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Sunday, January 08, 2006

No limits 

I saw this Guardian story this morning about the Guantanamo prisoners being force fed in Iraq, and it was so appalling I couldn't write about it.
New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive.
They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer . . . It is painful, [Dr.] Edmonson admits. Although 'non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs,' including opiates such as morphine, have had to be administered. Thick, 4.8mm diameter tubes tried previously to allow quicker feeding, so permitting guards to keep prisoners in their cells for more hours each day, have been abandoned, the affidavit says. The new 3mm tubes are 'soft and flexible' . . . a Guantánamo spokesman confirmed that the number of hunger strikers has almost doubled since Christmas, to 81 of the 550 detainees . . . Although some prisoners have had to be tied down while being force-fed, 'only one patient' has had to be immobilised with a six-point restraint, and 'only one' passed out. 'In less than 10 cases have trained medical personnel had to use four-point restraint in order to achieve insertion.' Edmondson claims the actual feeding is voluntary. During Ramadan, tube-feeding takes place before dawn. . . .
Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe through their membership of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances. Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth's hospital in Birmingham, is co-ordinating opposition to the Guantánamo doctors' actions from the international medical community. 'If I were to do what Edmondson describes in his statement, I would be referred to the General Medical Council and charged with assault,' he said.
Now I have two points to make.
First, there is the aspect which Digby points out in his post called Sickness:
Someday, US Army grunts and innocent Americans with no operational information are going to be held captive by another country and that country is going to use the same rationale for imprisoning and tormenting them indefinitely. And the people who do it will eventually go to the ninth circle of hell and join George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as they scream into the void for eternity about how they had to become sadistic monsters in order to prove they weren't afraid.
Second, there is this story. Robert X. Cringely wrote this just after Bush got reelected in 2004:
If the experts are correct, the 2004 election results mean we now live in a country where morality is apparently the major concern of people. Am I wrong, or is the same thing not true in Iran? And if our morality is in fundamental conflict with their morality, which side will be willing to sacrifice more to obtain what they view as their just end? I can tell you it ain't us.
Back in 1986 I talked Penthouse magazine into giving me an assignment to write the story: "How to Get a Date in Revolutionary Iran." The premise was that hormones are hormones, and those wacky kids in Tehran, most of whom could still remember the Shah, had to be finding some way to meet members of the opposite sex. So I headed off to Iran to find out the truth. If you are interested in such stuff, the only time a single man and woman not from the same family could be together in private back then was in a taxi (he being the driver), so all the teenage boys who had or could borrow cars turned them into taxis. This, of course, put all the power in the hands of the woman since she could see him but he had to take pot luck.
I eventually finished the piece and decided to go see the war since I had been in Beirut and Angola, but had never seen trench warfare, which is what I was told they had going in Iran. So I took a taxi to the front, introduced myself to the local commander, who had gone, as I recall, to Iowa State, and spent a couple days waiting for the impending human wave attack. That attack was to be conducted primarily with 11-and 12-year-old boys as troops, nearly all of them unarmed. There were several thousand kids and their job was to rise out of the trench, praising Allah, run across No Man's Land, be killed by the Iraqi machine gunners, then go directly to Paradise, do not pass GO, do not collect 200 dinars. And that's exactly what happened in a battle lasting less than 10 minutes. None of the kids fired a shot or made it all the way to the other side. And when I asked the purpose of this exercise, I was told it was to demoralize the cowardly Iraqi soldiers.
It was the most horrific event I have ever seen, and I once covered a cholera epidemic in Bangladesh that killed 40,000 people.
Waiting those two nights for the attack was surreal. Some kids acted as though nothing was wrong while others cried and puked. But when the time came to praise Allah and enter Paradise, not a single boy tried to stay behind.
Now put this in a current context. What effective limit is there to the number of Islamic kids willing to blow themselves to bits? There is no limit, which means that a Bush Doctrine can't really stand in that part of the world. But of course President Bush, who may think he pulled the switch on a couple hundred Death Row inmates in Texas, has probably never seen a combat death. He doesn't get it and he'll proudly NEVER get it.
Welcome to the New Morality.
And America thinks they will eventually break the will of these hunger-striking Guantanamo inmates by forcing tubes down their throats? I think the inmates are now in charge of the assylum.

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