Along the Tracks

Monday, June 20, 2005

Defining down atrocities

For those who do not care so much for the “harsh” Paul, it might be good to just skip down to the proverb today.

Still here? Okay, let’s look at last week’s eruption by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. In a Senate floor speech, Durbin described a leaked investigative memo from an FBI agent who looked into allegations of abuse in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The memo describes some pretty uncomfortable treatment – perhaps approaching the line from legitimate “pressure” on the prisoner in question to real physical abuse. To wit, the detainee was reportedly chained in a crouching position to the floor, given no food or water, forced to endure wild swings in air temperature and blasted with rap music. Apparently, the prisoner urinated on himself and was left in his mess. This treatment went on for hours.

Very rough, no doubt – but torture? If the prisoner had endured a full day of this treatment, particularly the lack of water, then perhaps it could be considered physically injurious and arguably “torture.” The crouching position, sustained for more than a day or two, could also possibly cause some joint or muscle damage and so could be seen as torture. The air temperature swings – as long as he wasn’t frostbitten or scalded – are hardly worth mentioning; plenty of Cubans within a rifle-shot of Guantanamo have it far worse in their apartments. Rap music may seem torturous to those with different tastes, but if annoying sounds constitute torture then I’m a masochist for listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

So, based on the report Durbin read to the Senate, we don’t even have an alleged instance of torture – just an embarrassed and uncomfortable prisoner. The people who did this probably should be reprimanded for being too harsh.Let us also remember, this prisoner was captured on the battlefield killing Americans. How do I know this? Because that’s how you get shipped to GITMO!

For now, let’s set aside the debate on the detention facilities outside U.S. territory and get back to the Illinois senator’s statement. After reading the above prisoner treatment, Durbin could have said he was horrified, outraged, embarrassed. He could have called this another (alleged) example of the administration’s horrible conduct. He could have called (again) for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s resignation. He could have announced his support for the impeachment of the president. He could have offered to appropriate money for more critically-acclaimed music CDs.

There are many, many ways Durbin could have expressed himself in this affair which would have made the point clear, been outrageous enough to attract media attention and yet would not have done a disservice to the U.S. military, strengthened opponents to American success in the war on terrorism or provided more recruitment material to the Islamofascists happily sending fighters from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Egypt and a hundred other places to kill our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Instead, Durbin chose to equate our soldiers – remember, the military runs GITMO and the other detention facilities – to Nazis at concentration camps, Soviets guarding gulags and the Khmer Rouge cutting through the killing fields.

Who this insult hits hardest is difficult to discern. Jews and others rounded up by Hitler probably would have given anything for the “GITMO treatment”; after all, nobody at Guantanamo has died – not even one prisoner. Those in the gulags likely would have considered a ticket to GITMO a new lease on life, since in their workhouses they had a 50-50 chance of collapsing into their graves. Those in the killing fields clearly would rather have lived on chicken and rice in sunny Cuba, but I would guess the Cambodian survivors would have gladly put on cuffs as well, considering Pol Pot’s madness claimed a third of that country’s population. All those who survived these horrors, as well as the families who lost loved ones to these evils, were crudely belittled by Durbin’s disgusting comparisons.What about our soldiers, and their families?

Does the senator really seek to turn an improper interrogation into torture, then castigate the uniformed military as one, tarring them with the legacy of historic mass murderers? If it is the larger U.S. government in his sights for slander, how can he in good conscience continue to serve as one of its highest officials? How can he not call for President Bush to be impeached?

Clearly, for Durbin, this was “just politics” – so there will be no actions which match the singular rhetoric he chose. He croaked out a typical “regrets” statement which only expressed his sadness that others had somehow “misused” his equation against him. The senator may, eventually, offer up something a little better – if polls show he should.The insult, however, cannot be retracted with sincerity any longer; the damage is done.

If this is what passes for leadership among liberal Democrats today, it is no wonder they find themselves losing election after election.

Male Proverb #185: “Tall weeds are the easiest to spot – and the hardest to pull.”

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