To Force Feed or Starve?

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Trays of halal meat for detainee meals are stored in a refrigeration unit at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. BOB STRONG/REUTERS

Trays of halal meat for detainee meals are stored in a refrigeration unit at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. BOB STRONG/REUTERS

Remember when Christopher Hitchens and “Mancow” requested to be waterboarded so that they could experience how unpleasant the whole sensation is?

Well, enter Actor and rapper Mos Def:

Rapper Mos Def, now known as Yasiin Bey, has been filmed being force fed to highlight the treatment of inmates Guantanamo Bay.

Made in conjunction with human rights group Reprieve, the video is directed by Bafta award-winning film-maker Asif Kapadia and is released to coincide with build-up to the Islamic holy period of Ramadan, when inmates will be force fed after dark, in line with the rules of the month-long religious fast.

It shows the former rapper being force fed using the same method enacted by the US military on hunger striking detainees at the controversial prison.

During the four minute film, the former rapper is seen pleading for the doctors to stop as he becomes increasingly upset and agitated.

The video’s release comes as a US federal judge ruled that she lacked the authority to halt the practice.

For more on the judge’s decision, click here.


The act was in protest of the Obama administration’s decision to proceed with force-feeding during the month-long fast of Ramadan, which begins at today’s sunset.

According to The Guardian, the U.S. government has decided to proceed with the force-feeding by doing it only at nighttime, respecting the daytime fast undertaken by Muslims during Ramadan. However, Muslim rights groups argue that the continuation of force feeding during a high holiday is particularly insulting.

“We believe it’s wrong to force feed at any time but it is particularly upsetting to do it through Ramadan,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In protest of current policy, another group named Reprieve released a video showing rapper Yasiin Bey (best known as Mos Def) undergoing the force-feeding methods currently being used on detainees at Gitmo, as a demonstration of just how gruesome they believe the procedure to be.

Following the guidelines set forth in a Gitmo manual leaked to the press,

The procedure:

The four-minute video, directed by Bafta award-winning filmmaker Asif Kapadia, seeks to reconstruct the specific force-feeding instructions set out in standard operating guidelines from Guantánamo leaked to al-Jazeera. It shows a plastic tube being inserted through Bey’s nostril into his stomach. The “Medical Management Standard Operating Procedure” document leaked from the detention camp defines a hunger striker as a detainee who has missed at least nine consecutive meals or whose weight has fallen to less than 85% of his ideal body weight.

If force feeding is deemed medically necessary, medical personnel shackle the detainee “and a mask is placed over the detainee’s mouth to prevent spitting and biting”. A feeding tube is then passed through the detainee’s nostril into the stomach.

The process takes about 20 to 30 minutes but they can be required to stay in the restraint chair for up to two hours until a chest x-ray confirms the nutrient has reached their stomach.

The prisoner is then removed from restraint chair to “dry cell” where they are observed by a guard for up to an hour “for any indication of vomiting or attempts to induce vomiting”. If they do vomit, they are returned to the restraint chair for the entire duration of the observation period in subsequent feeds.

If they bite the tube, the guards hold their head still for “as long as necessary for the detainee to relax his jaw”.

Aside from the restraints, how much worse is this than what medical patients go through when they have to receive a nasogastric enteral feeding tube, themselves?

The document leaked to al Jazeera is described in the headline blurb as “the brutality of force-feeding”; while the document itself states that its policy is to “protect, preserve, and promote life”.

Like killing over capture and interrogating, I suppose allowing the detainees on hunger strike to starve themselves to death would be more humane, huh? Would that shut the critics up?

No, of course not.

The United Nations has condemned force-feeding as both a form of torture and a breach of international law [Army Sgt Brian Godette]

The United Nations has condemned force-feeding as both a form of torture and a breach of international law [Army Sgt Brian Godette]

15 Responses to “To Force Feed or Starve?”

  1. 1

    Dave Briker

    Well duh?? I had an esophagus inspection done by a eye, ear, nose, throat specialist and it involved exactly the same thing. Granted their tube may have been a bit larger but it ain’t comfortable and it’s “elective” on their part……. been there……done that……no biggie……..I’d let em do their thing……….

  2. 3


    Place the usual halal meals in their cells daily, and if they choose not to eat them, and they die of starvation with good food at hand, …then clearly it is the will (or the won’t) of Allah that they die, and we accept no responsibility.

    Then bury them with an open can of Vienna sausages and call it a day.

  3. 4

    Nan G

    When these GITMO detainees say they are fasting the lines from The Princess Bride come to mind…..You keep saying that word! I do not think that word means what you think it means!
    See, before they were ”force fed,” many of them had claimed to have been on an hunger strike for YEARS!!!!
    Yet somehow many of them became fat while on their hunger strike!
    Sort of like Cindy Sheehan’s hunger strike where Jamba Juice smoothies with shots of protein or of anti-oxidants were part of ”the fast.”

    No, these guys at GITMO were worried that all their friends and useful idiots in Islam would see that they had not lost any weight while in GITMO (they expect to be freed soon) so they had to go on diets.
    What could be better than a two-fer….get slim AND make the USA look bad for force feeding them.
    (Force feeding will still allow you to lose weight.)

    I had a disease as a child and had to be fed through a tube for ten days.
    By the 2nd day I had the whole procedure down so it was easy as pie.
    These guys are not suffering at all.
    It is their choice.
    And Obama, also, could call it off with a simple phone call.

  4. 5

    Mary K Smith

    I gotta wonder if obama’s request/command to allow force feeding isn’t more about keeping his fellow muslim soldiers healthy to fight an Islamic war with America…..just a thought

  5. 7


    Put them in an area where cameras are on them all the time. The cameras will record the food being given, and them refusing to eat it. Put it live on the Internet for all to see. I really doubt that any of them would starve themselves to death, knowing anyone can see them any time. If this would be done, I’m guessing that obama would make it Pay Per View so he could make some money off of it to lower the national debt.

  6. 11


    …New paradigm set, accounted for and programmed, time to return to my true love…

    Bashing Fabian Progressives.

    No better place than here to do so.

    *drops gloves, and spits*


  7. 13


    you have the solution perfect,
    they have a right to be free to do what they want.
    OBAMA is always trying to take the rights of anyone away from them.

  8. 14



    @Patvann: Looks like Marc Thiessen picked up on your comment 😉

    Who’s tougher: ‪#‎Guantanamo‬ terrorists or a little girl?

    If force-feeding detainees really constitutes torture under international law, then why does the United Nations do it? In 2006, the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia ordered the force-feeding of Serbian warlord Vojislav Seselj, who was protesting his prosecution. “The trial . . . should not be undermined by the accused’s manipulative behaviour,” the U.N. judges declared in a statement, adding that under international law force-feeding is not “torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if there is a medical necessity to do so . . . and if the manner in which the detainee is force-fed is not inhuman or degrading.”

    Did the U.N. court commit torture? If force-feeding detainees is good enough for the Hague, it’s good enough for Guantanamo Bay.

    Nasogastric feeding is not torture — not by a long shot. It is a common procedure used thousands of times a day by doctors and nurses in hospitals across the United States. Moreover, according to the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation, some 345,000 Americans use feeding tubes at home every day — including many children (who are known affectionately in the feeding tube community as “tubies”). There are “do it yourself” nasogastric tube insertion guides for parents that can be found online.

    Are these parents “torturing” their children?

    The anti-Guantanamo group Reprieve posted a video on YouTube showing rapper and liberal activist Mos Def undergoing the procedure as he writhes and pleads, “Please stop, I can’t do it.” The video has received some 5 million views.

    There is another video on YouTube that is far more instructive. In it, a young girl looks sweetly into the camera and says: “Hi, my name is Natalie, and I’m just going to do a little demonstration on how to insert your nasogastric feeding tube.” She then proceeds to painlessly insert the tube through her nose, while calmly walking viewers through each step of the process in a matter of fact voice. At the end, she says: “If it’s your first time, it is scary at the beginning . . . but as you just saw it doesn’t hurt at all.”

    If a young girl like Natalie can handle a feeding tube, so can the big tough al-Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.

    The truth is, many of the detainees refusing food at Guantanamo are not doing so voluntarily but are under pressure from terrorist leaders inside the camp. As one Guantanamo official explained to me when I visited in 2009, the “detainees are still organized; they still have a chain of command, with leaders and followers.” When more than 100 detainees join a hunger strike, it isn’t a spontaneous protest — it is an carefully organized effort, directed and enforced by Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership at Guantanamo.

    It is difficult for lower-ranking detainees to refuse to participate in a hunger strike. Most are not held in individual cells (where they could receive food out of sight from terrorist leaders) but in a communal living situation. That means they must take meals out in the open. If they ignore orders to refuse food, all the other terrorists know it.

    However, at the detainee hospital where the nasogastric feeding takes place, it is a different story. When I toured the facility, a nurse explained that, out of sight of their superiors, most of the detainees cooperate fully with the procedure. They even choose the flavor of Ensure they will use (the detainees can smell and even taste it when they belch).

    One former senior Guantanamo official recalled how “detainees on long-term hunger strike would frequently remind staff of when they were due their feeding, and complain if it were not on time.” During a 2005 hunger strike, this official said, some detainees even asked to keep their tubes inserted and “were sufficiently nourished to run laps around the inner yard with the tube coiled up around an ear.”

    Kessler called on President Obama to stop the force-feeding, citing Obama’sspeech at the National Defense University where the president decried the practice, asking “Is this who we are?” Well, what exactly is Obama supposed to do — let the detainees die? The same people condemning him for force-feeding detainees would be condemning him for killing them.

    The fact is, at Guantanamo, force-feeding prevents forced suicide. The procedure is not pleasant, but detainees who are compelled to refuse food are more than happy to get the nutrition without having to violate orders from their chain of command. They can truthfully tell their superiors they had no choice (and embellish stories of resistance if they so choose). The temporary discomfort sure beats being forced to starve to death.

    And it certainly isn’t torture.

    Just ask young Natalie.

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