Friday, June 17, 2005

What Senator Dick Durbin said

What Senator Dick Durbin said about "Git'mo" in the Senate:

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."

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.

It's pretty hard for this ole boy to find anything to object to in Senator Durbin's remarks. Seems to me that he's warning all of us that we've gotten off the track down there in Guantanamo, that we're not behaving like we want to behave. Same with the earlier photos and reports from Abu Ghraib, in Iraq. Who, really, is going to defend that appalling "Christmas Tree" photo? Certainly not Donald Rumsfeld. He was appalled and said so. We may wonder why Mr. Rumsfeld was so inattentive to activities that are essentially under his ultimate command, but he did, finally, reject them.

So we all ought to wonder just what it is that drives the right-wing pundits to attack Sen. Durbin, to suggest that he's a traitor for making the above remarks. The basic idea that all dissent is treasonous, which gets a lot of play whenever things are going wrong, needs to be studied, observed, and rejected for what it is--a smokescreen, a projection. It is the policies that are wrong, not the objections. Torturing people is wrong, and we already know that. It's wrong for any number of reasons, some of which are essentially selfish. But we know it's wrong just in itself, just as we know that some of the people held in "Git'mo" are probably innocent of anything other than being in the "wrong place at the wrong time."

As a democracy, we are all responsible for the actions taken in our name. America runs the prison in Guantanamo. It's our Army who staffs the place. Senator Durbin does all of us a service when he points out something our own FBI has reported--that prisoners are being tortured there. To argue about the exact definition of "torture" is quibbling. No one would seriously deny that the descriptions in his remarks above are descriptions of torture. That even worse things can be done to humans by other humans is not the question. Torture is not just the very worst thing we humans can think up to do. We already know that all too well. (Mr. Limbaugh once compared the pictures at Abu Ghraib to fraternity pranks--if so, that should explain why universities around the US frequently ban specific fraternities from campus, and why all universities have rules against "hazing.")

America, at it's most basic level, at least aims to build a world where people are not tortured. At least that. Surely we can all still agree on this much. Surely this agreement actually "supports our troops" and supports some grounding from which civilized dialog can eventually grow again amongst all of us. We share the lifeboat, after all.

--Bill Hicks, Silk Hope, June 17, '05

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