Horrible Incidents of Torture in US Prisons: Guantanamo Bay

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For my final project in Physicians at War: Medical Ethics, I chose to do a creative project. I was intrigued by the class lecture on torture, so I decided to delve further into the topic. After doing research, I decided to create an infographic on the subject of torture because it allowed me to include a variety of important topics. The infographic includes five sections covering the topics of different types of torture, forced feeding, the difference between North American and South American torture, physicians’ involvement in torture, and Guantanamo Bay. I will go into detail on each topic to inform readers about torture in the United States military.

The first section of my infographic covers the ten most common types of torture techniques I researched. According to my research, the following methods of torture are often used by the U.S. military: forced feeding, sleep deprivation, white noise, isolation, waterboard, walling, nudity, stress positions, threats, and shackling (Eagan 16). Many detainees will experience sleep deprivation in a variety of ways, this could be denied access to laying down, standing up all night, lights on, around the clock integration, etc. Waterboarding is another form of torture used to simulate the feeling of drowning, it creates multiple side effects. Walling is physical torture to slam detainees against the wall. Stress positions are positions detainees are forced to assume, which cause pain. Prison guards use many of these types of tortures simultaneously to exert more pain and suffering on the detainee.

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Forced feeding is a torture technique that is very diverse and there are many arguments surrounding whether it is ethical or not. In Guantanamo Bay, forced-feeding is used by the prison guards to end hunger strikes of prisoners. Hunger strikes are a way for prisoners to protest against the prison. Prisoners go on hunger strikes, not because they want to give up or die, but because they want justice. Forced-feeding consists of being strapped to a table at every point of your body and then they shove a long tube down your nose into your throat for feeding. This is a very controversial topic as it crosses the boundaries of ethics as some feel force-feeding is torture. As prisoners fight for their justice, their hunger strike typically puts them in a grave situation where they become very ill. It’s at this point where the soldiers/guards find themselves in a situation where their ethics of keeping someone alive becomes a point of controversy in saving the detainee.

Realizing that torture does not just happen in North America, my infographics will compare torture in South America as well. For the most part, these countries’ torture numbers are rising, and North America is to blame for it. Matter of fact, the Brazilian government revealed what the dictatorship did and how the US military taught torture techniques to the Brazilian forces. Surprisingly, the Brazilain government wants to release the truth, and “the truth means above everything the opportunity to reconcile ourselves and our history” (The Conversation). Unlike North America, when the Obama reaction came out, it had nothing to do with preserving our history. Torture has been a part of North America’s history since the civil war with prisoners of war. The two countries’ views on torture are significantly different and lead to the techniques and involvement in torture diverse.

For decades, physicians have been involved in torture, the problem with physicians involved in torture is the topic of “dual loyalty”. A report released by the Senate on the CIA’s interrogation techniques caused a major problem between doctors involved in torture (The Atlantic). Shockingly, several medical officers were involved by monitoring, designing, or enabling the torture. Two psychologists, many medical officers, and physicians were cited throughout the report the Senate released. Throughout many medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic oath, swearing to the words “may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.” Dual loyalty arises in the matter of military and medical loyalty. In this case, the CIA medical officers used their knowledge towards the greater good of torturing rather than protecting innocent civilians. One doctor, Steven Miles has written a book on this topic after the first report from Abu Ghraib was released. A relative quote from his book Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror, “We always expected a physician to behave ethically in any circumstances” (Miles 9). This Al NBC mistrust in military physicians because it is natural to expect them to look out for what is best for ourselves, but also realizing that is not true in every situation.

The final conversation piece in my infographic includes a story from Al-Hajj, a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner camp located outside of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. The camp has detained almost 800 men from opening its prison in 2002 by President George W. Bush's administration (American Civil Liberties Union). Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a symbol of injustice, where men are subjected to unlawful torture and detained without due process. The story of Al-Hajj is just one of the many 800 prisoners who served the injustice system. For six years Al-Hajj, formerly known as prisoner number 345, was detained without any charges filed against him. His story began as a simple cameraman covering the US war against the Taliban, where he was arrested on false charges by the Pakistani authorities. Later, Al-Hajj was held prisoner and detained in Guantanamo Bay as an “enemy combatant”. Al-Hajj explained the rough conditions, and one quote from his book the guards said “We will torture you until death. But we won't let you die. You will live in the space between life and death” (Al Jazeera). It was not until six years after his first arrest in 2001 and 480 days of hunger-striking when AL-Hajj finally set free as an innocent man. The “island outside the law” known as Guantanamo Bay detention camp is a place the US military detained and tortured innocents.

After long class discussions, searching through the internet and reading over powerpoints I put together five important subjects of torture: different torture techniques, forced feeding, the differences between North and South American torture, physicians involved in torture, and Guantanamo Bay. I highlighted key topics in my infographic to create a simple and quick visionary to provide the readers with an understanding of torture. The whole subject of ‘torture’ within the US military is a hidden fact that I believe more people should be aware of. There is very little information on the internet covering the topic. With torture being a touchy subject for many, I had to overcome the barriers of controversial, emotional, and shortage of information. Overall, my project “Torture, what you need to know” briefly summarizes the key facts.

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