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Durbin Apologizes For Gitmo Remarks

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Under a mounting crush of criticism from the White House, Republicans in Congress, conservative talk radio, and bloggers galore for comparing alleged abuse by American troops of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center to the actions of Nazis, Soviets, the Khmer Rouge, and other “mad regimes,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) emotionally apologized yesterday on the Senate floor for making such comparisons.

Durbin said that “more than most people, a senator lives by his words” but that “occasionally words will fail us and occasionally we will fail words … Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies.”

He specifically noted the victims of the Holocaust, “the greatest moral tragedy of our time,” and U.S. troops. “I’m also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. When you look in the eyes of the soldiers you see your son and daughter. They are the best. I never, ever intended any disrespect for them.”

On June 14 in a speech to the Senate, Durbin quoted an FBI report decribing Guantanamo prisoners chained to their cells in extreme temperatures and deprived of food and water.

Then 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,” Durbin said. “Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

Durbin at first defended his statement, saying, “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.”

But, by last Friday he issued a statement saying, “I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said causes anybody to misunderstand my true feelings. Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support.”

And yesterday he took his apology to the floor of the Senate, concluding, “In the end, I don’t want anything that I may have said detract from the love for my country, my respect for those who bravely risk their lives each day for our security, and this Senate which I am so honored to serve as a member. I offer my apology for those offended by my words. I promise to speak out on the issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the nation.”

Republicans were receptive. “I think it was the right thing to do and the right thing to say to our men and women in uniform,” said White House press secretary Scott McClellan. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called Durbin’s apology “an honorable step.”

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About Eric Olsen

  • SFC SKI

    “historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood” A danger that many overlook.

  • Eric Olsen

    speakers under such scrutiny must remember that style is just as important as content

  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Yes – I would never buy a badly designed speaker just because it had a great sound-cone

  • Eric Olsen

    funny AND a great analogy

  • Georg

    The beatings will contunue until patriotism improves.

    Signed,

    Your Leaders

  • Eric Olsen

    as well they should

  • Jobu

    Just because he had a bad choice of words does not make them any less true. It does not matter in what context you place it, the mistreatment of people is wrong and this administration is condoning it.

  • Bill

    I always find it interesting that in the heat of slaming their polictical opponents, liberal politicians have no concern over who gets hurt. Do you really think that our enemies in our war on terror read Sen. Durbin’s appology? Or care for that matter.

  • Matt

    This was not an apology. This was “if I offended you, I’m sorry”, “if I stepped over the line”. Durbin still has not realized how he diminished what happened in Russia, Nazi Germany and Cambodia by comparing them to the discomfort of Guantanamo prisoners. There is no “if” about this. He was wrong and should not be in a leadership position.

  • Eric Olsen

    it sounds like an apology to me, and the Republicans responded well to it

  • http://wp.blogcritics.org Elle

    What happened is that the right-wing, ultra-religious, ultra-conservative simply blackmailed Durbin, as they have McCain and many others. (Why else would Sen. Durbin be tearful?) They don’t like it when somebody speaks the Truth. Bush & Co. are 100% unable to handle any sort of negative criticism. It’s his ‘MO,’ plain & simple. That’s how he ‘keeps’ his friends.

  • http://toddyarling.com todd

    I for one am tired of people apologizing for anything and especially for offending the Bush Administration.

    If his remarks are so outrageous and obviously untrue, then let it roll of your back and do what the Clinton’s do: “See the kind of things they say about us? Geez”

    But all this phony outrage from Bush and his minions… Why can’t they take criticism? If your cause is just, who cares? Its part of the territory.

    This is just more in a pattern of an insular, cloistered, us against them mentality that cannot abide anything less than 100% obedience and agreement.

    It is what caused the downfall of the left and what will hopefully soon cause the downfall of this horrible new right and then maybe us folks who hate both sides can pick up the pieces.

    And just to step it up a notch, Hitler could not stand it when people didn’t agree with him 100% and Bush is the same way.

    And so is Rush Limbaugh.

  • Eric Olsen

    the offense wasn’t to the administration but to our military personnel and the nation as a whole

  • Rod Stanton

    Again he did not apologize. Again he said the fault lies with dumb Americans that do not understand how bad America is.
    Had he said “Gitmo never has been and is not anything like the camps run by the Socialist Labor Party.”; that would be an apology.

  • http://www.imaginaryplanet.net/weblogs/idiotprogrammer Robert nagle

    I found his rhetoric perfectly appropriate (and not overblown at all). The implications of people’s criticism of Durbin (that you ought not to cite history, that you ought not to be outraged by abusive treatment of prisoners) says a lot about their commitment to universal human rights. The apology shows (to me at least) that once you drink the red koolaid you have to live with the consequences. A Republican who criticizes his own party ultimately is answerable to those who elected him.

    This “scandal” reveals how sensitive the military segment of society is to any kind of criticism. The underlying problem is lack of accountability. If we had signed on to the ICC or appointed a special prosecutor to investigate Gitmo (the conflict of interest with Gonzales makes this necessary) or gave more due process to Gitmo prisoners, politicians wouldn’t have to engage in such verbal jousting. We could have genuine accountability.

    A lot of social critics have made thoughtful comparisons between current international policies and odious regimes of the past. These criticisms are not mere intellectual exercises. Refusing to take these charges seriously suggests a blind faith in the ideology of self-righteousness.

    I am not as worried about political parties that eat their offspring as I am with the attempt to purge people with contrarian opinions who are outside the halls of power (see for example http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/1015-06.htm )

  • SFC SKI

    “This “scandal” reveals how sensitive the military segment of society is to any kind of criticism. ”

    Outright BS, Robert. The military has constantly investigated allegations of abuse and punished those necessary. I might add that the Joint Chiefs did not issue any statements regarding Sen Durbin. If anything, the uniformed military is not only good about taking criticism, it constantly seeks feedback as a way to improve the way it does business.

  • http://adamash.blogspot.com adam

    When will the Bush Admin, or the military leadership for that matter, apologize for dragging our country’s name through the mud?

  • Eric Olsen

    the administration’s first response is always to close ranks and deny access, although this is certainly not unusual it does lead to unnecessarily negative assumptions. For that reason I think an independent commission might be helpful for PR reasons, and PR counts.