One thing I learned well during the 2000 presidential campaign, thanks in part of friends and to websites like factcheck.org and Spinsanity, was to look at what was said, in context, and not just knee jerk reactions. This issue put my new skill to the test.
Sen Dick Durbin, D. Ill, as most of us know, made some outrageous comments last week, and I won't rehash it completely, but the gist of it is that he was describing alleged abuses at Gitmo, and after describing some detailed abuses, he said:
"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."
Now first, I am ex military and I take any abuses by the military very serious. I completely condemn any person who crosses that line between interrogation and abuse. However, I am also a staunch defender of the military against the attacks they have been subject to over the years, and I frequently find my hackles rising at rhetoric like this.
I looked closely at what he said. I examined it, read it in and out of context, and verified the accuracy of the quotes.
My conclusion is: Dick did not call the US servicemen Nazis.
What he said, in essence, is that the abuses he was detailing were more consistent with the gulags and nazis and such. A minor point of semantics, but its important. The reason it is so important is that nothing he described is remotely close in scope and magnitude to the millions killed by the Nazi's, the Gulags and Cambodian Killing fields. He can say anything he wants, but its a completely faulty comparison. There may be inhumane treatment happening, and that must be investigated, but lets stick to the facts, hmm?
What he wanted was shock value and he got it. He wanted to cause a widespread uproar, and he did, but not quite what he intended. He made a stupid comparison and most everyone rejects it. And honestly, there is plenty of room to criticize the treatment of detainees at Gitmo without resorting to anything like that. As a former Military guy, I was disgusted, but oddly unoffended.
Look, the military certainly-heck definitely-has more then its share of sadistic bastards. Shoot, I lived in the same dorm as some of them. Those sadistic SOBs who work in the prisons should be punished when their sadism over rides their oaths. And, there are overzealous interrogators who do cross the boundaries against humane treatment to extract information. They too should be prosecuted.
But these are the exceptions. Not the rule. Nothing Durbin said has anything to do with the overwhelming majority of the 2 million plus military personnel who serve honorably.
Durbin, in my opinion, is a moron, not a traitor.
More to the point, he is a skilled politician, and really in light of a lot of the things said daily by liberals, it wasn't all that bad. Al Franken can best it before his morning coffee gets cold.
He was trying to use the situation, and he miscalulated. But even with that said, he achieved his purpose, he got people talking about it.
And so to close this, Durbin, in a move that rather surprised me, made an apology on the floor of the Senate. On the whole it wasn't bad-for a politician. He offered a few excuses, mitigated it with some good intentions and all that, but mostly it was ok.
I only take minor issue with one line of the Senators apology:
"I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military"
Um, no offense, Senator, but exactly who did you think runs Gitmo?
You had every intention of casting them in a negative light. You just went a bit too far trying to make your point..