On June 14th, Senator Dick Durbin had the courage to speak the Truth when he stood before the Senate and said:
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]–I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
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. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
Naturally, anyone who thinks it is treasonous to criticize the actions of American soldiers or special agents-even if the evidence clearly supports allegations of torture-seized upon the words “Nazis,” “Soviets,” “gulags,” and “Pol Pot” and demanded an apology from Durbin. The critics from right and left objected to his comparison of American military personnel to that of murderous regimes of the past. Never mind that prisoners have been brutally murdered by Americans at Guantanamo. Never mind that the torture Durbin described actually took place. None of that mattered. What mattered was the comparison. The comparison, not the torture, is what they found so despicable.
Durbin held his ground and released this statement the next day:
This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure.
Of course he was right to ask for an apology from the Bush Administration. After all, it was the Administration that put the policies in place that led to the atrocities he described the day before. The critics weren’t satisfied though, because he had used the word “Nazi” in his remarks the day before and, as Jon Stewart pointed out last Thursday, one should never ever invoke the name Hitler or use the word Nazi, because everything one says before and after using those forbidden words will be summarily dismissed.
Okay, so it would have been smarter for Durbin to have said something like “Sadly, this was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners. Their actions are not representative of the America I know-the America that stands for liberty, freedom and human rights. The use of torture by Americans against the detainees at Guantanamo Bay is known around the world and, as a result, we may never recover our good reputation again.” Who knows? If he had made his remarks without using the forbidden words, perhaps his colleagues would have focused on the point he was trying to make and supported him. Alas, he didn’t say it that way, so the critics kept after him.
Donald Rumsfeld on a Fox News Radio show tried to equate the comment with actress Jane Fonda calling U.S. soldiers war criminals during a visit to North Vietnam in 1972. Never mind that Jane Fonda was right when she pointed out that some of the U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were war criminals. Damn her for saying it! Damn the Truth!
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley chimed in with “I think it’s a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that.” Never mind that men and women in the U.S. Military actually did “act like that.” Damn Richard Durbin for saying it! Damn him!
By yesterday, Durbin couldn’t take the pressure anymore and issued this apology for his remarks: “Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line,” the Illinois Democrat said. “To them I extend my heartfelt apologies.” And speaking about the soldiers, he added, “They’re the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them.”
Never mind that some of the soldiers clearly aren’t “the best.” Some of our soldiers torture the prisoners and beat the crap out of them. Some twenty or thirty have been beaten to death. Sorry, disrespect for the soldiers is not allowed. “Support the Troops!” They do no wrong! They’re just carrying out their orders. Whatever they are told must be right, because Bush and his Administration can do no wrong. If they get a lawyer to define torture in such a way that excludes the acts Durbin described last Tuesday, so be it. Never mind what independent Human Rights organizations like the Red Cross or Amnesty International have to say about it. All that matters is that NOBODY EVER SLIPS UP AND COMPARES AMERICAN SOLDIERS TO NAZIS. Got that?
John McCain got it when he said, “All of us, I believe, who have had the opportunity to serve in public life from time to time have said things that we deeply regret. I know that I have. I would like to say that the senator from Illinois, he did the right thing, the courageous thing, and I believe we can put this issue behind us.”
And Barack Obama added “[Durbin] has established himself as one of the people in this chamber who cares deeply about our veterans and about our troops.”
So… everything is okay now that Senator Durbin has apologized and we can all politely ignore what he said last Tuesday. None of it could possibly be true anyway, because he broke the rule and used forbidden words.