Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Thomas Gray's "Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College"

Reposted via The Poetry Foundation:
Ye distant spires, ye antique tow'rs,
That crown the wat'ry glade,
Where grateful Science still adores
Her Henry's holy Shade;
And ye, that from the stately brow
Of Windsor's heights th' expanse below
Of grove, of lawn, of mead survey,
Whose turf, whose shade, whose flowr's among
Wanders the hoary Thames along
His silver-winding way.

Ah, happy hills, ah, pleasing shade,
Ah, fields belov'd in vain,
Where once my careless childhood stray'd,
A stranger yet to pain!
I feel the gales, that from ye blow,
A momentary bliss bestow,
As waving fresh their gladsome wing,
My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring.

Say, Father Thames, for thou hast seen
Full many a sprightly race
Disporting on thy margent green
The paths of pleasure trace,
Who foremost now delight to cleave
With pliant arm thy glassy wave?
The captive linnet which enthrall?
What idle progeny succeed
To chase the rolling circle's speed,
Or urge the flying ball?

While some on earnest business bent
Their murm'ring labours ply
'Gainst graver hours, that bring constraint
To sweeten liberty:
Some bold adventurers disdain
The limits of their little reign,
And unknown regions dare descry:
Still as they run they look behind,
They hear a voice in ev'ry wind,
And snatch a fearful joy.

Gay hope is theirs by fancy fed,
Less pleasing when possest;
The tear forgot as soon as shed,
The sunshine of the breast:
Theirs buxom health of rosy hue,
Wild wit, invention ever-new,
And lively cheer of vigour born;
The thoughtless day, the easy night,
The spirits pure, the slumbers light,
That fly th' approach of morn.

Alas, regardless of their doom,
The little victims play!
No sense have they of ills to come,
Nor care beyond to-day:
Yet see how all around 'em wait
The ministers of human fate,
And black Misfortune's baleful train!
Ah, show them where in ambush stand
To seize their prey the murth'rous band!
Ah, tell them they are men!

These shall the fury Passions tear,
The vultures of the mind
Disdainful Anger, pallid Fear,
And Shame that skulks behind;
Or pining Love shall waste their youth,
Or Jealousy with rankling tooth,
That inly gnaws the secret heart,
And Envy wan, and faded Care,
Grim-visag'd comfortless Despair,
And Sorrow's piercing dart.

Ambition this shall tempt to rise,
Then whirl the wretch from high,
To bitter Scorn a sacrifice,
And grinning Infamy.
The stings of Falsehood those shall try,
And hard Unkindness' alter'd eye,
That mocks the tear it forc'd to flow;
And keen Remorse with blood defil'd,
And moody Madness laughing wild
Amid severest woe.

Lo, in the vale of years beneath
A griesly troop are seen,
The painful family of Death,
More hideous than their Queen:
This racks the joints, this fires the veins,
That ev'ry labouring sinew strains,
Those in the deeper vitals rage:
Lo, Poverty, to fill the band,
That numbs the soul with icy hand,
And slow-consuming Age.

To each his suff'rings: all are men,
Condemn'd alike to groan,
The tender for another's pain;
Th' unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.
-- Thomas Gray, 1742

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Andy Worthington on Obama's False Guantanamo Promises (Video)

Andy Worthington has posted a video at his website highlighting his comments at a recent rally to free Shaker Aamer. The July 18 rally, called by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, was held outside the UK Parliament building in London.

Besides talking about the just cause of discharging Shaker from Guantanamo, the last British prisoner held at the US military prison, who has been cleared by two administrations for release, yet still held indefinitely with dozens of others similarly cleared, Worthington concentrated on the recent promises Obama made to address the prisoners' situation.

Worthington wrote:
It is, of course, outrageous that Shaker is still held, as he was cleared for release under President Bush in 2007, and again under President Obama in January 2010, along with 85 of the other 166 men still held. Opportunistic opposition to the release of prisoners by lawmakers in Congress, and shameful inaction on the part of President Obama are responsible for keeping these 86 men in Guantánamo.

Moreover, there are still no signs that any of the men will be released, even though they have been on a hunger strike to highlight their plight since February, and two months ago President Obama, responding to unparalleled criticism internationally and domestically, promised to resume releasing prisoners.

I can scarcely express my disappointment with President Obama, who should not have promised to resume releasing prisoners if he had no intention of doing so, and who will be remembered for his cowardice and hypocrisy unless he is true to his word.
Andy's disappointment at the machinations over Shaker and the rest of the prisoners, and the ongoing obscenity that is Guantanamo is shared by many human rights workers and attorneys, but evidently not by the Obama administration, which has been been talking a good game (when pinned down) about closing Guantanamo and the need for humane treatment, but since taking over the reins of the prison from the Bush/Cheney administration in January 2009 has done next to nothing to act upon their empty rhetoric.

Here's Andy's video:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

SOUTHCOM Commander Spins Latif Death Investigation to Justify Groin Searches

As reported by Kevin Gosztola in the 17 July Dissenter, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals stayed Judge Royce Lamberth's ruling overturning a search protocol at Guantanamo that included groin searches of detainees as much as four times in a single day.

Key to the panel's ruling was a written declaration by JTF-GTMO's parent command (SOUTHCOM) top officer, Marine General John F. Kelly. See detailed press coverage of the legal issues at The Public Record, the Miami Herald and the Washington Post, as well as a new report by the UK charity Reprieve, which details the controversy over the hunger strikes and the abusive practices of the Guantanamo military authorities. (Reprieve attorneys represent a number of Guantanamo detainees.)

Kelly's declaration presents a dishonest picture of the reasons underlying the changes in search protocols, and other policies, at Guantanamo in recent months. He does, however, note that the reason for the changes was the purported suicide of Adnan Latif last September, in addition to a more recent purported discovery of a stash of prisoner contraband. Kelly points out, an Army investigator found that Latif's death was due to an overdose of the antipsychotic medication paliperidone, also known as Invega.

The SOUTHCOM report was declassified and released thanks to a FOIA request from Jason Leopold, who also wrote a deep analysis of it for Al Jazeera. My own analysis of the report was posted at The Dissenter on June 29. An NCIS investigation into Latif's death has not been completed.

Kelly uses Latif's death to spin the conclusions from the SOUTHCOM report, conducted under Army regulation AR 15-6, to make it appear that Latif died because he was able to hide medications in his groin area. He ignores other conclusions and facts enumerated in the report. Let us look at what he says and what the report says.

What Contributed to Latif's Death?

According to Kelly's declaration, the AR 15-6 report "found that Latif hoarded medications and ingested them shortly before he was found unresponsive. Several factors, to include the prohibition against searching a detainee's groin area contributed to the ability of Latif to hoard the medications. The report found that the prohibition against searching a detainee's groin area created 'extraordinary opportunities for detainees to conceal contraband should they choose.'"

Kelly cites a recommendation in the report to reconsider the search policy that prohibits guards "from conducting searches of the area from the waist to above the knee of the detainees."

The declassified report had actually redacted the information about the groin searches, including the recommendation cited, so I am grateful to Kelly for updating us. But he artfully elides much of the content of the report, with the effect that the issue of groin searches is given much more weight than it deserves. The recommendation on searches, for instance, never is mentioned in the reports Executive Summary.

Kelly also gives tremendous credence to the testimony of Col. John Bogdan, the commander of Guantanamo's Joint Detention Group, which runs the prison. This is problematic because the AR 15-6 report blasts Bogdan's regime.

Even more, the report suggests that there was more to Latif's death than has been heretofore suggested by any military source. In the end, the report's conclusions, its failure to seek testimony from other prisoners, and its failure to recommend any accountability measures, mar the work fatally. But as is often the case, the devil we seek is in the details, and those do not bear out Kelly's claims. (I would like to know also where Kelly got the time reference that says Latif ingested the drugs "shortly" before he died. That's not in the declassified section of the report.)

According to the SOUTHCOM report, written by an anonymous "objective senior officer in the rank of Colonel," a number of factors were implicated in Latif's death. Among the various factors listed in the report's Executive Summary none of them included failure to adequately search prisoners.

The Executive Summary lists the following issues (emphases added):

* Guards and medical personnel "repeatedly violate" Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

* Guards failed to follow "line of sight" and medication SOPs, "and failed to take remedial measures after ISN156 [Latif] appeared to be sleeping an unusual amount of time. Medical personnel also violated the medication SOP

* Latif's ability to hoard medications (if we accept that is in fact what happened) was due to "inconsistent JDG [Joint Detention Group] and JMG [Joint Medical Group] SOPs" with respect to medication administration; "confusion on the part of guards, corpsmen, leadership (camp, JDG, and JMG) regarding what the SOPs require; and failure to follow medication administration SOP requirements

* Flawed training and procedures for medical personnel.

* The JDG commander (Col. Bogdan), and the JMG senior leadership (presumably including its Commander, Captain Richard Stoltz and Senior Nurse Executive), seemed "largely removed from several aspects of what is going on at the tactical level at the Behavioral Health Unit/Detainee Hospital and the camps.

* Poor communication by leadership "to ensure that their respective detainee operations practices and policies are consistent and synchronized."

* Failure of JTF-GTMO leadership to implement previous recommendations after other detainee deaths.

Later in the report, the SOUTHCOM investigator cites the various failures noted above and directly states, "These failures contributed to the death of ISN156 in that they permitted ISN156 to hoard medications" (p. 66) Nothing similar is said about hiding or hoarding medications in one's private parts. Instead, the report notes various failure to follow SOPs as contributory to Latif's death, as when guards failed to act when Latif supposedly used food to obscure the camera lens used to observe him electronically.

Perhaps General Kelly would like to explain to the full D.C. panel of judges why a more rigorous and intrusive search policy is necessary after Latif's death when the hoarding of drugs is not attributed to search policy in the investigatory report (at least the part publicly released, and summarized without redaction in the Executive Summary). Instead the report attributes the death, at least in large part, to failure to follow SOPs, lax discipline, poor coordination, and an out-of-touch or negligent leadership.

Who Wrote the Email Predicting Latif's Death?

All of that would be damning enough -- indeed, Leopold's article described how the AR 15-6 investigation found that a "widespread breakdown of safeguards" and a "systemic breakdown" contributed to Latif's death. But the report describes other incidents that are not fully explained, and indicate we do not yet have the full story about Latif's death.

The narrative around the failure to maintain the line of sight surveillance of Latif -- an order that encompassed both direct (eyeball) and electronic line of sight observation -- is never adequately explained in the report, seemingly because the crucial sections are highly censored. Indeed, even investigators may have been stymied in finding the truth, as the report notes how a failure by the Watch Commander "to make the line of sight entries into [camp database] DIMS as required by SOP.... did make it difficult after the fact to re-create the immediate events leading up to the point that the guards found ISN156 unresponsive."

In addition, while we know that drugs were simply left in Latif's cell tray (or "splashbox") the day he died, supposedly he never took those drugs as he had already overdosed. But the report notes this kind of SOP violation (leaving drugs unsupervised for a detainee) may have occurred numerous times before. "Similar failures by medical staff over time, to follow the SOP may have contributed to ISN156's ability to hoard medications," the report states.

All of the above would be more than enough to throw grave doubt upon the conclusions of the report, but we also must consider the fact an internal email warning that if Latif was moved he would commit suicide was sent to Col. Bogdan on September 7, 2012 -- the day Bogdan ordered Latif's move from the detainee hospital to a isolation punishment cell in Guantanamo's Camp V. (A medical officer okayed the move at Bogdan's request, even though, as it turned out, Latif suffered from pneumonia and never should have been moved, no matter what his psychiatric condition.)

The report states on September 7, "around 1400, a [one word redaction] analyst from the [four or five word redaction -- possibly Behavioral Science Consultation Team?] arrived with a Force Protection Report indicating [one word redaction] was saying that ISN156 was suicidal and was going to kill himself. [One or two word redaction] recalled asking the analyst whether he knew what method ISN156 intended to use to kill himself. The analyst indicated that he did not know and followed up the exchange with an email."

A footnote notes it was this very warning that prompted the order to place Latif on both direct and electronic line-of-sight surveillance.

The report continues (p. 20): "the JTF-GTMO Cultural Advisor ([three or four words redacted]) also received the same Force Protection Report, in a high priority email at 1430 on 7 September 2012. [One or two words redacted] forwarded the email to COL Bogdan, [two or three words redacted] (the Deputy JDG Commander), and others in a high priority email, adding that 'pushing 156 to the corner never works to our advantage.' COL Bogdan indicated he was not aware of the email until sometime the following day, Saturday."

Elsewhere in the report, returning again to the 7 September "high-priority" email, the report continues: "Although COL Bodgan did not receive the email until the following day, he stated that it would not have affected his decision to transfer ISN156 to Camp V, because ISN156 was known to make 'melodramatic' statements. In this instance, COL Bogdan acted reasonably as he had to address the frequent misconduct by ISN156. On balance, the suicidal ideation did not stand out compared to any of the other instances" (p. 64).

But SOUTHCOM's own report suggests otherwise. Indeed, just how many "high-priority emails" were sent to COL Bogdan or his predecessors warning of a detainee's suicide? It's also worth noting that other news reports describe Latif saying camp authorities were pushing him "towards death every moment." Latif also complained to his attorney David Remes that guards were leaving contraband in his cell by which he could hurt himself. To my knowledge, no investigation into this charge has ever taken place.

SOUTHCOM must release the relevant emails and indicate exactly who sent and received them.


There are other aspects to the Kelly declaration that do not fit what SOUTHCOM'S own investigators found. For instance, Kelly says that he discussed changing the search protocols with Bogdan after he arrived at Guantanamo in November 2012. But the AR 15-6 report stated, "The OIC (Officer-in-Charge) of teh BHU/DH and Camp Iguana indicated that COL Bogdan called the Camp OICs into his office on 24 September 2012 to discuss a modified search program and an implementation process."

We don't know if Bogdan addressed that in his own declaration to the court on the search issue, and Kelly's own declaration ends with a plea to the court not to release Bogdan's statement. Jason Leopold has filed a suit for the release of Bogdan's declaration.

For many years now the military, including its authorities posted to Guantanamo, have shown themselves unable or unwilling to be truthful about events. It seems likely that the SOUTHCOM report went as far as they are generally willing to go to issue criticisms, yet even then it remains what Latif's attorney called it, "a whitewash." It is worth reminding ourselves that no officer in charge has ever been held accountable for promulgating a policy of torture or abuse of prisoners.

We don't know what really happened to Adnan Latif. Congress seems totally uninterested in pursuing it. Mainstream reporters cover mostly the government's spin. Progressive bloggers have abandoned the subject nearly entirely. Human rights attorneys battle on, but fatigue and demoralization lie ahead if the American people continue to ignore the pressing issues of abuse and non-accountability. In an age when domestic drones are operating in U.S. skies, and hunger strikes and onerous conditions of imprisonment spread within U.S. borders, the fight over Guantanamo isn't about only Adnan Latif, or the 166 detainees remaining at the prison, half of whom languish though cleared for release, it's about the fight for human dignity and the rule of law.

Originally posted at The Dissenter/FDL

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review - Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America

It's been 15 years since author Allen Hornblum's landmark book on unethical human experimentation in U.S. prisons, Acres of Skin, was published. His new book, written with co-authors Judith L. Newman and Gregory J. Dober, is a worthy follow-up to the earlier book. Against Their Will: The Secret History of Medical Experimentation on Children in Cold War America should become a standard work in the fields of medical ethics and history of science. It has received favorable reviews by the Associated Press, the Boston Globe, the Spectator," and other publications.

Against Their Will is an extraordinary work, a plea for humanist ethics in science and medicine as against political and economic expediency. It takes us into even darker places than Hornblum's earlier book as it examines the long history of unethical experiments done on children in America. Hornblum and his co-authors trace the hideous practice of using children, even infants and pregnant women, as guinea pigs, back to the ideology of the eugenicists in the early 20th century.

Ostensibly practicing science in the heroic mold -- science was to cure all of mankind's ills -- doctors and scientists turned to the youth warehoused in orphanages, children's homes and hospitals as apt subjects for medical and other experiments. The children, who could not make any informed consent, were often labelled "feeble-minded," or were children with Downs Syndrome or cerebral palsy, or were just too poor and illiterate to make any fuss. Their parents often were not notified of the experiments, or they were overtly or subtly coerced to give consent.

The result was a series of experiments in hospitals and children's homes -- like Vineland, Willowbrook, or Wrentham -- seeking cures or treatments for pellagra, ringworm, hepatitis, diphtheria, and any number of ills. But the experiments wreaked untold and possibly still unreported havoc on the young children involved. One child subject the authors interviewed years later in adulthood insisted that some victims at Fernald State School in Massachusetts were "buried out there in paupers' graves... They killed them" (p. 146). Some of the experiments involved treatments for birth control, including use of forced sterilization and castration.

The children used as experimental subjects were often deliberately infected with diseases, and then given experimental treatments (many quite dangerous), or even no treatment at all, the better to observe the natural course of the disease for science's sake. Dr. Albert Kligman, a key figure in Hornblum's Acres of Skin, reappears in this new book, deliberately introducing ringworm fungus into experimentally induced wounds on retarded children, and withholding treatment to observe the course of the disease.

Between the early negative eugenics inspired experiments and the later use of children as experimental subjects, the monstrous example of Nazi science and bizarre and deadly medical experiments cast a shadow across the subsequent decades. Hornblum et al. describe the rise and rapid fall of the Nuremberg protocols, which were generally ignored by U.S. doctors and scientists. These professionals eviscerated the ethical commands around informed consent. One doctor, associated with the Army Epidemiological Board, is quoted as criticizing "the Nuremberg specter", which drives out "rational approaches" to using children as human subjects in medical research (p. 66).

But as the title of the book suggests, it was Cold War exigencies that gave medical and scientific researchers seeming carte blanche to conduct experiments on children (and prisoners, and elderly patients, and even prostitutes' clients), and all in the name of national security and protection from communism. Hornblum and his co-authors do an excellent job in explaining this complex history, and showing how the Department of Defense, the Atomic Energy Committee and the CIA funded experiments, including use of electric shock and LSD.

The book describes the work of noted child researcher Lauretta Bender, known for her famous Bender Gestalt Test, taught to generations of psychologists, who used both electric shock and LSD on children deemed schizophrenic or behaviorally disordered. Many of these experiments were reported in medical or psychological journals, discussed at public conferences. (Hank Albarelli and I explored some of this history as well in a 2010 article at Truthout.) In the Cold War environment that prevailed, few saw any problem with using children this way. Few objected they represented a vulnerable population.

The authors repeatedly show that these kinds of experiments were not isolated instances of medical or scientific malfeasance, but were part of science's mainstream culture. A radiation experiment on children conducted at the Wrentham State School for "feebleminded" and "defective boys" in Massachusetts, where children were injected with radioactive iodine, "was coordinated by researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Boston University School of Medicine, and it was supported by the Radiological Health Division of the US Public Health Service" (p. 145). Behind the Cold War and eugenicist rationalizations, the authors demonstrate that careerist ambitions and stubborn narcissistic self-aggrandization were contributory causes to the sorry history they describe.

The revelations surrounding such celebrated cases of medical experimentation -- especially the Tuskegee experiments on African-American men and the Radiation experiments by the AEC and others -- led to the rise of more stringent ethical safeguards and the rise of institutional review boards, and some of the worst practices fell into disuse. Yet the authors document use of medical or psychological experiments on children even into the 1990s. They warn, as well, that much of the experiments on children have been placed off-shore, to other countries with less oversight, far away from the prying eyes of U.S. media.

This is a hard book to read. Not because it is difficult to read. On the contrary, it is quite well written. It is hard because the subject matter is so harrowing. The character of Albert Kligman loomed over most of Acres of Skin, and to a certain extent, helped unify that book. While Kligman briefly is mentioned in Against Their Will, the new book has no such unifying figure. Instead, there is a long list of doctors and scientists whose practices are made understandable by linking them to the larger themes around eugenics and the aims of the Cold War.

There is a happy myth propagated by educators and the media. It begins with the horrors of Nazi medicine -- of Mengele and the Nazi concentration camp doctors, of euthanasia and inhumane experiments -- and ends with justice at Nuremberg, and the formation of humane ethical protocols recognized by all humanity. The truth, however, is sadly quite different. The Tuskegee experiments turn out not to have been an abherration.

Whether it was the U.S. amnesty to the Nazi-like doctors of Japan's Unit 731, or the kinds of experiments Allen Hornblum has described in U.S. prisons, orphanages and state hospitals, or the recent revelations of post-World War II U.S. Public Health syphilis experiments on illiterate women in Guatemala, or even revelations about the "battle lab in the war on terror" that was experiments on interrogation and torture at Guantanamo, the reality of what was revealed at Nuremburg challenges our myth of being a "civilized" or humane world.

I imagine this book took a lot out of its authors. I imagine it will powerfully affect its readers as well. It should. When such reaction to terrible crimes and callous disregard for human welfare, especially for those most powerless among us, disappears, then we should be very, very afraid.

[Full Disclosure: I spoke briefly with Allen Hornblum during the period he was researching Against Their Will, and am listed in the Bibliography as someone interviewed for the book. Truly, my contribution was miniscule, speaking with Mr. Hornblum for a few hours one evening, and exchanging some emails. Still, I wish to state for the record that no one associated with this book made any input into this review, nor did I receive anything for writing it. I did, however, receive a free review copy of the book from the publisher, but without any formal agreement I would write any review of it.

This review has been expanded from an earlier review posted at]

Crossposted from MyFDL

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