Military Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. One on hand, somebody who has way more information than I do made a judgement call that the guys who have been brought to this facility posed a real and present danger to the United States in some form or fashion. On the other hand, it seems like they've been kept a helluva long time without charges being formally brought in too many of these cases. I know that there are also detainees down there who have been cleared to be released, yet they remain locked up. The whole thing, from our actions in Iraq and to the very mis-managed Afghanistan, has been a bit of a cluster fuck.
I can only imagine what would happen if it was a group of American servicemen plucked out of wherever they were fighting and taken to a detention facility in some other part of the world. Held indefinitely, and for most of them, had no official charges filed against them. We would be up in arms, we'd be marching in the streets, we'd want a rescue mission to be mounted ASAP and somebody would pay dearly for messing with us.
Don't get me wrong, the guys locked up in Cuba aren't exactly choir boys who were snatched out of a college library. Many of these guys are professional mercenaries in the Middle East and they like to be where the action is. My sympathy for these folks has its limits.
President Obama had promised and in fact announced early on his intention to close the facility, as his predecessor George W. Bush had. It didn't happen. Mostly because it takes money...a big chunk of it...to actually shutter a facility like that. Congress controls the money, they didn't feel like cooperating with this idea, and it went nowhere. And so, here we are.
A few dozen detainees, 29 to be exact, have decided they no longer wish to eat or partake of any nourishment. I imagine they understand the consequences of these actions. The United States military isn't going to stand for these folks refusing to eat and then dying. It wouldn't look good. So, they utilize a procedure called Enteral Feeding. These people will eat, one way or the other...
Basically, a fairly small diameter plastic tube is lubricated with a k-y jelly type substance and then inserted into the inmate's nostril. Its fed deeper and deeper down the throat and ultimately into the patient's stomach. It doesn't sound pleasant to me. The procedure has been banned by the United Nations as a form of torture and a breech of international law. (Didn't President Obama say several times the United States does not torture?, Why, yes he did..."I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world.")
Rapper Yasin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), working with a Human Rights organisation called "Reprieve," volunteered to undergo the procedure himself. He's a popular artist and his involvement may lead to a greater awareness and greater pressure on elected officials to intervene to stop it. I understand that. Christopher Hitchens did the same type thing with water boarding several years ago. I applaud social awareness and involvement. Good for Mr. Bey to take some time and try and make a difference.
Watch the video yourself:
I've watched the video several times. Its professionally done and tells the story quite well on what its like to undergo forced tube feeding. I also had my wife, a trained Advanced Practice Nurse (think Nurse practitioner) who has administered this procedure, view it and share her comments. Her experiences were in a traditional nursing home setting. She commented that usually the patients head is tilted in such a way to facilitate the tube progressing down the nasal passage and throat as comfortably as possible. Bey's head was thrashing all about which likely only made things worse for him. Secondly, she says that usually someone has a cup of water with a straw for the patient to sip out of, as that also helps move the tube more comfortably into proper position. There was no sign of that in the video.
Another issue I had was with Bey's reaction near the end of the film. I understand this wasn't fun. But the pleading to stop and then the outright sobbing struck me as something other than genuine. I'm not saying he faked it or even forced it but he wasn't in enemy hands. They weren't going to do anything to him he hadn't expressly approved of earlier. It struck me as a it of over-acting. My wife, the 14 year nursing veteran, said she knew a lot of old women who put this guy to shame. She too thought Bey's actions were over-dramatic.
Forced feeding is nasty enough. The over-emoting took away from the experience for both of us. I fear the resulting conversation going forward may be too much about whether Bey was faking it than the actual issue.
What's my bottom line? Very mixed.
Let's charge these guys with a crime and move forward that way or send them back to wherever we got them from. I say keep Guantanamo Bay open in a different role. A US military base in Cuba probably has have real strategic value that we shouldn't just abandon.
I applaud Mr. Bey's efforts but wish the last section of the video was different. I also wonder if whether the specific procedure the US Military uses is different in terms of head position and the use of a glass of water to help the patient essentially swallow the feeding tube? Maybe the makers of the movie followed it to a T, maybe they played up a certain aspect of it for effect. I'm not entirely sure.