Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Flow My Tears, the Senator Said

Alright, I'm getting over my perfectionism to return to this blog. I'm putting forward political opinions here that aren't perfect, that haven't been entirely rigorously researched to the letter, that haven't canvased the full spectrum of positions out there in the blogosphere. Because that's okay for a blog.

Anyway, here goes. About this Durbin thing, and subsequent tearful apology. It really comes down to simple issue - the man is guilty of a Godwin violation par excellance. One can only roll one's eyes when certain early 20th century German political movements get raised in political discourse these days. As for the situation at hand, I don't think I need to belabor what was wrong about the comparison to Nazis, Soviets and the Khmer Rouge - innocent people brutally tortured and murdered by the millions vs. a handful of bloodthirsty religious zealots abused in captivity. Nor is it necessary to say that the latter is wrong, or why it is. What's at issue is the ability to tell the difference.

In any event, Durbin is not only guilty of a Godwin, he's also a coward. He's worried enough about his public image to offer a quasi-apology. But he doesn't actually regret what he said – he just doesn't want people to hate him for it. So offers this “apology:”

Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies ... I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time. Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy. I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military.

Note that he doesn't actually take back anything he said. He's very precise with his word choice here. He only apologies insofar as you were offended by what he said, not for what he actually said. If somebody calls you a douchebag, and then apologizes if you felt bad for being called a douchebag, you haven't actually received an apology. You've received only a further insult. If Durbin had any real courage, he'd either offer a real apology taking back that idiotic analogy, or stand by his words. Such a typical politician.

For those inclined to defend Durbin, perhaps out of a concern that any Gitmo abuses are being whitewashed in all of this or because certain Republicans did it too, I'd point out that it is Durbin, not the right-wingers with whom I'm reluctantly siding here, who are discrediting the cause. Durbin's behavior only provides the ammunition to make critics of Gitmo behavior look like fanatics. There are few faster ways to lose credibility as a voice of moral conscious than by not being able to tell the difference between Auschwitz and Gitmo.

See here for a comparison between basic training and Gitmo. I wonder – can it be that soldiers who engage in abusive behavior do so, judging from their own personal experience of military training? If that's the frame of reference for how it is proper to treat a soldier, even affording the Gitmo detainees formal POW status could still make such harsh treatment acceptable. Still, I suppose there's an argument that the American solider voluntarily joins, and while there are obviously “soldiers” of sorts locked up in Gitmo, part of what gives me pause is the real possibility that some people currently in Gitmo were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Then there was the report about Christina Aguilera music - eek. Dear god, how far have we descended? (People who know me, and know about my musical tastes, know that this question is not sarcastic, but is quite sincere.)

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