WASHINGTON -- Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said yesterday that he regretted misunderstandings caused by his comments earlier this week comparing American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to Nazis.
The White House, Senate Republicans, and others had called for an apology after Durbin's comments Tuesday.
Durbin made the comparison after reading an FBI agent's report describing detainees at the Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as being chained to the floor without food or water in extreme temperatures.
''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.
Yesterday, Durbin tried to clarify the issue. ''My statement in the Senate was critical of the policies of this administration, which add to the risk our soldiers face," he said in a statement released yesterday afternoon. ''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: Our soldiers around the world and their families at home deserve our respect, admiration, and total support."
The Anti-Defamation League had joined lawmakers and other groups on Thursday in calling for an apology. ''Suggesting some kind of equivalence between [US military] interrogation tactics demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about the horrors that Hitler and his regime actually perpetrated," the league said in a letter to Durbin that was posted to its website.
All seven freshmen Republican senators also made a joint call yesterday for an apology.
Durbin had said Thursday that he had not brought US soldiers into the comparison and that he was criticizing the approved interrogation methods described in an FBI memo obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.