Sen. Dick Durbin got into the biggest trouble of his career when he compared treatment of prisoners at the federal detainment center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the punishments inflicted “by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings.”
Durbin apologized for the comparison, saying "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood."
Now, Durbin is in a position to do more than complain about Guantanamo. He’s in a position to reform it. In December, he took over the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee after Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii died. His first budget as chairman includes a plan to transfer prisoners from the federal detainment center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Senate Democrats will roll out a more than $516 billion defense appropriations bill Tuesday including new language designed to promote reforms giving more discretion to President Barack Obama to transfer prisoners from Guantanamo.
In recent months, there has been a renewed bipartisan push for change given the embarrassment of hunger strikes and forced feeding of Guantanamo detainees this summer, combined with the high cost of maintaining the island facility.
“We are spending $2.7 million a year for each detainee held at Guantanamo Bay,” Durbin said at a recent Judiciary Committee hearing. “This would be fiscally irresponsible during ordinary economic times but it’s even worse when the Department of Defense is struggling to deal with the impact of sequestration including the furloughs and cutbacks in training for our troops.”
“Every day at Guantanamo Bay, dozens of detainees are being force fed, a practice the American Medical Association and the International Red Cross condemn and a federal judge in Washington recently found to be `painful, humiliating and degrading.’”
Appropriations speak louder than words.