May 29, 2003
Is America the only country in the world that could run a prison camp where prisoners gain weight? Between April 2002 and March 2003, the Joint Task Force returned to Afghanistan 19 of the approximately 664 men (from 42 countries) who have been held in the detention camps at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay. Upon leaving, it has been reported, each man received two parting gifts: a brand new copy of the Koran as well as a new pair of jeans. Not the act of generosity that it might first appear, the jeans, at least, turned out to be a necessity. During their 14-month stay, the detainees (nearly all of them) had each gained an average of 13 pounds.
In America, where 13 pounds is what many of our citizens’ chins weigh, the prisoners’ slightly enlarged girth might seem negligible. But given the low-bit-resolution video footage we have seen of stooped and shackled men in orange jumpsuits, and the collective protests from international human rights groups, the revelation that the men detained from last year’s war would leave the Guantanamo prison camps sporting a larger pair of trousers than the ones they showed up with comes as something of a surprise.
I blame the fast-food industry.