Time For Unanimous Outrage At Durbin

June 20, 2005

It’s important that we don’t let Dick Durbin off the hook too quickly. And, it’s important that we not let his shills and enablers turn the tables by saying Republicans are merely attacking him to switch the subject from our alleged abuse of terrorist POWs.

That’s basically what Fox News’ Juan Williams did when he grudgingly admitted that Durbin’s likening of Gitmo to the genocidal Soviet, Cambodian and Nazi regimes was over the top. The decent, though persistently misguided Williams said that Durbin’s crude comparison should not detract from his very important point: that America is abusing prisoners in Guantanamo.

Precisely the reverse is true, Juan. Your reiteration of the bogus charges of torture at the hands of the American military in lame defense of the disloyal and unrepentant Illinois senator must not detract our attention from the unconscionably seditious and unretracted slander he uttered.

Durbin refused to apologize, blaming his hearers for misunderstanding his words, but standing by their content. He did not pretend his statements were made in error, though some of his defenders have said just that, recasting his subsequent remarks as though he’d sheepishly confessed to misspeaking.

Such a ploy doesn’t pass the laugh test for anyone watching the video of Durbin’s outburst, because he was clearly reading from a prepared, written statement. He knew precisely what he was saying, having crafted his exact words for maximum effect prior to taking the Senate floor.

Durbin’s utterance of the remarks after plenty of time for cool and calm reflection coupled with his stubborn unwillingness to apologize eliminate the need for further discussion as to whether he merely misspoke. He may not have anticipated any backlash and thus regrets having brought himself into mild disrepute, but that’s a far cry from having a change of heart about the words he spoke.

I applaud those Republican Congressmen who have publicly denounced Durbin for this outrage, but believe such denunciations have been too few and too tame. They have also failed to take to task the entire Democratic Party leadership, starting with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, for either affirmatively defending Durbin or neglecting to rebuke him.

This is a party that purports to care about America’s image in the world. This is a party that indignantly insists it supports America’s military. But in standing by Durbin and refusing to contradict his charges about systematic torture by America’s troops (which is what Durbin has to be saying for his abominable comparisons to make any sense at all), the Democrats have done more to harm America’s international image and undermine and jeopardize our military than anything they falsely imagine President Bush to have done.

It’s not just that Al Jazeera is gleefully broadcasting Durbin’s infernal indictment throughout the Muslim world; it spouts anti-American propaganda every day. It’s that the entire Democratic Party, in effect, is affirming the substance of his charges.

We can’t just chalk this up to the usual partisan bickering. The Democrats’ recklessness in permitting such a negative impression of America transcends party politics by light years. All responsible Democrats must shout to the world in no uncertain terms that America, as a matter of philosophy, policy and practice treats its prisoners of war better and more humanely than has any other war captor in world history — bar none, and that any departures are a rare exception to the rule.

And Republicans, for their part, mustn’t stop with their sporadic condemnation of Durbin. This isn’t just about Durbin, as despicable as his statements were. Now it really is about our image and our reputation as a good and decent nation. Republicans must declare in one voice that we treat our POWs fairly and decently.

In the meantime, we should unapologetically reserve the moral and legal right to get tough with prisoners when it is necessary to glean information from them that might — and did — save American (and other innocent) lives. We have ceded far too much ground to the political-correctness bullies’ demand that we conduct the war like a pristine criminal trial and treat prisoners of war like harmless traffic offenders.

The Senate should censure and shun Sen. Durbin forthwith for aiding and comforting the enemy not with factual information that happens to place America, the Bush administration and our military in a bad light, but with gross and malicious distortions — inexplicably if Durbin truly is a patriot — to the unspeakable detriment of America and our troops.

This matter must stay on the front burner — even though Democrats will cry dirty politics when they ought to be joining the condemnation chorus — and the administration should take the offensive in sternly rebuking Durbin and praising our troops and their treatment of war prisoners. Shame on Sen. Durbin and any and all standing by him at his lowest moment.