“In 1971, while in Lefortovo prison in Moscow” – that regime’s functional equivalent of Gitmo – “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.”
What Bukovsky described as a novel method is now standard operating procedure at Gitmo. In words saturated with pain, Bukovsky recounted that the effort to insert the feeding tube turned his nose into a bloody geyser, and wrenched tears from his eyes. His captors, determined to make him submit, were initially heedless of his suffering, and “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.”To understand the depravity of this procedure, and to appreciate the focused cruelty necessary to carry it out, it is worthwhile to view the demonstration video produced by Reprieve that features actor and activist Yasiin Bey (also known by the stage name Mos Def). The video re-enactment– in which Bey was reduced to a tearful wreck within less than a minute – shows the performer being shackled, confined to a restraint chair, and enduring the insertion of the feeding tube. It was released on July 8 – the same day that US District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington issued a ruling that she has no authority to force the military to end the practice. Apparently, this can only be done on the orders of the Dear Leader himself.
The video, produced by the British human rights organization Reprieve, is unbearable to watch, but please – for the love of God – watch it.
Bear in mind that this Soviet-grade torture technique, which takes up to two hours, has been inflicted twice a day on victims who, unlike Bey, could not stop it.
Bukovksy endured this hideous ritual for ten days. He eventually outlasted his tormentors, who – unlike the American functionaries at Gitmo – retained some moral inhibitions over torture.
Eventually, he recalled, “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.”
We should take a moment to unpack this remarkable account. First of all, the Soviet doctor who carried out the force-feeding was afraid that she would be prosecuted for torturing Bukovsky. In contemporary – which is to say, Soviet – America, a doctor who enables can enjoy a lucrative pension and an appointment to a prestigious leadership position in a mainstream church. In Bukovsky’s case, the guards were eager to find some excuse to disobey orders to torture their victim, and were afflicted with decent shame over what they had done to him. I vehemently doubt that the same can be said of the supposed heroes stationed at Guantanamo Bay.
The inescapable conclusion is that the Soviet police state apparatus, while incontestably vile and murderous, was in some ways less depraved than the version over which Washington now presides.
Pentagon spokesliar Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale dismissed Reprieve’s force-feeding reenactment as “a clever bit of cause marketing” and insisted that what was done to the heroic Yassin Bey “doesn’t comport with our procedures.” That latter comment is technically true, since there’s no evidence that Bey was beaten in his cell by a thugscrum of armored assailants and then beaten once again when he was returned to confinement – an omission that actually underplays the criminal violence that is part of the ritual.
|Gitmo North: A “Cell Extraction” in a US Prison.|
“They come into my cell, slam me on the floor, shackle me, haul me out of the cell, put a bottle of water on my bed, pull me back in, and cut the shackles off – with a few thwacks in between,” Aamer testifies in a report published by Reprieve. Frightened of the abuse he would experience if he sought to take a shower, Aamer has resorted to using toilet water to cleanse himself.
The Betrayed: On Warriors, Cowboys and Other Misfits. by Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume. Click here to buy the paperback version from the FlyoverPress aStore.
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