My senior Senator will never be regarded by history as another Daniel Webster or Arthur Vandenberg but even for Dick Durbin it is not every day that he manages to insult American veterans, Holocaust survivors and victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Quite a rhetorical trifecta !
The other day, from the Senate floor, in the midst of an overheated attack on the Bush administration’s parameters for interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, Durbin let fly with this ahistorical gem:
“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”
Now, reasonable people can disagree about whether or not al Qaida detainees should be entitled to P.O.W. status under the Geneva Convention – those who think they should, like Senator Durbin, don’t have a legal leg to stand on – but the argument can be made. Likewise, the Bush administration has invited criticism of their Guantanamo policy by keeping detainees in legal limbo instead of moving forward with military tribunals. It is perfectly legitimate to argue that the value of what tough interrogation techniques yield pales in terms the damage caused to America’s image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. But the al Qaida terrorist detainees are not the moral equivalent of terrified Jews being herded to Auschwitz and the American guards at Guantanamo are not the SS.
That kind of analogy, that Senator Durbin fervently believes, can only be described as morally grotesque as well as profoundly ignorant. A U.S. Senator should have more sense.
Mr. Durbin has degraded the suffering of those who went through hell on Earth to survive Genocide by putting their experiences on par with the interrogation discomforts of mass-murderers like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It is the latter who is in the same moral ballpark with Heinrich Himmler or Pol Pot, not some Marine Guard at Gitmo or President Bush.
If somebody in the USG happens to be reading this blog, please forward this post to Senator Durbin’s office with the suggestion that he take a break from his partisan duties and visit the nearby United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for a few hours to find out what the victims of Nazism really went through.
Hopefully the good Senator might then think twice in the future about the nature of his historical analogies.
UPDATE II: Idiotic commentary at DailyKos on same ( Hat tip Jeff)
UPDATE III: Senator Durbin starts his backtracking
“This, of course, is the classic example of the non-apology apology. Note that he doesn’t retract a word of what he said. He says that he regrets if others misunderstood his “true feelings”, not that what he said was wrong and historically inept. Basically, this is the translation one is meant to hear:
I’m sorry you were too stupid to understand me.
If this is the best that Durbin can do after comparing the men and women of our armed forces to Nazis and Stalin’s goons, as well as comparing Islamofascist terrorists to Japanese-American victims of WWII detention centers, then he’s a bigger idiot than I thought.”