Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Government Doctors and Torture

We already knew that many psychologists help the military and the CIA in designing the Bush torture program. Now it looks like military doctors were in on it too, covering up evidence of abuse and torture and looking the other way. My former colleague Spencer Ackerman has the details:

They explained away the bone fractures, didn’t ask what caused the lacerations, and called the hallucinations routine. Rather than blowing the whistle, medical professionals entrusted with the care of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay turned a blind eye when there were clear indications of abuse.

That’s according to a newly published report from two physicians with unprecedented access to the medical records of nine Gitmo detainees.


And that report is not from some wild left-wing anti-war group. One of the two doctors who prepared it is a retired Brigadier General himself. What they found, after having access to medical records for some of the detainees at Gitmo, is appalling.

The report — which represents the first independent review of any Guantanamo detainee’s medical record — is the clearest evidence yet that members of the base’s medical staff were complicit in the torture regime there.

“Medics have an independent, professional responsibility to identify and report incidences of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture,” Xenakis tells Danger Room. “They had a responsibility to speak up.”

“Personality disorders” and “routine stressors of confinement” were catch-all explanations for psychological disturbances, according to the report. “Temporary psychotic symptoms and hallucinations did not prompt consideration of abusive treatment.”

Neither did apparent physical symptoms. Three of the detainees showed evidence of physical maltreatment: contusions, bone fractures, lacerations, peripheral nerve damage and sciatica. But the medical staff turned a blind eye in their reports. “There was no mention of any cause for these injuries,” Iacopino and Xenakis write.

In their professional opinion, “the specific allegations of torture and ill treatment were highly consistent with and supported by physical and psychological evidence observed in all cases.”

The Pentagon’s response: We would never do anything like that!

The Joint Medical Group is committed to providing unconditional appropriate comprehensive medical care to all detainees regardless of their disciplinary status, cooperation, or participation in a hunger strike. The healthcare provided to the detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay rivals that provided in any community in the United States. Detainees receive timely, compassionate, quality healthcare and have regular access to primary care and specialist physicians. The care provided to detainees is comparable to that afforded our active duty service members. All medical procedures performed are justified and meet accepted standards of care. A detainee is provided medical care and treatment based solely on his need for such care and the level and type of treatment is dependent on the accepted medical standard of care for the condition being treated. Diagnosis of such conditions and medical care and treatment for them are not affected in any way by a detainee’s cooperation, or lack thereof, during an interrogation session. Similarly, medical care is not provided or withheld based on a detainee’s compliance or noncompliance with detention camp rules or on his refusal to end a hunger strike. Medical decisions and treatment are not withheld as a form of punishment. Additionally, the medical staff has no involvement in discipline decisions made by detention personnel. DoD personnel working in detention facilities operate under a high level of scrutiny and consistently provide the most humane and safe care and custody of individuals under their control.

Well of course not. Who could possibly think that the military would ever do something so brutal and inhumane? I mean, other than anyone who has been paying attention.