Monday, June 20, 2005

No Excuse for Durbin

Andrew Sullivan says you have to "doubt the FBI interrogator who witnessed the appalling treatment of some detainees at Guantanamo" to take offense at Sen. Durbin's remarks.

I suppose that's true if you see no logical need to connect the content of the FBI agent's emails and Durbin's remarks, or explain what Durbin was tying to accomplish with his words when he compared Gitmo to the worst totalitarian death camps known throughout human history.

For Durbin's comparison to be rational in the first place, wouldn't there have to be some factual parallel between the severity, indiscriminateness or pervasiveness of treatment reported by the FBI agent at Gitmo and historical accounts from Nazi and Soviet death camps?

By all three measures, Durbin's historical parallels with the FBI agent's emails were way off base. The mistreatment reported (in as few as two observations, presumably the worst examples out of how many total?) was not severe by either domestic or international, much less historical, standards of coercive interrogation or prisoner abuse. Moreover, the FBI agent's emails are silent as to the prior criminal conduct or culpable knowledge of the subject detainees, which may have provoked if not justified treatment that is severe when compared to the Gitmo routine.

Not everyone within listening distance is likely to be surprised or offended when they hear that a jihadi combatant (whose preference may be to wear high explosives) might resort to tearing his own hair out when his homicidal transit to paradise is frustrated by the reality of indefinite internment.

Even if you think the worst enemy combatants should be treated like J-walkers and you take the FBI agent's word as gospel (or is that being insensitive to the Koran?), why didn't Durbin make a more proportional historical comparison. For instance, the mistreatment of prisoners in his home state of Illinois under the watch of the Democrat Sheriff of Cook County?

Alas, like Amnesty International, Durbin knows how to play the international press attention game using not "exactly literal" gulag analogies.

At best, Durbin is a reckless idiot if he actually thought a hostile international press would lend his comments the proportionality that he failed to provide himself. Otherwise, Durbin served up to the country's enemies exactly what they wanted from him: a false sound bite from a senior Democrat in the US Senate about the overall conduct of US forces in Gitmo and around the world.

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