A blogstorm is brewing, but I'm thinking it'll fizzle out faster than a dust twister in a rainstorm.
On Wednesday, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the Democrats' No. 2 man in the Senate, read a report supposedly from an FBI agent about abuse at Guantanamo Bay. Here's the report (which, by the way, has reportedly not been verified), followed by his comments:
'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 didn't 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 happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime, Pol Pot or others, that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that's not the case. This was the action of Americans in treatment of their own prisoners.
Durbin is now facing a storm of criticism for comparing US troops to Nazis, in yet another violation of Godwin's Law
. While the conditions described (allegedly) by an FBI agent are not akin to summer camp, they are not remotely close to the conditions that took the lives of millions in Nazi death camps, Soviet gulags or Cambodian Killing Fields (not to mention Saddam Hussein's torture chambers) and no one with any knowledge of history and sense of decency would contemplate the comparison.
In this morning's Los Angeles Times, David Gelernter notes
that somewhere between 15 million and 30 million people died in the Soviet gulags. Upwards
of 10 million people died in Nazi concentration camps. During the rule of Pol Pot, an estimated
2 million Cambodians (approximately 30 percent of the country's population) died by starvation, torture or execution. That's at least
27 million people — roughly the entire state of Texas, with neighboring Louisiana thrown in for good measure.
Alas, Durbin dug himself in deeper with his statement on Thursday:
I have heard my colleagues and others in the press suggest that I have said our soldiers could be compared to Nazis. I'd say to the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I do not even know if the interrogator involved here was an American soldier. I didn't say that at any point. To suggest that I am criticizing American servicemen, I am not. I don't know who is responsible for this. But the FBI agent made this report, and to suggest that I was attributing all the sins and all the horror and barbarism of Nazi Germany or Soviet Republic or Pol Pot to Americans is totally unfair. I was attributing this form of interrogation to repressive regimes, such as those that I noted. And I honestly believe the Senator from Virginia, who I respect very, very much, would have to say that, if indeed this occured, it does not represent American values. It doesn't represent what our country stands for. It is not the sort of conduct we would ever condone. I would hope that the senator from Virginia would agree with that. That was the point I was making. Now sadly, we have a situation here, where some in the right wing media have said that I have been insulting men and women in uniform. Nothing could be further from truth. I respect our men and women in uniform. I have spent many hours, as I am sure the senator from Virginia has, at funerals of the servicemen who have been returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, writing notes to their families and calling them personally. It breaks my heart every day to pick up the newspaper and hear of another death. Now the total this morning, 1,710. To suggest that this is somehow an insult to the men and women serving in the uniform, nothing could be further from the truth. But it is no credit to them or our nation for this sort of conduct to occur.
If you go back to his original statement, he said, "This was the action of Americans." Of course he was talking about US troops! Also, read the last sentence of Thursday's statement: "But it is no credit to them or our nation for this sort of conduct to occur." Who is the "them"? It's "the men and women serving in the uniform" of the United States military!
As a result, people
on the conservative end
of the blogosphere are calling for Durbin's head, his resignation, or (at least) official Senate censure.
But let's be realistic: the Democrats (as Opinion Journal noted
yesterday) are party without a center, a party of the Kool-Aid left, and Durbin is a leader of that party.
In addition, Durbin was re-elected in 2002 by a margin of 23 percentage points, and newly-elected colleague Barack Obama won by 43 points. Durbin's home state is at least as left-wing as my home state of Oregon. Here's a little Illinois primer, based on information from the Illinois state legislature website
, and from an election wrapup
in the Washington Post:
- The Illinois state senate is controlled by Democrats by a margin of 31-27, with one independent.
- The state house is Democrat-controlled (65-53)
- The governor is a Democrat.
- The state is represented by 10 Democrats and nine Republicans in the US House. The average win by Democrats in 2004 was 51 points, whereas the average Republican win was "only" 30 points.
- John Kerry won the state by 10 points, though he only won 15 of 102 counties (Al Gore won by 12 points)
- A poll in today's Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette asks, "Should Senator Dick Durbin apologize for comparing U.S. troops guarding prisoners to Nazis, Stalinists, or Pol Pot?" Granted, Champaign is a fairly liberal town due to the presence of the University of Illinois, but throughout the morning, "No" has been winning by anywhere from 12 to 21 points.
Durbin might be censured by the Senate, though I doubt it. But he certainly will keep his job and his rank. Voters in Illinois wouldn't have it any other way.
UPDATE: Durbin apologizes
. Sort of.