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June 17, 2005
Durbin Oddly Silent About The Torture Closer To Home

Dick Durbin set himself apart in the Senate on Tuesday by proclaiming that one could not tell the difference between the behavior of detainees at Gitmo by American military person and that of Nazis, Stalin's gulag guards, or Pol Pot. Despite a national furor over his remarks, Durbin has refused to retract them, although he laughingly added yesterday that it was wrong to think that he had minimized the horrors of the Holocaust and the gulags by equating them with a lack of climate control and indoor plumbing in Gitmo interrogation rooms.

However, in his zeal to protect America from the Creeping New FascismTM of American servicemen, Durbin somehow missed an opportunity to find similar horrors much closer to home. John in Carolina notes that Durbin's political ally and fellow Democrat in Chicago, Cook County Sheriff Michael Sheahan, operates a jail that sounds like it has a lot more problems than Gitmo or anything else run by the American military.

Let's see if we can guess where the following abuses took place -- Gitmo or Cook County:

In one incident, an elite squad of 40 guards took over a maximum-security [unit] ... for the sole purpose of beating and terrorizing the prisoners. A jail investigator determined that the guards' misconduct was covered up by ... medical personnel, who filed false reports and refused or delayed treatment to the prisoners, and by the ... inspector general, who refused to cooperate with the investigation. In the other incident, five inmates in a special incarceration unit ... alleged that they were beaten by 20 or more ... as they lay cuffed and shackled on the floor.

Was that done in the sunny climes of our Cuban installation? No -- that happened in Sheahan's Chi-town jail, in 1999 and 2000. Durbin's pal promised that his jail would improve and that reports of torture and abuse would stop. And they did, mostly because unlike the whistleblowers at Abu Ghraib who were lauded for their efforts to end the isolated cases of abuse at that prison, Sheahan made sure he got rid of the squealers at the Cook County lockup.

Let's try this again. Gitmo or Cook County:

[A] prisoner ... said he was beaten unconscious by guards who had wrapped handcuffs around their fists to make the beating worse. ... Several days later, the whites of his eyes were nearly obscured by the red from blood vessels that had ruptured during the beating, and deep lacerations were held together by staples that had been applied to his scalp. Late last year ... another prisoner ... told of being dragged by several guards through a fire of burning paper and debris that had been raging in the cellblock. His account of this abuse was substantiated by blisters and deep burn marks on his leg.

Now that sounds like what Saddam did on off days when he wasn't feeling all that dastardly -- so this had to have happened at Gitmo, right? Wrong. That's still Durbin's pal Sheahan's Cook County lockup. Why hasn't Durbin taken to the floor of the Senate to decry this treatment? One would think that a man who wants to protect America from the taint of torture and abuse in order to ensure our purity might start in his own back yard.

We'll start taking Durbin seriously when he calls for the National Guard in Illinois to take over the Cook County Jail and demands a federal investigation of his political ally Michael Sheahan, for years of allegations involving abuses much more profound than anything contained in that silly e-mail Durbin read on the floor of the Senate on Tuesday. Until then, chalk up Durbin's feigned moral outrage to the worst kind of political opportunism.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 17, 2005 5:50 AM

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