18 June 2005

Speak no evil

The media are alive with talk about what Senator Richard Durbin of Illinios said on the Senate floor about our Freedom Archipelago.

I have the full roundup for you ...

Here's the key bit of the Senator's comments, though it's worth going to read the whole thing.

When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the 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.
The right is incensed. Not that the US is torturing people, mind you, but that the Senator dared to talk about it.

Orcinus has a roundup of several responses from folks like Limbaugh and Malkin.

This man is simply a piece of excrement, a piece of waste that needs to be scraped off the sidewalk and eliminated.
Here you go, Dick Durbin. Thanks once again for telling our enemies just what a bunch of soft patty cakes we are and how we'll back away from our own treatment of people much less back away from dishing it out to people like our enemies.
slanders his own country. Normally that kind of slander is uttered only by revolutionaries seeking the violent overthrow of the government. Yet Durbin purports to be part of a loyal opposition
Fortunately, that kind of talk is restricted to right-wing whackos on talk radio, while Republican leaders have had a more measured response. They would never make a comment like this one from another radio "entertainer:"
It is anti-American and only fuels the animus of our enemies who are constantly searching for ways to portray our great country and our people as anti-mulsim and anti-Arab. It is this type of language that they use to recruit others to be car bombers; suicide attackers; hostage takers; and full-fledged jihadists.
Oh. Oops. That one is actually Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Never mind.

How about this one:

I think the Senator's remarks are reprehensible. It's a real disservice to our men and women in uniform who adhere to high standards and uphold our values and our laws. To compare the way our military treats detainees with the Soviet gulags, the Nazi concentration camps, and Pol Pot's regime is simply reprehensible. And to suggest that these individuals -- I notice comments were made that -- comparing it to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. To suggest that these enemy combatants who are detained at Guantanamo Bay should be released just is simply beyond belief to me. These are dangerous individuals who were picked up on the battlefield. They were picked up on the battlefield in the fight against American forces. They were picked up on the battlefield because they are individuals who are involved in plots to do harm to the American people and to innocent civilians.

And so I just think those remarks are reprehensible and they are a real disservice to our men and women in uniform. Our men and women in uniform go out of their way to treat detainees humanely, and they go out of their way to hold the values and the laws that we hold so dear in this country. And when you talk about the gulags and the concentration camps in Pol Pot's regime, millions of people, innocent people, were killed by those regimes.

That's actually from White House, Press Secretary McClellan answering the question how is the President reacting?

Billmon has some reflections worth reading on the subject.

Conservatives, of course, froth at the use of such terms, which is why the propaganda machine immediately zeroed in on Durbin's reference to an extreme nationalist party that flourished in a certain central European country in the 1930s and early 1940s. Just as they popped a vein over Amnesty International's use of a Russian word for forced labor camp.

Strictly on the facts of the case, they are correct: The American archipelago is just a series of flyspecks compared to its Soviet predecessor. At its peak, the Soviet gulags held an estimated 2.5 million prisoners. The number of deaths -- by torture, execution, disease or deliberate starvation -- has to be counted in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. The KGB, meanwhile, set a record for the assembly-line murder of political prisoners that I don't think has been matched since, not even by that wannabe Saddam.

As for the central European extremist leader, well, we all know what he did.

I guess that's enough to satisify most conservatives. (Maybe they should print up some bumper stickers: "America: Still better than Stalin.")

Billmon does not understand, as the Republicans do, that what you say is more important than what you do.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It looks like the Congress is finally getting some balls: memos, Bolton, Patriot Act. Hope it is not all too little, too late.