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Rape as an Instrument of American War at Guantanamo

By       Message Veena Trehan     Permalink

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Five years after President Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp it remains open. The largely war-mongering Congressional opposition placed significant restrictions on transferring detainees, perhaps recognizing America's safety is threatened by the continued violation of Muslims.
From flickr.com/photos/38908037@N02/16143730800/: DC Guantanamo Protest Jan 2015-41
DC Guantanamo Protest Jan 2015-41
(Image by World Can't Wait)
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Rape definitions have broadened domestically and internationally and now include penetration of either sex. Many US practices at Guantanamo, justified as medically or procedurally necessary, may meet the definition of rape. And, like many incidents of rape, they have been used to exercise total dominion over a detainee's body, evoking humiliation and terror.
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Last month's publication of detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi's "Guantanamo Diary" (written in the summer of 2005) confirm all manner of sexual humiliation during his Kafkaesque imprisonment. He writes of being threatened with rectal force feeding, being gang raped by female interrogators (described more modestly), and hearing of the sexual molestation of other detainees. Thirteen years later, he is still in US custody, despite once being cleared for release.
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Investigations and media accounts add detail and depth to violations at Guantanamo.

US soldiers orally force feed hunger striking detainees in what has been called a "medically sound" procedure . But US lawyers once called it "' never acceptable' under medical ethics standards ", like many international bodies that find it illegal. (These thousands of force feedings to "save lives" occurred within the context of the allegedly killing of several detainees , the brutal torture of more, and the provision for several years of unnecessarily high doses of mefloquine , an anti-malaria drug whose side effects include suicide.)
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The force feeding process itself is one of total domination. Detainees have been taken from their cells, shackled to a chair including their head, and had a tube jammed down their nose and throat for up to two hours while nutrients are delivered to their stomach (the revised procedure isn't public). Sometimes they throw up and the process is restarted. Detainees have been given Reglan for the feedings, a drug linked to the neurological disorder tardive dyskinesia when used over the long term.

The procedure is so painful that singer Mos Def was unable to go through with it. Activist Andres Thomas Conteris, who underwent it steps from the White House, called it "the most painful experience of my life" and likened those who authorize it to "serial rapists."

Actually Mos Def and Conteris experienced the procedure "done right". But military personnel have used larger tubes than necessary. Many feedings are beyond nightmarish, like this one in which masks are used to cover the face of a vomiting detainee.

The Obama administration is fighting a judicial decision requiring the release of videos documenting force feeding.

"Rectal rehydration's" use was perhaps the most shocking revelation in December's publication of the woefully incomplete Senate Torture Report . US staff used it on at least five detainees "without medical necessity" and threatened at least another three. The report cites how it shows an interrogator's "total control of the detainee." Sharif Mowlaboucus argues that it is rape but "to acknowledge rectal torture as sexual would not only implicate CIA interrogators as sex abusers, it would also serve to 'queer' this world-famous intelligence organisation, destabilising its sense of patriarchal authority."

Guantanamo detainees have also been subject to genital searches before they visit with their lawyers or speak to family, which has caused many not to do so. Human rights lawyer David Remes, who represents some detainees, described it as "one of the worst forms of humiliation" for Muslim men. A judicial decision last month found the Obama administration can continue with these searches.

Guantanamo Bay has been a place where detainees have been deprived their most basic human rights. It has been a land where total dominion over others' bodies was once thought of as potent tool in the "War on Terror". But such practices, which continue, do not make us safer. And a lack of accountability weakens our ability to fight legitimate threats.

Guantanamo continues to exemplify a reality that horrifies Americans while creating potent propaganda for those who oppose us. The human rights of detainees must be expanded. And, as an urgent national security priority, the Guantanamo Bay detention camp must be closed.

 

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Veena Trehan is a DC-based journalist and activist. She has written for NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg News, and local papers.

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