Thursday, June 23, 2005

Episode 3: The Search for Spine


Sen. Durbin Apologizes for Gitmo Remarks

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A week after comparing interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp to the methods of Nazis and other repressive regimes, Sen. Dick Durbin apologized on the Senate floor.

''Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line,'' said the Illinois Democrat, at times holding back tears. ''To them I extend my heartfelt apologies.''

Durbin said he never intended disrespect for U.S. soldiers around the world.

''They're the best,'' he said Tuesday.

His apology drew praise from Republicans.

''I think it was the right thing to do and the right thing to say to our men and women in uniform,'' said White House press secretary Scott McClellan.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called Durbin's apology ''an honorable step'' along the road to understanding how words strengthen the nation's enemies in the war against terror.

''Intended or not, damage was being done,'' Frist, R-Tenn., said Wednesday on the Senate floor. ''It's a lesson that we all learn over and over again and again.''

The apology came a week after Durbin quoted from an FBI agent's memo describing detainees at the naval base in a U.S.-controlled portion of Cuba as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures.

''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,'' the senator said last week.

The comment drew criticism from the White House, Republicans in Congress and others after creating a buzz on the Internet and among conservative talk radio hosts. Some Democrats also disapproved of the comparison.

One reason for the apology Tuesday was ''this loud, continuous drumbeat of misinformation that was being broadcast and printed,'' said Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker.

Last Friday, Durbin tried to clarify his comments with a statement that he sincerely regretted if his comments caused anyone to misunderstand his true feelings. Still, the criticism poured in.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in an interview to air Wednesday on Fox News Radio's ''The Tony Snow Show,'' tried to equate Durbin's comment with actress Jane Fonda calling U.S. soldiers war criminals during a visit to North Vietnam in 1972.

''Some people always in their lives say something they wish they hadn't said,'' Rumsfeld said. ''We just watched Jane Fonda run around trying to recover from the things she did and said during the Vietnam War. ... He said some things and he's going to have to live with them, and I think that that's not a happy prospect.''

Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood said Rumsfeld stands by his statements, even in light of the apology.

Haysooze! Now I have to take back all those nice things I've been saying about Durbin. Has he no consideration for my feelings?

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