A Call for Military Physicians to Refuse Orders

Three authors, two lawyers (one with a Masters in Public Health) and an MD, have a strongly worded piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about military doctors acting as enablers of the punitive force-feeding of the hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay prison.


Physicians at Guantanamo cannot permit the military to use them and their medical skills for political purposes and still comply with their ethical obligations. Force-feeding a competent person is not the practice of medicine; it is aggravated assault. Using a physician to assault prisoners no more changes the nature of the act than using physicians to “monitor” torture makes torture a medical procedure. Military physicians are no more entitled to betray medical ethics than military lawyers are to betray the Constitution or military chaplains are to betray their religion.5

They call on non-involved physicians to lobby Congress and the Department of Defense to stop the current practice of force-feeding, and on those actively involved to stop; to disobey orders if need be, in the name of medical ethics.

We believe that individual physicians and professional groups should use their political power to stop the force-feeding, primarily for the prisoners’ sake but also for that of their colleagues. They should approach congressional leaders, petition the DOD to rescind its 2006 instruction permitting force-feeding, and state clearly that no military physician should ever be required to violate medical ethics. We further believe that military physicians should refuse to participate in any act that unambiguously violates medical ethics.

Military physicians who refuse to follow orders that violate medical ethics should be actively and strongly supported

Torture Continues at Gitmo

In an Op-Ed letter in today’s New York Times, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, held by the United States military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2001 — uncharged and untried– asked the American people to read about his life:


Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. 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.

… The only reason I am still here is that President Obama refuses to send any detainees back to Yemen.

…The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood.

And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made.

I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.

NY Times/Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel,

And, the prisoners there, are expressing Moqbel’s desperation by long, shared hunger strikes, and apparently, physical resistance to the way they are being treated.

Weeks of mounting tensions between the military and detainees at the wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, escalated into violence on Saturday during a raid in which guards forced prisoners living in communal housing to move to individual cells.

NY Times

Aid Worker: Chewed Up, Spit Out

Scott Sayare in the NY Times on Saturday, 5/25/12 reminds us, with a brief update on Lakhdar Boumediene, of the effect  of unrestrained government criminal behavior on people’s lives. He was in Sarajevo as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives during the Balkan conflicts, for the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. On the morning of October 19, 2001, he was taken into custody and not released for 2,677 days.

IT was James, a thickset American interrogator nicknamed “the Elephant,” who first told Lakhdar Boumediene that investigators were certain of his innocence, that two years of questioning had shown he was no terrorist, but that it did not matter, Mr. Boumediene says.

The interrogations would continue through what ended up being seven years, three months, three weeks and four days at the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Boumediene himself had a piece in January 2012: My Guantanamo Nightmare:

I still had faith in American justice. I believed my captors would quickly realize their mistake and let me go. But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.

I went on a hunger strike for two years because no one would tell me why I was being imprisoned. Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me. It was excruciating, but I was innocent and so I kept up my protest.

Kafka had less reason that Boumediene to fear the hand of authority, and didn’t come up with a story as arbitrarily cruel as this one.  Some day, may we have a memorial tower,  around which thousands congregate, for those chewed up and spit out by governments, with out regard to truth or evidence, or compensation for the disasters brought into the lives of innocents.

Indefinite Detention Now the Law of the Land

Weeping for our country…

ON Wednesday, America’s detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone. Most of their letters were returned as “undeliverable,” and the few that I received were so thoroughly and thoughtlessly censored that their messages of love and support were lost.

Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty.

My Guantanamo Nightmare — Lakhdar Boumediene

and weeping again:

I LEFT Guantánamo Bay much as I had arrived almost five years earlier — shackled hand-to-waist, waist-to-ankles, and ankles to a bolt on the airplane floor. My ears and eyes were goggled, my head hooded, and even though I was the only detainee on the flight this time, I was drugged and guarded by at least 10 soldiers. This time though, my jumpsuit was American denim rather than Guantánamo orange. I later learned that my C-17 military flight from Guantánamo to Ramstein Air Base in my home country, Germany, cost more than $1 million. Read more of this post