Monday, December 03, 2007

Dick Durbin on Three Hots and a Cot

From a very long Trib piece yesterday on Senator Durbin. Including this on Mukasey and torture.
The more Durbin pressed Mukasey, the more frank he became, until at one point he noted that the U.S. taxpayers pay for the Koran to be delivered to detainees at Guantanamo in a plastic Baggie "so that it hasn't been touched by infidels."

Detainees receive "a system of health care that is better than what a lot of Americans get," when what they're really entitled to is three hot meals a day and a place to sleep--or, as Mukasey put it in the moment, "three hots and a cot."

At this, Durbin stopped cold, seemingly stunned into a few milliseconds of silence. He looked blankly at his staff, as if to ask if they'd heard the same thing. When he turned back to Mukasey, he drew a breath and measured his words carefully.

"I've been there. I hope you get a chance to visit," he said slowly. "For those who are being held on suspicion with no charges . . . it seems so fundamentally inconsistent with who we are."

After the judge left, Durbin still seemed to be trying to make sense of the conversation.

"His views of the law are troubling in this respect," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't expect to hear this from him. I thought I would hear something more moderate, based on the fact that he was a so-called consensus candidate."

He wondered, he said, if the White House aide traveling with Mukasey that day might urge the nominee to tone down his comments.

"I keep thinking to myself, 'The White House person is going to catch him in the hall and say, 'Next time, here's the answer,' " Durbin said.
A combatant found fighting outside the rules of war e.g. as terrorists without uniform, isn't entitled to much. McCain, who was a POW, has been pretty clear about what can and can't be down. McCain came out hard against waterboarding.

I wonder if a detainess are to be treated as POWs can we ask of them only name, rank, and seriel number? And then hold them for the duration? Can we coerce anything else from them? If yes, with what forms of coercion?

Muckasey's blunt. McCain's blunt. Durbin's well... a little further on...
To guide him, Durbin acknowledges that he sometimes consults public opinion polls, trying to figure out how far he can go with his agenda.

"I read them as a politician," he says. "It's like reading the scores in a sports page. But there comes a time when you have to take a position that might not be popular.

"There aren't many of us who continued to raise this torture issue," he says. "It's not one that members like to talk about. It could hurt you politically."
I thought McCain wrong on waterboarding but I respect his viewpoint. With Durbin it always seems a little fuzzy to me. Should we treat detainess as criminals and try them? They seem more like POWs and, like McCain did, they should sit it the war for the duration. With a little more humaness then McCain got, but sit it out none-the-less.

If Durbin's taking a stand here, and I'd agree it could be unpopular because I doubt many Americans think detainess desrve much more than three hots and a cot, I sure wish he'd be a little more specific on the alternatives.

2 comments:

Brad Eleven said...

It would be convenient if we could simply treat them as POWs; they're not.

POWs are represented by a foreign government which has either declared war on these United States, or vice versa. In fairness, many of the POWs we have held have not been represented very well by the governments which employed them as soldiers. The point is that there exists some diplomatic authority with whom we can make arrangements about the disposition of POWs--theirs and ours.

This is the heart of the problem with waging a war on terror: It is inherently unconventional. Each and every tradition of war is gone, because war depends on--is based on the ability to negotiate with one or more foreign governments.

This is why comparisons to past wars inevitably break down: No other country has ever waged war against any entity which was not also a country.

New rules are required. Someone neglected to do this before acting. It's not as simple as us making them up for ourselves--unless we're willing to continue to do this by ourselves. We need allies in this war, and we're going to have to make agreements with our allies on how to deal with the complications of this war.

Haste makes waste.

Bill Baar said...

New rules are required.

Exactly.

This administration tried immediately after 911 and the evidence is the briefings early on to a Congress happy to go harsh. (We need to know how much of this Durbin was involved in as Senior Intel member).

When the politics turned, so did the Dems.

Tough to make new rules for a new threat with those kinds of partners.