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It Don’t Gitmo Better Than This.
July 31, 2013 5:26 PM   Subscribe

It Don’t Gitmo Better Than This. Inside the Dark Heart of Guantánamo Bay By Molly Crabapple.
posted by chunking express (32 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Out of respect for Ramadan, soldiers insert their feeding tubes at night.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:38 PM on July 31, 2013 [6 favorites]


So just out of curiosity, do the medical staff doing this procedure against the will of the patients automatically get stripped of their professional medical certifications, or is there some kind of process where they can plead their case? I would hope that they're banned from ever practicing outside the military.
posted by mullingitover at 6:15 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect (without agreeing or endorsing) that the physicians' justification is that hunger strikers are attempting suicide, so use of nasogastric feeding is medically necessary and overrides patient autonomy. There's no national oversight of physician conduct in the US: doctors have to pass the US medical licensure exam, but the right to practice is regulated at the state level. The AMA and BMA have both protested but they don't control what individual states' licensing boards consider a lapse of ethics. In order to practice in the military, a physician needs a current state (or territory or DC or Puerto Rico) medical license and, of course, approval from DoD. I think in order to lodge an ethical complaint against the medical officer's license, you'd have to know his/her practice state and be pretty sure the board would make it stick (and it would have ramifications for that state's relationship to DoD.)

Ah, here's a couple of Al Jezeera pieces about the role medical staff play. DoD is making the call, which is interesting from the perspective of who makes practice decisions, but ultimately I don't imagine you practice long as a military physician if you don't follow orders from your non-medical superiors.
posted by gingerest at 6:52 PM on July 31, 2013


First do no harm obey orders.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


It Don’t Gitmo Better Fucked Up and Unfair Than This.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:07 PM on July 31, 2013


When did Vice get so great? Was it a gradual thing, or did they have some massive influx of talent or cash?

That being said, fuck Gitmo and I couldn't be more disappointed by Obama not closing this abominable place, and then by doubling down by increasing the torture with force feeding.
posted by nevercalm at 7:26 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obama not closing this abominable place

Yeah, 'cuz all he had to do was snap his fingers and it would be done. He would've had to maneuver and backroom wheel and deal his way into what would still be a political suicide if he mounted a full quest to close Guantanamo. You think Republicans were being pointlessly antagonistic and contrary when Obama was trying to put affordable health care into the hands of every American? Imagine their rhetoric if he was trying to set all those at Guantanamo free. I mean hell, this is a group that wouldn't pass what was still a toothless gun measure after Newton.
posted by mediocre at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read an uncorrected first draft of this and got so angry I had to leave the cafe I was in and walk around the block a few times cause jesus christ what the fuck people?!
posted by The Whelk at 7:53 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is Captain Durand’s view that what detainees are really starving for is attention.

....Well, yeah.

As a non-violent protest, that's the whole idea.

Which leads me to question why a physician would force feed them. I'm not a doctor so I have no idea.
But either they - the detainees - are starving to kill themselves or they're starving as a form of protest. The question is - are they of sound mind?
If this is a medical decision (and not force compliance) then what medical condition is being treated?
Even at that - do they not have authority over their own medical decisions?

The question is one of death vs. the risk of death. Someone who is in their right mind has every right to risk death (drive to work, don't ya?) and every right to refuse an unnecessary medical procedure.

I don't know what ethical standing a doctor would have if we accept as a given they're on a hunger strike.
If the assertion is that they're merely suicidal, ok. Or if they're being coerced by other prisoners, etc. etc.
I mean, if it's our responsibility to keep them alive because they're in our custody, then it makes sense that you are responsible for them not hurting themselves.

But then we still have the problem that we're forcing them to eat so we can detain them in custody indefinitely.
Which raises the question (to avoid the tautology) to what end are they being kept alive?

The least bad thing - not letting them die because there'd be an outcry the other way (why didn't you force feed them!?) I don't buy because people have committed suicide at Gitmo.
And prolonged force feeding puts stress on the body, it's possible to die from that so there's still an element of risk.
The only real end I can see is from Bobby Sands (the IRA guy). When he died after a hunger strike IRA recruitment went way up.

Anyway, Capt. Shimkus (former Gitmo hospital C.O.) seems fairly contrite about his role there ("I'm always going to be historically connected with this. This is part of my life now. Forever.")

(more worthy reading on habeus, hunger strikes and suicides)
posted by Smedleyman at 8:03 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


U.S. could save millions by paying each Gitmo prisoner $2 million annual salary to do nothing
posted by homunculus at 8:17 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bagram: The Other Guantanamo. The American government is still holding about 60 prisoners without charge at the Afghan prison
posted by homunculus at 8:18 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect (without agreeing or endorsing) that the physicians' justification is that hunger strikers are attempting suicide, so use of nasogastric feeding is medically necessary and overrides patient autonomy. There's no national oversight of physician conduct in the US

It should also be pointed out that Guantanamo Bay was chosen as the place to do this sort of thing because its sovereignty status is nebulous at best. It's not the United States, it's not Cuba, it's a no-man's land which was chosen because it is outside the reach of national and international law.
posted by antonymous at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2013


Also quite good: Death of a Prisoner.
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif recently died in solitary confinement at Guantánamo at age 36, after nearly 11 years of imprisonment there, despite never having been charged with a crime. Last month his body was returned to his family in Yemen, but we are left with many unanswered questions about his imprisonment and death.
A short film by Laura Poitras. I suspect this is how most of the men in Guantánamo are going to end up going home.
posted by chunking express at 8:42 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


When did Vice get so great?

They've always been an extremely mixed bag. They write and shoot great stuff, decent stuff, shitty stuff, and this kind of shock stuff.

They're sort of a chaotic neutral force in the universe. I love how this post from that thread describes it:
VICE really hits home for me; they do serious groundbreaking stuff, they do tone-deaf offensive stuff, self-congratulatory stuff...to me they almost epitomize the condition of the angry smart white man.
It's also not like they're really saying anything new here about gitmo, even though it's a decent piece.
posted by emptythought at 10:14 PM on July 31, 2013


antonymous, the question of whether Gitmo is outside of the reach of international law hasn't been settled anywhere that I know of, but no one outside of the USA is going to give two rat's butts about the mental gymnastics some lawyer at the DoD had to go through to convince himself that there can be no international crimes at Gitmo just because of its status as a leased military base. In the USA there may still be this "does the Constitution follow the flag?" debate, but no one else cares what the Constitution says about anything if it means the USA gets to ignore its obligations under human rights law.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:53 PM on July 31, 2013


Recent Gitmo - force feeding thread.
Molly Crabapple; , where would the state of modern journalism be without people like her.
She also did stirling work during the recent Bradley Manning railroad.
The British Medical Association has written to Obama and Chuck Hagel about force feeding as they are also concerned about the use of the drug Reglan.
In the last thread Smedleyman laid out how closure of Guantanamo was thwarted and that the administration was fucked over by the US congress.
posted by adamvasco at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Since he was inaugurated in 2008, President Obama has twice promised to close Gitmo, but 166 men still languish in indefinite detention."

Yeah, not like there are any other branches of government that keep voting the motion down or anything.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:08 AM on August 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


[President Obama] would've had to maneuver and backroom wheel and deal his way into what would still be a political suicide if he mounted a full quest to close Guantanamo.

Oh well then.

There are people imprisoned there for no reason at all. They are not charged with any crime; they will never be charged with any crime; everybody recognises that they were wrongfully captured and are now wrongfully imprisoned. They are trying to starve themselves to death to draw attention to their plight. The US's actions in imprisoning them are criminal, by any measure at all. And you expect me to say "Oh, if Barack Obama, the former professor of Constitutional Law, were to to let them go it would be politically costly! Fair enough! Let them die rather than have him make a phone call!"

At least most people responsible can claim that they were following illegal orders, rather than issuing them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:08 AM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Over a direct message on Twitter, the author Neil Gaiman told me a detainee was a fan of his books" gah???
posted by Bwithh at 1:50 AM on August 1, 2013


At least most people responsible can claim that they were following illegal orders, rather than issuing them.

Ever see a little thing called Judgement at Nuremberg?
posted by mikelieman at 3:22 AM on August 1, 2013


Mediocre, you're right. We have to give Obama a pass. He can't help being weak or breaking solemn campaign promises.

6 years and all his defenders have is excuses. Given his embrace of every other warmongering power and fascist policy and all his other broken promises and outright lies pardon me for not believing he ever really even tried to close Gitmo.

On the other hand, Hope!
posted by spitbull at 3:52 AM on August 1, 2013 [4 favorites]


For me the reason not to focus too much ire on Obama on this issue isn't to excuse him from some share of responsibility, but to ensure that he isn't made the sole face of the problem, as that lets far too many others who are more or equally culpable off the hook, within both the Democratic and Republican parties. But all the same, this is a shameful betrayal of the values America has long claimed to represent, and there's little room for doubt these forced feeding practices are ultimately politically motivated.
posted by saulgoodman at 4:34 AM on August 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thanks for posting this.

Ugh.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:00 AM on August 1, 2013


"They've had their liberty removed."

So what, it's like an appendix or something? Hope mine doesn't get inflamed and need excision.
posted by fogovonslack at 6:06 AM on August 1, 2013


On the other hand, Hope!

L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace!
posted by IndigoJones at 6:13 AM on August 1, 2013


When did Vice get so great?

It didn't; circumstance has merely brought your view into congruency with theirs
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:55 PM on August 1, 2013 [3 favorites]


PJ Harvey’s new song for Guantánamo prisoner Shaker Aamer
posted by homunculus at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2013


Smedleyman: "The question is - are they of sound mind?"

In a sane world, the attempted suicide in the face of unjust imprisonment and torture without end would be fucking solid proof that they're of sound mind.
posted by mullingitover at 7:33 PM on August 5, 2013


Oh, if Barack Obama, the former professor of Constitutional Law, were to to let them go it would be politically costly! Fair enough! Let them die rather than have him make a phone call!"

I think he's actively done things to try to get them cut loose.
It's not an overstatement to say it could be risking another civil war or at the very least a major change in the office of president - either as a dictator or figurehead or if he goes that way an Augustus where we all pretend it's a republic but the unitary executive calls the shots.

It is tempting to say damn the torpedoes and run roughshod over the law, but, like this filibuster b.s. we're stuck with for now, there's no guarantee the next president won't take ignoring congress as a given. And the next. And the next.

Or maybe there's enough political opposition to let an assassin slip one past the goalie. That'd be swell. First black president assassinated. No social unrest on the horizon there.

I'm with you though. I don't cut Obama a pass. I give him slack for trying. But trying isn't doing.


the attempted suicide in the face of unjust imprisonment and torture without end would be fucking solid proof that they're of sound mind.


That's the thing - if they are attempting suicide, there are some ethical grounds to stop them, regardless of the reasons they're attempting suicide.
Maybe they'll be let free. Maybe they'll be humanely treated if they stop trying to starve themselves.

That's speculation certainly, but I can see where a doctor could say that and have some ethical ground.
If they're only risking suicide because they want to protest their unjust imprisonment and torture without end by staging a hunger strike - and certainly it's possible they've communicated that to these doctors - then I don't see what ethical standing a doctor could possibly have in feeding them.

Reminds me of Ironmouth's comments concerning lawyers. A lawyer would have shaky ethical ground in helping his client commit suicide. But by the same token someone in those kinds of straits - the complete failure of the law and no legal remedy in existence - has nothing a lawyer can do for them other than die.

It might look like hair splitting but it seems to me a doctor can ethically help stop a potential suicide who is unjustly imprisoned and tortured where a lawyer can't. Depression (etc) being a medical condition not a legal one.

Whereas (IMHO) neither one of them can ethically stand in the way of someone who risks suicide in protest.
That's given all possible benefit of the doubt here. As a matter of ethical argument.

Practically speaking, hell, I'd put an end to their suffering myself if they asked me to. I have, under different circumstances. I don't know how a doctor who does this can live with themselves. But I'm not a doctor, so I reserve some judgement.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:45 PM on August 6, 2013


Guantánamo Bay: the US was dead wrong, but no one can admit it. When John Grisham heard Guantánamo prisoners were requesting his books, he wanted to learn more. What he found out about Nabil Hadjarab – detained for 11 years – horrified him
posted by homunculus at 12:51 PM on August 13, 2013


Bagram Detainee's Father Petitions Congress: Let My Son Go. The father of a man who has been held indefinitely by the U.S. since 2002 asks the Senate to intervene
posted by homunculus at 11:27 AM on August 14, 2013


Guantanamo Bay Through The Eyes Of Artist Molly Crabapple
posted by homunculus at 1:40 PM on August 16, 2013


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