Springfield Journal Register

June 18, 2005

Durbin sorry for 'misunderstanding'
Senator says he wasn't criticizing U.S. forces

By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Attempting to stem growing criticism, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Friday he regretted any misunderstandings caused by his comments earlier this week that compared American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis, Soviets of the gulag era and brutal Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot.

"I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood," Durbin said in a statement issued by his office late Friday. "I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings: Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration and total support."

The White House, the Pentagon and Senate Republicans this week criticized the remarks Durbin made Tuesday on the Senate floor. Also, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Anti-Defamation League called for Durbin to apologize for his remarks.

Durbin drew the controversial comparison after reading an FBI agent's report describing how detainees at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba were chained to the floor in extreme temperatures without food or water.

"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," Durbin said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans took the Senate floor to chastise him. Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said: "I feel apologies are in order to the men and women of the Armed Forces."

Durbin came to the Senate floor to defend himself.

"To suggest that I'm criticizing American servicemen - I am not," he said. He said he "was attributing this form of interrogation to repressive regimes such as those that I noted."

In Friday's statement, Durbin said he will continue to speak out when he disagrees with the administration.

"More than 1,700 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and our country's standing in the world community has been badly damaged by the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. My statement in the Senate was critical of the policies of this administration which add to the risk our soldiers face," Durbin said.