A prison camp spokesman, Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, would not provide precise details but said Monday night that the episode had “no impact to medical support operations at the base.”
“There was a recent instance of a medical provider not willing to carry out the enteral feeding of a detainee,” he said in an email. “The matter is in the hands of the individual’s leadership.”The unnamed medic is the first known Gitmo staffer to refuse to partake in what the United Nations describes as torture and a breach of international law, and the brass euphemizes as "medical support operations." Detainees, many of whom have been cleared for release but remain indefinitely imprisoned because of "instability" in their home or potential host countries, began their hunger strike 18 months ago.
A team of ethicists had urged a "medical mutiny" at the facility. And one brave soul finally heard the message. One person decided to ignore President Obama's plaintive excuse that "I don't want these individuals to die."
As Rupert Coville, spokesman for the UN High Commission on Human Rights, explains, force-feeding was formally deemed cruel and unacceptable punishment by a panel of international medical ethicists in 1975.
"Even if intended to benefit, feeding accompanied with threats, coercion, force or use of physical restraints is a form of inhuman and degrading treatment. Equally unacceptable is the force feeding of some detainees in order to intimidate or coerce other hunger strikers to stop fasting," it (the panel) said.
And as one detainee wrote in a memorable New York Times op-ed last year, forced feeding is degrading and extremely painful. He described the ordeal this way:
A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.It took over a year, but at least one would-be torturer was humane enough to crack. I wonder where this guy was "reassigned." Hopefully he's not in a prison cell with Chelsea Manning, that other famous conscientious objector, while awaiting his court martial. But whoever he is, he is a hero.
Meanwhile, it seems the torturers themselves have been stupid and sadistic enough to actually film their grotesqueries. And the Obama administration is, not surprisingly, mightily resisting FOIA demands for the release of the tapes for public viewing. I guess it's just one of those uncomfortable photo-ops that might place the president in a bad light. It would be a grotesquerie too far.