Gitmo called death camp

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The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat has compared the U.S. military’s treatment of a suspected al Qaeda terrorist at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay with the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Pol Pot, three of history’s most heinous dictators, whose regimes killed millions.

In a speech on the Senate floor late Tuesday, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, castigated the American military’s actions by reading an e-mail from an FBI agent.

The agent complained to higher-ups that one al Qaeda suspect was chained to the floor, kept in an extremely cold air-conditioned cell and forced to hear loud rap music. The Justice Department is investigating.

About 9 million persons, including 6 million Jews, died in Hitler’s death camps, 2.7 million persons died in Stalin’s gulags and 1.7 million Cambodians died in Pol Pot’s scourge of his country.

No prisoners have died at Guantanamo, and the Pentagon has acknowledged five instances of abuse or irreverent handling of the Koran, the holy book of Muslims.

After reading the e-mail, Mr. Durbin said, “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. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”

Mr. Durbin also likened the treatment of terror suspects at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to authorize the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“It took us almost 40 years for us to acknowledge that we were wrong, to admit that these people should never have been imprisoned. It was a shameful period in American history,” Mr. Durbin said. “I believe the torture techniques that have been used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other places fall into that same category.”

The White House yesterday reacted angrily to Mr. Durbin’s remarks.

“It’s reprehensible, as Defense Secretary [Donald H.] Rumsfeld said, to suggest that the Guantanamo Bay facility is anything like a gulag or a mad regime or Pol Pot,” White House spokesman Trent Duffy told The Washington Times.

“It is reprehensible, has no place in the current debate, and as we’ve seen over several years, the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are being treated humanely,” he said. “What this is is a disservice to any man and woman serving in the U.S. military who’s putting their life on the line each day, because they’re trying to paint all military with a broad brush because of the actions of perhaps a few bad apples, who are being punished severely.”

At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld spokesman Larry Di Rita said of Mr. Durbin’s remarks: “I didn’t hear what he said, but any such comparison would obviously be outrageous and not remotely connected with reality.”

Mr. Durbin did not back off his characterization in a statement to The Times last night.

“No one, including the White House, can deny the statement I read on the Senate floor was made by an FBI agent describing the torture of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay,” he said. “That torture was reprehensible and totally inconsistent with the values we hold dear in America.

“This administration should apologize to the American people for abandoning the Geneva Conventions and authorizing torture techniques that put our troops at risk and make Americans less secure.”

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