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     Jun 24, 2005
Stop groveling and wipe your nose

By Allen Quicke

"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. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."
- US Democrat Senator Richard Durbin (Ilinois), on the Senate floor on June 14, citing an FBI account of how Guantanamo prisoners had been chained to their cell walls in extreme temperatures and deprived of food and water.

As we are not beholden to the American mainstream media or the voters who are swayed by them, we can fearlessly admit that the chaining of prisoners to walls in extreme temperatures and depriving them of food and water does indeed remind us of Nazis and gulags. But, of course, Senator Durbin, as a politician, should have known better than to use the word "Nazis": doing so simply provided his opponent with a stick to beat one with while all critical faculties, on all sides, are automatically suspended. And beat him they did, with mindless fury. As Durbin admitted later, "more than most people, a senator lives by his words".

"Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies."
- Durbin, in tears on the Senate floor on June 21, apologizing for his June 14 remarks.

Why did Durbin apologize? He had compared the practice of chaining Guantanamo prisoners to their cell walls in extreme temperatures and depriving them of food and water, to the practices of Nazi and Soviet jailers. Not one of his critics claimed that such practices had not occurred at Guantanamo, or that Nazis and Soviets did not employ such practices.

What Durbin was really crying about was his political error of using the words "Americans" and "Nazis" in the same sentence. For this was precisely what gave his opponents in the Senate and the media the opportunity to lambast him while, incidentally, any discussion about the real issue - maltreatment of prisoners - became moot. When the media, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Fox News leading the rabid pack, started howling, Durbin must have seen his political future sinking like a stone. Clutching at straws and jettisoning priciples, he saw a sniveling apology as his salvation.

Well, we have news for you, Senator. Rush Limbaugh, for one, is not at all happy with your apology. Limbaugh devotes over 5,500 words on his website, transcribed from one of his broadcasts, to "analyzing" the apology. His main problem is semantic: "Basically, folks," Limbaugh hectors, "he's apologizing 'if' you were offended. He's not apologizing for what he said ... He doesn't retract the remarks and he doesn't say, 'I was wrong.'" Quite so, Rush. How clever of you to spot that.

"I promise you that I will continue to speak out on the issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and to the nation."
- Durbin in his Senate apology, assuring everybody that he really is a man of principle.

This really sticks in Limbaugh's craw: "He [Durbin] gets to the point here ... 'I promise you I'm going to continue to speak out on issues that I think are important to the people of Illinois and the nation,' and if your feelings get hurt I may apologize again, but I'm going to keep speaking.'"

Well, it's hard to believe that Durbin "will continue to speak out on the issues that I think are important". His grovelling indicates that he will not if he risks upsetting his political opponents (heaven forbid - we're all on the same side here) or generating negative publicity. Such, sadly, appears to be the nature of American "democracy" since it was hijacked by the media, from tame politicians and a cowed electorate, on September 11, 2001.

But we do believe that Limbaugh means it when he implies that anyone who has an opinion that differs from his own has no right to express it. This is fascism - or Nazism, if you like - Mr Limbaugh. Incidentally, Limbaugh, in the same transcript, boasts that he popularized the term "feminazi". Obviously it's fine to associate feminists with Nazis, just do not insult the saintly US military (or even its "rogue elements"?).

This has been an illuminating fortnight in US domestic politics. The light does not reveal a pretty picture. There is only one thing left to ponder: when, if ever, is anyone going to stand up to the political thugs and media bullies who now apparently run the US and its foreign policies? Don't expect it anytime soon from the Democrats: they had a chance to nail George W Bush to the wall for lying to the American people over Iraq, but decided that would not be a vote winner. Bush was reelected anyway, despite the Democrats' concerted focus on their man's Vietnam War medals. Don't expect it from the mainstream US media either: all the evidence that proves Bush lied is largely ignored as "an old story".
Finally, one can only laugh in resignation at Limbaugh's professed outrage over the whole Durbin saga, expressed at the conclusion of his broadcast: "That's what happens when the culture of Washington, DC, is dominated by the left."

Allen Quicke is Asia Times Online Managing Editor and Thailand Bureau Chief.

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