How Barbaric Is Force-Feeding? Ctd

A reader asks a “simple question”:

Is it more humane to let the detainees starve to death?

Obviously, in a perfect world, the situation would resolve itself, GTMO would close, and we would all live happily ever after. Sadly, we don’t live in that world. We live in a much more complicated world where there isn’t a simple or elegant solution to this issue. I’ve been to GTMO as a Judge Advocate working on the military commissions. I, too, would like it to close. I really would. But in the meantime, how many men do you let starve to death?

All who wish to do so. If they believe it is the only way to end their torment, what right do we have to prevent them? One reader’s answer:

Perhaps some fellow Dishheads can shed some light on what the pains are associated with long-term starvation, but I have to assume that’s not exactly a pretty picture. What all of this does for me is just crystallize the giant clusterfuck that is Gitmo. We have a number of humans who are being indefinitely detained with no end in sight, which in and of itself is horrible. And the choices appear to be for us to inflict further pain by forcing them to eat, or for us to let them inflict pain on themselves, possibly to the point of a slow horrible death.

When you frame it this way, I would lean slightly toward saying that in the current circumstances, force-feeding is the better choice of two bad options.


I have followed this thread with some interest and can’t help but point out: this treatment does not meet the dictionary definition of torture.

Torture, as it is commonly defined, is “the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.” That the procedure is deeply unpleasant I have no doubt in my mind, but let’s be clear: I doubt even the soldiers who perform it enjoy seeing the pain and discomfort in the eyes of these prisoners. Nor is it being done to extract information or as a way to “punish” them.

Plenty of acts done by the U.S. government in the past should be labeled torture, including waterboarding, but force-feeding simply does not meet the definition. It is being done for one simple purpose: to keep them alive – hardly a cruel intention.

And as your readers have pointed out, this is a common medical procedure for people with medical problems or people with mental illnesses. Had your thread been titled, “Is force-feeding just in these circumstances?”, I might refrain from speaking, but you’ve put it in such broad terms I can’t help but find your arguments ludicrous.

Supposing these were genuine al-Qaeda members, and they refused to eat until a fellow murdered was freed: would you still label force-feeding them torture? Would you still think it cruel that instead of quietly sitting on their hands as some men starved in front of them – to stand as martyrs for some horrible cause – they saved their lives by intervening?

They have a right to their own bodies. If they do not even have that right, they are slaves, not prisoners.