Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Club Gitmo? Terror detainees get fat on hi-cal diet

The U.S. detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are getting fat. Part of it is the fact that they are kept in their cells virtually all the time, with limited chance for exercise. But the other factor is that they are given the chance to consume a high-calorie diet that surpasses what low-income Americans have to live on, and is certainly more than what these prisoners ate before they were captured.

The prisoners are getting meals totaling 4,200 calories brought to their cells every day, according to an Associated Press article posted today. U.S. dietary guidelines range from 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day for men to maintain their weight. Prisoners are not forced to eat so much, but rather they are offered a wide selection of foods and some detainees are apparently eating everything put in front of them. (The article notes that prisoners in Federal jails get an average of 2,900 calories.)

The Navy commander in charge of Gitmo notes that the detainees are offered a wide choice of foods for the sake of variety, and certain foods are included so the detainees can comply with Muslim dietary guidelines. The commander also says that prisoners are told that eating all the food offered to them will cause weight gain, but that doesn't stop some from going overboard. Gitmo detainees have gained an average of 20 pounds, and one man has ballooned to over 400 pounds, almost double his pre-Gitmo weight.

As in American prisons, detainees who comply with regulations and don't cause trouble get more exercise time. According to the commander, detainees who are very compliant get up to 12 hours of exercise time a week and have access to treadmills, stationary bikes, and other equipment.

Is this high-calorie diet a plot to make the detainees as overweight and sluggish as the average American? Maybe once they get really heavy they'll adopt the common American mindset and start asking for things like Frappuccinos, Sony VAIO notebook computers, free wi-fi, Blackberrys, and HBO? And if they're forced to live without these American staples maybe they'll start to feel so deprived they'll begin to offer more valuable information to interrogators for the chance to get these goodies.

Or maybe the idea is to clog the detainees' arteries so badly that angioplasty will be held out as a premium benefit, given only to those who offer the most high-value intel.

Now, I wouldn't argue for a minute that being a prisoner in a cage, even in a climate as balmy as Cuba's, is a vacation, or that getting a lot of good food compensates for having one's freedom taken away. But I have to think that at least some of these prisoners might be thinking that they're better off now that before they were captured. They're no longer marching to the orders of Bin Laden's harsh jihadi regimen, they aren't having to living in too-close quarters with a bunch of men who haven't bathed in weeks, and they can breathe deeply without choking on the smell of stale camel piss.

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