WASHINGTON - His voice choking, Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin took to the Senate floor yesterday and offered "heartfelt apologies" for comparing America's treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center to the Nazis, Soviets and other murderous regimes.
The apology came after a week of drumbeat criticism against Durbin, the assistant Democratic leader, from the White House, from Republican senators, from conservative activists and, finally, from Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, a fellow Democrat.
"I'm sorry if anything that I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time," Durbin said as his voice trembled. "Nothing, nothing should ever be said to demean or diminish that moral tragedy. I'm also sorry if anything I said in any way cast a negative light on our fine men and women in the military."
The controversy began a week ago on Tuesday night with a lengthy floor speech from Durbin criticizing the Bush administration's policy on the U.S. prison at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba. In that speech, Durbin read aloud from an FBI agent's e-mail describing the treatment of prisoners.
"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.
The next day, Republican senators, including the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, scalded Durbin with criticism.
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