At the request of the leader of the U.S. Senate, Dick Durbin apologized over his remarks about abuses at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay this week. He said he was sorry if they offended anyone.

It offended us not that he would criticize the military but that he painted military police and interrogation units with a pretty broad brush. Certainly, there have been documented cases of abuse at the prison. The FBI e-mails, made available under the federal Freedom of Information Act, detail some extreme cases.

But Sen. Durbin and others shouldn't extrapolate the actions of a few to the many. Nazi and Soviet horrors or those of the Pol Pot regime of which he spoke were standard operating procedures, where abuse and torture were exponentially more severe and affected millions. These recent instances, we expect, are relatively few, considering the number of detainees kept there. That doesn't excuse them, but the situations cannot be compared.

Sen. Durbin's choice of words was unfortunate and he has become the poster boy for Democrat bashing. But just as unfortunate is the Bush administration's lack of clarity as to how these prisoners should be treated. Those considered active terrorists, certainly, should be put on trial. The remainder ? call them enemy combatants, if you wish ? are more akin to prisoners of war, who would be captured during a war and released at its end. However, the War on Terror is not one that's declared against another entity. So, will these people ever be released? And, the administration says since there's no declared war, their treatment may not be governed by the Geneva Convention as POWs.

Those two opposing views can't be reconciled. They're either criminals, POWs or something some administration call a "gray area." Personally, we don't see what's wrong with using the standards of the Geneva Convention. The administration needs to make a determination as to the detainees' status and provide information as to how they'll be treated. And Sen. Durbin needs to offer a soul-searching apology, then shut up.

Without that clarity and explanation, their plight continues to fuel al-Qaeda operatives and make a brutal military mission even tougher.

This Week's Circulars

Recommended for you