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Thursday, June 23, 2005

A better response to Dick Durbin than calling him a Dick

Jeanne d'Arc's response to Senator Durbin's apology was a bit more measured than mine. She wrote an open letter to the Senator. Excerpt:
There's an understandable assumption on the left now that your courage failed you, that you caved in to enormous pressure. If that's true, your second speech was not only cowardly, it was astonishingly foolish. Take a look at the response of some of the people who demanded an apology now that they have it. They have nothing but contempt for your "teary-eyed" and "blubbering" apology. You've given the kind of people who celebrate everything you've fought against one more victory. You've made it far easier for them to argue that there is no torture problem, the only problem is Democrats and their overheated rhetoric.

We must end this nightmare. You know that as well as I do. I hope you also know that you've set us back. We can't stand behind your words if you don't.

Reading over your statement, I'm not so sure you were responding to pressure from torture's apologists. I have a feeling you heard from some people who were genuinely hurt by your analogy (as opposed to the vast majority who feigned shock to draw attention away from the points you made) and were speaking mainly out of concern for their feelings. As someone concerned about what the glorification of militarism does to this country, who often risks having her attacks on military sentimentality come across as attacks on soldiers, I understand that desire not to have your words, even your twisted and distorted words, used to hurt innocent people.

But if that was the case, you should have addressed any "apology" directly to those people, not to the Senate, and pointed out that if what you said came across as an insult directed at them, that was not your intention. And then you should have come back all the harder on the main points of your original speech: We love this country, and we will not stand by while it takes up, bit by bit, step by step, the tools of its enemies. I hate to be so blunt, but this is how the game is played.

If you really care about this country, and about human rights -- and I sincerely believe you do -- you have to learn those rules very quickly. And you can't allow yourself the luxury of being afraid of your own words.