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June 23, 2005

Senator Durbin and Conservative Shame
Posted by Lorelei Kelly


Last week I had the chance to talk to an Army officer who had recently returned from Afghanistan where he had led efforts to establish rule-of-law throughout different regions of the country.  He told stories of ad-hoc justice successfully applied, about American ingenuity, and about how his colleagues (both civilian and military) had found ways to put forward human rights values even in villages dominated by  severe Sharia (religious) law.  He related how victories were often small but symbolic: a family that accepted cash compensation instead of two virgins, for example. He also described the good-cop/bad-cop tension the Army faces with its dual responsibility as war fighters and as peacebuilders. He told of how--in order to assuage damaged village relationships--the Army would send in teams of Civil Affairs officers right after door-kicking home searches. These soldiers would have tea, explain the situation, and present the family with a door lock.

Such stories make me proud of our military.  I only wish these American soldiers' dedication to rule-of-law by example was shared by our country's conservative leadership. Their contemptible behavior over Senator Dick Durbin's recitation of an FBI report detailing prisoner abuse is an affront to all those who serve. The conservatives' telegenic indignation treats soldiers as if they are stupid. 

Every American soldier knows how important it is to uphold international humanitarian standards. This belief is founded in noble American aspirations to be sure, but also because soldiers know that setting the humanitarian example could one day save American lives. Over the past few days,  right wing bloggers--hyperventilating over their keyboards. and the conservative demonization of Senator Durbin as an anti-military insurgent sympathizer at every media opportunity has been disgusting.  Mentioning Nazis in a floor speech is stupid, but creating a political atmosphere where serious human rights violations carried out by Americans are a third rail, is downright dangerous.  It gives the impression that conservatives really aren't interested in supporting our military when the tradeoff is a few cheap political chits.  Military professionals know that the most important weapon in our arsenal is setting a rule-of-law example.  The conservatives are obviously far more interested in winning the next Illinois Senate race than winning the war on terror.

I asked the recently returned Army officer whether or not issues like Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo prisoner abuse ever came up in his day to day dealings with Afghans. He seemed happy that I asked and told me that he used such instances as opportunities for exploration and  learning. He would acknowledge what the questioner had seen or heard, but also point out how justice would be achieved when those illegal actions were punished through the American legal system.  Afghanistan--and other fragile countries--may well hold the balance of future American security in their hands.  They sit at a crossroads between violent anarchy and cautious pluralism. For our own self-interest this is where politics needs to stop at the water's edge.  We must align both our policies and political rhetoric to support the latter. 

Judging from the behavior of conservatives lately, they would have us fighting impunity with impunity. This is shameful leadership.

Priorities Report: Even with one party rule, Congress remains stingily inadequate with international affairs which is a statement about how much we value funding for prevention. Yesterday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2006 Foreign Operations Bill by voice vote.  Full committee consideration of the bill did not alter the overall amount of $20.3 billion that emerged from subcommittee.  That figure for Foreign Operations stands $2.55 billion below the Administration’s request for FY2006. This is approximately one-tenth the amount we've spent on supplementals for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bill is expected to head to the House Floor for the full body’s consideration next Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Comments

Mentioning Nazis in a floor speech is stupid, but creating a political atmosphere where serious human rights violations carried out by Americans are a third rail, is downright dangerous.

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Congratulations to the left, including 'progressives' for creating a political atmosphere where it is impossible to discuss exactly how far US interrogators are permitted to go without being accused of supporting torture.

I agree that it is dangerous. I strongly disagree that it is the fault of conservatives.

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It gives the impression that conservatives really aren't interested in supporting our military when the tradeoff is a few cheap political chits.

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That's strange, the impression I have is that the Democrats are the ones who are relentlessly using the treatment of prisoners in Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo as sticks with which to beat the Bush administration. What makes it even more bizarre is that the primary evidence supporting Democratic grandstanding is reports released by the US military about investigations of possible misconduct that were in progress when the reports were released.

Would you care to re-assess who is thinking of 'cheap political chits'?

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Military professionals know that the most important weapon in our arsenal is setting a rule-of-law example.

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Nonsense. The most important weapon in our arsenal is carried on ballistic missile submarines, #2 is carried on CVNs. Setting a rule-of-law example isn't even in the top 10.

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The conservatives are obviously far more interested in winning the next Illinois Senate race than winning the war on terror.

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Yeah, the conservatives care so much about Illinois Senate seats that they air-dropped Alan Keyes to run in the last election because they couldn't find a decent candidate interested in running for the seat. Obviously, this is important to them.

Pull the other one, it has bells on.

wow rosignol,
amazing you would get up so early (or stay up so late) to write such a stupid comment-- if you're gonna do point-by-point rebuttals, it's wise to make sure they stand up to scrutiny.

Let's take two of your points:

Congratulations to the left, including 'progressives' for creating a political atmosphere where it is impossible to discuss...

interesting that it's progressives' fault when they are in power, yet it's progressives' when they are out of power. Yeah, you idiot, a conversation on the new world we were entering post-9/11 would have been nice, but instead we got "fight 'em thar" and "keep shopping" as our waypoints.

Nonsense. The most important weapon in our arsenal is carried on ballistic missile submarines, #2 is carried on CVNs. Setting a rule-of-law example isn't even in the top 10.

Hoo-ah! Nuke the bastards and bounce the rubble. While that may be emotionally satisfying for you, it's not an accurate assessment. Nukes are last-ditch, not a tool we can pull out and put away. That ICBM is legit only if about to be used; otherwise, it's a theory. If, like Ms. Kelly, you spent time with officers working on strategic issues, you would know this. But you don't, so you don't.

Pull this one, it has a pin in it...

I'm reminded of a lunch I had recently with a friend and mentor of mine, an elderly Jewish gentlemen.

My mentor was with the 11th Armored Division, 3rd Army. He was in the drive from Bastonge through the end of the war. He was present when Maunthausen (sp?) was liberated. He knows about Nazis. He knows about death camps. To this day he can' forget what he knows about Nazis.

He also told me why so few SS officers were captured as the war ended. Seems many of them were summarily executed, hands up or not (he also told me the GIs were quite kind to average German soldiers, many of whom were quite young). The rule of law is not always foremost.

Criticize Gitmo all you like, criticize Bush all you like (I'll help), criticize the military but do not compare US troops or Gitmo to Nazis or to death camps.

If you want to know about Nazis stop in at the local VFW hall and ask the real experts.

rustbelt,

who's talking about nazis, other than Lorelei saying Mentioning Nazis in a floor speech is stupid?

interesting story, but it has zero to do with this discussion. and you know as well as I what Durbin was saying; don't be disingenuous.

I am a military guy and I find Durbin comment offensive. I welcome a review and study on our policy concerning detainees, particualarly pertaining to process and procedure.

However I am suspiscious of the Left on their true intention. And comment such as Durbin's only strengthen my suspiscion. I think many authors on this blog have stated before that the Left have a perception problem when it comes to our military and national security.

Beside the isolated cases, tortures have not been proven, unless you consider the lame definition of torture as playing loud music. Of course we need to sit down to clearly define what is permited and what is not. But statement such as Durbin only detract from the discussion.

Rosignol,
I'm not going to join this battle. I have the feeling that if Karl Rove was found in bed with a billy goat you would find a way to blame the Democrats for it.

Minh-Duc,
the National Institute for Military Justice www.nimj.org has lots of great resources on this topic. As a military guy, I would think that conservatives' use of all things military as cheap propaganda props would raise your suspicions more than an honest--but illphrased--question from a patriot like Senator Durbin.

Lorelei,

This is a few left of center blogs that I frequent. I enjoy the quality analysis here. I wish there are more people like you, it would improve our debate on national security issues.

Concerning Left-Right approach on Guantanamo, here is my take. Many of the Democrats instead of suggesting (with concrete proposals) on how to improve our process and procedure in Gitmo, they immediately want to close it. This is before we know if any of the allegation is true or not. My primary fear is the hysteria will result in silly regulations that tie our hands.

…Minh-Duc, there is the possibility that you aren’t aware of a context for durbin’s statement; do you know of last year’s SCOTUS ruling that held the WH did not have the authority to willy nilly lock up foreign terrorist suspects without providing them access to lawyers and the courts?

if the US illegally imprisons people, and then tortures and kills a number of them, analogies to past horrors are inevitable, not only in the US congress, but the nation and the rest of the world. we should be ashamed of the fact that there was reason to draw an analogy in the first place, not the analogy itself.

that being the case, perhaps then you would want to shut the place down because you suspect (based on last year’s SCOTUS ruling) the entire enterprise is not only immoral but illegal.

the detainees could be placed in a super-max until their cases were tried and the same end is transparently achieved.

Doc,

As I stated before, the allegation of torture is not proven. This is why I do not trust the Left. Before an investigation is completed and the answer is known, many on the Left already (as you just did) conclude that it had occured and it is widspread. Is this because they assume that the military are full of evil people who enjoy torture other human being? The assumption is offensive.

And you confuse two seperate cases, these people were not captured on the street of Paris on suspiscion of being a terrorists, they were captured on the battlefield of Afghanistan fighting us. The SCOTUS ruling pertain to the former not the later. What do you think we should charged these people with?

Minh-Duc

“As I stated before, the allegation of torture is not proven.”

..why split hairs? or debase others’ holy books? or waterboard, for that matter. it is thoroughly disingenuous (or dangerously naïve) to posit that no torture has occurred at camp delta (or camp x-ray before its demise) when reports of such keep emerging, even from those who served there. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,1479040,00.html

“This is why I do not trust the Left. Before an investigation is completed and the answer is known, many on the Left already (as you just did) conclude that it had occurred(sic) and it is widspread(sic).”

…see preceding answer. oh, and i’m an independent.

“Is this because they assume that the military are full of evil people who enjoy torture other human being? The assumption is offensive.”

…no, I proudly served and am aware that the military is mostly made up of people who a) have no other options, b) desire highly to server their country to the very best of their abilities, and c) various combinations of the preceding.

you assumed.

“And you confuse two separate(sic) cases, these people were not captured on the street of Paris on suspiscion(sic) of being a terrorists, they were captured on the battlefield of Afghanistan fighting us. The SCOTUS ruling pertain to the former not the later.”

…i believe you are in error.

‘Pursuant to Congress’ joint resolution authorizing the use of necessary and appropriate force against nations, organizations, or persons that planned, authorized, committed, or aided in the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda terrorist attacks, the President sent Armed Forces into Afghanistan to wage a military campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban regime that had supported it. Petitioners, 2 Australians and 12 Kuwaitis captured abroad during the hostilities, are being held in military custody at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Naval Base, which the United States occupies under a lease and treaty recognizing Cuba’s ultimate sovereignty, but giving this country complete juris¬diction and control for so long as it does not abandon the leased ar¬eas. Petitioners filed suits under federal law challenging the legality of their detention, alleging that they had never been combatants against the United States or engaged in terrorist acts, and that they have never been charged with wrongdoing, permitted to consult counsel, or provided access to courts or other tribunals…’

http://www.globalsecurity.org/security/library/policy/national/03-334.pdf

“What do you think we should charged(sic) these people with?”

…what is proper under international law.

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