American Soldiers as Nazis?



We don’t think Sen. Durbin believes American treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo is equivalent to the deliberate murder of 6,000,000 Jews, including 1,000,000 children, in Hitler’s attempt to wipe Jewish civilization from Europe. Or equivalent to Pol Pot’s attempt to excise the middle class of Cambodia, leading to the death – by starvation and by mass execution – of 1,700,000 people in the infamous “killing fields.” Or equivalent to the vast structure of Soviet gulags, imprisoning more than 25,000,000 people over nearly a quarter of a century, killing an estimated 2,700,000 people.

He knows as we do that some 800 people have been incarcerated at Guantanamo, all captured during fighting in Afghanistan. Of these, approximately 235 have been released or sent to other countries, 61 are awaiting release or transfer, and approximately 520 remain prisoners. He knows that not one single prisoner has been killed. He knows, as we do, that there is no U.S. government policy to wipe out whole civilizations or segments of civilizations as there were in Nazi Germany and Cambodia. He knows there is no government policy to torture. He knows that individual acts of wrongdoing by Americans are punished.

We believe Sen. Durbin was engaged in the degradation of language that has become all too common in politics on both sides of the aisle, and that requires ever increasing hyperbole to make even a legitimate point. We are appalled that he chose to participate in the coarsening of American political discourse and cheapening the suffering of Jews, Cambodians and Russians. And we fear the consequences his words will have.

The first and most serious consequence will accrue to American service personnel as the result of the windfall for Al Jazeera. The Arabic-language news service has been instrumental in orchestrating anti-Americanism around the world and encouraging the killing of Americans. Sometimes they make things up. This time they didn’t have to. The Nazi/gulag comment wasn’t made by a raving lunatic or by Amnesty International. This time, Al Jazeera gets to spread malicious lies and incite violence among the ignorant and not-so-ignorant using the actual voice of an American senator.

The second consequence is political. There are those who believe this is “the President’s war” and the consequence of “losing it” will accrue to him. And so, in hopes of sinking a president and a policy they don’t like, they cast blame in ever more strident terms. They forget – or pretend to – that the president didn’t start the war. The terrorists and their state masters started it before this administration and the one that came before it. September 11th wasn’t a strike against the president; it was a strike against the country. If the war is lost, the president won’t be the loser; the country will be.

Sen. Durbin owes some serious apologies and we hope he makes them. But more important than regret for words already spoken, we hope the next words – by everyone – are tempered by the sure knowledge that we are in this war together.