Sunday, June 19, 2005
More on Durbin the dumb: Volokh co-conspirator and the only person to gratuitously use my name in a newspaper column, David Kopel has a sensible suggestion on having a reasonable discussion on Guantanamo Bay.
The more plausible analogy to Guantanamo is British interrogation of Irish Republican Army suspects in the early 1970s. Then, the British extracted confessions through "the five techniques": wall-standing, hooding, continuous noise, deprivation of food, and deprivation of sleep. The European Court of Human Rights, in the 1978 case Republic of Ireland v. United Kingdom, ruled that the techniques did not constitute "torture," but were "inhuman and degrading," in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The European convention obviously does not apply to the American interrogation of Arab or Afghan terrorist suspects at a military base in Cuba, but there are still plausible objections that can be raised against coercive interrogations, even when the persons being interrogated are terrorists. Serious discussion about Guanatamo would be enhanced by looking to appropriate historical analogies (such as the U.K.'s self-defense in the 1970s against the I.R.A.), rather than to absurd analogies, such as those drawn by Senator Durbin, which trivialize the Holocaust, the Soviet genocide, and the Pol Pot genocide.
That's something that would be interesting to hear. A couple of the Washington think-tanks should organize a debate on this subject and air it on C-SPAN.
On a related note, the Eric Lindholm (aka Viking Pundit) is opposed to calls to censure Durbin for his slanderous remarks.
Whatever happened to first amendment rights? Durbin has the Constitutional right to make a complete ass out of himself in the well of the Senate. He succeeded and almost certainly supplied talking points to our enemies in the world. But this knee-jerk reaction to punish speech is beyond the pale. Settle the matter at the polls in November.
I suspect that Lindholm may be conflating/confusing censure and censor. The definition of censure from the Senate history page is instructive [scroll to the bottom for censure cases -- the top is expulsions]:
A less severe form of discipline used by the Senate against its members is censure (sometimes referred to as condemnation or denouncement). A censure does not remove a senator from office. It is a formal statement of disapproval, however, that can have a powerful psychological effect on a member and his/her relationships in the Senate. Since 1789 the Senate has censured nine of its members.
For the record, one of those censured was Sen. Christopher Dodd's father, Thomas.
Also for the record, I don't care one way or another if Durbin is censured for what he said. I can't really express the level of disdain I have for the senior senator from Illinois -- but a censure really has little meaning.
On the other hand, if anyone really wants to push for a censure, it should be Democrats. If Democrats really want to show how strongly they support America's military and demostrate they're not knee-jerk blame-America-first types, then they would take the lead in punishing Durbin's slander. Maybe that would take the form of forcing him from his leadership post. Maybe that would take the form of a censure.
The Democrat Party needs to take a stand -- one way or another.
On another related note: The mainstream media's refusal to report on this story is despicable. As I noted earlier, the New York Times ran a three paragraph brief on the story. As the Media Research Center noted, the Big Three networks never mentioned the slander in the until NBC broke its silence -- briefly -- on Thursday night.