Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Nation Gone Bonkers: Reaction to Durbin

It's an unsettling feeling when you find out that your reaction to something is completely at odds with those of the majority of your countrymen. You wonder: Am I missing something, or has the country gone completely bonkers?

This was my reaction to the reaction over Durbin's speech on treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo. To me, Durbin was standing up for American values, for decency. But if you do a Google news search for "Durbin", you find that, apparently, a huge majority found Durbin's remarks insane, traitorous, or worse. You have to wade through 100 sputtering, rabid anti-Durbin editorials and letters to the editor to find one thoughtful response.

To me, Durbin's point was very simple: there are certain things (in the treatment of prisoners) that he thought only the "bad guys" did (where "bad guys" means the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge, Stalin's USSR, etc.), but he was shocked to find that the US did those sorts of things.

Why is it outrageous to hold the US to high standards of behavior?

Durbin didn't say that the US was as bad as Pol Pot. He didn't say that conditions in Guantanamo were as bad as those in Soviet prisons. He drew a line, and said that the "good guys" shouldn't cross that line, and the US crossed it.


Anonymous Rich said...

It's like the book jacket blurb we used to make fun about way back in the day: "[Author's name] has been compared to Tolkein ..." with the completion helpfully provided "... and found sadly wanting." Saying that two things are comparable is not the same as saying the two things are identical.

Up next: a comparison of the Taliban with the government of the U.S.

The question I have about Camp X-ray is whether they do the kind of things there to detainees that I want my country to be involved in doing to anyone. The Geneva Accords may or may not apply to these unlawful combatants as a point of international law, but when the mistreatment alleged is neither humane nor effective, one has to wonder whether the loss of moral authority can be worth splitting hairs about.

Then again, I'm a fan of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. How far out of step does that make me?

3:55 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

The problem is that "nuance" has been stricken from the American language. Even the liberal (ha) NPR reported that "Durban compared the US to the Nazis, the Khmer Rouge and the USSR." When people are told no more than that, what kind of editorials do you expect them to write?

8:50 PM  
Blogger tiger red said...

It made me sick when Durbin backed down, most likely pressured by Daley. It illustrates a basic flaw in the Democratic leadership, but for Dean. Someone states an obvious truth about the government’s actions. This triggers a conservative onslaught and the person who spoke out is left out in the cold alone. Why are Democrats so timid? Why don’t they support each other? What are they afraid of? Why is their trust in conviction so frail? And so on.

Nice blog. I’m going to link it www.lowroad.blogspot.com and come back.

7:34 AM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...


I'm uncomfortable with the idea of "unlawful combatants" in the first place. If a person is not a lawful combatant, and has done something unlawful then why shouldn't he be treated as a common criminal? Why this third, limbo-like status?

Actually, maybe it's lawful combatants that should be in limbo. They're sort of analogous to virtuous pagans...

11:00 AM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...


Yes, you're right, saying something nuanced is dangerous in America right now (at least to political and in some case journalism careers). Basically, every public statement must be liberally sprinkled with phrases like "Support the troops! Saddam Hussein was evil! Freedom is better than dictatorship. God Bless America!"

11:05 AM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

Hi, tiger.

Thanks. However, you should realize that our little blog is updated very sporadically.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous Rich said...

It makes me wonder whether one can be an "unlawful noncombatant."

Actually I always thought that the term "unlawful combatant" meant not that the individual had committed some crime against the law, but instead was engaging in combat even though they were not lawfully entitled to. Whatever that means. I read the wikipedia entry and I still don't really understand what would distinguish them from any ordinary guerrilla soldier or underground resistance fighter. Maybe that's the point.

6:07 PM  

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