Saturday, June 07, 2008

Remembering the "torture" debate

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, two congressmen got into a debate, as the AP reported yesterday:
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher on Wednesday dismissed the idea that taunting terrorism suspects with women's panties is a form of torture.

In a debate about detainee treatment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the California Republican cited panties eight times, arguing that making suspected terrorists wear women's underwear on their heads isn't demeaning and degrading enough to be called torture.

He is referring to the claims made by Democrats and the MSM after Abu Graib that "panties on the head" incident that happened one night constituted "torture." Pressed on this issue, the Democrat retreated to the position that they were really talking about waterboarding:
An exasperated Rep. Bill Delahunt, D-Mass., reminded Rohrabacher that interrogators were also seen physically abusing detainees.

"This isn't about panties on the head," Delahunt said. "This is about physical pressure, waterboarding and other techniques that apparently were utilized at Guantanamo."

When not so pressed on the subject, Democrats have expoused very broad definitions of torture as Sen Durbin famously did when he claimed that malfunctioning air conditioning constituted torture the same as the Nazis or the Soviets would have used. Sen. Durbin said (full text from the congressional record is here as PDF.):
When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [at Guantanamo Bay]--I almost hesitate to put them in the [Congressional] Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:
On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.
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.

Many Americans pay good money to fly to a Carribean island and sleep in tents. Despite the lack of air conditioning, they consider it 'vacation' rather than 'torture.' Does Sen. Durbin really think that our playing rap music to prisoners is equivalent to the worst that Dr. Mengele did? Like Rep. Delahunt, Sen. Durbin also retreated, at least a little, as the Washington Post reported:
On Friday, Durbin retreated from comments he made on the Senate floor Tuesday but stopped short of an apology. "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood," he said in a statement.
There is something extraordinarily irresponsible about making claims that help the enemy propagandists but then, when pressed, admitting that you hadn't thought it through carefully.

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