Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


While the number of detainees on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay has dwindled down to four, the tactics that were employed by U.S. personnel to force-feed many of the strikers remain controversial. Guards were strapping detainees into “restraint chairs” for hours at a time and inserting feeding tubes down their nasal passages. Additionally, protesters were being held in isolation from one another and denied shoes, towels, pillows and blankets, in order to break them down. Authorities at Guantanamo call the practice “humane and compassionate”—a preventative measure against possible violence and rioting. But who knew it was so difficult to control starving people?

At any rate, the hunger strike, the largest in history at the 500 person facility, called for the release of any detainees who had no affiliation with al-Qaeda or other Islamist groups. As noted in Brad’s post yesterday, a new report based on Pentagon data indicates that 40 percent of the detainees have no affiliation with al-Qaeda—and 18 percent have no affiliation with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Not surprisingly, lawyers representing the detainees have called the force-feeding measures a form of torture, and a violation of medical ethics. These practices also bring into question whether U.S. military doctors are required to abide by the same moral codes as their civilian counterparts. A 1975 declaration by the World Medical Association states that doctors should not participate in force-feeding under any circumstances, but should keep prisoners informed of the consequences of starving themselves.

U.S. doctors are legally bound to abide by the declaration through their membership to the American Medical Association. But the U.S. Department of Defense feels differently, and argue that the care taken while inserting nasogastric feeding tubes makes the practice ethical and humane. The Pentagon also mentions that “no detainees have died at Guantanamo Bay,” because, as stated by Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. John Gong, “We have a great desire to ensure they are healthy.”

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest