Never, Mr. President?


Posted by Bob Lord

Joe Nocera's column in today's Times, Is Force-Feeding Torture?, exposes the cynical hypoccirsy of Presdent Obama's statements regarding Guantanamo and torture. 

First, Nocera leaves no room for argument in making the case that the force-feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo is torture, and illegal under international law. 

But not long ago, Al Jazeera got ahold of a 30-page document that detailed the standard operating procedures used by the military to force-feed a detainee. The document makes for gruesome reading: the detaineeshackled to a special chair (which looks like the electric chair); the head restraints if he resists; the tube pushed painfully down his nose; the half-hour or so of ingestion of nutritional supplements; the transfer of the detainee to a “dry cell,” where, if he vomits, he is strapped back into the chair until the food is digested.

Detainees are also apparently given an anti-nausea drug called Reglan, which has a horrible potential side effect if given for more than three months: a disease called tardive dyskinesia, which causes twitching and other uncontrollable movements. “This drug is very scary,” said Cori Crider, the legal director of Reprieve, a London-based group that represents more than a dozen detainees. “My fear is that it is being administered without their consent,” she added. Although the military refuses to discuss the use of Reglan — or any aspect of force-feeding — that’s a pretty safe bet.

Can the detainees' lawyers fight this? Not really:

The lawyers representing the detainees would like to file a motion in federal court to stop the force-feeding, but there is a Catch-22. They can’t go to court without the consent of their clients — and thanks to another set of harsh, new protocols, including the genital and anal searches I wrote about last week, most clients are now refusing to talk to their lawyers.

After saying repeatedly that America should never torture, could the President stop the torture at Guantanamo? Of course, he could:

Without question, any effort he might make to shut down the prison would be met with resistance in Congress; it’s already begun. But the practice of force-feeding detainees, which virtually every international body condemns as a violation of international law — and which they decry as cruel and inhuman? He could stop that in a heartbeat, with one call to the Pentagon.

After all, he is the commander in chief.

Isn’t he?

It doesn't get any uglier than this. The great majority of these prisoners did nothing wrong. They were just rounded up by a Bush administration hell bent on creating the appearance that it was neutralizing terrorists. The only real condition the Bush crowd imposed on the taking of a prisoner was a Muslim sounding name. Now that we've wrongfully kept them imprisoned for a decade under harsh, often inhumane, conditions, there's a risk they might seek vengeance upon release. So, we keep them longer. At this point, if the hunger striking prisoners died of starvation, the world might see the totality of the circumstances leading to their death as genocide, which is eminently sound logic. And Presidents don't want genocide to occur on their watch, if they can avoid it.

So, what does our President do? He blatantly contravenes his own edict regarding torture. After all, that edict only was issued out of political expedience. Did we really ever doubt the master of the drones would abstain from torture if it suited his political agenda?