Categorized under: Just Like the Gestapo

Sen. Dick Durbin Compares Gitmo treatment to Gestapo; apologizes

Dick Durbin; no reason to apologize

Dick Durbin; no reason to apologize

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has apologized for comparing the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo to the torture conducted by the Gestapo, Pol Pot, and the Soviet Union in the Gulag.

Sen. Dick Durbin went to the Senate floor late Tuesday to offer his apologies to anyone who may have been offended by his comparison of treatment of detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to Nazis, Soviet gulags and Cambodia’s Pol Pot.

“More than most people, a senator lives by his words … occasionally words fail us, occasionally we will fail words,” Durbin, D-Ill., said.

“I am sorry if anything 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 am also sorry if anything I said cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military. … I never ever intended any disrespect for them. Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them I extend my heartfelt apology,” Durbin said, choking on his words.
Source: Fox News

Superblogger Glenn Greenwald gets to the heart of why this particular invocation of the the Analogy that Cannot be Topped will not score high on the Outrage-O-Meter:

Note how warped our political culture is: Sen. Dick Durbin was forced to tearfully apologize on the Senate floor for accurately comparing our treatment of detainees at Guantanamo to the techniques used in Soviet gulags and by Gestapo interrogation squads, but those who perpetrated these war crimes have apologized for nothing, remain welcome in decent company, and are still shielded by our Government from all accountability.
Source: Salon.com

The only real problem here is one of scale. The Gestapo, Pol Pot, and the Soviet Union certainly conducted torture on an infinitely vaster scale than the US. But, as the leaked International Red Cross report conclusively shows (pdf), we did torture. We have much to be shamed of and we have decades ahead of us before we can hope to restore the world’s faith in us as a bastion of decency where things like torture are unimaginable.

Most of the time, the problem with invoking the “Gestapo” is that folks are comparing a specific tactic of, say, their local government (such as new, aggressive zoning laws) and comparing it to the general suppression that the Gestapo practiced, while conveniently ignoring the fact that by invoking the Gestapo, you are necessarily invoking the Holocaust by extension.

In this case, Senator Durbin clearly deserves a pass. He did not invoke the Gestapo generally, he invoked them specifically, in the context of how they tortured others. And he further referenced other torturing regimes. If America forces people to stand for days on end, applies painful stress holds, covers their mouths with towels while pouring water down their throats, etc… who exactly are we supposed to compare these tactics to for comparison?

We tortured people. It’s a painful fact to accept, but we did it, and the sooner we realize that our tactics differed little from regimes that we abhor, the more likely we are to ensure that it never happens again.

Outrage-O-Meter
Audience Reach 5
Direct vs. Indirect 8
Inappropriateness 2
Final Score 5

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