The Torture of Bradley Manning
"The lesson is clear, and soldiers take note: You're better off committing a war crime than exposing one."
On Sunday, dozens of people, including former Army Colonol Ann Wright and Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pantagon Papers on the Vietnam War, were arrested for protesting the treatment of Private Bradley Manning, at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, where he is being held. Manning, who is accused of leaking millions of secret US diplomatic cables and files about the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the whistle blowing website Wikileaks, faces 24 charges including the capital charge of "aiding the enemy". The 23 year old has been held in federal prison since June, kept in solitary confinement and psychologically tortured for his alleged crimes.
It is not news that war and occupation lead to the violation of Human Rights and that dehumanization and humiliation are necessary tools in the making of imperialist wars. This truth is as relevant abroad as it is at home. As Bradley Manning is kept in humiliating and dehumanizing conditions in the United States for perhaps having helped to expose this truth, it is pertinent to remember that his treatment is a reflection of the general policies necessary for our government to continue having U.S. Soldiers acquiesce in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
In the programs The Real Face of Occupation and Dance of Death from the series Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation, Deep Dish TV explores the effects of these policies in Iraq. The programs attempt to provide an insight into how soldiers are trained to think of those whose country they occupy as less then human and how incidents like those at the Abu Ghraib detention center are not just the cases of "a few bad apples".
The conditions in which Manning is purportedly being held are enough to make anyone sick. Even in a society, which itself is sick, infected with apathy and extreme desensitization, his plight has managed to raise hairs. P.J Crowley, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, resigned under pressure from the White House after saying the treatment of Manning "“is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
"It has been reported and verified by his attorney that PFC Manning has been held in solitary confinement since July of 2010. He reportedly is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day, a cell approximately six feet wide and twelve feet in length, with a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet. For no discernable reason other than punishment, he is forbidden from exercising in his cell and is provided minimal access to exercise outside his cell. Further, despite having virtually nothing to do, he is forbidden to sleep during the day and often has his sleep at night disrupted."
The letter details the myriad ways in which this treatment can have serious consequences to a person's mental health and cites the most recent report of the UN Committee against Torture, which concluded "The Committee is concerned about the prolonged isolation periods detainees are subjected to, the effect such treatment has on their mental health, and that its purpose may be retribution, in which case it would constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."
The letter goes on to point out that aside from being a serious risk to Manning's mental health the conditions in which he is being held are indicative that he is being presumed guilty rather then innocent and seems to be being punished for that presumption.
In addition to being kept in isolation in the conditions described above, Manning is denied a pillow and sheet, and made to sleep in his boxers, and stand nearly naked in front of the guards each morning to receive his clothing. Allegedly this is so he won't strangle himself with his clothing or bedding, ironically though he is still allowed blankets.
As Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace and independent journalist, Charles Davis wrote in an OPED for Al Jazeera:
"Bradley Manning is accused of humiliating the political establishment by revealing the complicity of top US officials in carrying out and covering up war crimes. In return for his act of conscience, the US government is torturing him, humiliating him and trying to keep him behind bars for life. The lesson is clear, and soldiers take note: You're better off committing a war crime than exposing one."
It is a fair point, not a single soldier exposed as having committed war crimes by the files leaked to Wikileaks is facing any charges. Not even the soldiers shown in the"Collateral Murder" video as having gunned down dozens of Iraqis, including two Reuters journalists and two children; not to speak of the leaders who ordered such war crimes to be committed. If George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice or Colin Powell were ever treated like Bradley Manning, pigs would fly.
As for Obama, who ran for office on a platform opposed to prisoner abuse, well, as Benjamin and Davis point out, the "candidate of hope and change" has "prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history". Now as the torture of prisoners continues and the bombs rain down on Libya, it is clear that it will take much more then a few dozen peoples arrest for anything to ever change.
Ann Wright and Daniel Ellsberg arrested with others in protest on March 20th: