I’ve just returned from a one-day press trip to Guantanamo Bay, on which there will be more to say. But an observation while digesting the experience —
Only in America would you find authorities trying to cope with terrorist detainees by over-feeding them. We of the media were served the same halal meal as that offered to the detainees, which meant a lunch including — this is only a partial list — spiced meat patty, egg salad, tuna, yogurt, fresh dates, freshly baked bread, juice, and a down-home Middle Eastern dessert, which left us licking from our fingers the honey and nuts of the same baklava we were told is served to Hambali, Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest of the gang. Of course, this being Ramadan, the detainees have the option of dining on a different schedule, fasting by day and tucking into the baklava at night. All told, they are offered a menu that provides 4,200 calories per day — more than the 3,800 allotted for a U.S. combat soldier in Iraq.
Apparently, Al Qaeda is eating this up. Guantanamo officers say that while most of the detainees upon arrival at Gitmo ranged from underweight to normal, today the 460 or so held on the base range from normal to overweight to mildly obese. Even the two detainees currently on hunger strike, being fed through tubes, are close to normal weight. We were told that one detainee, who apparently cleans his plate — or his styrofoam meal box — weighs 410 pounds, though we did not get to see him (it is against the Geneva Conventions to put prisoners on display, so our military follows the same rule for the Gitmo detainees). “His choice,” said one of our Gitmo guides. At risk of triggering a human-rights campaign for Guantanamo Lite, I have to wonder if there’s method to this menu. There’s something very disturbing about coddling terrorists, but in some ways this helps cut them down to size: Yep, it’s Al Qaeda… with a weight problem.