Dogging Durbin

By Eric Naing

Senator Richard Durbin is a monster that not only supports terrorism, but also hates America. OK, so maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not very far off from what the right wing is saying. Last Tuesday, Durbin compared the prisoner abuse occurring at Guant namo Bay to the actions of the Soviets and Nazis. The attacks on him, though, are completely unfounded and regrettably typical of the current political climate.

Durbin’s statement on the floor of the Senate was not the product of some crazed leftist mentality, but was actually based on the report of an FBI agent. Of the several instances of prisoner abuse occurring at our Guant namo Bay facility in Cuba cited by the senator, the worst include detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water” and many who had “urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more.” Durbin also cited instances of detainees being left in both unbearably cold and hot rooms, driving detainees to go unconscious and one to even pull out his own hair. Detainees also were subject to “extremely loud rap music” while being “chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.”

The statement in question though was Durbin’s claim that these abuses were similar in nature to the former actions of “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – that had no concern for human beings.” Every right-winger worth their salt have sprung into action demonizing Durbin. But no matter how much they howl, it still does not take away form the fact that what Senator Durbin said was all true.

Along with similar cases of abuse in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan, Guant namo Bay is more a liability on our national integrity and in the war on terrorism than it is a necessary tool. Amnesty International calls the prison a “symbol of the U.S. administration’s refusal to put human rights and the rule of law at the heart of its response to the atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001.” Both former President Jimmy Carter and Senator Joe Biden are rightfully calling for the closure of the camp.

Guant namo Bay is home to about 540 detainees. Some of these people have been legitimately detained, while others have been held there for nearly three years without ever having been charged for a crime. The instances of prisoner abuse and times when the Quran was kicked, dirtied, and urinated on as detailed by the Pentagon itself all do this country a disservice. If anything, these actions only serve to create sympathy for these prisoners and further drag the reputation of the United States though the mud. In Iraq, where the United States is struggling to win the hearts and minds of the people, word of these abuses is putting the success of our mission and the lives of our troops over there at risk.

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    The line of attack over Durbin’s statement is that the senator unfairly compares the United States to past violent regimes. The problem with this is that while there is a world of difference between the Nazis and our government, it’s just not different enough these days. In no way should the actions of this country be even remotely close to the actions of the Nazis or the Soviets as they are now. Saying “hey, at least Hitler was worse” in no way excuses the atrocities that our government is responsible for.

    I’m sick of the “___ hates America” crowd always crawling out of their holes in the ground every time someone is brave enough to speak the truth. Senator Durbin and the others criticizing our military’s actions at places like Guant namo Bay do not hate this country. It’s actually quite the contrary – they love America and the ideals that come with it. They are troubled and saddened by the loss of this country’s integrity caused by the cases of prisoner abuse.

    Eric Naing is a senior in LAS. His columns run Mondays. He can be reached at opinions@daily illini.com.