Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

June 17, 2005

Senator Dick Durbin calls American Troops “Nazis”

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:00 pm

Folks, I’m not making this stuff up. If I had tried to imagine the most offensive, inappropriate, false and slanderous thing a United States Senator could say, I could not have come up with something as offensive, inappropriate, false and slanderous as what Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said on the floor of the Senate this past Tuesday.

[D]escribing 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.

What was he complaining about? Among other things, this report:

Dripping Water or Playing Christina Aguilera Music: After the new measures are approved, the mood in al-Qahtani’s interrogation booth changes dramatically. The interrogation sessions lengthen. The quizzing now starts at midnight, and when Detainee 063 dozes off, interrogators rouse him by dripping water on his head or playing Christina Aguilera music.

So let’s get this straight:

  • Hitler’s Nazis killed 9-10 million civilians, including 6 million Jews killed for no other reason than they were Jewish, between 1939 and 1945 (not including those killed on the battlefield, or in air bombardment of cities).
  • The “Soviets in the gulags” killed an estimated 50 million people between 1930 and 1940, usually for their political opinions or religious beliefs, or for having “capitalist ancestry.”
  • Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge killed an estimated 1.5-2.0 million people — about 1 in 5 Cambodians — for “crimes” like opposing communism, having too much education, living in a city, or merely wearing glasses (which meant your were an “intellectual” and thus insufficiently proletarian)

And Dick Durbin, the Senator from Illinois, thinks these are equivalent to:

This is not just a lack of perspective. This is a total lack of moral clarity of any kind. If Dick Durbin can’t tell the difference between murdering millions of perfectly innocent people, and playing loud music to try to get a terrorist captured in battle or in a known Al-Qaeda hideout to tell us where the other terrorists are, then Dick Durbin has no moral sense whatever.

As if to prove my point, when Dick Durbin was called on the carpet about this, he steadfastly refused to apologize, and instead continued to lie:

CHICAGO (AP) – Sen. Dick Durbin refused to apologize Wednesday for comments he made on the Senate floor comparing the actions of American soldiers at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, Soviet gulags and a “mad regime” like Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot’s in Cambodia.

Durbin’s comments created a buzz on the Internet Wednesday, fueled by sound bites of his speech on radio talk shows. By Wednesday afternoon, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna asked Durbin to apologize.

“Senator Durbin’s comments come as a great disservice to our military personnel in Guantanamo,” McKenna said in a statement. “They are also a great disservice to all U.S. soldiers and veterans who have fought, and continue to fight, to overcome evil regimes and spread democracy around the world.”

Durbin did not plan to apologize for the comments, spokesman Joe Shoemaker said.

“This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure,” Durbin said in a statement Wednesday evening.

This last part is a complete lie. I should not have to state what should be well-known to everyone who follows the news, not least a U.S. Senator, but obviously it needs to be stated:

  • The administration has not “abandon[ed] the Geneva Conventions” — the Geneva Conventions explicitly apply only to uniformed combatants. They do not apply to terrorists or other “unlawful combatants” — but the adminstration decided to give the terrorists the same protections anyway.
  • The administration has not “authoriz[ed] torture techniques” — on the contrary, the administration has specifically forbidden torture techniques, and even prohobited some aggressive interrogation techniques that fall far short of “torture.” See these Department of Defense memos here and here.
  • Interrogating terrorists does not “put our troops at risk” — in fact, it does the opposite. Numerous terrorists have been caputred on the basis of information provided by captured terrorists under interrogation at Guantánamo and elsewhere.
  • Interrogating terrorists does not “make Americans less secure” — in fact, it does the opposite. The fact that there has not been a single major terrorist attack on American soil — or even on any American target outside of Iraq — since 9/11/2001 gives lie to Durban’s statement. If “less secure” means “no terrorist attacks” then by all means, let’s have “less secure.” More likely, of course, by “less secure” Durbin means “Bush in office” — and “more secure” will mean more terrorist attacks so that Democrats like Durbin benefit politically.

Dick Durbin has slandered American troops, insulted the memory of tens of millions of victims of Nazis and Communists, and shown more sympathy for murderous terrorists than innocent victims. He is an embarrassment to the United States Senate and the people of Illinois. He should resign immediately.

And if the people of Illinois re-elect this poor excuse for a human being, they should secede and invite the terrorists to live there. Let’s see how long the Sears Tower remains standing if Dick Durbin ever gets his way.

9 Responses to “Senator Dick Durbin calls American Troops “Nazis””

  1. romy Says:

    not to get all blue-state on you here, DR, but don’t you see a certain irony in this backlash against durbin, who is however awkwardly speaking out against the mistreatment of detained suspects? after all, just a couple months ago your own readers (and one of your own posts, if memory serves) were comparing michael schiavo to the nazis. how are those statements NOT guilty of “insult[ing] the memory of tens of millions of victims of Nazis and Communists”?

  2. Different River Says:

    Interesting question. Actually, I wish there were a backlash against Durbin — from where I sit, nobody seems to really care except a few bloggers and maybe some talk radio folks. Having said that, do you mean to accuse me of irony — or hypocrisy? I’m going to assume you mean the latter but were trying to be polite. And no, I don’t think it’s hypocritical at all, for one simple reason:

    The “similarity” Durbin alleges between American troops and Nazis/Communists is that they both operate prisons. However, the difference is that in one case those kept in the prisons are terrorists who seek to murder innocent victims or have actually done so, and in the other cases those kept in prisons were innocent victims themselves, whose only “crimes” were having the “wrong” ancestry, religion, or political views. This makes the two sets of acts moral opposites, notwithstanding any superficial similarities. It’s akin to the case of a kidnapper who is put in jail — would any one accuse the police of hypocrisy for imprisoning a kidnapper for the crime of imprisoning an innocent person? One the contrary, the police would properly be viewed as heros and the kidnaper would properly be viewed as villain who belongs in jail. Futhermore, the crimes of the Nazis and Communists can be measures in the numbers of people they murdered, even leaving aside the numbers were were in prison but survivied. The American troops running the prison at Guantánamo haven’t killed any of the inmates, and have in fact released prisoners they thought to be innocent. (In some cases mistakenly — at least one person was released, then later captured in the act of committing a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.)

    On the other hand, the comparison between Michael Schiavo and the Nazis is ideological. Although the antisemitic component of the Nazis’ ideology of race is better known, another part of their ideology stressed the “importance” of “purifying” their “race” by eliminating what they termed “life unworthy of life” (Lebensunwertes Leben), also called “useless mouths” — that is, killing disabled and deformed people. This was, of course, done by doctors, under color of law. Michael Schiavo was attempting to do the same thing, just on a much smaller scale. He aimed to kill the one disabled person affecting his life, not the hundreds of thousands in an entire country. Nevertheless, the difference between Michael Schiavo’s euthenasia and that of the actual Nazis is one of degree, not kind. This is notwithstanding the fact that, as far as I know, Schiavo was imitating not the racial aspect of Nazi ideology, but “only” the euthenasia aspect.

    In short, Michael Schiavo is to the Nazis what a single locust is to a swarm of millions of locusts. But American troops are to Nazis what the police are to the kidnappers.

  3. ollie Says:

    Actually, you didn’t quote all of what Senator Durbin said. Here is a link to the full
    text: http://durbin.senate.gov/gitmo.cfm
    What happened to the detainees (according to the FBI agent that Durbin was quoting) is
    described as follows: “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.”

    Had we read of our prisioners getting treated in this way (e. g., our POW’s in Vietnam) we
    would have been outraged.

  4. Different River Says:

    A Senator Responds to Dick Durbin
    As noted previously, last week the number-two Democrat in the Senator Dick Durbin compared American soldiers to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, … Pol Pot.” And there has been an uproar in the blogosphere (and probably talk radio, but I haven’t h…

  5. Different River Says:

    ollie: Right, I didn’t include the entire quote. I just linked to it, so you (or anyone else) could read the whole think. Thanks for providing a different link to the same statement.

    As for your statement, “Had we read of our prisioners getting treated in this way (e. g., our POW’s in Vietnam) we would have been outraged.”:

    The fact is, if our POW’s in Vietnam had been treated like the terrorists in Gitmo, it would have been far better than how our POW’s in Vietnam wer actually treated. There is no comparison. Here is a description of the treatment of then-future Senator Jeremiah Denton, when he was a POW in Hanoi, 1966-1973:

    Denton’s torturers used their “standard” techniques of torture – they had starved him and then subjected him to “the ropes and iron bars.”

    Returned prisoners described the torturers’ use of “the ropes”.

    They said the North Vietnamese would pull the prisoners arms behind him and tie them together at the elbows.

    The prisoner’s wrists were then locked in “torture cuffs” and “jumbo irons” were placed over his ankles.

    A two-inch thick bar was slid through the “jumbo irons”.

    The torturers then looped a rope around the bar, over his shoulders, pulling the prisoner’s head between his knees.

    The prisoners were then forced to sit on a stool for days at a time.

    “They took me right off of that {the ropes}, with me like a vegetable, up all night for three nights, telling me that I was going to go before this interviewer,” Denton said describing the incident.

    Vietnamese torture took many forms, but basically, according to returned POWs, it boiled down to four types:

    beatings which either permanently crippled or killed the prisoner,

    deprivation of food and rest,

    solitary confinement for months at a time,

    and the intentional denial of medical treatment.

    The U.S. Department of Defense estimated in 1973 that the Communist Vietnamese had tortured to death more than 55 U.S. prisoners.

    Further descriptions of Vietnamese torture:

    Navy Lt. j.g. Everett Alvarez Jr. became the first American pilot shot down. … Alvarez, who ejected not far from shore, was captured by armed Vietnamese in a fishing vessel. By Aug. 11, he had been taken to Hanoi’s notorious Hoa Lo Prison, a turn-of-the-century French-built facility with thick two-story concrete walls known in Vietnamese as the “fiery furnace.” Rats infested his cell. Food, consisting of animal hooves, chicken heads, rotten fish, and meat covered with hair, was sickening.

    Navy Lt. j.g. Rodney A. Knutson, a radar intercept officer captured with pilot Lt. j.g. Ralph E. Gaither when their F-4 was shot down on Oct. 17, 1965, got an early taste of what lay ahead. His captors bound his arms so tightly that they lost circulation. He was denied food and water. He was beaten. When he still refused to cooperate, his torturers moved on to a new, more sinister method-the “rope torture.” Knutson was subjected to this technique on Oct. 25, 1965. The prisoner was forced face down onto a bunk with his ankles in stocks and a rope tied at his elbows, with the rope then pulled up to run through a hook in the ceiling. The guard hoisted the prisoner off the bunk so he could not ease any of his weight-producing extreme pain and constricting breathing.

    USAF Capt. Konrad W. Trautman suffered the rope torture on a dozen occasions. “The pain is literally beyond description,” said Trautman, who was shot down and captured Oct. 5, 1967. “After about 10 or 15 minutes in this position, tied up so tightly, your nerves in your arms are pinched off, and then your whole upper torso becomes numb. It’s a relief. You feel no more pain. … However when they release the ropes, the procedure works completely in reverse. It’s almost like double jeopardy-you go through the same pain coming out of the ropes as you did going in.”

    On July 6, 1966, 52 prisoners were assembled, blindfolded, handcuffed in pairs, and taken by truck to downtown Hanoi. The plan was to parade the Americans in public view and then use them as props in a war crimes show-trial to take place at a nearby stadium. This event came to be known as the “Hanoi March” and is viewed as a watershed in the propaganda war. “Oh boy, I love a parade,” quipped USAF Capt. Robert B. Purcell, captive since July 27, 1965, when his F-105 went down 30 miles west of Hanoi.

    The prisoners were prodded through the streets at the point of bayonets, past the Soviet and Chinese Embassies and through threatening crowds standing 10 deep. One prisoner estimated the crowd as high as 100,000. Guards incited the angry mob with loudspeakers. Over a two-mile route, the POWs were punched and pummeled by flying bricks and bottles.

    Air Force Capt. Earl G. Cobeil, captured on Nov. 5, 1967, feigned mental illness, as did some other POWs, to protect himself from the experimental brainwashing carried out by a dreaded Cuban interrogator. The Cuban, known among POWs as “Fidel,” convinced that Cobeil was faking, mercilessly beat him day after day. One day, Cobeil refused to bow. For the offense, Cobeil on May 21, 1968, was trussed in ropes overnight and mauled for 24 hours straight. Fidel, enraged, emerged from one torture session to shout to prisoners within earshot: “We’ve got [a POW] that’s faking. Nobody’s gonna fake and get away with it. … I’m gonna teach you all a lesson. … I’m gonna break this guy in a million pieces.” Cobeil was last seen in the fall of 1970 and did not return with the other POWs in 1973. The Vietnamese later reported Cobeil had died in November 1970; his remains were returned March 6, 1974.

    Vietnamese communists played the race card. Air Force Maj. Fred V. Cherry, the highest ranking black POW in the North, recalled his captors trying to exploit him by treating him differently. The Vietnamese housed Cherry with Navy Lt. Porter A. Halyburton in apparent hopes of sowing dissension between a black aviator and a white Southerner. The tactic backfired. Cherry later credited Halyburton with saving his life, when his injuries from being shot down became so infected that he had to be fed by hand and assisted with his bodily needs.

    Cherry’s resistance won him some of the war’s most severe exactions-including one 93-day stretch of unbroken torture and 53 straight weeks of solitary confinement.

    This is a far cry from the worst treatment at Gitmo, which seems to consist of dripping water, variable air conditioning, and loud pop music.

    Of 704 American POWs, 113 died in captivity. No prisoners have died at Gitmo.

    Instead, they learn to read

    Ismail Agha was a slight, illiterate village boy of 13 when his family last saw him 14 months ago. When he reappeared last week, he was three inches taller, his voice had deepened, his chin had sprouted a black beard and he had learned to read, write and do basic math.

    Ismail’s transformation occurred mostly at a place called Camp Iguana, a seaside compound within the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he and two other Afghan teenagers suspected of belonging to the Taliban militia were confined for more than 12 months, until their release Jan. 29.

    Transplanted to a modern U.S. military base half a world away, the shy village youth said he saw the ocean for the first time, played soccer, slept in an air-conditioned room and showered twice a day after growing up in a village without plumbing or electricity. “We could even turn the lights on and off when we wanted,” he said[.]

    Ismail said he was repeatedly asked whether he was with the Taliban or other Islamic groups, and repeatedly answered no. He said he was arrested by mistake while looking for construction work with a friend at an Afghan military camp in the town of Greshk, in central Helmand province. He said Afghan soldiers beat him and then turned him over to U.S. troops, who flew him by helicopter to Bagram.

    After more than a month at Bagram, Ismail said, he was warned that if he did not confess he would be sent to a terrible and distant place called Guantanamo. …

    Once he arrived at Guantanamo, Ismail said, he was astonished by the change.

    There were no more questions and no more threats, only school and exercise and Muslim prayers and dorm life with two other young Afghans he had never met before. He said both were from Paktia province, one his age and one a little younger, and that he knew them only as Asadullah and Naqibullah.

    The boys lived in a house with several rooms: a shared sleeping room and an adjoining room for eating and studying. On one side they could see the ocean, but the other three sides were blocked by high walls and barbed wire, and they never saw or spoke with the adult prisoners.

    Each day, Ismail said, they were taught English, Pashto and basic math by Afghan American teachers. They were also given copies of the Koran. Each night, four U.S. soldiers took turns sleeping in the second room. On Wednesday, he asked to send greetings to all of them, but said he never learned their names.

    Meanwhile, the Red Cross failed — or refused — to deliver his mail:

    When he first reached Guantanamo, he said, he asked a translator to write home on his behalf. After he learned to write in Pashto a little bit, he said, he wrote several letters and gave them to Red Cross delegates, who he said visited every one or two months.

    But last week, after Ismail was reunited with his father, he learned that most of the letters, addressed to relatives in Naw Zad, never reached his family in their village. For nearly one year, they knew nothing of his whereabouts.

    His father’s reaction:

    “I didn’t recognize my son even when he came up and kissed my hand,” Hayatullah said. “He was much taller and a little fatter, and he had a beard. Also, he told me he had learned to read.” The old man sat up and smiled. “My son got an education in America.”

  6. Different River Says:

    Durbin Apologizes?
    Ah, the saga of Senator Durbin — the number-two Democat in the Senate leadership — continues, and has broken into the mainstream media. And this, Durbin acknowledges, warrants some sort of response. The day after comparing American troops to “Naz…

  7. Different River Says:

    Dick Durbin, Guantánamo, and Vietnam (2)
    Responding to my initial post on the Dick Durbin scandal, Ollie (who has his own political blog here, and a very cool math blog here — this describes one of my favorite math mind-benders) commented:

    Had we read of our prisioners getting treated i…

  8. If Obama Wins, Should Republicans Hope Democrats Win HUGE? | American Sentinel Says:

    [...] You’ve got Charles Rangel comparing the US action in Iraq to the Holocaust; you’ve got Dick Durbin comparing American troops to Nazis;  you’ve got Barack Obama suggesting that our troops have to do more than just air raiding [...]

  9. If Obama Wins, Should Republicans Hope Democrats Win HUGE? « Start Thinking Right Says:

    [...] You’ve got Charles Rangel comparing the US action in Iraq to the Holocaust; you’ve got Dick Durbin comparing American troops to Nazis;  you’ve got Barack Obama suggesting that our troops have to do more than just air raiding [...]

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