Friday, March 25, 2011

Here's to Freedom?

In my mind, the most shameful legacy of the Bush administration's run is Bush's acceptance of torture as viable method of interrogation. I distinctly remember feeling nauseous as I read leaked memos among top staff about appropriate torture techniques and various ways to avoid legal complications. I knew America doesn't get everything right, it's not a paragon of perfection, but that was a low-point I thought we'd never reach again. Then I read this editorial about the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is being imprisoned for allegedly handing over government files to Wikileaks.

I don't want to pass any judgement on Pfc. Manning's culpability because I don't know enough about the case. The way he is being treated though, as a citizen of the United States, a member of the armed forces, and a human being, has me seriously concerned, though. Pfc. Manning is not being openly abused or tortured, but he has languished in prison for 9 months without being tried. In the meantime, he is held in solitary confinement, an experience that John McCain described in his memoir as one of the toughest and most terrifying mental experiences of his own confinement and torture in Vietnam. 

Manning is granted one hour of exercise a day, and is forced to strip every evening, and given back his clothes in the morning only after passing inspection, an uncanny echo of the Bush era, when one forced nudity was a common interrogation tactic and one CIA report stated that nudity was one way to weaken the mindset of the prisoner. Even a member of the State Department stated confidentially that the government treatment of Manning was "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."

So what is President Obama, the man who promised to close Guantanamo and eliminate prisoner abuse doing about the situation? Nothing. Obama has stated that Manning's treatment is "appropriate, and meeting out basic standards." 

Manning may be guilty of a serious breach of security, I don't know.* I will stand by every citizen's right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. More importantly, I stand by every human being's right to basic dignity and physical and mental safety. Guilt and punishment are determined in the court of law, this preemptive punishment is just wrong, and further serves to chip away at the Obama administration's credibility as a government of progress and change. 

*One of the documents allegedly leaked by Pfc. Manning is a video that was posted on Lefty's last April by Henry Vasquez. Check out the video, but be warned: it is graphic and extremely upsetting. I haven't seen the other documents allegedly leaked by Manning, but with this particular video I believe Manning is exposing a cover-up, not jeopardizing the safety of American troops. 

1 comment:

Gordon Stanton said...

just to add some more clarity: Manning was responsible for most of the Wikileaks documents that were such a controversy this summer.

while i haven't figured out where i stand on the whole wikileaks issue, which is complex and multi-layered, there is no question in my mind that the treatment of Private Manning has been inhuman and completely insane. the fact that obama hasn't done anything to stop this is truly appalling.