Sunday :: Feb 17, 2008

The Torture State

by Mary

Under George W Bush that our country has descended into a cruel and corrupted state can no longer be denied. How can the country that was once a beacon for freedom and liberty come to be known more for its love of torture? As Scott Horton noted, on Valentine's Day Nick Kristof wrote about how the US is holding an totally innocent journalist in Gitmo, force-feeding him as a form of torture trying to force him to become a spy for the American government when he is released.

After Mr. Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2001, he was beaten, starved, frozen and subjected to anal searches in public to humiliate him, his lawyers say. The U.S. government initially seems to have confused him with another cameraman, and then offered vague accusations that he had been a financial courier and otherwise assisted extremist groups.

"There is a significant amount of information, both unclassified and classified, which supports continued detention of Sami al-Hajj by U.S. forces," said Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, adding that the detainees are humanely treated and "receive exceptional medical care."

Military officials did acknowledge that Mr. Hajj was not considered a potential suicide bomber and probably would have been released long ago if he had just "come clean" by responding in greater detail to the allegations and showing remorse.

...Mr. Hajj began his hunger strike more than a year ago, so twice daily he is strapped down and a tube is wound up his nose and down his throat to his stomach. Sometimes a lubricant is used, and sometimes it isn't, so his throat and nose have been rubbed raw. Sometimes a tube still bloody from another hunger striker is used, his lawyers say.

"It's really a regime to make it as painful and difficult as possible," said one of his lawyers, Zachary Katznelson.

Scott Horton continues the story of why they continue to hold him:

So what does the Bush Administration want from al-Hajj? Do they believe he committed a crime? No. Do they think he has vital intelligence they could use to avert attacks? Not really. They may say they think he has vital information, but he's been in custody for six years. At this point what could he know? No, al-Hajj told his lawyer that his interrogators have attempted to recruit him to be an internal spy inside of al-Jazeera, and it's been signaled to him repeatedly that he can walk out free if he will agree.

So what other governments have been known to use force-feeding through the nostrils in order to break their subjects? Ah, that's right, it was a tactic that Stalin and his totalitarian state was fond of using.

In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow (the central KGB interrogation jail), I went on a hunger strike demanding a defense lawyer of my choice (the KGB wanted its trusted lawyer to be assigned instead). The moment was most inconvenient for my captors because my case was due in court, and they had no time to spare. So, to break me down, they started force-feeding me in a very unusual manner -- through my nostrils. About a dozen guards led me from my cell to the medical unit. There they straitjacketed me, tied me to a bed, and sat on my legs so that I would not jerk. The others held my shoulders and my head while a doctor was pushing the feeding tube into my nostril.

The feeding pipe was thick, thicker than my nostril, and would not go in. Blood came gushing out of my nose and tears down my cheeks, but they kept pushing until the cartilages cracked. I guess I would have screamed if I could, but I could not with the pipe in my throat. I could breathe neither in nor out at first; I wheezed like a drowning man -- my lungs felt ready to burst. The doctor also seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept shoving the pipe farther and farther down. Only when it reached my stomach could I resume breathing, carefully. Then she poured some slop through a funnel into the pipe that would choke me if it came back up. They held me down for another half-hour so that the liquid was absorbed by my stomach and could not be vomited back, and then began to pull the pipe out bit by bit. . . . Grrrr. There had just been time for everything to start healing during the night when they came back in the morning and did it all over again, for 10 days, when the guards could stand it no longer. As it happened, it was a Sunday and no bosses were around. They surrounded the doctor: "Hey, listen, let him drink it straight from the bowl, let him sip it. It'll be quicker for you, too, you silly old fool." The doctor was in tears: "Do you think I want to go to jail because of you lot? No, I can't do that. . . . " And so they stood over my body, cursing each other, with bloody bubbles coming out of my nose. On the 12th day, the authorities surrendered; they had run out of time. I had gotten my lawyer, but neither the doctor nor those guards could ever look me in the eye again.

Who in Guantanamo continues to force that tube down the nostrils of Sami al-Hajj day after day after day? What has that cruel act done to the soul of the torturers? And who in their right mind think this is what you should do to force someone who is innocent to become a traitor to his land? How do we atone for the madness of these cruel and disgraceful acts done in our name supposedly to "keep us safe?"

Mary :: 3:31 PM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!