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Rebranding GTMO – Striking ‘Hunger Strike’ from the Record
By: Victoria Hoey
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Monday afternoon, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Vice News obtained the latest revision of a Guantanamo Bay standard operating procedure (SOP) document. This document, which came under close scrutiny last year, advises the Joint Medical Group (JMG) on how to medically and emotionally treat prisoners who engage in hunger strikes. There are so many problems with this SOP, but we’ll start with the most glaring one. The phrase “hunger strike” has been completely removed. So, what IS the JMG treating?

Weight Loss! That’s right, the once titled, “Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike,” has been rebranded to read, “Medical Management of Detainees With Weight Loss.” Detainees are no longer participating in hunger strikes, they are engaging in “long-term non-religious fasts.” And they are certainly not being “force fed” by medical staff, they are being treated through an “enteral feeding." This and many other verbiage changes were noted in the third revision (of 2013) to the SOP, which was implemented in December. Why was the policy changed twice? Because it was condemned by human rights organizations that said the protocols “rose to the level of torture.”

As advertisers and copywriters, we can understand the importance of a good Spin Doctor. Some of you might remember “The Chicago Tylenol Murders” that occurred in the fall of 1982. Seven people died after taking pain-relief medicine capsules that had been poisoned with potassium cyanide. The deaths led to federal anti-tampering laws and reforms in how we package all over-the-counter substances. But Johnson & Johnson received high praise from the media and its customers for handling the crisis effectively and immediately. In the case of GTMO, however, they are continuing to try and disguise the crisis and coddle UN constituents. “The document tries to give the impression that it’s not about hunger strikes — that it’s about weight loss,” retired Army Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis told VICE News. “They took the emphasis off of (it).”

There were more than just a few choice phrases amended from the newest SOP. The first draft of this document (effected March 5, 2013) detailed a “brutal and dehumanizing medical procedure” as reported by Al Jazeera. It explained the restraint-chair system used to hold detainees down and the masks they were required to wear to prevent any spitting or biting. There is no good side of this. There are no innocuous words to try and soften the sheer affront to humankind that has taken place and been made into procedure. So, how did they spin this atrocity in the new version? The only way they could, by taking the entire section out. Military officials have indicated that there is a separate SOP to govern the use of restraint chairs and there is no longer a need for it to be included in this document.

The reaction of the American public to the “The Chicago Tylenol Murders” were the direct result of the company being honest and forthcoming. It was a tragedy stemming from an oversight in human integrity that, once exposed, led to laws and reforms that protect the greater good. The latest revision SOP (not only) doesn't comply with the World Medical Association’s recommended procedures on how to deal with hunger-striking prisoners, it goes against all things “good,” and is a piece of procedural charlatanism.

Read the origional document here.
Read the revised version here.

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About the Author
Victoria Hoey is a recent graduate with degrees in copywriting and advertising.
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