Ron DeSantis was there watching us. We were crying, screaming. We were tied to the feeding chair. And he was watching. He was laughing. Our stomachs could not hold this amount of Ensure. They poured one can after another. So when he approached me, I said, “This is the way we are treated!” He said, “You should eat.” I threw up in his face. Literally on his face. 
 – Mansoor Adayfi, held without charge at Guantanamo Bay, 2002-2016, describing force
feeding used by guards to break hunger strike

The official website for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis does not mention his time at the Guantanamo prison camp. His military records released by the Navy in 2018 were heavily redacted. His official site notes his graduating from Yale with honors as a history major and earning a law degree with honors from Harvard Law School. The official site says only this about his active military service:

While at Harvard, he earned a commission in the U.S. Navy as a JAG [Judge Advocate General’s Corps] officer. During his active-duty service, Ron deployed to Iraq as an adviser to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in support of the SEAL mission in Fallujah, Ramadi and the rest of Al Anbar province. His military decorations include the Bronze Star Medal for Meritorious Service and the Iraq Campaign Medal.

In March 2006, when DeSantis first went to Guantanamo, he was a 27 year old graduate of two elite universities. He was a Navy officer, sworn to uphold the Constitution. He was a JAG lawyer dealing with illegally held prisoners in an illegal concentration camp in the midst of an illegal “war on terror.” Like every other American participant in these crimes against humanity, he has not been held accountable.

Mansoor Adayfi (aka Mansur Ahmad Saad al-Dayfi) is a Yemeni citizen who was 18 when he was captured by warlords in Afghanistan and sold to the US as a “terrorist.” He was held without charges in Guantanamo from February 2002 until July 2016, when he was transferred to Serbia and released. In 2021 he published “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo,” a book recounting his years of torture and resistance at the criminal camp that still holds innocent prisoners. In November 2022, Monsoor Adayfi joined the Eyes Left podcast hosted by Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner, who promotes this episode as a “journey into Ron DeSantis's shadowy military career reveals shocking new details about his complicity in illegal torture. Featuring exclusive never-before-heard testimony from former Guantanamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi….” An edited version of that ten minute interview appears in the March 2023 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Ron DeSantis’s office did not respond to Harper’s requests for comment.

For all that the DeSantis campaign for President is much in the news currently, Harper’s appears to be the only mainstream media outlet taking notice of his role in torturing Guantanamo prisoners. Some alternative media, such as The Real News Network (Dec. 2, 2022) and Florida Bulldog (Jan. 26, 2023), have reported the story in depth, with no response from DeSantis.

In the mainstream there has been some intense criticism of DeSantis, in Vanity Fair (Jan. 2, 2023) or The Nation (Feb. 27, 2023), with no mention of Guantanamo. [In 2018, when DeSantis was running for Governor, the Miami Herald asked what DeSantis did in Guantanamo, got no answer from DeSantis, got puffery from the Navy, talked to no detainess, and left the question unanswered.] Diane Ravitch in her blog (Feb. 27, 2023) doesn’t refer to torture even though she makes DeSantis’s education policy sound like force-feeding children’s minds:

… this audacious attempt to put the governor of the state in charge of whatever is taught in his state. What DeSantis is doing is not conservative. It is radical. It is authoritarian. He shows no respect for critical thinking or debate. He is unwilling to allow students to learn anything he does not like. His desire for control of what can be taught or learned is dangerous to democracy. He is attempting to establish a dictatorship and has a super-majority of both houses in the [Florida] legislature who will give him whatever he wants.

Failing to address the known war crimes that DeSantis is known to have been a part of allows mainstream media to normalize him. This is a form of deceit by omission. A representative example is this New York Times op ed by Damon Linker on February 27 focused on the essentially meaningless question of whether a DeSantis Presidency would be worse than another Trump Presidency. Linker writes:

The case against Mr. DeSantis is rooted in his policy commitments. During his time as Florida’s chief executive, he has governed from the hard right, taking aggressive aim at voting rights, pursuing politicized prosecutionsrestricting what can be taught in public schools and universities, strong-arming private businesses, using refugees as human props to score political points and engaging in flagrant demagogy about vaccines. Before that, as a congressman, he supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare and voted for a bill that would have severely weakened Obamacare. All of that provides ample reason to rally against him should he end up as the Republican nominee in 2024. But none of it makes Mr. DeSantis worse than Trump….

Linker concludes that comparisons with Trump are distractions, because “Calling Mr. DeSantis bad should be good enough.” And that’s without even considering war crimes, which both have committed. In its odd way, this approach is a form of “critique” as whitewash.

In last November’s Eyes Left podcast, Mansoor Adayfi described conditions at Guantanamo, which De Santis supervised, without intervening. As a JAG officer, DeSantis would have been, or should have been, aware that he was participating in torture, clear violations of internationsl law. According to Monsoor Adayfi:

They used to restrain us in that feeding chair. They tied our head, our shoulders, our wrists, our thighs and our legs. They put some kind of laxative in the feeding liquid. We were shitting ourselves all the time. Then we were moved to solitary confinement – really cold cells. It was live five times a day. It wasn’t feeding. It was just torture. Five times a day. You can’t possibly handle it. They just kept pouring the Ensure. In one week, they broke all the hunger strikers. And he [Ron DeSantis] was there. All of them were watching. They used to beat us. And if we screamed or were bleeding out of our nose and mouth, they were like, “Eat.” The only word they told us was “eat.” We were beaten all day long. Whatever they were doing – they just beat you. Pepper spray, beating, sleep deprivation. That continued for three months. And he [Ron DeSantis] was there. He was one of the people that supervised the torture, the abuses, the beatings.

The fundamental reality is that 2006 was a year of military depravity at Guantanamo. Even the UN human rights agency criticized the place. Three detainees died there that year, hanged – the Navy said they were suicides, but the Navy sent their bodies home without major organs, making any autopsy impossible. DeSantis was there through all of that. The official story is that his job was to make sure the US military was abiding by the laws of war.

But what did DeSantis actually do at Guantanamo? Did he object to or intervene in the military torture program? Did he do anything to mitigate the suffering of prisoners held illegally, without charges? Did he participate in any way in torturing these prisoners? Or did he, as alleged, do exactly the job he was expected to do, talk to prisoners as a “friend” about what distressed them most, then report back to his superiors, so that they could increase the most stressful torture techniques, while keeping the whole process secret?

Whatever DeSantis did in Guantanamo, the Navy saw fit to send him next to Iraq, as a JAG officer tasked with advising Seal Team One how to follow the rules of war. In 2007, DeSantis was assigned to Anbar province, which experienced some of the worst American atrocities and war crimes, especially in Fallujah and Ramadi. As in Guantanamo, whatever DeSantis accomplished in Anbar, he did not effectively protect human rights. He did get a medal. And he’s running for President? With most of his service record is still shrouded in secrecy? Who benefits from that?


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