Saturday, June 18, 2005

"Politics and war are remarkably similar situations." - Newt Gingrich

I wasn't going to say anything about this Durbin controversy because I thought it would play out like a Robert Byrd speech - yielding something in the Congressional Record for future historians, something for partisan bloggers to yammer about, and nothing of substance. Now our old friend Newt Gingrich has weighed in, and I'm kind of steamed about what he has done.

As you read this, remember that this is the same Newt Gingrich who was reprimanded by the full house (on a 395-28 vote) and fined $300,000.00 for violations of funding rules and lying to the ethics committee. Back in the day, he was so thoroughly discredited that he did not even take a House seat that he was elected to in 1998. However, he is a Republican, so all that is forgiven and forgotten. He's just a kindly elder statesman, like G. Gordon Liddy, Chuck Colson, Admiral Poindexter, Ollie North, ad nauseum.

You already know what Durbin said on the floor of the Senate recently:
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] 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.

Naturally, the Right has been all over him for saying 'Nazi' and 'gulag', and though no one has questioned the accuracy of the FBI report, he has sort of apologized for mentioning it in a way they were too damn stupid to understand in context. Now here comes Newt. He says a lot of stuff, like:

“Senator Richard Durbin has dishonored the United States and the entire U.S. Senate. Only by a vote to censure Senator Durbin for his conduct can the U.S. Senate restore its dignity and defend American honor,” Gingrich wrote.
He added, “It’s one thing for one Senator to endanger young Americans and defame America; it would the shame of the Senate if the other 99 Senators did not stand up to defend America and to defend the reputation of our young men and women in uniform.”
Gingrich continued, “It will also send a clear message to terrorists who will use the words of a Senate leader against us that the Senate stands in support of America and our military and against those who seek to destroy the free people of the United States.”
Gingrich also wrote that a censure would be “justified” and that there is “historic precedent for censuring Senators whose words bring dishonor and disrepute on the Senate and impair its dignity; Senator Durbin’s words fit that precedent.”

Okay, I'm pissed now. As a concerned citizen, I dash off a letter. I try to keep it brief...
Mr. Gingrich -

What brings dishonor and disrepute on the Senate is its cowardly refusal to hold the civilian leaders of our military accountable for creating policies that give rise to the conditions described in the FBI report that Durbin quoted.

The United States did not become a beacon of freedom to the world by covering up torture and censuring those who speak out against it.

Your partisan call for the censure of a Senator who spoke passionately in favor of simple human decency makes a mockery of the sacrifices of the soldiers who fight for our freedoms.

- de Selby

Now I'm rethinking what I wrote, and I wasn't nearly hard enough on him. Look what else he said:
“[Censure] will also send a clear message to terrorists who will use the words of a Senate leader against us that the Senate stands in support of America and our military and against those who seek to destroy the free people of the United States.”

It will send a clear message to terrorists that the US Senate endorses torture, and enforces a strict code of silence against anyone who speaks out against it.

This dustup started out as typical partisan bullshit. Newt Gingrich is trying to turn it into an assault not only on representative government, but on the moral foundation of our entire country. This is an outrage, and we must not stand for it.

If the Senate censures Dick Durbin, the terrorists will send up a cheer and sign up yet another new batch of recruits.

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