Guantanamo detainees on a hunger strike are now being strapped into chairs and gagged as doctors push a feeding tube through their nose into the back of their throat and into their stomach as often as twice a day. It’s a disturbing new practice, but one we must examine in full as we consider whether Guantanamo reflects American values.
Anyone who has had a nasogastric tube placed through their throat while awake knows why hospitalized patients often complain about the tube more than they complain about the pain of surgery. The gagging can be extreme even when patients are relaxed and cooperating by swallowing repeatedly during the procedure. Resisting the tube during its insertion, as the unwilling detainees at Guantanamo do, elicits an exacerbated rapid cycle of gasping for air and gagging or vomiting.
Why is the U.S. government initiating this new round of forced gagging? It may be simply to save itself from the potential embarrassment if a majority of detainees die on a principled hunger strike.