Thursday, June 23, 2005


Now That I've Calmed Down...

I'll give this another go.

I’m not going to try and explain why Sen. Durbin used the terms Nazi and Gulag and the like. I don’t have any idea what would prompt him to do so. I have to assume that only he knows. But in the rush to point a finger at him, we, the American public along with the media, are making a terrible mistake. We’re clearly missing the forest, so to speak.

With all of the attention being focused on those few words, we have glossed over the most important part of Durbin’s message. We are committing some attrocius acts in the name of America. In my opinion, this speech should have elicited a much different response. It should have caused all Americans to ask themselves this one simple question:

Let’s look at the Nazis for a minute. Certainly, we can all agree that they were abhorrent. The acts perpetrated by the Nazis were despicable. But at what point did they become despicable? When did they cross that line? Was it when they forced the Jews to register and identify themselves with the star upon their clothing? Was it when they confined them to the slums? Was it when they interned them in the forced labor camps? Or did they only cross the line when they gassed them by the dozens? At some point, the Nazis crossed that line of what we are willing to tolerate and that is what made them awful. Some would say that the simple feeling of hatred toward the Jews was when the line was crossed. The point is, they crossed it and when they did they committed what is one of the most heinous acts in history.

Now, let’s look at what we’re doing in Guantanamo Bay. According to the FBI report read by Durbin, detainees were “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. “ The question we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to tolerate this. And remember, whatever we are willing to tolerate from our own detention centers and interrogators we should be expected to tolerate equal treatment when it is perpetrated against our own soldiers.

So ask yourself, “Could I tolerate my son/daughter/father/husband/cousin/etc. being chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor while they were forced to lie in their own excrement?” For most of us, this crosses that line. This goes beyond what we are willing to endure. Republicans, Democrats, it doesn't matter. This is too much. Is it on par with gassing millions of people? I can only answer, "Not yet."

As some conservatives have pointed out, this may not have even been an American interrogator who was responsible for this abuse. It really doesn't matter, though. It was carried out at one of our facilities and our unwillingness to even acknowledge it reflects poorly upon us. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, this was done in our name and we are therefore responsible.

By focusing our attention not on what Durbin said but on how he said it, we are acting as though the rest of the statement was of no consequence. Just because Durbin closed with some statements that could be construed as offensive, doesn’t mean that the entire speech is without merit. If I came up with a cure for cancer and then promptly went next door and murdered my neighbors, that would make me a murderer, but it wouldn’t mean that the cure was ineffective. We can’t ignore the point of Durbin’s speech because some were offended by one sentence.

By simply glossing over the issue and wasting our time pointing fingers I’m afraid that we’re sending the signal to the rest of the world that we are willing to tolerate what is being done in our name. This to me is the real crime here. Conservatives can dislike Durbin all they want. I’m sure that if the voters are truly offended they will take it out on him when he is up for reelection. But we can’t ignore what is happening.

One of the more popular retorts from conservatives is that Hitler murdered millions as did Pol Pot and the Soviets. This is how they are justifying their outrage. Well, I'm sorry. You can't claim that you aren't wrong because someone else did something worse. They're right, Hitler and the others did kill millions, but would it have been alright if they had only killed say 500,000? What if they had only killed 10,000? Could we live with that? No, of course we couldn't. The truth is, one killed was too many and we all know it. Anyone, Democrat or Republican, that claims otherwise is nothing but a bigot.

So if it came down to it, how many deaths would we be willing to tolerate at Guantanamo. Is one too many? Will we have crossed the line if somebody dies? What about 10? 100? 1,000? Where are we going to draw that line? Because if we are willing to look the other way on what's happening now, it only seems logical that we will keep looking away until it goes too far. I would have hoped that we would have drawn our line long before things got to this point but that didn't happen. It needs to happen now.

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