Prisoner Abuse

Thursday, March 10, 2011

With all the recent news item to get pissed about, the treatment of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning caught my attention. This was probably due to the fact that it is getting almost zero attention. The NYT has covered it and Glenn Greenwald had a scathing op ed on the subject. Manning, among other things, has been charged with 27+ violations, some of which carry the death penalty, and is being subjected to the following conditions:

Let's review Manning's detention over the last nine straight months: 23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he's allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards' inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards' full view. Is there anyone who doubts that these measures -- and especially this prolonged forced nudity -- are punitive and designed to further erode his mental health, physical health and will? As The Guardian reported last year, forced nudity is almost certainly a breach of the Geneva Conventions; the Conventions do not technically apply to Manning, as he is not a prisoner of war, but they certainly establish the minimal protections to which all detainees -- let alone citizens convicted of nothing -- are entitled.

Much of Greenwalds ire is directed at the Obama administration, and he isn't alone:

UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman -- who last year hailed Barack Obama as, and I quote, "the greatest moral leader of our lifetime" -- wrote last night:

The United States Army is so concerned about Bradley Manning’s health that it is subjecting him to a regime designed to drive him insane. . . . This is a total disgrace. It shouldn't be happening in this country. You can't be unaware of this, Mr. President. Silence gives consent.

I know that Obama has a lot on his plate right now, but this combined with his executive order keeping open Gitmo and continuing the Bush Era detention policies and procedures is disappointing at best. Greenwald then points out the selective outrage of some on the left:

just fathom the contrived, shrieking uproar from opportunistic Democratic politicians and their loyalists if it had been George Bush and Dick Cheney -- on U.S. soil -- subjecting a whistle-blowing member of the U.S. military to these repressive conditions without being convicted of anything, charging him with a capital offense that statutorily carries the death penalty, and then forcing him to remain nude every night and stand naked for inspection outside his cell. Feigning concern over detainee abuse for partisan gain is only slightly less repellent than the treatment to which Manning is being subjected.

Ouch. There doesn't seem to be a lot of media criticism of Obama for this or for Gitmo. Jon Stewart didn't let it pass, though.


Bob 8:28 AM  

For arguments sake, let's say that Manning is a traitor and deserves the treatment he gets. Isn't the Government smart enough to know that treating this guy this way could blow their ability to prosecute? Guess not.

Sex offenders are treated better.

The only thing I don't like about what you posted is those who call him a "...whistle-blowing member of the U.S. military."

Whistle-blowers shed light on specific actions of the Government that needs to be revealed to end abuse and illegal activities. They do not do an info dump of huge quantities of classified information. If he had released information to end a specific abuse, I would buy it, but to release everything he is accused of releasing seems like an act of malice. (Assuming he is in-fact guilty of releasing all of the documents he is accused of releasing.)

AGAIN - to the point of your post. This guy should not only be treated and assumed as innocent, he should be treated humanely even after a conviction. I doubt a President is made aware of this sort of abuse, but he has no excuse now that it is in the MSM.

steves 8:48 AM  

Good point, Bob. I don't know that I would call him a whistleblower, either. I don't think that all of that information should have been released in the way it was.

Streak 8:57 AM  

Agreed. This is shameful.

Smitty 12:54 PM  

I am confused as to why Manning released that data. What did he stand to gain, other than 15 minutes of fame and a (shortened) lifetime of vilification? Like Bob said, was there an abuse he was exposing?

All of my poorly-informed speculation about his motives aside, he's an American citizen. He gets to be treated as such, including presumed innocence. His treatment is disgusting, and Obama's silence is indeed tacit approval.

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