Bradley Manning has been forced to
sleep naked in his cell, according to his lawyers. President Obama
says he has been assured that Manning's prison conditions 'are
appropriate and are meeting our basic standards'. Photograph: EPA
tells us that he's asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of
Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets,
"are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me
that they are."
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.
I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the
same thing: "I was assured by the
the White House Plumbers that their
burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in Los
Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards."
When that criminal
behaviour ordered from the Oval Office came out, Nixon faced
impeachment and had to resign. Well, times have changed. But if
President Obama really doesn't yet know the
actual conditions of Manning's detention – if he really
believes, as he's said, that "some of this [nudity, isolation,
harassment, sleep-deprivation] has to do with Private Manning's
wellbeing", despite the contrary judgments of the prison
psychologist – then he's being lied to, and he needs to get a grip
on his administration.
If he does know,
and agrees that it's appropriate or even legal, that doesn't speak
well for his memory of the courses he taught on constitutional law.
responding to a question about the "torturing" of an American
citizen, and, creditably, he didn't rebut that description.
Prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity – that's right out of
the manual of the
CIA for "enhanced interrogation". We've seen it applied in
Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. It's what the CIA calls "no-touch
torture", and its purpose there, as in this case, is very clear:
to demoralise someone to the point of offering a desired confession.
That's what they are after, I suspect, with Manning. They don't care
if the confession is true or false, so long as it implicates
WikiLeaks in a way that will help them prosecute
That's just my
guess, as to their motives. But it does not affect the illegality of
the behaviour. If I'm right, it's likely that such harsh treatment
wasn't ordered at the level of a warrant officer or the brig
commander. The fact that they have continued to inflict such
suffering on the prisoner despite weeks of complaint from his
defence counsel, harsh publicity and condemnation from organisations
such as Amnesty International, suggests to me that it might have
come from high levels of the defence department or the justice
department, if not from the White House itself.
coincidence that it's someone from the state department who has gone
off-message to speak out about this. When a branch of the US
government makes a mockery of our pretensions to honour the rule of
law, specifically our obligation not to use torture, the state
department bears the brunt of that, as it affects our standing in
The fact that
Manning's abusive mistreatment is going on at Quantico – where I
spent nine months as a Marine officer in basic school – and that
Marines are lying about it, makes me feel ashamed for the Corps.
Just three years as an infantry officer was more than enough time
for me to know that what is going on there is illegal behaviour that
must be stopped and disciplined.