Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Why Dick Durbin thought he had to apologize is beyond me, but the wingnuts did a perfect job of twisting his words and turning them into what they claimed was treason. Richard Cohen puts it best:

Those of us who have read accounts of the gulag or of the interrogation methods of the Nazis and similar barbaric regimes are familiar with the infinite varieties of torture.

Maybe for that reason I did not feel it was anything of a stretch for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to refer to those regimes when reciting what an FBI agent had seen at Guantanamo: detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water,” or deprived of a bathroom, or kept in extreme heat or cold. One was found “almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out.” Whatever that is, it is not America.

This was Durbin’s point. He was right, although not necessarily politically prudent or elegant, when he said that if you did not know these descriptions came from an FBI agent, you “would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime ... that had no concern for human beings.” I certainly might have thought so – although, in general, these regimes were usually capable of far worse than that, and Durbin should not have said “most certainly.” A “possibly” would have done just fine.
Durbin apologized Tuesday for comparing American interrogators at Guantanamo to Nazis and other historically infamous figures.

But prior to the apology, Bill Frist, the Republican leader of the Senate, sought an apology – although he himself did nothing of the sort when his videotaped patient, Terri Schiavo, turned out to be horribly brain-damaged and not, as he suggested to the Senate, potentially treatable – smiling, laughing and all the rest. Frist has lost the ability to blush, but not to mischaracterize. He said Durbin “called Guantanamo a death camp” – words that do not appear in the text.
The practice of the Bush White House and its supporters is to go right at its critics – to hell with fairness – and shout them down. This is what the Swift-boaters did to John Kerry and this is what the White House itself did to Newsweek. That magazine’s story about reported abuses of the Koran at Guantanamo was admittedly wrong on one specific, but we did learn later that the military itself had investigated reports of Koran abuse. There’s smoke, if not fire, there.

The vitriol being heaped on Durbin would almost be funny if it weren’t so mean. The man, after all, is the virtually invisible Dick Durbin. And yet he is being tarred and feathered for saying something that has occurred to many of us: Guantanamo makes the U.S. look bad.

Yep. I have said before and will say again: Gitmo and Abu Ghraib guarantee that thousands of innocent Americans will die horribly in future terrorist outrages. We should be above this kind of penny ante crap, but we've lowered ourselves to the level of those we once considered our deadly enemies, and earned everlasting shame in the process.


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