• When Does the Torture End?

    March 14, 2014

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Military, Post-Constitution America

    While the unfolding Constitutional crisis over the CIA’s spying on Senate staffers reviewing the torture program continues, all media accounts are quick to add to their articles a variant of the phrase that “Obama discontinued the enhanced interrogation programs soon after coming into office.”

    That is not true.

    Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

    Imad Abdullah Hassan has spent twelve years in Guantanamo in a cage without ever being charged with anything. A judge cleared Hassan for release, finding there was not enough incriminating evidence to justify keeping him imprisoned. Hassan’s clearance came in 2009, yet he remains at America’s off-shore penal colony without explanation or hope of release. He went on a hunger strike in protest (the U.S. military refers to it as a “long-term non-religious fast”), and is being force-fed.

    Hassan is now suing the president of the United States, claiming the conditions under which he is being force-fed at Guantanamo are torture. The lawsuit Hassan filed describes his treatment:

    — Prisoners are strapped to a hospital bed or special restraint chair for feeding.

    — Large tubes are used, and they cause undue pain when forced into the nostrils of the prisoners. Hassan was originally force-fed with a Number 8 gauge tube, later increased to a Number 14 that barely fit as it was pushed through his nostril into his stomach.

    — A funnel was used to channel large amounts of liquid into the tube to feed him faster.

    — So much liquid was forced through that the second time Hassan underwent this procedure, he lost consciousness and spent two days in critical condition.

    — Prisoners were force-fed drugs causing them to defecate on themselves as they sat in the chair being fed. “People with hemorrhoids would leave blood on the chair and the linens would not always be changed before the next feeding,” said Hassan in the lawsuit.

    — Prisoners would be be strapped down on top of others’ stool and blood for up to two hours at a time.

    — Hassan was at times forcibly sedated so he could be force-fed more easily.

    — If Hassan vomited on himself at any time during the procedure, the force-feeding would restart from the beginning.

    — Guards took Hassan and two others to another prison block so that others would see what was being done to them, as a deterrent.

    — Air-conditioning was sometimes turned up and detainees were deprived of a blanket. This was particularly difficult for the hunger strikers, as they felt the cold more than someone who was eating.

    — Guards would bang hunger-striking prisoners’ cells every five minutes day and night to prevent sleep.

    — The force-feeding procedures described in the lawsuit were done twice a day, every day, on prisoners.

    — Even after Hassan broke down at one point and began eating again, he continued to be force-fed anyway.

    — Hassan’s recorded weight fell from 119 pounds to 78 pounds. The military, in its force-feeding manual, states “Patients with weight loss can be expected in any detained population.” The manual advises “When detainees are weighed… wearing shackles or other restrictive devices, the weight of those devices will be subtracted from the measured weight.”

    — Hassan has been force-fed in this manner for eight years.

    Why Doesn’t He Just Eat?

    At this point some will be asking: why doesn’t Hassan just eat? That would stop the force-feeding torture.

    It is likely Hassan himself has thought about the same question. In my former career working for the Department of State, I was responsible for the welfare of arrested Americans abroad. Many threatened hunger strikes for reasons ranging from superficial to very serious. However, in my 24 years of such work, only one prisoner carried it out for more than a day or two, taking only small sips of water for days. His captors, one of America’s allies in Asia, choose to not force-feed him, stating due to the nature of his political crime that they’d prefer to see him die.

    I watched the man deteriorate before my eyes, starving to death in real-time. It requires extraordinary will and strength to do that, pushing back against all of evolution and biology screaming inside your head to just eat. Close to death, the man choose to stay alive and eat for the sake of his family. It is no casual decision to do what Hassan is doing. Something very important must be at stake for a man to do what Hassan has done.

    For eight years.

    And of course Hassan was still force-fed at one point when he did start eating. Imprisoned wrongly in the first place, and cleared to leave Gitmo for the last five years but still locked up, Hassan is worthy of protesting his incarceration via the only means available to him. He also understands that the force-feeding is not about keeping him alive per se, but about forcing him and others to comply with his jailers.

    Dr. Mengele at Gitmo

    The procedures at Guantanamo (as well as at the CIA Black Sites) are performed by or supervised by U.S. military and CIA doctors who, though they had taken the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm to a patient, do anyway.

    The Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) issued a lengthy study on the abandonment of millennia-old medical ethics in the post-9/11 U.S. torture programs. IMAP is a respected source of ethical comment; its board members include physicians from Columbia University, Harvard, the University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins, Boston University and a number of other prominent hospitals and medical research facilities. These are non-political, dispassionate people whose work has ended up as political under the extraordinary circumstances of our world.

    IMAP produced a report entitled Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror, based on two years of review of public records. The report details how military and CIA policies institutionalized a variety of acts by military and intelligence agency doctors and psychologists that breached ethical standards. These include:

    — Involvement in abusive interrogation;

    — Consulting on conditions of confinement to increase the disorientation and anxiety of detainees;

    — Using medical information for interrogation purposes; and

    — Force-feeding of hunger strikers.

    In addition, IMAP says that military policies and practices impeded the ability to provide detainees with appropriate medical care and to report abuses against detainees under recognized international standards. The report explains how agencies facilitated these practices by adopting rules for military and CIA health personnel that substantially deviate from ethical standards traditionally applied. For example, violations of ethical standards were “excused” by designating health professionals not as doctors, but as “interrogation safety officers,” personnel not bound by any ethics.

    Medical Ethics

    The basis of medical ethics, the Hippocratic Oath which says “first, do no harm,” is understood in the real world to come into conflict with the demands on doctors in wartime. Such complicated circumstances have been dealt with, and evolved standards do exist. Here are some from a recognized international body:

    Voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential. This means that the person involved should have legal capacity to give consent; should be so situated as to be able to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of constraint or coercion; and should have sufficient knowledge and comprehension of the elements of the subject matter involved as to enable him to make an understanding and enlightened decision… [procedures] should be so conducted as to avoid all unnecessary physical and mental suffering and injury… proper preparations should be made and adequate facilities provided to protect the experimental subject against even remote possibilities of injury, disability, or death.

    These standards were written in 1947 in Nuremberg, Germany, to guide future medical experimentation on human beings held captive. The authors were Americans sitting in judgment of 23 Nazi physicians accused of murder and torture in the concentration camps. Of course many will argue circumstances in Dachau and Guantanamo are different; this is true. The former was run by the Third Reich and the latter by the World’s Indispensable Nation.

    Bad Dreams

    It is like I’ve had a bad dream and awoken to remember it all.

    As pundits falsely applaud the end of the U.S.’ torture regime following the election of Barack Obama, one should spare a thought for those 154 people still in Guantanamo who still endure America’s pointless wrath. The irony that the same president who said he ended torture also said he would close Guantanamo once in office is noted, but is really not much more than another spot on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

    Why do we do it? The doctors who conduct the torture are not stupid, especially evil as we traditionally define it, or unaware of the ethics of their profession. They know as well as anyone Hassan is approved for release, and so even any piggish notions of revenge or pay back do not apply. Some of the doctors involved were likely in junior school when 9/11 happened and know about that day the same way they know about Gettysburg or the Battle of the Bulge.

    We might also remind ourselves that after their military careers, some of those same young doctors will move among us in private practice, perhaps holding their dark secrets inside, perhaps enjoying them a bit too much in private moments.

    I don’t know why they do it. They’ll say, perhaps to themselves in some death-bed moment of desperate remorse, that they were only following orders. One hopes their god is more understanding, because we here have heard that one before.

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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

  • Recent Comments

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Thanks for citing this abusive situation, Peter. The American Medical Association, Physicians for Human Rights, and World Medical Association have also called for an end to force feeding torture.

      Various American medical panels have stated US doctors and health professionals working at Guantanomo have violated ethical and medical standards.

      ““Force feeding clearly violates medical standards, and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment,” said Vincent Iacopino, PHR’s senior medical advisor. “The hunger strike and force feeding are the latest examples to illuminate the dire situation and ongoing abuse at Guantánamo Bay. While there is no question this deplorable detention facility must be shut down, force feeding of detainees needs to be stopped immediately. It is crucially important that people’s rights to make decisions about their own health be respected.

      As of early May, 100 of the 166 detainees were said to be on the hunger strike, with 23 of them being force fed. The American Medical Association has spoken out on the issue, recently pointing out that force feeding “violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” (pdf) The World Medical Association has also concluded that force feeding is ethically unacceptable and constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment…”

      (from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR))


      03/14/14 2:22 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      Hey, it’s all good. We’re the good guys.

      03/14/14 3:10 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      I’m going to sound like I’m playing Devil’s Advocate now, but actually I’m trying to do the opposite:

      WHEN “Various American medical panels have stated US doctors and health professionals working at Guantanomo have violated ethical and medical standards…”

      …THEN the moral relativist answer is the same one given by the Third Reich: Just change the professional standards!

      It’s easier than it sounds, because ultimately Power is its own rationalisation. If the highest moral authority to which there is any consensus is merely a body of professionals – or even worse, the changing winds of politics and power – then ultimately the moral standards are set by those who have power.

      03/14/14 4:00 PM | Comment Link

    • Helen Marshall said...


      Just once I had tubes run through my nostrils and into my throat for diagnosing possible cancer. No anesthesia was administered and I thought I would pass out. I cannot imagine having to experience this every day for 2,920 days and counting.

      Any doctor or other person who says it is not torture should be required to lie down and have the exact same tubes, etc. applied to him or her. As I don’t believe in a Judgment Day, I’d like to see some culpability determined here.

      03/14/14 7:45 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote”– then ultimately the moral standards are set by those who have power.”unquote Set for who?

      As far as I’m concerned, these sadistic bastards don’t know the meaning of the word moral. Fact, a lot of these so called..ahem..”detainees” were arrested, rendered, tortured and still are being held and tortured..with NO CHARGES WHATSOEVER after 10 fucking years. America should be on it’s goddammed knees crying in shame and begging forgiveness from the entire world. But noooooooooooo. What does America do? You got it..Keep on torturing and murdering all the while mainstreet USA has pizza, beer and Lady Gag-me.

      Helen, you may not believe in Judgement day, but I do. I believe in the sanctity of human life and
      and the moment you face that which gave you life in the first place. These sonsabitches won’t escape. I know it as well as I know the universe around me exists. Otherwise..what would be the point of morals.

      03/14/14 8:18 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Ok..look. Here is the truth. The USG tortured human beings. PERIOD. Done. The record is there. And now, only time is between now and the torturers accountability. I ain’t worried. On the other hand, I only wish I could stop these bastards continuing torture and murder. But I ain’t god. He will.

      03/14/14 8:54 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Dear MLCLT — this excerpt is from that National Journal above – this is the official response from the Constitution-violators —

      “”We have a very specific mandate to keep the detainees alive,” said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale. “The medical professionals that are employed at Guantanamo provide humane treatment and necessary care to the detainees. Not one of [the Task Force] has any access to the detainees. It’s high comedy that one can opine about someone’s condition without having seen them.”

      The mandate to keep detainees ‘alive’ doesnt apply to victims of drone attacks, who are often victims of mistaken identity or innocent bystanders or wedding guests — not to mention people who are denied ‘Due Process,’ some Constitutional mandate alleged defenders of our law get annoyed with and find gets in their way

      Apparently, the public affairs official thinks the situation is also a matter of ‘high comedy’ but no one is really laughing

      03/14/14 9:43 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote “It’s high comedy that one can opine about someone’s condition without having seen them.”unquote

      High comedy. Says a sub-human cockroach with out clue that he is a war criminal. Yeah, but wait till YOU are facing a hangmans noose asshole. We’ll see who’s laughing then you stinking psychopath.

      03/15/14 12:37 PM | Comment Link

    • From Waterboarding to “Water Curing”: Guantanamo Detainee First to Legally Challenge Force-Feeding | Moorbey'z Blog said...


      […] When Does the Torture End? […]

      03/15/14 5:10 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      Kyzl and Pitch:

      Evidently we agree on this one. As for,

      “We have a very specific mandate to keep the detainees alive”…

      …in other words, to prolong their torture. Back when the ancient Romans were crucifying people, it was actually standard practice to break their legs after a few hours on the cross so they would die faster, a small act of mercy to limit their torture. In that light, even pagan Rome’s official torturers had more decency than the doctors at Guantanamo.

      03/16/14 9:33 AM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...


      …and so we have a new tagline for the World’s Exceptional Nation: America, Now Less Merciful than the Romans Who Crucified Christ.

      03/16/14 1:46 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      When does torture end? When we name these CIA fuckers and put their photos on the front page of every newspaper and webpage.

      03/16/14 12:43 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...


      “wemeantwell” wrote:

      “…and so we have a new tagline for the World’s Exceptional Nation: America, Now Less Merciful than the Romans Who Crucified Christ.”

      Correct. And when Jesus Christ was being crucified and said “I thirst!”, a Roman soldier offered him a rag dipped in vinegar, to ease his thirst.

      The reason why the soldier offered Jesus some vinegar was because it was a fast thirst quencher, kind of like Gatorade. The Gospels say Jesus refused it, but good on the soldier who offered it to him! And unlike the prisoners in Guantanamo, at least Jesus had a choice of whether or not to drink anything while he was being tortured.

      And the Roman soldiers also offered Jesus some drugs (probably some opium) – which He refused – also unlike what’s offered to the Guantanamo prisoners.

      Pagan Rome, one of the most ruthless states in all of World History: Setting a superior example for the unreservedly cruel Americans, for two thousand years!

      03/16/14 4:31 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      Notwithstanding the cruelty of Guantanamo, it looks like the ATF are up to their old tricks again. This time, after being threatened by ATF for refusing to hand over a list of customers, Ares Armor, a small chain of stores that specialize in manufacturing the lower part of Semi Automatic weapons whereby, the purchaser must finish various machining operations in order to custom build a non-serialized DIY weapon, went to court and WON a RESTRAINING ORDER against ATF’s threat, last week. Over the weekend, the ATF twisted the judges arm into “modifying” the order, allowing ATF to break in and start confiscation of all inventory and computers..with NO NOTICE to the owners..

      Shades of King George 111….


      This is breaking across the entire gun rights community whereby this is beginning to look like a last straw, line in the sand breach on ATF’s behalf. Civil war is right on the verge folks. Make no mistake.

      03/16/14 7:41 PM | Comment Link

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