A “very professional operation” where people were “following all the available rules.”
No, this isn’t Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ description of the local pizza joint. It’s his description of Guantanamo Bay, the controversial United States-run prison that was established by President George W. Bush during the “War on Terror” and has been heavily criticized for its human rights abuses.
His remarks came during a virtual town hall hosted on Tuesday by Gray TV in Iowa. DeSantis tried to brush aside a question about his former work as a military lawyer at Guantanamo. The questioner, “Alan from Atlanta,” asked about claims DeSantis has repeatedly disputed: that he advised on and witnessed the force-feeding of detainees at Guantanamo.
But DeSantis said in 2018 that he advised military officers on the legality of force-feeding, recounting that he told the officers the act — which is widely considered a violation of international law — was legal. (He also described the detainees’ hunger strikes as a form of “jihad,” or holy war.)
And DeSantis has repeatedly denied former Guantanamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi’s 2023 claim that DeSantis not only watched Adayfi’s force-feeding but laughed as he did so. While on tour in Israel last year, DeSantis blew up at a reporter who asked about those allegations, calling them “totally B.S.”
The New York Times last year reported on interviews with 40 people who served at Guantanamo with or around the same time as DeSantis, and none of them recalled witnessing or hearing about Adayfi’s story. On the one hand, 40 seems like a lot of people supporting DeSantis’ claim. On the other hand, Guantanamo and some of the officials who worked there have a long and disturbing history of secrecy.
I still think it’s interesting to watch DeSantis squirm a bit here (the exchange begins at around the 35-minute mark). Check out the video below and count the several justifications or dismissals DeSantis offers for the allegations. He says force-feeding “happens all the time” and is legal, he suggests the treatment at Guantanamo is an overblown “narrative” spun by liberal media — and then he offers up this gem: “As somebody that has served [in Iraq], I can tell you, if you had a choice to be in Gitmo or in, like, the Fallujah local jail, Gitmo was much, much more humane.”
Sure, Ron. Not the point here, but sure.
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