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June 11, 2006

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"...then it looks like George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, David Addington and Geoffrey Miller (to name a few) are also "enemy combatants"."

OK. I guess that is one step beyond treason. Citizens, I suppose, so gonna have to read me some Luttig, to see WTF current consensus on "Padilla Rules" is floating around like a jellyfish in a stagnant sea.

I actually would like...them...all...treated indefinitely by "KSM Rules".

(Usual caveat for SS (Bush admin variation) and FBI purpose...just another meaningless ineffective rant from the comfort of home. I don't mean it, no sirs.)

Godwin! No more comments here!

Intentional title typo?

oh, two more things:

1. the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy absolutely sucks at her job:

A top US official has described the suicides of three detainees at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a "good PR move to draw attention".

Colleen Graffy told the BBC the deaths were part of a strategy and "a tactic to further the jihadi cause", but taking their own lives was unnecessary....

Speaking to the BBC's Newshour programme, Ms Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, said the three men did not value their lives nor the lives of those around them.

2. The NY Times article on this, by James Risen and Tim Golden, has some details I'd not read before on force feeding in "restraint chairs":

After the use of the chairs was disclosed by The New York Times in February, military officials insisted that they were acting only to save the lives of hunger-striking detainees who were precariously close to serious harm or death.

Interviews with military officials indicated that only a handful of the detainees who were then being force-fed had lost so much weight that they were classified by doctors there as "severely malnourished." The restraint chair was used on all of those who refused to eat, military officials said, regardless of their medical condition.

not an intentional typo.

wow, that's embarrassing. I'll fix it.

Katherine,

Let me play the naif for a bit here and ask what exactly is wrong with force feeding someone trying to starve himself to death?

Avedon Carol:

Some assaults on conventional wisdom are just plain batty. The conventional wisdom would have you believe that when people commit suicide, it's because they can't face the future they foresee for themselves. But, assaulting the conventional wisdom, the commander at Guantanamo Bay has informed us that three people, having been deliberately subjected to several years of demoralization techniques that began with telling them that Gitmo was the terminal stop in their lives, killed themselves as "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us." (It seems obvious to me that people who believe this should immediately retaliate in kind. That'll show 'em.)
Pass it on.

Andrew: Let me play the naif for a bit here and ask what exactly is wrong with force feeding someone trying to starve himself to death?

When force feeding is a form of torture, I think allowing someone to die of starvation would be kinder:

One Yemeni detainee, Emad Hassan, described the chair to lawyers in interviews on Jan. 24 and 25.

"The head is immobilized by a strap so it can't be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and the legs are shackled," the notes quote Mr. Hassan as saying. "They ask, 'Are you going to eat or not?' and if not, they insert the tube. People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go. They have sometimes put diapers on them."

Another former hunger striker, Isa al-Murbati of Bahrain, described a similar experience to his lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, in an interview on Jan. 28.

On Jan. 10, he said, a lieutenant came to his isolation cell and told him that if he did not agree to eat solid food, he would be strapped into the chair and force-fed. After he refused to comply, he said, soldiers picked him up by the throat, threw him to the floor and strapped him to the restraint chair.

Like Mr. Hassan, Mr. Murbati said he had been fed two large bags of liquid formula, which were forced into his stomach very quickly. "He felt pain like a 'knife in the stomach' " Mr. Colangelo-Bryan said.

Detainees said the Guantánamo medical staff also began inserting and removing the long plastic feeding tubes that were threaded through the detainees' nasal passages and into their stomachs at every feeding, a practice that caused sharp pain and frequent bleeding, they said. Until then, doctors there said, they had been allowing the hunger strikers to leave their feeding tubes in, to reduce discomfort. link

Andrew--

In general, Hil would be the person to ask about this, not me. Medical ethicists tend to say: a competent patient can refuse medical treatment, giving treatment to a patient who refuses it is assault. Even if that means letting them starve to death.

As far as the Times story, though, that issue isn't even relevant. What's new here is that the allegations that they are force feeding prisoners in the restraint chairs well before it becomes medically necessary to do so to keep them alive.

When the Times first reported both those things, the military specifically denied that:

Colonel Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive....

Officials of the military and the Defense Department strongly disputed that they were taking punitive measures to break the strike....

Force feeding is very painful, and these chairs are supposed to be especially bad. You can read the rest of that Times article or this Post article if you want the gory details.

slight OT, but the title of this post sounds like it could be the name of a Flaming Lips song.

Katherine: yes: normally, competent patients are allowed to refuse medical treatment, even if it's needed to save their lives. (Think: chemotherapy.) Here's the AMA's take on the issue:

"The AMA has shared with U.S. military officials its position on hunger strikes or feeding individuals against their will. Specifically, the AMA endorses the World Medical Association's Declaration of Tokyo, which states: 'Where a prisoner refuses nourishment and is considered by the physician as capable of forming an unimpaired and rational judgment concerning the consequences of such a voluntary refusal of nourishment, he or she shall not be fed artificially. The decision as to the capacity of the prisoner to form such a judgment should be confirmed by at least one other independent physician.'

The American Medical Association is the largest professional organization of physicians in the United States, however, we are not a regulatory or licensing agency. Over the past year, the AMA has met with the Department of Defense to voice our concerns, provide them with relevant policies, and offer our expertise with the goal of ensuring that U.S. policies on detainee treatment comport with ethical standards of medicine. The AMA will continue to advocate for treatment of all detainees in U.S. custody to be in accordance with our Code of Medical Ethics and the Geneva Conventions. Our physician colleagues in the military, many of whom are placed in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations, deserve nothing less."

So this is right-wing America's version of freedom and liberty.

Looking more like fascism, everyday.

And K: thanks for posting on it. I was going to write about it this morning, but was talked into going to an annual herb and heirloom vegetable plant sale instead.

The "act of warfare" comment floored me. How on earth do these people claim to know individual detainees' state of mind? And on what possible ground could one discount 'desperation' as a motivation, given that the detainees have no information about when, if ever, they will be released, and no contact with or information about the outside world?

Hunger strikers usually have demands that, if met, could end the strike. Hunger strikes are political acts, when they are not acts of personal desperation. But, as with the suicide notes, which are being kept from us, the military has refused all along even to acknowledge that there are demands, much less deigned to relay them to the public.

Thank you, Katherine, for helping to counter the U.S. government's efforts to place these men in the realm of Unpersons -- to give them names, and some small measure of the dignity they were denied in the last years of their lives.

No charges, no trial, no evidence, no information, no communication. Land of the free, eh?

Americans: Are you brave enough to stand up for basic human rights and the rule of law? To demand an end to torture and endless, lawless, detention?

How on earth do these people claim to know individual detainees' state of mind? And on what possible ground could one discount 'desperation' as a motivation, given that the detainees have no information about when, if ever, they will be released, and no contact with or information about the outside world?

Never mind that, how on Christ's good earth does hanging oneself count as a f***ing act of war in the first place?

Well, considering we've been witness to the semantic parsing over "imminent", the reclassification of the war from WMD prevention to humanitarian, the classification of prisoners brought in by warlords as "captured on the field of battle by US forces", I find it absolutely no surprise to see this latest gambit.

I'm absolutely stunned at anyone - anyone - who can support this regime.

But then, I don't understand a lot, I guess.

Anarch, try Googling "life of brian suicide squad".

I didn't much care for that movie.

Anarch, try Googling "life of brian suicide squad".

I not only own it, I watch it every Easter.

I had a sneaky suspicion you might know the reference.

So is it absurd? Stupid?

What I find surprising is that even if Adm. Harris believes what he says, how could he be foolish enough to say it to a reporter?

Why wouldn't he say it to a reporter?

Has there been a wave of outrage, of condemnation, in response to what he said, from the public, the pundits, or powerful politicians? No.

Is he going to lose anything - his job, his rank, any sleep at night? No.

Harris risks nothing. Hell: this is George Bush's America; he might get a medal.

Katherine, you're back! Would you please consider joining Bloggers Against Torture?

I'm going to predict here that someone in the administration will declare that supporting opposition to the US' activities in the Middle East cannot be rational, so force-feeding is entirely appropriate.

Thank you, Katherine. You are the reason I started to read this blog, even though your posts have often left me heartsick, I appreciate the rigor of your research and have sought it out eagerly. This one, though, is especially heartrending. I wish I were at an heirloom plant sale.

I believe this was not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us.

I believe Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris is absolutely f**king bats**t insane.

I listened to the BBD coverage on this (referenced above by Katharine) on the drive back home from Austin and my wife got extremely annoyed at my shouting at the radio.

"PR move !?!?" I kept yelling. Graffy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy, must be freaking moron. What pathetic spin these guys are putting out. Is this is the kind of output you get from partisan hacks? If so, that's a good argument against packing govt positions with loyal buffoons.

K, might you consider updating or writing a follow-on post on the revelation that one of these prisoners was slated for release but hadn't been informed? I felt even more sick about this whole thing when I heard that bit of news. I wonder whether he was the AQ operative, the prison rioter, or the splinter group member?

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It has a compelling take on Ms. Graffy's "public diplomacy": The more totalitarian the system, the louder any act of defiance seems.

History shows us that it's possible for hunger strikes and suicide to be powerful political statements by prisoners. The example of such people as Bobby Sands shows that.

But Bobby Sands was, in part, protesting against being treated as an ordinary, common, criminal; is any prisoner in Camp X-Ray being treated that well?

Never mind that, how on Christ's good earth does hanging oneself count as a f***ing act of war in the first place?

All sarcasm aside, it's a pretty clear trajectory. An important component of modern warfare is psyops. The purpose of psyops is demoralizing the opponent, cheering the friendlies, and convincing everyone that you're the good guys. Anything that cheers the opponents, demoralizes the friendlies, or causes anyone to question whether you're the good guy is, thus, a setback. And someone who deliberately does something that will set you back is trying to stop you, obviously. If you're fighting a war and they're trying to stop you, clearly they're fighting you and it's an act of war.

It's one of the most orwellian twists I've seen yet, but if you allow for the individual rhetorical and logical steps, there's no real objecting to the conclusion.

"Katherine: yes: normally, competent patients are allowed to refuse medical treatment, even if it's needed to save their lives. (Think: chemotherapy.)"

How does that work in a prison setting? If a patient had TB for instance, I presume they could force treatment (you can't keep him away from the guards enough for even solitary to be enough.) This would presumably be a safety concern and wouldn't apply to huger strikes. But I think the refusal of medical treatment isn't as strong from a prisoner as it is from an outside citizen--is this a fully fleshed out area?

Jeff: It's one of the most orwellian twists I've seen yet, but if you allow for the individual rhetorical and logical steps, there's no real objecting to the conclusion.

Oh, yes. Further, it lays the blame for the US being "perceived" as the bad guy on the victims. Why, if not for the victims in Guantanamo Bay complaining about their treatment (and a bunch of do-gooders carrying their complaints to the outside world) no one would see anything wrong with the US having hundreds of people kidnapped and locking them up indefinitely without due process!

It's one of the most orwellian twists I've seen yet, but if you allow for the individual rhetorical and logical steps, there's no real objecting to the conclusion.

I got the basic drift, sure, but it requires a totalizing view of warfare and politics that beggars both Sherman and Lenin...

Geez, I stubbed my toe as walked to the computer this morning.

My bad, usually, but I now consider it a broadside in the context of war against the Bush regime.

If McManus stubbed his toe at the same time in Texas, the authorities may have a conspiracy on their hands.

I'd look into it if I possessed any authority.

Seb: ". But I think the refusal of medical treatment isn't as strong from a prisoner as it is from an outside citizen--is this a fully fleshed out area?"

Basically, yes. Fundamentally, incarceration is supposed not to change the basics of medical ethics, except in that it's harder to use prisoners as experimental subjects, since their free consent is thought to be harder to come by in a fundamentally coercive environment. (A good thing, I think. The potential for abusing authority to get prisoners to enroll in research is obvious, and it's normally possible to find other subjects.)

As you say, some diseases threaten people besides the prisoners. In prisons and in the outside world, this is one justification for treating people without their consent, as well as for things like quarantine, which abrogate people's normal rights for the sake of public health. But in the case of medical problems, like starvation, that pose no public health risk, it's hard to see why prisoners should be treated differently. Especially if the reports that feeding tubes are being used in needlessly painful and humiliating ways are true.

Splinter group, vaness. Manie ibn Shaman Al-Utaibi.

He was going to be imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, I think, but usually that's not for an indefinite period.

I may not get to a follow up tonight. This is a nice commentary.

Their relatives are saying it can't possibly be suicide:

Families of two Saudis who died at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay on Saturday said the men could not have committed suicide because they were devout Muslims, local newspapers reported yesterday.

They say that suicide is prohibited in Islam and every Muslim knows that severe punishments await in the hereafter those who take their own lives.

You can't really blame their parents for not wanting to or allowing themselves to believe that. Of course all kinds of demagogues will be saying the same thing knowing that it's false.

The latest is that this was an attempt to influence the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Surprising, touching faith in the judiciary for prisoners who never filed habeas claims, I must say.

The NY Times has more from the father of Yasser ibn Talal Al-Zahrani:

Speaking by telephone from the Saudi holy city of Medina, Talal Abdallah al-Zahrani, 50, the father of Mr. Zahrani, said that when he heard from his son in a recent letter, he sounded in good spirits and appeared to be more optimistic than before about being released soon.

"Nothing suggested that he would commit suicide, nothing," Mr. Zahrani said.

He said that the account of his son's suicide was "100 percent concocted."

His son was 17 in 2001 when he was apprehended in Afghanistan, where he worked with Islamic charities, he said. He had memorized the Koran since his imprisonment and said he had been behaving, Mr. Zahrani added.

Further in the article, a possible explanation for the (apparently coordinated) suicides:

Several Guantánamo officers said some prisoners had spread the idea of suicide, claiming to have had visions that the prison would not be closed until after three prisoners had died, a possible explanation for the decision by the three men to kill themselves at the same time.

Also, BBC News reports that the US State Deptartment has distanced itself from the remarks made yesterday by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy, in which she labeled the suicides a 'PR stunt'.

No word on whether State stands behind Rear Adm. Harry Harris' 'asymmetrical warfare' comments.

So maybe it was a PR move after all (not like this) designed to draw attention to the various inhumanities (prepetrated by both sides as usual in the manner so fair and balanced) we have come to expect from those detainers who will not allow the detainees the slightest hand in the script (even the wash-boarding illustrates that the very air the detainees breath is at the whim of their detainers, yes?) and their audience (us) who have the challenge of defending the detainer's view that this action (apparently not in the script, like starvation) must not be tolerated as it imperils those of us in the free world.
It is a tall order.

And after their long hiatus, the good folks at fafblog explain everything for us. For as Giblets points out: "a noose is just a suicide bomb with a very small blast radius, people!"

I more or less commented here, while discussing Rumsfeld's tossing out of all reporters from Guantanamo, which doesn't seem to have been mentioned in this thread.

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