Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Free Bradley Manning!
The US condemns human rights abuses abroad yet appears to be allowing the psychological torture of Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning
Bradley Manning was forced to sleep naked in his cell, according to his lawyers. Photograph: EPA

    Bradley Manning and the stench of US hypocrisy

    By Ryan Gallagher,
    Friday March 2011

    Earlier this week, the soldier accused of leaking thousands of confidential documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, was handed an additional 22 charges as part of his ongoing court martial process.

    The 23-year-old, who has been in solitary confinement for more than seven months, stands accused of computer fraud, theft of public records and willfully communicating classified information to a person not entitled to receive it. He now also finds himself faced with a rare charge known as "aiding the enemy" – a capital offence for which he could face the death penalty.

    The revelation will no doubt have come as a blow to Manning, although given his ongoing treatment it is likely he already feared the worst. Made to endure strict conditions under a prevention of injury order against the advice of military psychiatrists, he is treated like no other prisoner at the 250-capacity Quantico Brig detention facility in Virginia.

    Despite that he is yet to be convicted of any crime, for the past 218 consecutive days he has been made to live in a cell 6ft wide and 12ft long, without contact with any other detainees. He is not allowed to exercise or have personal effects in his cell, and for the one hour each day he is allowed free from his windowless cell he is taken to an empty room where he is allowed to walk, but not run.

    One of the few people to have visited Manning, David House, spoke yesterday of how he had witnessed his friend go from a "bright-eyed intelligent young man" to someone who at times has appeared "catatonic" with "very high difficulty carrying on day to day conversation". House drew similarities with the case of Bobby Dellelo, an American prisoner who developed psychosis after a lengthy period in solitary confinement conditions similar to Manning's.

    "For me this has been like watching a really good friend succumb to an illness or something," he said. "I think that Bradley Manning is being punished this way because the US government wants him to crack ahead of his trial."

    While there has been widespread and well publicised condemnation of issues surrounding Manning's detainment, his conditions have failed to improve. In fact, things may have got worse, not better, for the Oklahoma-born soldier who is incidentally entitled to UK citizenship through his Welsh mother. Just two days ago, for instance, only 24 hours after having been told he now faces a capital charge, Manning was made to strip naked in his cell for no apparent reason. According to David Coombs, Manning's lawyer, the soldier was then left without clothes for seven hours. When the wake-up call sounded for the detainees at 5am, in an act of forced humiliation, Manning was made to stand naked at the front of his cell.

    The incident, described as "inexcusable and without justification" by Coombs, is symbolic of the entire twisted saga: a gross injustice on a nauseating scale. We must bear in mind, of course, that Manning allegedly leaked military files because he, according to unverified internet chat logs, saw wrongdoing and had no other course of action because his superiors told him they "didn't want to hear any of it".

    He did not want to be complicit in war crimes, and felt that by leaking the files he could prompt "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms".

    In recent days and weeks the US government has condemned human rights abuses and repression in almost every country across the Middle East – yet at a prison within its own borders it sanctions the persecution, alleged psychological torture and debasement of a young soldier who appears to have made a principled choice in the name of progress.

    "Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal," said Barack Obama in 2008.

    But the stench of his hypocrisy is no longer bearable. It is time, now more than ever, that Bradley Manning received the justice he so clearly deserves.

    By Ryan Gallagher,
    Friday March 2011


    Under Obama, Better to Commit a War Crime Than Expose One

    By Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis

    ecall when candidate Obama said

    “government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal”?

    .....“Is this Quantico or Abu Ghraib?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a press release. Good question, congressman. Like the men imprisoned in former President Bush's Iraqi torture chamber, Manning is being abused and humiliated despite having not so much as been tried in a military tribunal, much less convicted of an actual crime.

    So much for the constitutional lawyer who ran as the candidate of hope and change.

    Remember back when Obama campaigned against such Bush-league torture tactics? Recall when candidate Obama said “government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal”? It appears his opposition to torture and support for whistleblowers was only so much rhetoric. And then he took office.

    Indeed, despite the grand promises and soaring rhetoric, Obama’s treatment of Manning is starkly reminiscent of none other than Richard Nixon.

    Like Obama – who has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history – Nixon had no sympathy for “snitches,” and no interest in the American public learning the truth about their government.

    And he likewise argued that Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, had given “aid and comfort to the enemy” for revealing the facts about the war in Vietnam.

    But there's a difference: Richard Nixon never had the heroic whistleblower of his day thrown in solitary confinement and tortured. If only the same could be said for Barack Obama.

    Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace.

    Charles Davis is an independent journalist.

    On March 20 CODEPINK and others will be traveling to the Quantico Marine Base to rally in support of Bradley Manning.

    You can sign the CODEPINK petition here asking President Obama to pardon Bradley Manning.


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