Originally published at the Daily Censored for Project Censored.
Over the past few months, with the crisis in Japan, endless budget debates, and NATO bombings in Libya, very little media attention has been given to the steady trickle of Wikileaks releases and related stories. Nonetheless, one important news story, mostly overlooked by the main stream media, has been the alleged torture by the U.S. military of Army Private Bradley Manning.
A month ago, a State Department Spokesman, P.J. Crowley, resigned after he called Manning’s treatment, “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid.” Fox News was sure to cover Crowley’s remarks and the humiliating treatment because a State Department official was openly being critical of President Obama. However, Fox News seems to have stayed clear of the two more important developments this week in the Manning story.
On April 11, 2011, an open letter drafted by Bruce Ackerman of Yale Law and Yochai Benkler of Harvard Law and signed by nearly 300 legal scholars, including Obama’s own constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, was published in the New York Times Review of Books. It stated that over the last nine months, at the Quantico brig, Manning has been cooped up in a tiny cell for twenty-three hours a day. He is allowed one hour to walking in circles in a tiny isolated yard. The letter declared:
“He is not allowed to doze off or relax during the day, but must answer the question “Are you OK?” verbally and in the affirmative every five minutes. At night, he is awakened to be asked again “Are you OK?” every time he turns his back to the cell door or covers his head with a blanket so that the guards cannot see his face. During the past week he was forced to sleep naked and stand naked for inspection in front of his cell, and for the indefinite future must remove his clothes and wear a “smock” under claims of risk to himself that he disputes.”
The letter goes on:
“The sum of the treatment that has been widely reported is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee against punishment without trial. If continued, it may well amount to a violation of the criminal statute against torture, defined as, among other things, “the administration or application…of… procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality.”
The letter concludes:
“The administration has provided no evidence that Manning’s treatment reflects a concern for his own safety or that of other inmates. Unless and until it does so, there is only one reasonable inference: this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.”
This sentiment was shared recently by Col. Ann Wright (ret) who served 29 years in the military. Col. Wright commented, “President Obama could end the treatment of Manning with one phone call. As Commander-In-Chief he is responsible for the actions of the Marines at Quantico. Certainly he understands the constitutional right to be convicted before punished and that the condition of Manning violates protection from cruel and unusual punishment.”
Also this week, senior United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, openly scolded the US for failing to comply with the Geneva Conventions. Mendez, speaking to the Guardian, said, “I am deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarication of the US government with regard to my attempts to visit Mr. Manning.” He went on to say, “I am acting on a complaint that the regimen of this detainee amounts to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or torture…until I have all the evidence in front of me, I cannot say whether he has been treated inhumanely.”
The US is establishing a shameful record, going back to the treatment of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prisoners, of denying the Red Cross and UN torture investigators from doing their job. Unfortunately, many people that voted for Obama thought he would end the cruel and inhumane policies of the W. Bush administration. However, many legal experts are now suggesting he has not. Obama appears to not only be continuing Bush’s illegal torture policies; he is once again applying them to an American citizen.
The international online human rights organization Avaaz, has taken up a petition drive asking President Obama to end the torture of Manning. Thus far, they have collected over 500,000 signatures. According to their website:
“Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want…Avaaz empowers millions of people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change.” You can sign Avaaz’s Bradley Manning petition at this link. A network of human rights groups have created the website www.BradleyManning.org, which provides frequent updates on Pfc. Manning’s ordeal.
Professors Ackerman and Benkler seem to have it right, “this pattern of degrading treatment aims either to deter future whistleblowers, or to force Manning to implicate Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a conspiracy, or both.” Either way, Pfc. Manning’s treatment has become a shameful blemish on Obama’s administration. The question is, will the so called “liberals” that supported Obama have enough backbone to speak out against torture now that their man is in office? Given the record of the Democrats, most likely they will not. All the while, Bradley Manning’s young brain will be allowed to rot in the brig.