GOP Congressman Downplays Gitmo Hunger Strike Crisis: Detainees Have Actually ‘Put On Weight’

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)

A Republican congressman downplayed the severity of the hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay prison, claiming that the detainees there are actually gaining weight.

“It is not a crisis mode,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin, later adding, “The last thing to say about these folks who are supposedly hunger strikers is that they look to me like a lot of them had put on weight.” Pompeo, however, could not back that claim up:

MELVIN: How did you know that, did you see them two months ago? How do you know they’ve put on weight?

POMPEO: I just know this: I know that these hunger strikers are being well-taken care of. Our men and women down there are doing this in full compliance with the obligations that they are complying with the International Red Cross.

Watch the clip:

In fact, contrary to Pompeo’s claim, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has criticized the military’s decision to force-feed some of the hunger strikers. “There is a discrepancy between the position of the United States and the ICRC. That’s very much part of, a point on the agenda,” ICRC president Peter Mauer said last month when asked about force-feeding at Gitmo.

“I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed,” one detainee on hunger strike wrote in the New York Times. Others have described it as having a razor blade being pulled down your throat.

While it’s probable that the military didn’t show Pompeo the worst aspects of the hunger strike during his visit, Gitmo authorities themselves acknowledge that they are force-feeding hunger strikers because they are losing weight. “They can choose not to eat but we’re not going to let them starve,” said one military officer.

Army Caption Jason Wright, a lawyer for some Gitmo detainees, recently told ThinkProgress that he visited one of his clients one month after the protest began. “He very clearly was on a hunger strike,” he said, “For a man who is typically very gentle, and quiet and demure, when I walked in to the meeting room, it was just a complete change in his demeanor. There was a sense of helplessness and desperation in his face.” [HT: Crooks & Liars]