|June 23, 2005||EDITORIAL ARCHIVES|
Senator Durbin Had Nothing to Apologize For
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
Although Senator Dick Durbin’s floor speech on June 14th to raise the issue of torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay was completely taken out of context and distorted by the right-wing echo chamber, Durbin nonetheless apologized hoping to quell the political fury. Making matters difficult for the Illinois Senator was when Chicago Mayor Richard Daley chimed in with his own harsh criticism. "I'm going to get you a book on the Holocaust and have you read the Holocaust, and if you really believe those men and women in Guantanamo Bay are Nazis, then you'd better rethink what America's all about," Daley said.
Note that Senator Durbin never uttered the word “Holocaust” in his floor speech but did refer to oppressive regimes that engaged in torture such as the Nazis, Soviets, and Pol Pot.
Daley’s criticism of Senator Durbin demonstrates the pervasive decline of standards in America where politicians can lob comments – or in Daley’s case what amounted to a molotov cocktail – without reading what Durbin actually said or understanding the context of his poignant remarks that the torture and indefinite detention of prisoners at Gitmo is amounting to a ticking time bomb for the United States and the safety of American soldiers.
There are numerous possibilities why Mayor Daley put Senator Durbin in the crosshairs. Either Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has a serious reading comprehension problem; gets his information from the FOX propaganda network; or seized the opportunity to gain some kind of leverage even if Daley calls Durbin a friend and ally. We’ll give Mayor Daley the benefit of the doubt – unlike what Daley did for Durbin — and assume that Mayor Daley was just plain lazy and didn’t do the right and honorable thing to first understand Durbin’s objective in raising the issue of torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
How surreal is it to accuse Durbin of not supporting our troops when in fact it was Durbin’s very real concern and support for our troops that he had the political courage to take to the Senate floor and demand accountability from the White House?
The bigger point Durbin was making was that the abuse and torture of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere around the world are actually putting American soldiers at greater risk. The Bush administration’s policy of ignoring human rights abuses, discarding international law and essentially endorsing torture has ceded any moral high ground the United States has left to demand the fair and humane treatment of American soldiers captured on the battlefield. Sure politicians and generals can make all the demands to our enemies to treat American soldiers humanely under the Geneva Convention, but those demands will ring empty and be perceived as double standards. The response from terrorists and our enemies will no doubt be that since the United States chooses not to abide by international law and the humane treatment of prisoners, why should they.
“The truth is, some American soldiers have disgraced our nation. We do not condone torture. We do not disrespect other religions. We do not act like tyrants and abuse prisoners. …We are better than that and Durbin knows it better than Daley,” wrote Ray Hanania in an excellent online column for the Chicago based Southwest News-Herald over Daley’s criticism of Durbin.
And Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune used his column to write the speech he felt Durbin should have given rather than apologizing: "As I said last week, quoting Colin Powell: The use of such bestial interrogation techniques will 'reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice….undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops ... [and] undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain.'"
This goes right to the heart of the Bush administration’s incompetence in fighting the war on terrorism. The administration refuses, or is incapable of seeing this issue from the perspective of our enemies. The war on terrorism is as much a logistical problem as it is a perception problem. The message being sent around the world is that United States does not care how we treat enemy combatants, and even worse, the United States doesn’t care that the rest of the world does care how we treat them.
By taking Durbin’s speech out of context, the right-wing media was able to buy the White House a reprieve from the real issue and shift the story to whether Durbin should apologize as opposed to what in the hell is George W. Bush going to do about the abuse at Guantanamo Bay? It’s George W. Bush who has some apologizing and some explaining to do.
We don’t expect much from the Republicans whose modus operandi is to seize on any opportunity to pit Americans against each other, especially if the GOP can equate criticizing White House policy as being against the troops. But we can demand more from members of the Democratic Party and from progressives.
Mayor Daley could just have easily called up Senator Durbin and said, “Dick, I was watching FOX “News” last night, and it sounded like you were saying some nasty things about our troops, and I just wanted to see if that was in fact true and hear for myself what you intended.”
Had Daley given Durbin this simple courtesy, the Chicago Mayor would have realized that Senator Durbin supports the troops more than most Americans will ever know and that Durbin had the guts to take to the Senate floor to do something about it.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL