Via Rachel at The-F-Word, the HuffPo is reporting that calorie restriction was a Bush-administration-approved torture technique, and the justification for its legality was that people do it voluntarily. We just call it “dieting” instead of “torture.”
In a footnote to a May 10, 2005, memorandum from the Office of Legal Council, the Bush attorney general’s office argued that restricting the caloric intake of terrorist suspects to 1000 calories a day was medically safe because people in the United States were dieting along those lines voluntarily.
“While detainees subject to dietary manipulation are obviously situated differently from individuals who voluntarily engage in commercial weight-loss programs, we note that widely available commercial weight-loss programs in the United States employ diets of 1000 kcal/day for sustain periods of weeks or longer without requiring medical supervision,” read the footnote. “While we do not equate commercial weight loss programs and this interrogation technique, the fact that these calorie levels are used in the weight-loss programs, in our view, is instructive in evaluating the medical safety of the interrogation technique.”
This is like saying that because people voluntarily engage in e-stim, it’s totally safe to zap detainees’ genitals. I’m going to set aside for a moment my extreme revulsion at the bureaucratic justification of torture — because I really cannot string together words strong enough to express how horrified I am by my own government in this matter — and focus on the whole, you know, dieting is torture thing.
This is what people who say “just put down the baby donuts, fatty” want you to undergo: something so mind-destroying that the Bush administration thought it would make you confess to terrorist acts. “Without requiring medical supervision,” my ass. The first thing I thought of when I read that was zombie z’s comment from this post:
zombie z: You want to know what makes me fucking CRAZY?!
As a thin anorexic, I was told over and over again that 500, 800, 1000, sometimes even 1200, calories a day wasn’t enough to even keep someone alive. I was told I should be eating 1800-2500 calories a day.
As a normal-sized anorexic, I was told (by a doctor) that I could “eat 800 calories a day and exercise and still lose some weight.”
Doctors are not immune from fat prejudice, as zombie z’s comment so distressingly demonstrates. The reason people don’t have medical supervision while doing Jenny Craig or WW is not because those diets are so clearly safe; it’s because they’re so clearly normalized as part of the (female) American experience. Feeling fat? Go on Weight Watchers! Everybody does it! If it doesn’t work it’s because you cheated and had some cough drops or carrots or something, not because it’s designed to fail so that you’ll have to pony up your money again next year.
We are firmly through the looking glass on this one. Diets feel torturous,* but doctors say fatties should go on them because duh, you’re fat — but if you’re thin, watch out! That’s not enough to live on, you’ll starve! The professional torture apologists say that diets are perfect because they feel like torture, but they must not be because look at all those fatties on them — they’re not being tortured, right? It’s voluntary and no one would volunteer for torture, which is why we only approve things that feel like torture but aren’t torture. If you object that there is no moral or physical difference between something that feels like torture and something that is torture — that the definition of torture is about how it feels — well, you’re just a liberal pantywaist. And you could probably stand to drop a few pounds.
*Now would be a good time to refresh your memory on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, in which subjects went mad on 1600 calories a day.