The Blog

Breaking the Durbin Code

What Dick Durbin said, what he really meant, and why the Senate should vote to censure him.

12:00 AM, Jun 20, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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SENATE MAJORITY LEADER BILL FRIST and Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter should move this week to initiate a censure resolution of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin for his remarks on the Senate's floor on June 14, 2005. Not only did Durbin's remarks injure America's position in the world, provide an enormous propaganda victory to the enemy, and slander the United States military, they also represent an escalation in the political rhetoric of the left, which is designed to undermine the public's confidence in the military, the administration, and the war. The censure resolution will oblige every senator to go on the record about how they view the American military as we enter the long phase of the war.

The outrage over Dick Durbin's comparison of interrogation practices at Gitmo to the Nazi, Soviet, and Pol Pot regimes has deeply injured Durbin's reputation and the reputation of the Democratic party that keeps him in the number two leadership position in the United States Senate.

Ye the left has rallied to Durbin's side--their biggest blogger, Markos Moulitsas, proclaimed, for example, "the Wingers are freakin' out about Durbin right now, trying to shut his efforts to speak the truth." The mainstream media haltingly tried to first ignore, and then shift, the story.

Durbin's original remarks on Tuesday, June 14, and his subsequent commentary and statements tell us a great deal about the strategy and mindset of the Democratic party as we approach the fourth anniversary of the war's beginning. I am collecting all those early statements here, in the order they appeared, for the purpose of showing exactly what it was that Durbin set out to do and how, even after a volcano of condemnation erupted around him, he clung to his core message. A debate over a censure resolution will oblige both parties to draw lines about Durbin's remarks, and especially about the character and purpose of the United States armed services.

DURBIN'S FIRST STATEMENT came on the floor of the Senate, as he read from a report of an FBI investigator that had been released pursuant to FOIA. Durbin's entire statement is reproduced below, for although two paragraphs caused the firestorm, his carefully prepared remarks provide context to understanding what Durbin and like-minded leftists intend in the coming months and years:

Mr. President, there has been a lot of discussion in recent days about whether to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. This debate misses the point. It is not a question of whether detainees are held at Guantanamo Bay or some other location. The question is how we should treat those who have been detained there. Whether we treat them according to the law or not does not depend on their address. It depends on our policy as a nation.

How should we treat them? This is not a new question. We are not writing on a blank slate. We have entered into treaties over the years, saying this is how we will treat wartime detainees. The United States has ratified these treaties. They are the law of the land as much as any statute we passed. They have served our country well in past wars. We have held ourselves to be a civilized country, willing to play by the rules, even in time of war.

Unfortunately, without even consulting Congress, the Bush administration unilaterally decided to set aside these treaties and create their own rules about the treatment of prisoners.

Frankly, this Congress has failed to hold the administration accountable for its failure to follow the law of the land when it comes to the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and detainees.

I am a member of the Judiciary Committee. For two years, I have asked for hearings on this issue. I am glad Chairman Specter will hold a hearing on wartime detention policies tomorrow. I thank him for taking this step. I wish other members of his party would be willing to hold this administration accountable as well.

It is worth reflecting for a moment about how we have reached this point. Many people who read history remember, as World War II began with the attack on Pearl Harbor, a country in fear after being attacked decided one way to protect America was to gather together Japanese Americans and literally imprison them, put them in internment camps for fear they would be traitors and turn on the United States. We did that. Thousands of lives were changed. Thousands of businesses destroyed. Thousands of people, good American citizens, who happened to be of Japanese ancestry, were treated like common criminals.

It took almost 40 years for us to acknowledge that we were wrong, to admit that these people should never have been imprisoned. It was a shameful period in American history and one that very few, if any, try to defend today.