Torture Here at Home

Rebecca GordonThe fact is that torture is still continuing today — both in the so called war on terror and also in plain sight in our own jails and prisons in this country. I mentioned in the piece you were referring to a number of ways that torture is still going on. And one of these involved the forced feeding that’s still happening at Guantanamo. This is what happens twice a day to those people who are on hunger strike. A cell extraction team of six people arrives in their cell and forcibly removes them from the cell. And then, as one of the people who’s suffered this describes, what they do is they actually strap the person down to a feeding chair — which they call a torture chair — but in order to make the process more painful, instead of attaching the prisoner’s arms to the arms of the chair they’re handcuffing them behind the person’s back and then strapping the person into the chair that way so it puts terrible pressure on the shoulder joints. And so there’s pain not only involved in the feeding itself but also in the physical restraint that’s going on when they shove a tube up someone’s nose and pump food into their stomach.

One of the people who wrote about it this for The New York Times said it this way:

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.

It’s interesting to know that at the very same time this kind of force feeding has been going on — and as far as we know is still happening — exactly the same procedure was being used on prisoners in California in May of 2013 — so only a year and a half ago — when they also went on hunger strike. And they were striking about exactly the same issues. The two issues were indefinite detention — in other words in US prisons having prison sentences that last an undetermined number of years — 15 to life, 25 to life. And secondly, solitary confinement — being held in complete isolation from other human beings. And in May 2013 30,000 prisoners in California went on hunger strike, and when they did it they did it in direct solidarity and awareness that people in Guantanamo were doing the same over exactly the same two issues. So the connection between the US prisons and the war on terror is not a hard one to make — it’s a direct connection.

—Rebecca Gordon
Interview with CounterSpin

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