Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cry Me a River


I like Richard Durbin. He's a good guy with a progressive record, having voted against the Iraq War Resolution a month before his next election date in Illinois - rare courage for a politician - and he voted against the confirmation of Gonzales and Rice. He's been good on the Judiciary Committee exposing the extremism of Bush's judicial nominees. As minority whip in the Senate, he performed admirably in keeping the Democrats together to stop the Bolton nomination. Yeah, he's a good guy and a good liberal and I hate to join the piling on of him but JESUS FUCKING CHRIST.

His initial remarks in the Senate were, on the whole, true. Durbin had read an excerpt from an FBI report that described prisoners being chained on the ground in extreme temperatures without access to water or food (kind of makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it?) for extended periods of time. After quoting from the report, Durbin said something that created one of the most faux displays of outrage yet among conservatives who continually defend our barbarism in the handling of detainees around the world: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings." Note that Durbin did not claim in these remarks that all atrocities are equal, simply that what he had just read reflected other forms of government-sponsored torture performed by regimes with no regard for human life. Bingo. The entire thrust of this comment had nothing to do with individual soldiers but with our government that set as official policy brutal, inhumane and un-American torture techniques of prisoners who are being held without charges for years, quite possibly for life.

The firestorm that followed was, of course, utterly predictable. Given that Durbin's remarks were made in the same week as the congressional forum on the Downing Street Minutes, the right wing created a false distraction, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing (sort of like their favorite old chestnut, flag burning). In this they were obediently aided the corporate media, who howled for Durbin's head and ran hours and hours of commentary on this nonstory while continuing to ignore the Downing Street Minutes.

Despite the demons from hell grabbing at his coattails, for a while Durbin held firm. The next day, he issued a statement that read, "This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure." Exactly right. Then the bottom dropped out for Durbin.

The Anti-Defamation League, despite being silent on Senator Rick Santorum's recent comparison of Democrats to Adolf Hitler, publicly took Durbin to task and demanded Durbin apologize for "... distorting an important issue, with an inappropriate comparison to Nazi tactics. " The big blow, however, came from Chicago mayor, political boss and all-around jackass Richard Daley, who told the media "I think it's a disgrace to say that any man or woman in the military would act like that," despite the fact that there is not only ample evidence to prove otherwise but multiple court-martials of men and women in our military for acting "like that". Endgame for Durbin. He had to back down, not from right-wing nutjob pressure but from the pressure from within that loves to eat their own. Fine. I get it. Get it over with, Dick, and move on.

I figured Durbin would make a brief mea culpa on the Senate floor, followed perhaps by a clarification of his original point similar to what he had provided in his statement issued the day after his remarks. What I did not expect, as I saw him appear on CSPAN, was his complete and utter self-immolation on live television. Durbin not only apologized but collapsed on the carpet with his legs sprawled to the sky so Bill Frist could take a surgical knife to his genitals and castrate him on-air. Yes, it was that bad.

He cried. His voice broke. He stared pleadingly and imploringly into the CSPAN camera and begged. He looked like a puppy crying not to be kicked. It was mortifying for him personally, but what's more it was mortifying for Democrats who are right on this issue and saw this debacle unfold live and knew, with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs, that human rights advocacy would forever be tied in the media with the tearful visage of Dick Durbin begging for forgiveness. And the media, of course, was quick to attach his face to the issue without questioning whether he was, in truth, right on his facts from the beginning. The video clip of Durbin unspooled immediately all over cable and network news, and we should not be surprised that MSNBC aired a shameful promo in which Durbin's tearful apology was placed next to that of Jimmy Swaggert.

So, another huge whipped-up frenzy, all done with a straight face while our government not only condones but orders human rights abuses all over the world. The policy remains unquestioned and unexamined, while Dick Durbin's humiliation is now public fodder and will no doubt remain so for years.

So, to a good and decent man, a true progressive, an outstanding United States Senator, I say...JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. Make a short statement, put this behind you, but to fucking TAKE DOWN THIS ISSUE with your deplorable mewling is FUCKED UP.

On a side note: Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. His novel The Age of Reason directly applies to our lives in the current state of Bush oppression in which we find ourselves. It's less than five bucks in paperback. Read it.

1 Comments:

Blogger Stewing said...

I was stunned, too, by the Anti-Defamation League coming out against Durbin's remarks. The Holocaust didn't just spring into being, fully grown, all at once. It began slowly, steadily, with one little injustice following by a slightly larger one.

And, like the frog in the pot of slowly-warming water, the Final Solution was reached. "Never again! Never again!" the world shouted. Yet here it is again.

Fierce patriotism, a changing but constant "enemy", religious revival, corporate dominance, media complicity. That is how it began in Germany in the 1930s. And here it is again.

Where are the Democrats!? Why are they silent!? I expect the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing right wingers to wrap themselves in the flag and do their pee pee dance. I expect the helmet-haired vacant-eyed Conservatives to repeat the marching orders from the White House.

But where the hell are the Democrats!?

12:05 PM  

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