Saturday, July 01, 2006

Death Is Not an Option

Adam Zagorin has a piece in Time magazine about the brutal methods used at Guantanamo to put down hunger strikes and prevent any additional suicides:

The prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, won a major victory this week when the Supreme Court struck down the Bush administration's planned military tribunals. But for many prisoners at the detention facility, the protests haven't stopped. Hunger strikes persist, in what Guantanamo commander Rear Adm. Harry Harris, Jr. has called "asymmetric warfare" -- a means to attract attention to their increasingly controversial detention. As a result, the camp's administrators have sought to keep prisoners alive at all cost -- because a prisoner's death (as the U.S. found out three weeks ago, when three Gitmo inmates committed suicide) can be a major embarrassment for the U.S. and add fuel to widespread demands for the facility to be shut down.

Civil-liberties advocates point out that Guantanamo's 460 inmates have few other means to make their voices heard, given that most have been detained for more than four years without even being charged with a crime. Indeed, though the U.S. has condemned the hunger strikers at Gitmo, just last year the White House hailed a hunger-striking Iranian dissident for showing "that he is willing to die for his right to express his opinion."

At Gitmo, however, dead prisoners are something the U.S. military wishes devoutly to avoid. So force-feeding has been standard policy at the camp ever since hunger strikes began in early 2002. The facility's top physicians have also told TIME that prisoners who resist are subjected to especially harsh methods. In one case, according to medical records obtained by TIME, a 20-year old named Yusuf al-Shehri, jailed since he was 16, was regularly strapped into a specially designed feeding chair that immobilizes the body at the legs, arms, shoulders and head. Then a plastic tube that is 50% larger, and more painful to insert, than the commonly used variety was inserted up through his nose and down his throat, carrying a nutritional formula into his stomach.

Thousands of people, of course, endure some form of voluntary intra-nasal feeding every day in hospital settings. But when force-feeding is involuntary and the recipient is in a state of high anxiety, the muscles tense up and the procedure can trigger nausea, bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting. "We are humane and compassionate,"; Guantanamo commander Harris told TIME, "but if we tell a detainee to do something, we expect the detainee to do it." As a note scrawled in al-Shehri's medical records put it: "[The prisoner] was informed that dying is not permitted."

But before you get too upset at these horrors, remember that others have it even worse -- as we found out today from a bevy of right-wing bloggers who broke the horror story of the year: The New York Times published an article in yesterday's Travel section exposing Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Snow, and many other high-ranking Bush admin officials to attacks by demonic anti-war protesters and Al Qaeda terrorist assassins by revealing the fact that they have lavish second homes in the tony burg of St. Michael's, Maryland.

Glenn Greenwald has the whole sordid story:

I learned today from Michelle Malkin, Powerline's John Hinderaker, Red State, and David Horowitz, among others, that The New York Times not only wants to help Al Qaeda launch terrorist attacks on the United States, but that newspaper also want to do everything possible to enable The Terrorists to assassinate Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. That is the conclusion which these sober leaders of "conservative" punditry drew after reading this article in the Times' Travel section, which features the tiny, charming village of St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where both Cheney and Rumsfeld have vacation homes.

Darkly lurking beneath the rustic, playful tone of the NYT Travel article is a homicidal plot on the part of the reporters and editors of the Times to provide a roadmap to their Al Qaeda allies so that they find Cheney and Rumsfeld (and maybe even Mrs. Rumsfeld) and murder them.

Glenn is so impressed by the resourcefulness and journalistic skills the right-wing blogging crowd has demonstrated by ferreting out and exposing this shocking scandal that he wants to add one detail that Hinderaker, Malkin, Horowitz, et al. missed: Three years ago, the New York Times published exactly the same sort of article about former President Bill Clinton!

On June 8, 2003, the same New York Times published a lengthy article entitled "The Ex-President Next Store," which provided every possible detail one would ever want to know, and then many more beyond that, about Bill and Hillary Clinton's new home in Chappaqua, New York and the lives they lead there. The article contained numerous photographs of their home, and all sorts of information about where they eat, recreate and jog. The article is, I believe, behind Times Select, so here is the list of the photographs which accompanied the article:

Photos: Bill Clinton signs autographs for students after a speech at Horace Greeley High School. At Memorial Day ceremonies in Chappaqua, Hillary Rodham Clinton greeted Vietnam veterans. The Clintons' home on Old House Lane in Chappaqua. (Photographs by James Estrin/The New York Times); (Richard L. Harbus for the New York Times)(pg. 1); Bill Clinton is showing up all over Westchester, including at the Trump National Golf Club in Briarcliff Manor, left, where he is a member. Some of his favorite places to eat include Crabtree Kittle House, below left, and Lange's Deli, below right, both in Chappaqua. Mr. Clinton says he likes to run in Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

The article also reported:

When Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton moved here in January 2000, news media coverage was so extensive that a national newspaper ran an article on how large a tip Mr. Clinton left at a local coffee shop (it was big: 32 percent) and photographers stood on chairs to capture the couple eating omelets.

The article essentially provided a daily roadmap of Bill Clinton's day. But that was completely different, because everyone knows that the Clintons are good friends of Al Qaeda's and have nothing to worry about. When The Times publishes extensive photographs of the Clintons' private home and reports on their daily activities, that's done with the purpose of glorifying them. But when The Times publishes an article on the town where Cheney and Rumsfeld have vacation homes, and includes a photograph of the mailbox of Rumsfeld's house, it's all part of a nefarious plot to tyrannize prominent conservatives and send Al Qaeda hit squads to get them.

This would be amusing in the most perverse way possible if it weren't for the fact that these are the people who are shaping our national political discourse. We have spent the last week hearing people on every major news station accuse The New York Times of treason, and some have called for the execution of Bill Keller and Jim Risen. More people read Malkin's blog than most newspapers in this country, and that does not count those who are exposed to her when she appears on Fox or from her new venture, Hot Air. Powerline, of course, was crowned Blog of the Year by Time Magazine and has a readership not much smaller than Malkin's. Top Bush officials such as John Bolton submit to interviews with them. These are among the leaders of conservative opinion-making in this country.

And they really believe -- or at least they are telling their readers -- that the article in the weekend NYT Travel Section is in retaliation for criticisms of the Times, is designed to tell Al Qaeda where they can find Cheney and Rumsfeld so that they can kill them, and is yet another plot in the war on America being waged by "liberals" and The New York Times. Shouldn't there be some level of irrationality which, once displayed, disqualifies someone from being taken seriously in our mainstream political dialogue? The most minimal standards in that regard would immediately rid the pro-Bush contingent of their best-selling author along with many, if not most, of their most widely-read bloggers and talk radio hosts.

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