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Monday, June 20, 2005

I heart Gitmo

You have to excuse me. I’m extremely nervous these days about federal agents asking my librarian what I’ve been reading. There’s also that issue of why I regularly email a professor in Egypt. Even worse in the eyes of Homeland Security – why is the godfather to my youngest son an Arab? In these days of the Patriot Act and Freedom Fries you got to be more careful in what you read or say. Anything less ain’t being a good American. It’s downright disloyal to those brave men and women serving in our armed forces.

In the spin world of the Bush League you need to march in lock step. Anything less and the Bush Spinmeisters pull that “disloyal to the troops” line. Ask Illinois Senator Richard Durbin. You would have thunk he rustled cattle from the Bush Ranch while he planned a garden party fundraiser for Osama Bin Ladin. Durbin’s crime was an effort at a candid debate about the humanitarian and international PR nightmare known as Gitmo.

Here's what Durbin said:
“When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. 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.”
The Righteous Right is pounding Durbin for mentioning Gitmo in the same breath with Nazis. The Bushmen know the trump card of being disloyal to our troops plays well with the public. Between pot shots from official GWB propaganda operatives at Fox Nooz, Durbin fired back, “My statement in the Senate was critical of the policies of this Administration, which adds to the risk our soldiers face."

GWB practices a “don’t ask don’t tell policy” toward Muslim detainees and winks in a folksy manner at the Geneva Convention. Durbin is not a bleeding heart Liberal , but an important independent voice in a democracy. He sees the damage to international support and to the principles of freedom the U.S. advocates. Are we bullies? What should that “shining city on a hill,” that President Reagan talked about represent? If we are fighting for democracy we have to represent the change we want to implement in the Middle East.

A quote by Avi Schlaim, an Israeli historian, on the issue of comparisons to Nazi Germany (in this instance referring to Israeli government and military leaders, but the parallel works here as well) says it best: "The issue isn't whether or not we are the same as the Nazis, the issue is that we aren't different enough."