Hunger Striking at Guantanamo & the Abusive Use of Forced Feeding

By Thursday April 18, 2013

[Photo on Flickr by JTF-GTMO]

Guantánamo Bay prisoners have been on a hunger strike for over two months. Some of them have, in that period, been subject to forced feeding by medical staff in the prison. But, a new report that examines the United States government’s recent history of torture and abuse of detainees in the global war on terrorism highlights hunger strikes in the prison camps and recommends that forced feeding come to an end because it is abuse.

The report comes from a “Task Force on Detainee Treatment” formed by The Constitution Project, which describes itself as “a national watchdog group that advances bipartisan, consensus based solutions to some of most difficult constitutional challenges of our time.” The co-chair of the “Task Force” was Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who worked in the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush. James R. Jones, who helped President Bill Clinton pass the North-American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was the other co-chair.

The Task Force took two years to develop a report on “the past and current treatment of suspected terrorists detained by the US government” during the administrations of President Bill Clinton, President Bush and President Barack Obama.

During a press conference on the report on April 16, Dr. Gerald Thomson, a professor of medicine emeritus at Columbia University and former president of the American College of Physicians, stated, according to “Democracy Now!”:

We do not believe that force-feeding should be an approach to the hunger strike. If you can imagine being a detainee and using refusal to eat as a form of protest, and then you are forced to eat, forced physically to eat by being strapped into a specially made chair, and restrained—having restraints put on your limbs, your arms, your legs, your body, your head, so that you cannot move, having a tube inserted into your throat that extends into your stomach, and you’re trying to resist that with the only muscles that are free in your throat—pain, discomfort, obviously. But in addition to that, food is then forced, in a liquid form, into your stomach. You’re kept in the chair for at least two hours, usually more than two hours, to prevent you from vomiting and undermining the force-feeding. You can’t go to the bathroom during that time. Your dignity is taken away. The World Medical Association and international officials have clearly identified that process as cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. And whatever the—given the level of brutality, it could extend to torture.

Hunger strikes have been taking place at Guantánamo since right after it opened. The report notes, “The first reported incidents of detainees being force-fed occurred in May 2002, after 60 or 70 days of hunger strikes.” A major hunger strike took place in the summer of 2005. By September, 131 prisoners were being denied food.

“In October 2005, prison officials told a delegation of visiting medical organizations that 25 prisoners were currently on a hunger strike, 22 of whom were being fed by nasogastric tube,” according to the Task Force’s report. Prisoners’ lawyers “filed motions asking federal courts to stop the involuntaryfeeding, which they claimed was carried out in a punitive, brutal fashion.” The prisoners alleged that “excessively large feeding tubes” were being inserted through prisoners’ noses and were causing “bleeding, vomiting and loss of consciousness in some cases.” 

Statement by DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) on Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings‏

Unity and Accountability in the Wake of the Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings

The members of DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Sikh community after Sunday’s shootings in the Oak Creek Gurudwara in Wisconsin. The shootings have been followed closely by an arson that burned down a mosque in Joplin, Missouri.

While the shootings have shocked us all, it is unfortunately part of a history of targeting of communities of color that all too often goes unchecked and remains rooted in a national climate bolstered by state policies. This climate of racism and intolerance targeting Sikhs, South Asians, Muslims, Arabs, and Middle Easterners, particularly since 9/11, has been fueled by frequent media distortions, governmental policies of racial and religious profiling, and the rise in hate groups. Yet, the media and public discourse mistakenly puts the Sikh and other religions on the hot seat rather than the vast network of organized hate groups whose impacts have been severe-from attacks on Sikhs and Muslims to crafting of anti-people of color and anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070 in Arizona.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that it had been monitoring the alleged gunman, Wade Michael Page, for over 10 years for his ties to white supremacist groups, attempts to purchase weapons from them, and use of violent lyrics about murdering Jews, black people, gay people, and other communities of color, through his membership in racist skinhead bands. Since the use of racial and religious profiling by law enforcement agencies focuses on identity as a marker of threat, rather than actual acts, (leading to the broad profiling of communities of color, religious minorities, and activist groups), organized white supremacist and hate groups remain largely unchecked. In 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a report on the dangers of right-wing extremism in the US, it received severe backlash from many conservative policy makers. As a result of the criticism, the DHS dismantled and cut funding for the intelligence team that monitored such threats. Continue reading

Pakistani-American Adnan Mirza framed by FBI

October 25, 2010

By Shireen M Mazari

After the farcical trial of Dr Aafia Siddique in a US court, another Pakistani has fallen victim to the US through yet another travesty of justice. This time it is a student, Adnan Mirza, who has been jailed for 15 years ostensibly for “conspiring to provide material support to the Taliban and illegal gun possession.”

 

However, the reality is totally different and shows how the FBI deliberately traps young Muslims through fabrication of evidence. Some local FBI agents secured their careers in the war on terror, but this young man has lost five precious years as a student and the only breadwinner for his mother and three younger brothers. In jail for nearly five years on flimsy evidence – audio tapes recorded by undercover FBI agents during a hiking trip talking to a young Muslim student about his views on America’s Iraq and Afghan wars – this Pakistani young man’s case, someone who is well-known in Houston’s poor districts for helping the needy on the streets on Christmas and Sundays, is a clear illustration of how unscrupulous local US law enforcement agents used the war on terror to promote their careers and create unnecessary panic among Americans by arresting and humiliating Pakistanis on trumped up charges.

Despite a weak case and clear signs of a setup by local FBI officers, Adnan was kept in a federal prison for five years. Tremendous pressure was put on him to accept the charges and spend a few years in jail. He knew he’d be deported if he accepted charges and his record would be tarnished for life for something he did not do. Unfortunately, Pakistani diplomats in the US also played along with FBI and pressured Adnan to accept charges, which he refused. Continue reading

The Superbowl, Tim Tebow, Abortion and Women’s Oppression

This was originally posted on npr.org.

The Super Bowl, Woman’s Same Old Story

by Jaclyn Friedman

On Sunday, as nearly 100 million Americans gather to watch the New Orleans Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, they’ll be treated to something they’re probably not expecting: an ad speaking out against abortion. The spot, produced by the extreme right-wingers at Focus on the Family, features Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother, who claims she was advised by doctors to abort fetal Tim but “chose life” instead. Their message? You should, too.

The ad has caused quite a stir, as neither CBS nor the Super Bowl has ever before accepted a so-called “issue advocacy ad,” and CBS just last week turned down an ad for a gay men’s dating site. Public outrage from the left generally and from a coalition of more than thirty progressive organizations coordinated by the Women’s Media Center has resulted in a firestorm of press coverage. More than 100,000 e-mails and phone calls have been made to CBS and related parties urging them to pull the ad.

While it’s easy to see how this spot breaks new and unwelcome ground for the big game, the (more troubling) fact is that in many ways, the Tebow/Focus on the Family ad is just a new expression of a longstanding Super Bowl tradition in which women are valued only in direct relation to their usefulness to male athletes and fans. Continue reading

Global Report: Unsafe Abortions Kill 70,000 Women a Year


Unsafe abortions kill 70,000 a year, harm millions

By Kate Kelland

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Increased use of contraceptives has pushed global abortion rates down, but unsafe abortions kill 70,000 women each year and seriously harm or maim millions more, a global report said on Tuesday.

Despite easier access to abortion with restrictions being relaxed in many countries, the number of abortions fell from an estimated 45.5 million in 1995 to 41.6 million in 2003, the report by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute said.

But the study found a stubbornly high number — almost 20 million — of unsafe abortions, mostly in poorer countries and often carried out by the women themselves using inappropriate drugs or herbal potions, or by untrained traditional healers.

“It is significant and tragic that while the overall rate of abortion is on the decline, unsafe abortion has not declined,” said Sharon Camp, president of the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which studies sexual and reproductive health. Continue reading

Dr. George Tiller Assassinated in Church

New York Times, May 29, 2009

Doctor Who Performed Abortions Is Shot to Death

By MONICA DAVEY and JOE STUMPE

WICHITA, Kan. — Authorities said they had a suspect in custody Sunday afternoon in the shooting death of George Tiller, a Wichita doctor who was one of the few doctors in the nation to perform late-term abortions.

Dr. Tiller, who had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion and had survived a shooting more than a decade ago, was shot inside his church here on Sunday morning, the authorities said. Dr. Tiller, 67, was shot with a handgun inside the lobby of his longtime church, Reformation Lutheran Church on the city’s East Side, just after 10 a.m. (Central Time). The service had started minutes earlier.

Dr. Tiller, who had performed abortions since the 1970s, had long been a lightning rod for controversy over the issue of abortion, particularly in Kansas, where abortion opponents regularly protested outside his clinic and sometimes his home and church. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an abortion opponent but recovered. Continue reading