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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, apologized for stating that the treatment of prisoners in our alleged war on terror was more consistent with the philosophies of totalitarian, anti-democratic regimes than with the principles of American democracy. His apology came after Democrat colleagues endorsed the Bush-camp fabrication that he trivialized the Holocaust and insulted all our troops sent to Iraq by implying that they were all part of the scheme to haul prisoners around on dog leashes and make them wallow in their own feces. He did not say or imply those things, but the leadership of the party that cowers and pees in its pants over any accusations of assertiveness by their opponents bent over, dropped its pants, and said "Punish me again for daring to incur your wrath."
The fact was that Sen. Durbin read accounts from an FBI report and said the actions described were more consistent with those of viciously repressive regimes we have experienced in the past. His point was that Americans do not behave that way, and someone high in the military command let it happen. Sen. Durbin was speaking out for the values that every military person who ever dealt with prisoners was taught to practice. Sen. Durbin's apology indicates that America no longer holds those values.
Blogger JG on TPM Cafe said of Durbin's apology: "How infuriating. How unnecessary."
"This is miserable -- not simply because Durbin had nothing for which to apologize. The cultural symbolism of an abject, teary eyed Democrat relenting in the face of puffed-up nationalistic rhetoric by Republicans feeds into all of the entrenched political stereotypes that have for thirty years plagued the Democratic Party: that it's weak, morally rudderless, craven, and anti-military."
JG had it absolutely right. In apologizing, Sen. Durbin had it absolutely wrong. The Senator apologized for something he did not, in fact, say and for speaking out on the principles of equality, due process, and justice that our democracy proudly stood for at one time. Now to demonstrate patriotism and support of our troops, we are to accept the mistreatment of prisoners, ignore what is quickly becoming the most absurdly obscene war our nation has ever been cowed into, and to forget the fact that the fallen soldiers of Iraq are the dutiful and honorable victims of incompetence and dishonesty.
A number of veterans have pointed out that when they served their country, the higher links in the chain of command would be held responsible for the treatment of prisoners detailed in the FBI report from which Sen. Durbin read. Former non-commissioned officers have pointed out that they would have been court-martialed if enlisted personnel under their supervision had committed such acts and so would the commissioned officers over them. For the stupid shenanigans at Abu Ghraib, the military and its civilian commanders made a near-retarded woman their scapegoat. And got by with it, largely because Democrats did not want to risk being called unpatriotic by the slavering war-junkies who derive pleasure from seeing prisoners on dog leashes wallowing in feces.
Once again Democrats got diverted from the war on terror and let themselves become party to the war on liberalism. While a segment of rightwing nationalists are refining their hate rhetoric and propaganda, Democrats are doing exactly what Karl Rove accused them of--making nice and looking for some therapeutic way to conciliate with the quasi-fascist belligerence in our foreign policy that pushed us into Iraq. Humiliating and abusing prisoners does not get information; it only feeds the hatred behind the bombings. America needs to be a model of effectiveness and decency; not ineffectual indecency. It is right and proper to call the military who disgrace our standards of honor and decency into account. Doing so demonstrates the respect and support of our nation for those who discharge their duties with honor.
Sen. Durbin was assailed by playground bullies and made to say uncle. His apology misdirected attention way from the real moral issues revealed in that FBI report. It is tempting to say something smart like now he needs to apologize to all those people who feel that America was, in fact, disgraced by the actions described in that report. The commanders under whose watch those actions took place are the ones who need the military discipline.
But enough of this assinine demand for apologies. We need action based upon brain power. And we need brain power that knows how to practice the mandates of truth and justice. We need an opposition party to the Republicans that is not afraid to point out that they are engaged in a propaganda campaign of abuse and intimidation straight out of Orwell's 1984.
Most of all, we need a few good people who refuse to relinquish their right to free speech and a redress of grievances to those who confuse belligerence with patriotism.