Guantánamo: Is force-feeding torture?

A federal judge says she lacks jurisdiction to end the force-feeding of 45 detainees on hunger strike in Guantánamo Bay.

How horrible is it to be force-fed? said Emily Greenhouse in To find out, Yasiin Bey, the hip-hop performer formerly known as Mos Def, agreed to be filmed undergoing “nasogastric” feeding last week to highlight what is being done to 45 of the 80 detainees currently on hunger strike in Guantánamo Bay. The video is “extremely uncomfortable to watch”: Bey’s body and head are strapped to a chair while a 2-foot-long feeding tube is forced into his nose and down his throat; “he writhes, pleads, and breaks down, weeping.” Federal Judge Gladys Kessler ruled last week that she lacked jurisdiction to end the force-feeding, said Charles P. Pierce in Nonetheless, Kessler condemned the practice as “painful, humiliating, and degrading,” and called it a form of torture that violates international law. She urged President Obama to order a stop to force-feeding—and if he had any conscience left, he would.

“Nasogastric feeding is not torture,” said Marc A. Thiessen in The Washington Post. Doctors and nurses use the same technique to feed thousands of patients in hospitals across the United States, every day. If sick children and old folks can handle a tube up their nose, “so can the big, tough al Qaida terrorists at Guantánamo Bay.” Clearly, Yasiin Bey has “particularly sensitive nostrils,” said Ian Tuttle in, or perhaps he decided to “ham it up for the cameras.” But his publicity stunt didn’t change the fact that military doctors have a medical obligation to force-feed detainees. Just as they would not stand idly by while a prisoner hanged himself, the doctors are simply “doing their medical duty by keeping the prisoners alive.”

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