This one is truly pathetic. Last week Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) quoted from an FBI agent’s memo describing detainees at Guantanamo Bay as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures. “If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime–Pol Pot or others–that had no concern for human beings,” he said. (AP, June 22)
A simply accurate statement. Nowhere did he say that the United States has become the equivalent of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia. He pointed out that what’s going on at Guantanamo is redolent of those regimes. An important if obvious observation. Durbin was doing his job as a vigilant defender of freedom.
Now, after the predictable firestorm of indignation from the torture-apologist set, he backs down–but in typical weasily politician fashion. “Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line,” he said on the Senate floor yesterday. “To them I extend my heartfelt apologies.” Note that despite the fact that he was reported to be choking back tears when he spoke these words, he doesn’t actually admit to saying anything wrong–he says he apologizes because “some may believe” his remarks “crossed the line.” In other words, he admits he lacks the conviction to stick to his own beliefs regardless of the consequences. He implicitly acknowledges he is a spineless, pandering lackey.
Of course Durbin also said he never intended disrespect for US soldiers around the world. “They’re the best,” he said.
Oh yeah, Dick? Even the ones committing human rights abuses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib? (That is what we’re talking about, after all.) We hate to say it, but this little episode smacks very much of a, um, Stalinist show trial.
Donald Rumsfeld, in an interview with Fox News Radio’s “Tony Snow Show,” equated Durbin’s comment with actress Jane Fonda calling US soldiers war criminals during a visit to North Vietnam in 1972.
“Some people always in their lives say something they wish they hadn’t said,” Rumsfeld said, in annoyingly garbled syntax. “We just watched Jane Fonda run around trying to recover from the things she did and said during the Vietnam War… He said some things and he’s going to have to live with them, and I think that that’s not a happy prospect.”
Jane should’ve stuck to her guns too. While we prefer to blame the brass than the grunts, My Lai, Agent Orange, napalm and carpet-bombing were assuredly war crimes.
See our last post on Gitmo and the ongoing torture scandal.