Monday, March 14, 2011

Ridiculous and Counterproductive and Stupid

Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, for allegedly leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, including the U.S. diplomatic cables that were subsequently published by WikiLeaks and in newspapers around the country.  Originally charged last July with transferring classified data onto his computer and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source, 22 new charges, including the capital offense of "aiding the enemy" were added this month.  As Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake observed, the Pentagon is "ratcheting up the pressure on  Manning" with these charges now that the case against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange is falling apart.

Since the beginning of this year, serious concerns have been raised about the conditions of Manning's confinement at the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Virginia. Manning had been held in solitary confinement under a "prevention of injury" assignment, which is one step below suicide watch.  Twenty-three hours a day he must remain in in a 6 x 12 ft cell, which consists of a bed, toilet and sink, but no window.  He is checked by guards every five minutes and is not permitted to sleep during the day.  He was required to sleep in his boxers, with no sheets or pillow, only a rough, heavy blanket.  Recently he has been given a smock to sleep in but he has also been subjected to prolonged forced nudity, and is required to present himself naked outside his cell for morning inspection.

In January, Amnesty International wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Gates complaining that Manning's detention was "unnecessarily harsh and punitive" and in "breach the USA’s obligations under international standards and treaties."  Amnesty has renewed its objections and contends that the current treatment, which requires Manning to remove his clothes violates his human rights.  Glenn Greenwald reports that Manning's formal request for less harsh treatment -- including an end to forced nudity and solitary confinement --  was rejected last week by the Quantico base commander.

P.J. Crowley, the State Department's spokesman was speaking to a small group at M.I.T. on Friday, when he was asked about Manning's treatment.  His response was that while Manning deserves to be in prison, what is being done to him is “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.

OK, substantial allegations of inhumane treatment of a military prisoner have been raised not only by the human rights community and progressive-minded journalists, but by the State Department's chief spokesperson.  What is this Administration going to do about it?  That's easy.  Deny there is any problem and then fire the spokesperson.

When President Obama was asked on Friday about Crowley's statement and whether he agreed with it.  Obama's response was disturbing, to say the least:  "With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well."

So, the President has been assured by the Pentagon that everything is fine.  As Daniel Ellsberg put it, "If Obama believes that, he'll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they've been behaving appropriately."

Then, on Sunday, P.J. Crowley was made to resign in the wake of his criticism of Manning's treatment.

I suppose President Obama can be decisive after all.  Shameful, but decisive.


lonbud said...

Manning is Obama's Waterloo, sad to say.

Post a Comment