Dick Durbin Under Siege: Day 6
A lot is being made of Senator Richard Durbin's (D-Illinois) comments regarding an FBI agent's report of abuse of detainees. Senator Durbin was right to speak out against the abuse, which was pretty bad:
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.
However, Senator Durbin went a bit over the top in comparing the acts of abuse to actions by Nazis, Soviets, and the Khmer Rouge. In so doing, the senator allowed conservative apologists for the Bush administration to deflect attention away from the abuse and toward Senator Durbin's not-quite-accurate analogy.
Meanwhile, many conservative commentators seem to have no problem with the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo. Perversely, they are more outraged by Senator Durbin's remarks.
Tom Bevan of Real Clear Politics dismissively compares the prisoner abuse to fraternity hazing, ignoring the critical distinction that fraternity hazing is consensual, while the abuse of prisoners is anything but consensual. Meanwhile, Mr. Bevan saves his criticism for Senator Durbin.
Earlier this evening on the Hugh Hewitt Show, Professor Hewitt characterized the abuse described by the FBI agent as "allowing [prisoners] to defecate on themselves." That's right, "allowing," as if the prisoners had a choice in the matter. Professor Hewitt called for the Senate to censure Senator Durbin, but made no condemnation of the abuse.
There's something very wrong with the conservative movement when conservatives are more outraged by a few impolitic words than by serious violations of human rights.