Why We Should Be VERY WORRIED About how Bradley Manning is being treated
Rich Gardner | 03.15.2011
President G.W. Bush carried out massive and illegal surveillance activities. President Obama is carrying out the brutal torments that were used at Abu Ghraib and other places on Pfc. Bradley Manning. In both cases, the presidents refused to permit outside persons to inspect and to see to it that their activities were conducted so as to be lawful and moral. In neither case could either president be trusted to tell the American public the truth about what they were doing.
Back during the scandal of G.W. Bush's illegal surveillance:
"...the NSA is or was provided total, unsupervised access to all fiber-optic communications going between some of the nation's major telecommunication companies' major interconnect locations, including phone conversations, email, web browsing, and corporate private network traffic."
The initial explanation as to how the surveillance was structured was:
"The President has authorized a program to engage in electronic surveillance of a particular kind, and this would be the intercepts of contents of communications where one of the -- one party to the communication is outside the United States. And this is a very important point -- people are running around saying that the United States is somehow spying on American citizens calling their neighbors. Very, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States.
"Another very important point to remember is that we have to have a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in support of al Qaeda. We view these authorities as authorities to confront the enemy in which the United States is at war with -- and that is al Qaeda and those who are supporting or affiliated with al Qaeda."
This initial explanation as to how the program was carefully limited was never the slightest bit credible as everyone who had access to the underlying data, the raw data that was being gathered, was either a pro-Bush partisan or was a government or corporate employee who was sworn to secrecy.
"On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed U.S. Senate leaders by letter that the [illrgal surveillance] program would not be reauthorized...
"On September 18, 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an Internet-privacy advocacy group, filed a new lawsuit... They sued on behalf of AT&T customers to seek redress for what the EFF alleges to be an illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance..." [emphasis added]
Again, the explanation made by the Bush Adminstration that "Hey, the program's all fixed and no more illegal surveillance is taking place" was simply not credible as there was still no investigation conducted by anyone who had opposed the program in the first place. Everyone with access to the gathered data was still either a pro-surveillance partisan or was sworn to secrecy.
Much the same is true of information concerning how Pfc. Bradley Manning is being treated while in military custody.
"Manning's treatment has been reviewed by the General Counsels of the Department of Defense, Navy and Marine Corps and found to be legal, according to the Pentagon. They say he is being treated the same as any other maximum security prisoner on Prevention of Injury watch would be.
"Following news that Manning was being forced to sleep without clothes in his cell, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) charged that the miilitary's treatment of Manning is comparable to the abuse carried out at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
"The Pentagon now says that Manning's underwear was taken away from him at night after he said that if he wanted to kill himself he could use the elastic waistband on his underpants. He now wears a "tear proof garment" and does have blankets and a pillow."
It'd be nice to believe that the Pentagon is not carrying out Abu Ghraib-style mental conditioning on Manning in order to force him to confess to collaborating with Julian Assange in the Wikileaks case. It's also nice to hear that Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who said he'd look into Manning's case, has apparently decided that everything there is okay. But if Manning was not being conditioned to confess, then how do we explain the following?
[Mannings' lawyer David E.] "Coombs also filed a demand for a speedy trial on January 9. The lawyer’s web site notes that Manning has been held in solitary confinement since May 29 of last year without formal charges being made against him."
"The conditions under which Manning is held are in sharp contrast to those the Army affords to the dozen soldiers from the Stryker Brigade charged with killing Afghan civilians, cutting off body parts as trophies, or covering up those atrocities. These soldiers also face Article 32 hearings, but none is held in solitary confinement and the majority are merely confined to base, not jailed."
What truly makes the testimony of both military officers and the Obama Administration unbelievable has been that Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has been trying to see Manning for over a month.
"Obama says DOD has assured him everything they’re doing to Manning is standard. If so, then why are they fighting so hard to prevent a member of Congress from visiting him?"
As the lawyer/blogger Glenn Greenwald has tweeted:
"CNN says Crowley resigned "under pressure from WH" - - detainee abuse is allowed - speaking out against it isn't."
What happened to prompt that statement?
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced "the conditions of Bradley Manning's detention as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid," forcing President Obama to address those comments in a Press Conference and defend the treatment of Manning.
"So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade. But speaking out against that abuse is a firing offense."
Why would the military/the Obama Administration be abusing Manning in this manner?
"Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them."
Sounds to me then, that their attempt to find evidence of an active conspiracy came up empty and they're trying to force Manning to confess that Assange played a more active role anyway.The State Department spokesperson who resigned (Obviously, President Obama demanded his immediate resignation), P.J Crowley, pointed out in 2009, quite properly, that:
"More importantly, the United States and its allies need to drive a wedge between affiliated groups and broader communities. On this front, Al Qaeda is actually vulnerable. The vision of Islamic society that bin Laden propagates—his bridge to the seventh century—is not shared by the masses. In Iraq and elsewhere, Muslims have turned against bin Laden once they recognized that Al Qaeda’s violent attacks largely victimize fellow Muslims. But turning the tide is simply not possible as long as the United States pursues its current strategy—occupying Iraq, defending autocratic leaders such as Musharraf and violating international norms regarding torture and the treatment of detainees. Such actions create the perception of grievance that opens the door to radical recruitment."
The point is that if the US behaves just as badly as the brutal, extremist radicals of al Qaeda, why on Earth should Muslims take our side against them? It's hardly sufficient to say that "Hey, it's only one person who's being abused" or that "Obama is playing seventh-dimensional chess." Fortunately, the left blogosphere has reacted appropriately. In fact, supporters of Obama are now appearing on the right-wing side of the aisle. Gee, wasn't there a concern in October of 2008 that John McCain's elecyion as President would constitute a "third term of Bush"?
It makes you wonder...
"It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all now living (and dying) through it. With the Democrats in control of Congress but Bush still in the Oval Office, the media would certainly be talking endlessly about a mandate for bipartisanship and the importance of taking into account the concerns of Republicans. Can't you just picture it?"
If the US is willing to continue going down the G.W. Bush path, if it's willing to cast aside civilized norms and to brutally abuse one of its own citizens for dishonorable reasons, then our country has no reason to expect anyone to look up to us. The US becomes a completely non-credible spokesperson for human rights.
What concerned citizens can do:
March 19, there's an anti-Iraq War "Shock & Awe" demonstration in Washington DC. Early the next day, there are four chartered buses leaving for Quantico, VA in order to protest the treatment of Manning. They expect to return to DC at 3:45 in the afternoon of Sunday the 20th. Check out the Washington DC Veterans for Peace website for details. The progressive website FireDogLake also lists a number of rallies.