitioners’ detention is that, more than a decade ago, they were enemy belligerents. Their detention, it is said, is necessary to ward off some putative “return” to the battlefield. They dispute that claim, but even if one accepts it, a noncriminal enemy belligerent is still entitled, under the Geneva Conventions and basic standards of human decency, to be treated honorably and humanely. Being strapped to a chair and having a tube forcibly inserted through one’s nostrils and into one’s stomach is dishonorable and degrading. It falls within the ambit of torture or other forms of inhumane treatment. In the long history of American detention of the enemy, bodily invasions of this character have never been the routine business of the prisoner of war camp.

Marcy Wheeler reported that the judge, as she had predicted, turned down the request for lack of jurisdiction but still condemned the practice and pointed out that Obama has the authority to end it.

The Guardian presented this video by Human Rights organisation Reprieve and Bafta award-winning director Asif Kapadia, US actor and rapper Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), which is based on leaked military documents describing the standard operating procedures for these force-feedings.

This is not for the squeemish, but I strongly urge you to watch it.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Skeptic

    “The Guardian presented this video… which is based on leaked military documents describing the standard operating procedures for these force-feedings.”

    Not exactly clear, but I assume and hope this video was leaked. The more leakers there are the less their ability to keep on with their War Crimes (and Financial and other Crimes). This is what stopped Vietnam.

    It really seems the US is accelerating its brutality and lawlessness both internationally and domestically. The Drone Campaign is a real tell card. This may be a sign the game is up. In real Hope, we can keep in mind that the last Regime to engage massively in despicable and loathsome acts like this only lasted a mere thirteen years.

    So, Leakers, protect your identity and then LEAK LIKE HELL!
    And then do it again. You have lots of power.

    1. Synopticist

      This video is a publicity stunt by the guardian newspaper and some 9-11 truffer rapper guy. Pure BS.

      1. borkman

        Stunt? Have you ever had a tube inserted up your nose? Eliot later in the thread has and says how terrible the procedure is.

        Reactions like yours make me ashamed to be an American. The forcefeeding is an abomination, but you instead denigrate people who are willing to suffer themselves to give the public an idea of what is being done in their name.

  2. Leviathan

    I am so glad you are prominently linking to this, Yves.

    If anyone has seen “Hunger,” the Steve McQueen film about IRA hunger striker/martyr Bobby Sands, this will look all too familiar.
    I am profoundly disturbed by its raw violence (kudos to Bey for agreeing to it).

    I think this will bring back the debate on torture in a new and more direct way, given the sheer deluge of revelations on what our government is doing in our name (to others and to us), and the huge gap in credibility that has opened up between Washington and We the People.

    Systems of control and coercion are now in place that should give every American (and non-American) pause. They are nearly complete: Big Brother level spying; drones and advanced satellite-guided weaponry; incarceration practices that are barely distinguishable from those of police states (decades-long imprisonment without trial; naked solitary confinement for political prisoners; brutal forced feedings).

    If we do not stand up against this tyranny we deserve what we will get.

    1. Leviathan

      I will just add, Snowden should use this video in his plea for amnesty/air rights/right of passage. He should vow to undertake a hunger strike immediately should he be rendered against his will back to the US.

      No one should doubt the effectiveness of the hunger strike as a technique of protest in an asymmetrical political struggle. It worked against the British in India and Northern Ireland. It would work against us if we had a free press. That very few Americans even know about the mass force feedings at Gitmo is an indictment against ALL mainstream US media outlets.

  3. aletheia33

    ordering medical personnel to carry out these feedings is also abuse. the aftermath for them will not be pretty. some may be sadistic, but some will be having trouble sleeping at night and other “physical and mental health problems.” does anyone know how many have quit or in other ways absented themselves so as not to have to perform this torture? didn’t one doctor commit suicide after quitting? who is giving them a voice?

    and, as they say, the whole world is watching.
    except for the controlled media.

    1. washunate

      Agreed. But at the same time, the medical profession is one of the major sources of corruption and careerism that has enabled the authoritarianism, the psychopathy, in the first place.

      Doctors are supposed to be some of our most highly educated and thoughtful and caring people.

      Yet the medical community has been wholly impotent in restraining such activity of the government or in censuring or really in any way punishing individual doctors who participate.

      It is a very similar credibility problem across all of our educated professions, from healthcare to law to higher education itself. The very educated liberals and technocrats who are supposed to know better are, in fact, enabling the system.

        1. washunate

          Yep. When the platinum coin MMTers acknowledge that we need to reduce this kind of government spending, then we’ll know they’re getting somewhere.

          Until then, it’s just ordinary, bland, monetarist cover for out of control authoritarianism.

          1. Lambert Strether

            Nope. This is trolling, pure and simple.

            1. The “I will not take [A]____ seriously until they do [B]___ ” is another snowclone beloved of trolls and gotcha artists everywhere. (The best example I can almost remember is from a long ago National Lampoon cartoon about William Howard Taft: “If [A] William Jennings Bryan is a serious candidate, [B] why will he not engage in a pie-eating contest?

            2. Of course, the reason the snowclone “works,” at least for the purposes of trolling, is that it presumes — traps the unwary responder into assuming — a connection between [A] and [B] when in fact there is none. See here at “category error” in today’s MMT thread, which is where this comment would belong, were it not trolling.

            1. washunate

              I think it’s very important to push back against this flawed premise.

              There are people like Joe Firestone who have been advocating that ‘austerity’ is bad, ‘spending’ is good, as if what matters is simply the aggregate size of net public spending. We have been net deficit spending trillions of dollars, with the vast majority going to precisely the war criminals and financial fraudsters and healthcare rentiers and others.

              One way to refute such a claim is to make broad statements like the prior sentence. Another way is to link specific examples of bad spending to it, like prisoner abuse at Guantanamo.

              Some spending is good, not all spending. That’s a hugely important distinction, particularly given the fact that wealth concentration driven by public policy is our primary problem today.

  4. Norman

    This type of action is being done on a daily basis in the name of all Americans who have no say in the matter.

  5. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for this post, Yves, but especially for your aside about the newly released children’s movie.

    Film is the most powerful communication media (as well as being the most heavily controlled and costly to produce). I am deeply concerned about the effect films such as the one you mentioned have on the minds of our children.

    It has been clear for some time that child film characters like Mickey Mouse have been engineered away in favor of heavily marketed movies that feature violent protagonists of both genders. Why is this being done to us?

  6. Paul

    Sick sick sick.
    I watched it once and I felt queasy as I tried to imagine the feeling of that tube being inserted through my nose. And I felt uncomfortable watching the person being “voluntarily” subjected to the test. I can only imagine that in real life it could feel n times worse – and I imagine that whoever opposes will be forcefully (violently?) manhandled into submission.
    And it sort of reminds me of some of the darkest passages in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Gulag Archipelago – dark pages of history that were happening in an “evil” country… Enough said.

    On the other hand I’m trying to imagine what goes through the minds of those who have to administer this form of “life management”… Are they really so zombified to the extent that they feel no compassion at all? Have they been trained to the point where all their humanity has shriveled away like a dead leaf? We know that some special operations forces are trained to withstand torture… Does this training give them some kind of moral high ground to relativise the pain and suffering of their prisoners?

    Worrying times to be a human being…

  7. ronbon

    Kudos to you for bringing the truth to the surface and to Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) for bringing truth to power. I was unaware that the U.S. had disavowed any and all treaties, agreements of international norms of decency and humanity.

    As a World War II veteran, I am disgusted, appalled and infuriated that the country which I have loved and once fought for has descended into the deepest pits of HELL!!!

    Everyone…..repeat….EVERYONE….who has had any major role in this despicable…dishonorable… WAR CRIME…should be arrested, charged, tried….and CONVICTED of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. They should then be LINED UP AGAINST A WALL AND SHOT….preferably without a blindfold, and their bodies consigned to a garbage heap…not burial among decent human beings. For those who may be unaware, there is ample precedent for such recrimination in the War Crimes trials following WWII.

    They have dishonored any vestige of dignity or humanity which this sad-assed country still claims to have. HELL….we didn’t even treat the most heinous war criminals in history in such a primordial fashion.

    Particularly guilty are Dick Cheney, George W. Bush and Barack Hussein Obama, with whom rested the ultimate power. The contempt and hatred in which I hold them knows no bounds; they have dishonored this country more than any traitor(s) in our long history and shown the world what CONTEMPTIBLE COWARDS the current U.S. military really are…hope that makes you current active duty folks feel really good!

    To each and every one of those misbegotten “leaders” (???) (hahaha), I invoke those deathless lines:
    When you’re old and syphilitic, and your body is a wreck,
    May your spine fall through your asshole,

    Ronald L. Bontsema
    U.S. Navy (1943-46)

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      Crimes Against Humanity are summarized at this link: in the section that discusses the Rome Statute Explanatory Memorandum which gives jurisdiction to the International Criminal Court (ICC) established in The Hague (Netherlands) in 2002.

      It is extremely important to comply with the rule of law.

    2. Waking Up

      Mr. Bontsema:

      I understand your anger.

      A close relative of mine,which once guarded POW’s during WWII, told me on numerous occasions that he treated the POW’s the way he would want to be treated if he were in their shoes. It not only garnered him some respect among the POW’s, but he also said it kept him from losing his sense of “humanity”. If he were alive today, frankly, I think what we have become as a nation would appall him and make him sad beyond words.

      As for Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, they must have lost any sense of humanity if they ever had any to begin with. History will not look kindly on them or their war crimes and corruption.

  8. washunate

    Bad spending needs to end. Period. It is wrong, counterproductive, unconstitutional, and wasteful.

    I find it fascinating that the platinum coin inflation denying wing of MMTers don’t pop up in these threads arguing for the economic utility of abusing prisoners.

    This is what our current leadership does with expenditures, the overwhelming percentage of which go to the war criminals, financial fraudsters, healthcare rentiers, and other forms of corporate welfare and authoritarianism destroying our economy and our republic.

    1. jrs

      [quote]I find it fascinating that the platinum coin inflation denying wing of MMTers don’t pop up in these threads arguing for the economic utility of abusing prisoners.[/quote]

      There is a space between arguing the economic utility of abusing prisoners and reaching the point of such deep moral disgust with the U.S. government that you really can barely even stomach funding the darn thing anymore (though I do pay my taxes). It’s not that social security and so on isn’t still useful, of course it is, but most money these days does seem to get funneled into the death machine. I’m not eager to make it any easier for them to have more money and power at this point.

    2. Lambert Strether

      The “I find it fascinating…” snowclone is a staple intro for the discussion of an idea that the poster typically finds more fascinating than most readers, oftimes because, well, it’s just not that well thought out. As we see here.

      1. washunate

        Unfortunately, what is often not well thought out is responses to people challenging MMT from the ‘left’ or whatever we want to call that.

        Joe Firestone and others have been repeatedly proclaiming that spending money is the answer. Yet when challenged on how the money would be spent, they don’t answer.

        Because monetary policy isn’t the problem. Fiscal policy is the problem.

        1. duh

          Joe Firestone really need to strap you down and make you understand his theory. Force feed it to you.

          Rather than try to understand his theory, you whine, straw man and yell that “I don’t understand, make me understand”.

          And yet you have a problem with force feeding.

      2. Chauncey Gardiner

        Thanks for the snowclone link, Lambert… I find them fascinating… esp. when it’s snowclones all the way down. ; )

  9. Elliot

    That is a holy act, by Bey, to submit to that in order to try to save others. I can think of many Christian saints & ministers who would have approved of his sacrifice.

    I can not think of any reason for anyone to approve of the force feedings at Guantanamo; we’ve even begun finally to outlaw doing that to geese.

    I’ve had a naso-gastric tube inserted–voluntarily, for a medical procedure–and it was ghastly and painful and I could not talk or swallow without huge pain for days. That was one time, voluntarily, with a careful, solicitous technician administering the test. What these people go through daily is outrageous.

    As to the medical personnel taking part, they are in such breach of their oath, and medical ethics, that they need to have their licenses revoked. Various medical groups have called on them to resist but it continues.

    The reason behind the force-feeding is clearly to torture; letting the men die would in theory make the US safer, no? If supposedly they are too dangerous to release? And stopping doing it would cool the inflamed sensibilities towards Gitmo. The only reason to keep doing it is some kind of show they can torture with impunity.

    The torturers make me ashamed to be human; Bey’s endeavor makes me less ashamed.

  10. mac

    The question should be: Why feed them, if they wish to starve to death it is ok by me.

    1. duh

      They do wish to die. The stopped eating in order to effect that end.

      They are being held without charges, without any representation, outside of any “law”. For how many years now?

      The only “choice” they were left with was to stop eating to end this illegal incarceration.

      Even that “choice” has been taken away, violently and with extreme prejudice.

      Get a clue.

  11. mac

    A more valid point is: If Yves can find only junk like this to post maybe competent help is called for!

      1. skippy

        Not to worry Lambert… these individuals would wet the floor if they even came close to such treatment or worse yet… they just get off on it.

  12. allcoppedout

    It makes me cry. Hooding was practiced by British forces and some cops (illegally). It doesn’t sound much, but that’s because we don’t generally know just what sensory deprivation does or what a slippery slope ‘dirty hands morality’ is. I doubt any direct link between torture and getting information – it’s about terror. Amazingly, people volunteer damaging gossip to terror authorities.
    I think they are torturing ‘our enemies’ as a message to us. Zero Dark Thirty was a bore as is nearly all production from the tax dodging, money laundering outfits making film and television.
    At the same time as truth on our torture (Brit denials are rot) we need the same on suicide bombing and the rest – often people with mental illness are targeted for it and we have our own traditions of forlorn hope and last hurrah!

    Our own lack of faith in scientific-democratic culture is the root of this.

  13. darms

    I’ve noticed a large increase over the last few years in the use of torture in tv series & movies. It’s as if the 5 or so media conglomerates that own everything want the ‘acceptance of torture’ to be the “new normal”. Even as you note above in children’s movies…

  14. TR

    Sarcasm always lightens the mood.

    We’re just not trying hard enough to turn the Muslim world & maybe the whole world against us. This is Exceptional,Entitled America. We won’t stop trying.

    Btw,That’s our oil over there?

  15. econ

    All I can say after seeing the Yasiin Bey in Guardian video is that there is a new meaning for “home of the brave and land of the free”.

  16. El Guapo

    This torture has been defended and rationalized by the Obots, as you would expect. The Leader can LITERALLY do nothing that would ellicit any kind of questioning or opprobrium. The rationalization sickens me almost as much as the actual torture because it enables it.

Comments are closed.