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June 22, 2005

Durbin Thoughts

-- by Dave Johnson

Durbin caved. By apologizing he confirmed everything the public has been hearing about his comments. Whatever words he used, the country again hears that Democrats are the problem and a Democratic Senator has admitted it.

How does the public hear these things, framed the way the Right wants them framed? Just to demonstrate one "channel" through which the Right's propaganda is spread, let's look at the pattern on the Internet. Monday I wrote that there were already 17,600 hits on Google for websites with the words "Durbin" and "treason". Today there are 21,400. (And 28,700 for "Durbin" and "traitor.") This channel is in addition to talk radio, letters to the editor, newspaper columnists and TV pundits. And then over time there will be the e-mail chain letters, magazine articles, etc. all referring to Durbin's confession as proof that Democrats are traitors, etc.

What did the apology buy him? (And us?) Here are a few examples of responses to Durbin's apology:

Dallas Morning News:

He says he's sorry that his ill-advised words comparing U.S. military interrogators to the most tyrannical regimes of the 20th century have been twisted to make it sound as if he doesn't support our troops, which he really, really does.

[. . .] Hey, we're sorry, too.

We're sorry that anything else Mr. Durbin might say about allegations of torture at Guantánamo Bay simply cannot be believed, thanks to his way-over-the-top screed.

We're sorry that in his haste to score political points against the Bush administration, he chose to squander his credibility by linking U.S. troops to despots who killed millions of innocent people.

We're sorry that at this key moment in the war on terror, when democracy demands a full and open debate on all U.S. policies and tactics, he so devalued his own voice and potential contributions.

We're sorry that Mr. Durbin woke up this morning still the Senate's assistant minority leader – the second-ranked Democrat – and that it apparently hasn't occurred to fellow Democrats that he should step down from the leadership.

NewsMax:

Durbin's sorry, all right. Sorry he got a tender portion of his political anatomy caught in the wringer. Not sorry because he thought the unthinkable, spoke the unspeakable. [. . .] This is the sleazy way politicians have of issuing non-apology apologies. And Dick Durbin is as sleazy as they get. Whenever parents in Illinois – or anywhere across this blessed land – wish to hold a public official up as a role model for a child, Durbin's not their man.
Glendale News
The nasty piece of verbal invective you hurled at honorable US Military personnel won't ever come back. Such wantonly emotional rantings, just part and parcel of the invective shown by democrat US Senators during the Bush Administration, don't come back...
... The "Gentleman" from Illinois has yet to make a real apology for the nastiness that flowed from his mouth on the floor of the United States Senate, the supposed model of courteous debate for democracies around the world.

... In fact, democrat US Senators have turned the United States Senate into a mean-spirited institution that is filled with vile acrimony. This is now an institution that provides juicy tidbit quotations for use by the enemies of our noble country and fills terrorist publications with vindication for their wanton murder of innocents and their brutal repression of everything associated with the very ideal of democracy.

Way to go Durbin. We're all in a little bit more danger today than we were Monday.

Update - See also Steve Gilliard:

It is that kind of continued gutllessness in the face of rank GOP corruption which enrages many Democrats. We are tired of leaders who will not fight, especially when 15 or so of your collegues can take a pro-lynching stand and have nothing to pay for.

[. . .] We both know the defense of torture at Guantanamo is reprehenshible, the report you read from came from an FBI agent. Yet because you lost your nerve, you became the issue and not the report. We know most service members are not torturers. But there are those that are and who shame this country and we need to acknowledge that.

People were ready to stand up for you, it's a shame you wouldn't stand up for yourself.

Kos:
Torture isn't a partisan issue. And by apologizing, Durbin caved to those who worked their best to turn it into one. And the right-wing partisans rejoice -- content in their ability to trivialize what is one of the most serious issues facing us morally, as a nation, and practically, on the battleground.
And a must-read by eRobin at American Street:
Now, with Sen. Durbin broken by the mob, the Right Wing Noise Machine has claimed another victim - plus the hundreds or maybe thousands of victims of torture whose voices are silenced along with his - plus the millions of Americans who continue to have torture perpetrated in our names.

Posted by Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 1:25 PM

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Comments

Considering that 70% of Americans think the prisoners at Gitmo are treated "about right" or "better than they deserve" (and only 20% say "unfair", not "tortured" but "unfair") and considering that the Democratic party (as well as the GOP) is fueled by cash (and like a SUV it needs constant refilling) this was the only decision Durbin could make. If he had "grew a spine" he would have alienated 80% of the country, and maybe even part of the 20% who said "unfair".

Finally, I don't see why people care, these people are not covered under the 14th amendment nor under the Geneva Conventions (in fact the GC allows for summary executions of the prisoners, when they wer e originally caught). None of the acts listed in the memo come close to the level of torture (mistreatment maybe, but not torture), the one which does (turning off the A/C) is laughable due to the fact that soldiers at Gitmo regularly have their A/C breakdown and have to live in such conditions (the soldiers get military issue A/Cs which are of poor quality, the prisoners get the best money can buy). The speech was laughable and did not fulfill the smell test.

Posted by: Pericles at June 22, 2005 2:23 PM

Correction: "I see why people don't care"

sorry, my dyslexia was exerting itself.

Posted by: Pericles at June 22, 2005 2:27 PM

If dems had any guts (ha!) they'd demand Durbin resign. Not because he spoke the self-evident truth, of course, but for cowardice.

Fat chance.

The democrat party is a total fucking disgrace.

Posted by: richard at June 22, 2005 2:27 PM

OF COURSE they are covered under the Geneva Conventions. I've read them, have you?

And what is WRONG with trials?

"in fact the GC allows for summary executions of the prisoners, when they wer e originally caught"

Oh, please.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 2:30 PM

Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec. 2:

Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, ***are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population***, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war.

The prisoners at Gitmo were not part of fulfill these requirements: they were not uniformed, they intentionally blended into the population*; they were not part of a command structure, and they were not civilians. Simply put, they were not covered under the Geneva convention.

And don't get me started about the non-uniformed bandits attacking civilians...

*Even members of armed forces who go sans-uniform (for examples spies and snipers) are not covered and can be summarily executed by enemy forces

Posted by: Anonymous at June 22, 2005 2:41 PM

that was me

Posted by: Pericles at June 22, 2005 2:42 PM

You also forgot to place Chicago Mayor Daley's, who is also a Democrat from a family of Democrats, demand for Durbin to apologize.

Posted by: Pericles at June 22, 2005 2:57 PM

First, quoting only PART of the convnetions, and leaving out the parts THAT COVER THE PEOPLE AT GUANTANAMO is just dishonest.

But the premise - that the people at Guantanamo wouldn't be there if they were not "terrorists" --- what about people like the fucking cab driver who was accidentally taken to Guantanamo? What about the people who were SOLD FOR BOUNTY?

And the worst part of your premise -- THAT AMERICA SHOULD TREAT PEOPLE AS IF THEY WERE NOT COVERED BY THE LAWS OF WAR! That International Law should not be respected! Under ANY conditions!!!

You are talking about AMERICA!!!!

Sickening!

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:06 PM

Human Rights Watch: "Article 5 requires the establishment of a competent tribunal only "[s]hould any doubt arise" as to whether a detainee meets the requirements for POW status contained in Article 4. The argument has been made that the detainees clearly do not meet one or more of the four requirements for POW status contained in Article 4(A)(2) - that they have a responsible command, carry their arms openly, wear uniforms with distinct insignia, or conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. However, under the terms of Article 4(A)(2), these four requirements apply only to militia operating independently of a government's regular armed forces - for example, to those members of al-Qaeda who were operating independently of the Taliban's armed forces. But under Article 4(A)(1) these four requirements do not apply to "members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militia … forming part of such armed forces." That is, this four-part test would not apply to members of the Taliban's armed forces, since the Taliban, as the de facto government of Afghanistan, was a Party to the Geneva Convention. The four-part test would also not apply to militia that were integrated into the Taliban's armed forces, such as, perhaps, the Taliban's "55th Brigade," which we understand to have been composed of foreign troops fighting as part of the Taliban.

Administration officials have repeatedly described the Guantanamo detainees as including both Taliban and al-Qaeda members. A competent tribunal is thus needed to determine whether the detainees are members of the Taliban's armed forces (or an integrated militia), in which case they would be entitled to POW status automatically, or members only of al-Qaeda, in which case they probably would not be entitled to POW status because of their likely failure to meet the above-described four-part test. Until a tribunal makes that determination, Article 5 requires all detainees to be treated as POWs."

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:13 PM

Continued: As Article 4(A)(3) of the Third Geneva Convention makes clear, recognition of a government is irrelevant to the determination of POW status. It accords POW status without qualification to "[m]embers of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the detaining power." That is, the four-part test of Article 4(A)(2) applies only to militia operating independently of a government's armed forces, not to members of a recognized (Article 4(A)(1)) or unrecognized (Article 4(A)(3)) government's armed forces. Thus, whether a government is recognized or not, members of its armed forces are entitled to POW status without the need to meet the four-part test.

This reading of the plain language of Article 4 is consistent with sound policy and past U.S. practice. As a matter of policy, it would undermine the important protections of the Third Geneva Convention if the detaining power could deny POW status by simply withdrawing or withholding recognition of the adversary government. Such a loophole would swallow the detailed guarantees of the Third Geneva Conventions - guarantees on which U.S. and allied troops rely if captured in combat. This reading is also consistent with past U.S. practice. During the Korean War, the United States treated captured Communist Chinese troops as POWs even though at the time the United States (and the United Nations) recognized Taipei rather than Beijing as the legitimate government of China.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:14 PM

Continued: Article 17 provides that POWs are obliged to give only their name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. Failure to provide this information subjects POWs to "restriction" of their privileges. However, nothing in the Third Geneva Convention precludes interrogation on other matters; the Convention only relieves POWs of the duty to respond. Whether or not POW status is granted, interrogators still face the difficult problem of encouraging hostile detainees to provide information, with only limited tools available for the task. Article 17 states that torture and other forms of coercion cannot be used for this purpose in the case of POWs. But the same is true for all detainees, whether held in time of peace or war. (See, e.g., Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the U.S. has ratified: "No exceptional circumstance whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture." See also Articles 4 and 5, making violation of this rule a criminal offense of universal jurisdiction.)

Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention provides that POWs shall not be "exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind" for their refusal to provide information beyond their name, rank, serial number, and date of birth. That would preclude, for example, threats of adverse treatment for failing to cooperate with interrogators, but it would not preclude classic plea bargaining - that is, the offer of leniency in return for cooperation - or other incentives. Plea bargaining and related incentives have been used repeatedly with success to induce cooperation from members of such other violent criminal enterprises such as the mafia or drug traffickers. These would remain powerful tools for dealing with the Guantanamo detainees even if a competent tribunal finds some of them to be POWs.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:15 PM

I'm not saying that we should not respect international law; to the contrary, I am saying that our treatment of them is well within a healthy respect for international law: we could have just executed them, but we did not, we gave them posh accomodations (much better than I received in my college dorms for example)

Also, think about if we were to close down Gitmo, what would happen? Of course there would be the ones who return to terrorism, that is one concern. But a bigger concern is that most would be captured by their respective govs and most likely executed (as they were outcasts and criminals in their home nation)

Posted by: Pericles at June 22, 2005 3:19 PM

Anyway, this has even been decided in American courts: Judge Grants Guantanamo Detainees Rights

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:24 PM

Your idea that they could have been executed is preposterous and, frankly, childish. It is not even worth discussing. It degrades America to even put it into discussiona nd you should be ashamed of yourself as an American for even suggesting that.

"think about if we were to close down Gitmo, what would happen?"

They would be brought to the U.S. The ones who were combatants for the Afghanistan governemnt (Taliban) would be held as POWs until that conflict is over. Members of al Queda would be put on trial to see if they had participated in anything punishable UNDER THE LAW.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at June 22, 2005 3:28 PM

For a libertarian, Pericles, you're awfully trusting in the perfection of governmental determinations -- verdict first, trial never! All OK with Pericles!

Posted by: richard at June 22, 2005 5:06 PM

Apparently telling the truth in America is now un-American, objectively pro-terrorist, and an abject breach of manners for which one must apologize. So Senator Durbin HAD to apologize. After all, telling the truth is downright, well, WRONG, in George W. Bush's America.

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at June 22, 2005 5:20 PM

Durbin proves to be just another chickenshit fucking democrat. He should have stood up and spit in their fucking eye. Apologize for telling the truth? As soon as Dickmouth Cheney apologizes for telling Leahy to go fuck himself.

Posted by: Vinnie at June 22, 2005 6:00 PM

Pericles, your statement, "70% of Americans think the prisoners at Gitmo are treated "about right" or "better than they deserve" is explained by your other statement, "...we gave them [the detainees] posh accomodations (much better than I received in my college dorms for example)."

Did you hear about the American soldier suing for millions for getting the sh*t beat out of him (to the point of potential brain damage) by American guards? Did you receive regular beatings at your dorm for truant behavior? Could you leave your dorm room to take a piss? Did you sleep naked in front of everyone, bound hand and foot? Did you sh*t yourself and pull out your own hair? Could I come into your dorm at night and beat the living sh*t out of you and demand you give me answers to things you don't anything about?

If you said yes to all of the above, then maybe you have a point.

Posted by: Bribes at June 22, 2005 11:43 PM

Why do we think Pericles is a libertarian? How could a libertarian possibly assume an individual was guilty without a fair, impartial hearing? Is Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift a traitor? Lawyer Says Military Tried to Coerce Detainee's Plea:

A military defense lawyer told a Senate hearing on Wednesday that when military authorities first asked him to represent a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, he was instructed that he could negotiate only a guilty plea.

The lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. Charles D. Swift of the Navy, who represents a Yemeni, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, said that he regarded the effort, in December 2003, "as a clear attempt to coerce to Mr. Hamdan into pleading guilty."

Is Pericles one of those quasi-libertarians who limit the right of liberty to white Christians? Is it OK to execute or torture innocent people as long as they are brown skinned Muslims?

I watched Lt. Cmdr. Swift's testimony on CSPAN. He said it was the first time he was ashamed of military justice.

Lew Rockwell is a principled libertarian. Justin Raimondo is a principled libertarian. Whatever else he may be, Pericles is not a principled libertarian.

Posted by: GaryBoatwright at June 23, 2005 2:49 AM

Over at The Left Coaster, eriposte makes the case for moral clarity:

[N]ot only is torture a crime, indefinitely imprisoning or torturing people who are potentially innocent, with no regard for whether they are really innocent or guilty, is also a crime. (I expanded on this somewhat with the analogy of Blacks and a potential (unacceptable) response to lynching.) So, what does this all mean? It means simply that if you condone, support, minimize, or excuse criminal acts then you are a shill for criminals. It's as simple as that. . . .

Progressives want to make sure that America protects the innocent and punishes the guilty. Progressives are advocates for security, freedom, liberty, and democracy. . . .

The Far Right (such as the O'Reillys and Hannitys and Limbaughs) are shills for criminals.

We can add faux libertarian Pericles to the list of shills for criminals.


Posted by: GaryBoatwright at June 23, 2005 4:13 AM

Listening to the hearings on "reforming" the UN, i.e. remaking it in our image only and to suit our tastes, one of the complaints is that they don't do enough about -- you guessed it -- torture.

Posted by: MJ at June 23, 2005 6:24 AM

There have been no charges lodged against these people so as far as is "legally" known, they are not guilty of any charges. Yet many of these people have been kept locked up for years now. They are not allowed to see a lawyer, the Red Cross is barred from visiting them, in many cases their families still don't know where they are. Is this the way America treats people who have not been found guilty of any crime? Under the
"Bush law" of enemy combatant, any one of us could be arrested and brought to Gito to suffer the same type of "fair" treatment that the rest of them are under. We could be held without charges, without access to a lawyer, without any type of due process. Would that make us guilty?
We, who are writing these blogs are already suspect. The government is now supervising the internet and is attempting to find ways to control what information can and cannot be shared legally. We may be the next prisoners at Gitmo.

Posted by: Jane Algozzini at June 23, 2005 6:50 AM

beyond GC, Beautiful Horizons had a very good post some time ago, breaking down process by which CAT(Convention Against Torture) was created/ratified and made law (supported by Reagan). A couple snippets....

(...) signed into law which essentially made torture a crime under United States Law and provided for jurisdiction by the US regardless of where torture is committed provided either the "the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender." This law is commonly referred to as either the CAT implementing legislation or the Torture Statute.

...

Q: Aren't there exceptions when torture can be justified?

A: No, Article 2 Paragraph 2 states "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Posted by: jdm at June 23, 2005 10:38 AM

Everyone, 28 years ago, my first son was born. We were proud, he was tiny and beautiful and as the family gathered at the hospital viewing window for the nurse to lift the boy up for a better view, my wifes younger brother started to sling little verbal jabs and snide remarks at various members of the gathering. He was an annoying little rat of a kid who did this sort of thing by nature (don't know why he turned out that way). So after about ten minutes of this he had most of the groups' annoyed attention on him and he had backed himself up against the viewing window placing himself so as to obstruct the view. you see the point here? The guy was so desparate and insecure that he was willing to take everyones anger and annoyance, just for the attention. how pathetic!
Durbin fucked up. Pericles get away from the window.

Posted by: backwoods at June 23, 2005 1:34 PM

Durbins only "sin" was to back down. But then he had, not only the Republicans attacking him but also his fellow Democrats. I find it amazong that the Repubs. support each other even when so obviously wrong but the Democrats can't seem to be able to wait until they can attack another Democrat so they can look good to the Repubs.
What is not being stated is that Durbin was not responsible for the backlash. Durbin mearly read an FBI report citing these things. It was the fact that these things have been going on for the past few years with the knowledge of this administration that has been insulting to the Muslim world as well as other religious factions. It is the fact that the FBI has finally made the rumors "facts" that was caused the explosion. We have been told this for years and the Arab world has been told the same thing but before this, there had been no hard. documented proof. Then came the pictures of the "detainees" in their forced positions which was minimized to a few rotten apples. The FBI report blew the lid off the administrative lies. If there had never been this disgraceful treatment then there would never have been the FBI report. Durbin was right to bring this report out of the closet. It was the Repubs. who made the spin to blame Durbin for the backlash instead of blaming themselves for allowing this behavior to continue on at gitmo as well as other holding pens for the hundreds of detainees. So, in effect, we killed the messenger.

Posted by: Jane Algozzini at June 27, 2005 7:44 AM

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