Words have meaning

Oliver North
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Posted: Jun 24, 2005 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Some people just don't get it.

 John Kerry couldn't figure out why his fellow swift boat veterans attacked him so vehemently after launching his presidential campaign with that "reporting for duty" line.

 Jane Fonda confesses to being "befuddled" about why Vietnam vets, many even older than she is, hurl epithets -- and more -- when she shows up to hawk her books.

 And now, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and his colleagues are wondering why so many people refuse to accept his "apology" for slandering the men and women of our armed forces by likening them to those of Hitler, Stalin and Cambodia's Pol Pot.

 In failing to comprehend the consequences of their words and actions, the Fonda-Kerry-Durbin trio serves as an archetype of the far left in misunderstanding the antipathy most Americans feel toward those who aid and abet our enemies.

 Of the three, Durbin's June 14 verbal assault from the well of the U.S. Senate is the most egregious. Fonda's self-gratifying capers with the communists in Hanoi were conducted as a private citizen. Kerry was in a similar status when he made his unfounded, attention-grabbing atrocity accusations in 1971 before a congressional subcommittee.

 But Durbin is no private citizen. He's the minority whip, the No. 2 ranking member of his party in the Senate. His were no "off the cuff" remarks. His unsubstantiated accusations of "barbaric treatment" at our terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo came before an assembly that arrogantly describes itself as "the world's greatest deliberative body." Thus, it could not have been a surprise to him or his fellow-travelers that his words flashed around the world, demoralizing our troops in the line of fire and offering our enemies a propaganda windfall.

 Every major media outlet throughout the Middle East gave "lead story" status to Durbin's unconscionable remarks. Two days later, after he refused to recant, Al-Jazeera, Saudi Television, Al-Arabya, Lebanon TV and other mouthpieces for our Islamo-fascist adversaries gleefully reported, "U.S. Senator Stands by Nazi Remark." And, unsurprisingly, Durbin's belated, tearful, pseudo-apology on June 21 has been ignored by that same media. And he still doesn't "get it."

 Those who now say "we can put the situation behind us" because Durbin has finally done "the right thing" are wrong. First, the serious damage done to our country and our military will not be easily undone. Second, what Durbin offered was no apology or act of contrition: "I have learned from my statement that historical parallels can be misused and misunderstood. I sincerely regret if what I said caused anyone to misunderstand my true feelings."

 That's not a "sincere expression of regret for an offense" -- one of the definitions for an "apology." It is, instead, a further affront to those of us who were obtuse enough to have "misunderstood" his true feelings. Apparently, we should have perceived that comparing young Americans in uniform to mass murderers like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot were terms of endearment. For the record, the combined dead from Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge, Soviet gulags and the Nazi death camps approaches 40 million. To date, the death toll at "gulag" Gitmo is a hefty zero. Zilch. Nada.

 As if to prove that he might have real regret for offending some people, Durbin says, "I am sorry if anything I said caused any offense or pain to those who have such bitter memories of the Holocaust, the greatest moral tragedy of our time." But when it comes to the men and women of our military, it's a different story.

 Durbin claims, "I never ever intended any disrespect for them." But then he adds, "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line -- to them, I extend my heartfelt apology." Try unpacking that. "Some may believe" doesn't confess that he believes his "remarks crossed the line." This is hardly an acknowledgement that he knows how wrong, offensive and damaging his words were to our armed forces and our country.

 I confess to having done the same thing during a recent television interview. In response to a question, I said, "Sen. Durbin is Jane Fonda without the tummy tuck and face-lift." Immediately afterward, I was called by a "colleague" and asked if my comment was "over the top" and would I "like to apologize." Only partly tongue-in-cheek, I replied: "I really don't know if Ms. Fonda has had a 'tummy tuck.' If my remark offended her, I'm sorry." But I wasn't sorry for an affront to Sen. Durbin -- nor has he been able to express regret for his attack on our armed forces.

 Sadly, Durbin's colleagues have rushed to defend the indefensible. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "I stand by the statement he made." He then added wishfully, "We are not going to discuss this any more." New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tried blaming Republicans, whom he said "will do anything for a diversion." And California's Dianne Feinstein now claims that things might get better if President Bush gives "regular progress reports to Congress and the American people," and says of Bush, "It's his war."

 Perhaps Feinstein wants us to forget not only Durbin's unconscionable attack on our troops -- but her own affirmative vote on Oct. 11, 2002, in favor of the Iraqi War Resolution. It's her war, too.

 Those on the far left are employing the same kind of rhetoric and tactics that worked during the Vietnam War -- where overheated rhetoric and the most vile slander are acceptable if they tarnish the president and hurt our war effort. They have no shame. They play politics like the Islamo-fascists conduct warfare -- dirty, ruthless and reckless, with no discernible rules, no regard for fact and no compunction about stabbing people in the back.