Thursday, June 23, 2005

Democrats Shouldn't Apologize For Speaking The Truth

Senator Dick Durbin is getting a lot of flack from our side of the blogging universe for his apology on the Senate floor Tuesday.

Durbin had made some strong comments last week about the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of detainees, likening treatment of Gitmo prisoners to that meted out by some of the worst regimes in human history and echoing the Amnesty International description of the facility as a "gulag."

Here's an excerpt of Durbin's comments:

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.

Durbin didn't say that U.S. troops behaved like Nazis or other bad people from the past. He simply said that someone hearing of these conditions would reasonably conclude that some pretty nasty folks had been responsible – and that it is embarrassing to our nation that the FBI agent was describing American treatment of prisoners.

You shouldn't apologize for telling the truth, Senator Durbin. What you said might reflect on our nation in an unflattering way, but tough luck. So does invading another country for no reason and killing 100,000 of their people.

"Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line," said the Illinois Democrat Tuesday, at times holding back tears. "To them I extend my heartfelt apologies."

"I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood," Durbin said in a written statement. "I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings: Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support."

Let's just stipulate once and for all that we all support the troops, OK? But should we also not be critical of the American soldier who was recently arrested and charged with killing two of his colleagues? Are you demeaning all soldiers to criticize one that does something terrible? What about a handful of soldiers and civilian contractors at our base in Cuba?

This is ridiculous and yet another attempt by the Republicans to distract attention from the real issues facing our country – and for which their party is responsible – by creating a fake imbroglio around a Democratic politician making statements that, while unflattering, happen to be true.

And, as I've said many times, Republicans and their supporters will not respect you for your contrition. Go out and take a look at some of the right-wing blogs and you'll find that the apology is being generally demeaned. Senator Durbin would have been better off to stay strong and hold his ground.

Just because what he said was unpleasant, doesn't make it wrong. And having this little backbone is certainly not the key to us winning back the Senate.