Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bradley Manning: Torture, the Law, and Human Rights

By Ennealogic

Imagine for a moment that you wake up every day with raw spots on your shoulders and hips from sleeping (or trying to sleep) under heavy 'blankets' that are more like very heavy kitchen scrubbie squares. Then, imagine that for 23 out of 24 hours a day you are confined to a very small, windowless cell that is 6 feet wide by 12 feet long. There is a mattress with a built-in pillow of sorts. There is a toilet and a drinking fountain. You are not permitted to exercise in your cell. You might be allowed a piece of paper and a pen, or maybe one book.

Pfc. Bradley Manning
Every 5 minutes, day and night, a guard appears at the slit in your cell door and if you are awake, you are required to respond that you are okay. If you fall asleep and for some reason are not visible from the cell door, due to being under the 'blanket' or huddled in a corner, you are wakened to verify you are still alive.

The Washington Times reports,
At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up (on weekends, he is allowed to sleep until 7:00 a.m.). Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.
Imagine that for one hour a day you are allowed to leave your cell but all you are permitted to do is walk around another small room. Or maybe watch television, but not necessarily a channel of your choice. You get no newspapers, you have no computer or phone, and your visitors are few and far between. You receive food and medication, but you don't know what you are ingesting.

Imagine that this goes on day after day, month after month, until time ceases to have meaning. I can't. My brain goes into spasms after a few weeks...

Google Earth view of Quantico
As most of us know, Bradley Manning was arrested in Kuwait in late June, 2010 and transferred to the Quantico military brig a couple of weeks later. He has been detained under severe conditions since then. According to Salon's Glenn Greenwald, who has written a great deal about the unjustified conditions of Manning's detention,
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day—for seven straight months and counting—he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.
Now, imagine that you have been charged with a crime but not convicted. In fact, you have not yet had a trial or even a pre-trial. And imagine that your solitary confinement under what has been called at the best, punitive conditions, and at the worst, torture, is a result of the distribution to authorities of chat logs? And imagine that one Adrian Lamo distributed these logs to authorities.

I am certainly not in a position to validate the chat logs. They are/were plain text, and as such, easily subject to modification. Lamo's background as a hacker is well known. Were the logs genuine? Perhaps. What was Lamo's true motivation for sharing them with authorities? Unknown. Will he be questioned deeply? I hope so.

At the moment, the military can't find a connection between Manning and Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and the supposed final recipient of the files that Manning is alleged to have copied and transmitted. Nor can the military find corroborating evidence of Lamo's claims. My concern is that Manning is being subjected to severe conditions in the hope he will confess to whatever he is accused of.

View AlJazeera's recent report here:

So, how long does Manning have to wait for the wheels of justice to spin? The Washington Times reports that Manning's pre-trial hearing has been postponed until he can be examined by a psychiatric board whose purpose would be to verify he is fit to stand trial. The members of this "706" board have yet to be selected. There is no justification given for the delay. Meanwhile, Manning endures day after month in limbo, punitive limbo.

Bradley Manning is not without his champions. In one of Keith Olbermann's last Countdown broadcasts, he interviews Colleen Rowley, a government whistleblower, and talks abut Manning's detention and Wikileaks:

US Representative Dennis Kucinich (D Ohio) has written to Secretary of Defense Gates requesting that he may visit Bradley Manning. I was hoping to hear that his request was granted by now, but so far there has been no word.

Many groups and individuals support Manning, and sponsor events designed to keep the focus on this case. Here are a few:
I would be remiss if I did not mention David House and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake who not only jump through the hoops at Quantico to visit Manning, but post excellent articles about this issue. See for example,

This is not a simple story and it has no simple or easy ending. We have to ask ourselves what would WE do when faced with a question of conscience? Here is what a US Army recruit swears to on joining:
I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) provides that, under Article 90, during times of war, a military member who willfully disobeys a superior commissioned officer can be sentenced to death. However...
These articles require the obedience of LAWFUL orders. An order which is unlawful not only does not need to be obeyed, but obeying such an order can result in criminal prosecution of the one who obeys it. Military courts have long held that military members are accountable for their actions even while following orders -- if the order was illegal.
Our soldiers, our troops, our men and women in uniform, walk a fine line. They know what is wrong and what is right. They know what is good and what is bad. They probably confront these questions frequently, whether they are in combat or just handling paperwork. If a superior officer tells you to lie about what you saw and heard and know to be true, what would you do? What should you do? And then, what is the just and fair way to treat someone who did what he thought was the right, moral and just thing to do?


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