What's All This Then?

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Friday, June 17, 2005

It’s truly amazing. The RWRAR’s - and to anyone new to this blog, that stands for Right Wing Ranters and Ravers - not only haven’t been critical of Bill Frists’s involvement with the Terri Schiavo case, they supported his cynical political use of her condition when he stood up on the Senate floor and spouted the garbage that I referred to yesterday - and now I hear that they’re supporting his current position while looking for ways to discredit the autopsy report.

Yet, as we might expect, they have gone bananas in unison over what Dick Durbin said on the Senate floor the other day. He was talking about the controversy that is raging over the status and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and read one FBI report into the record as follows;
" When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here -- I almost hesitate to put them in the 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."
There’s little argument that what the report describes is torture. Some blowhards who have never had to face the business end of a gun or a bayonet might argue that electric shock to the genitals or near drowning is real torture and that what the report describes is just mild persuasion. Well, I challenge those people to subject themselves to exactly what the FBI agent described for just a day or two and see how they would describe it then. I guarantee you they would be screaming "torture" from about the first half hour of the "mild persuasion" on.

Having said that, I have to acknowledge that there are times when "persuasive" methods need to be used on prisoners who might have information about an impending attack. The Israelis have used those methods and have been roundly criticized for them. But they justify them by saying that when they know that a terrorist attack is imminent and they know that a prisoner in their custody has knowledge of when and where that attack is planned to be carried out - or are pretty damned sure that he has that knowledge - their job is to get that information any way that they can, in time to prevent loss of life. Under those kinds of conditions, they say, they don’t have the luxury of conforming to the restrictions of the Geneva Convention or any other generally accepted rules of behavior towards detainees taken prisoner during a period of conflict.

There isn’t a great deal of public knowledge about the people being held at Guantanamo, but it doesn’t seem likely that there’s anyone there who has knowledge of any imminent attack on the United States. Or that there is any other pressing need to extract information from prisoners with such methods - particularly prisoners who have been held there as long as three years!! So I don’t feel shocked at what Durbin said next;
"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
Durbin is a pretty good politician, so I’m a little surprised that he made the mistake of giving those who support what is going on at Guantanamo and elsewhere, or who don’t give a damn one way or another, an opportunity to divert attention away from the real issue and replace it with the phony issue of him "giving aid and comfort to the enemy."

They would still have lambasted him if he’d left out the names of regimes and just said "you would certainly believe this must have been done by a regime that had no concern for human beings." But he gave them ammunition to divert attention from the issue that troubles many members of Congress and millions of Americans - and made him the story of the day - very likely of a few days. And to their shame, the American Fourth Estate has fallen meekly in line in reporting Durbin’s comments as though they were the issue and not the subject of what he was talking about, while at the same time soft pedaling the growing evidence coming out of Ten Downing Street and elsewhere about what may be a true crime - taking this country to war on the basis of lies and deceit. You read this stuff and you cry out for a modern day Woodward and Bernstein and a twenty first century Deep Throat!!

I can’t remember a time in recent history where political partisanship has pushed rationality - and America’s true interests aside, in order to defend the policies of an American administration, no matter how cockeyed they have become. Whenever any policy or action is challenged nowadays as being opposed to American traditions and values, the answer that we get is, "well, we’re at war, aren’t we?"

To which I answer NO - we’re not at war. Except maybe in Iraq, where military resistance was supposed to have ended two years ago. There are terrorists in the world - individuals and groups who threaten many countries and we are one of their prime targets if not the prime target - and we have learned that we must be eternally vigilant and aware that we could be attacked at any time in the same manner as the 9/11 attack or in some other way. But these terrorists don’t comprise a sovereign nation and neither are they gathered in one country. There is no way we can be "at war" in the traditional sense where the outcome is determined by the defeat and/or the surrender of the nation or nations opposed to us in battle. A "war" against "terrorism" will never end - or at least not until the human race has matured to the point where violence itself is considered a sickness - an aberrant form of human behavior. And that nirvana, if it could ever be achieved, is centuries, maybe hundreds of centuries in the future.

So to conduct the business of this nation as though we are engaged in a war that can be won - with the idea that we’ll revert to a state of "normalcy" once "victory" had been achieved, is to ask us to accept a fundamental and open ended change in how we view individual rights - ours and those we consider to be our enemies.

That's a scary thing - and that, in my view, is what Senator Durbin’s comments were about - facing those who would harm us without descending to their valueless level - not the cacophonous, jingoistic smoke screen reaction coming from the far right. I’m glad to see him refuse to back away from what he said and I hope he’ll keep on saying it.