Bradley Manning and Mohamed Bouazizi

Activists David House and Jane Hamsher tried to visit Pfc. Bradley Manning, who stands accused of leaking classified US government documents, at Quantico on Sunday. They allege that while still outside the base, they were given a run-around, threatened with having their car towed, and then essentially detained for two hours, until the 3:00 pm end to visiting hours arrived. They were not on the base, and House is on an approved visitor list. They were trying to see Manning, whose health they say has deteriorated because of the harsh terms of his detainment, and to deliver to the base commander a petition with 40,000 signatories asking that the terms be eased.

The suspicious behavior of the authorities at Quantico raises the question of why they were trying to keep House from seeing Manning on Sunday. What had been done to their prisoner that they didn’t want coming out?

Manning’s treatment as though he were a terrorist contrasts to the lionization of other kinds of dissident. If it is true that Manning turned State Department documents over to Wikileaks, then he played a small role in the Tunisian Jasmine Revolution, which overthrew the brutal and grasping dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, whom the US government had been coddling and the French government actively supporting. Ben Ali’s cruelty to political prisoners is now emerging, as they are being released and telling their story.

Desperation at the policies of the Tunisian government had driven college graduate turned vegetable peddler Mohammad Bouazizi to set himself on fire in protest. The government had supplied him no job, then had confiscated his vegetable cart, then slapped and humiliated him when he protested. Bouazizi was driven to desperation, knowing that the Tunisian system was closed so tight that it offered him no recourse, no hope for reform. His only means of protest was to start a fire and sacrifice his own life. His protest set off public disturbances throughout the country. In the midst of this “Jasmine Revolution,” a leaked US embassy cable about the corruption of President Ben Ali came to the attention of the Tunisian public, lending legitimacy and urgency to their efforts to unseat him. It may have been leaked by Manning.

Manning, like Bouazizi, is young. He also faced, with all his youth and inexperience and impatience, a political situation that was the result of criminality. Dick Cheney and John Yoo and Karl Rove and George W. Bush were responsible for creating a public image of government lawlessness that encouraged whistle blowing. They went to war against Iraq on false pretenses and in contravention of international law. They themselves tried to leak the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, to the press. They set up Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and Bagram as black torture facilities. They lied repeatedly to the American people (there was no looting in Iraq, no guerrilla war in Iraq, no civil war in Iraq, no torture practiced by the US in Iraq, no more than 30,000 civilian dead in Iraq, no need for more armored vehicles for our troops in Iraq).

The political situation Manning faced was also unyielding. Long after the American public turned against Washington’s Forever Wars, they are still being pursued, and are killing thousands of innocent civilians for war goals that range from the highly unlikely to the utterly phantasmagoric. Manning’s leak was an act of desperation no different in intent from Bouazizi’s self-immolation. He intended to protest, by putting himself on the line. He wrote in chat room, “god knows what happens now — hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms — if not & we’re doomed.” He did not intend to get caught, but he must have known the risks. His was a cyberspace form of self-immolation, a career-ending, decisively life-changing act that, however foolhardy or possibly illegal, was certainly courageous.

President Obama belatedly praised “the courage and dignity of the Tunisian people” and said,

“The United States stands with the entire international community in bearing witness to this brave and determined struggle for the universal rights that we must all uphold, and we will long remember the images of the Tunisian people seeking to make their voices heard.”

So one of the universal human rights the Tunisians wanted was freedom from harsh conditions of detention when charged with thought crimes.

As a service member under arrest in preparation for a military trial, Manning lacks many of the protections of US civilians charged with wrongdoing, but there are military regulations about pre-trial treatment that his defense alleges are being violated. There are also provisions in international law to which the US is signatory and which may be being violated.

Manning was placed on suicide watch for two days last week, and is in general in maximum security detention and subject to ‘prevention of injury’ (POI) rules.

Manning’s psychiatrists say there is no reason for the POI. This procedure allows guards to wake Manning up whenever they cannot see his face (i.e. if he rolls over on his bed while sleeping).

There is a strong possibility that solitary confinement (i.e. social isolation) and sleep deprivation are being used by Manning’s jailers as a form of torture to soften him up. It is possible that they want from him information that would allow them to pursue conspiracy charges against Wikileaks, and this mistreatment is the way they think they can get it from him.

Ironically, Among Amnesy International’s charges against the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia was this:

‘ Prison conditions: Many political prisoners reportedly suffered discrimination and harsh treatment. Some went on hunger strike to protest against ill-treatment by prison guards, denial of medical care, interruption of family visits and harsh conditions, including prolonged solitary confinement.’

And, yes, among the techniques used against prisoners was “sleep deprivation.”

No one is saying that Manning is being physically abused. But he is being psychologically abused, which is still a form of inhumane treatment. Both the United Nations and the US State Department have called sleep deprivation a form of torture. Glenn Greenwald has also made this case.

There is little recourse for Manning until the court convenes and pleas are entered, at which time his military attorney can submit a complaint about the terms of his detention. Attorney David Coombs has in the meantime protested on the grounds of article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which says:

‘ No person, while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline. ‘

Just Saturday, Coombs filed an article 138 complaint, as well. This complaint alleges a perceived wrong committed by his command against a service member, under the UCMJ.

Amnesty International has addressed a letter to US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates about the treatment of Manning.

It says,

‘ We are informed that, since July 2010, PFC Manning has been confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) and equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell, which we are told has no chair or table. He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day, in a day-room or outside. He has access to a television which is placed in the corridor for limited periods of the day. However, he is reportedly not permitted to keep personal possessions in his cell, apart from one book and magazine at a time. Although he may write and receive correspondence, writing is allowed only at an allotted time during the day and he is not allowed to keep such materials in his cell.

We understand that PFC Manning’s restrictive conditions of confinement are due to his classification as a maximum custody detainee. This classification also means that – unlike medium security detainees –- he is shackled at the hands and legs during approved social and family visits, despite all such visits at the facility being non-contact. He is also shackled during attorney visits at the facility. We further understand that PFC Manning, as a maximum custody detainee, is denied the opportunity for a work assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. The United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), which are internationally recognized guiding principles, provide inter alia that “Untried prisoners shall always be offered opportunity to work” should they wish to undertake such activity (SMR Section C, rule 89). PFC Manning is also being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment, which means that he is subjected to further restrictions. These include checks by guards every five minutes and a bar on his sleeping during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks. His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets.

We are concerned that no formal reasons have been provided to PFC Manning for either his maximum security classification or the POI assignment and that efforts by his counsel to challenge these assignments through administrative procedures have thus far failed to elicit a response. We are further concerned that he reportedly remains under POI despite a recommendation by the military psychiatrist overseeing his treatment that such an assignment is no longer necessary.’

If an American citizen, convicted of no crime and innocent until proven guilty, can be held under such conditions arbitrarily for half a year, essentially softened up and tortured as a means of extracting information from him, then the Republic is in extreme danger. Indeed, it may be that John Yoo, Karl Rove, Richard Bruce Cheney, and George W. Bush are already winning in their war on civil liberties in favor of a monarchical national security state.

President Obama, has made some important advances in abolishing torture and restoring some civil liberties, but it is a mixed picture, as the ACLU explained just a few days ago. He has a duty to intervene to stop the abuse of Pfc. Manning.

If Manning has broken the law, he will be tried and convicted and punished in accordance with the law. In the meantime, as long as he is being treated as though he were at Guantanamo, all of us are.

Posted in Uncategorized | 49 Responses | Print |

49 Responses

  1. Duty shmooty. There is no mainstream political will demanding that Manning be treated humanely. Until there is he will be treated in any way they wish. In a related theme: how long has the School of the Americas been operating when it has been the “Duty” of any moral person including american politicians (oxymoronic tho that may be)to close down a torture school? Morality in the usa is only a term to be used when it suits an agenda. There is no longer any substance to the word there. (apologies to voices in the wilderness and those others in the minority who still have a conscience.)

    • I agree completely.

      How do we go about establishing “mainstream political will” to defend the basic human rights of Mr. Manning? Obviously petitioning our government didn’t work, since our government refused to accept the petition. I live about an hour’s drive from Quantico. Maybe if we got a few thousand of us, or more, to descend on the base peacefully, we might petition for redress of our grievances, since that, and the right to peacefully assemble, are guaranteed by the Constitution. We need to embarrass our commander in chief into taking action.

      Jonathan Inskeep
      Crofton, Maryland

      • Good luck with that. You’ll have a damn hard time drumming up a few thousand people to go down there.

      • Under the Constitution, the President is not *our* “commander in chief,” he’s the commander in chief of the military. Don’t buy into authoritarian newspeak.

        • The military is ours, and the President is our commander in chief. Certainly, the President does not command private citizens, and I don’t believe that is what I said. I have not bought into “authoritarian newspeak” as you incorrectly suggest. What is your point?

  2. Unless they kill Bradley Manning, he will someday tell his story and people will listen. If they kill him they cannot claim he killed himself….. why?

    • They don’t really care if he talks, as long as he talks (1) after they’re out of government and (2) after the fickle republic has forgotten what a Wikileak is – i.e. about next Tuesday.

  3. The Facade of Us being the Good Guys has crumbled like shattered Ice. Our Government is no better than any other Torturer and Murdering Regime and in fact the case could easily be made that We have enslaved and Killed more People than Any Country since WWII’s Germany. Our commitment to Human Rights is only for Political consumption. If We Americans don’t soon redirect Our Nation back to a path of Law and Human Dignity, We’re sunk. As a Young Man I used to wonder how the German People, smart and well educated, allowed the excesses of Hitler to overwhelm Them and as I watch Our Own Nation Today, I finally understand the evil at work. I too voted for Obama believing that He would redirect Us back to a Principled Government but He sold Us out and in fact has increased Our Lawless behavior. He cannot be held Blameless concerning Manning. He is the CIC and one word from Him could end this Torture. He elects not to do so. He is right Their with Bush , Cheney and John Yoo.

  4. Thanks for bringing the Manning issue to the forefront.

    “If Manning has broken the law, he will be tried and convicted and punished in accordance with the law. ….”. That’s right. But what I miss everywhere is the important corollary: The crimes exposed by the leaks MUST be prosecuted. Obama, as usual is a a miserable failure (except for the satisfaction of his ego that he as a black man has succeeded being part of the establishment)

  5. “If an American citizen, convicted of no crime and innocent until proven guilty, can be held under such conditions arbitrarily for half a year, essentially softened up and tortured as a means of extracting information from him, then the Republic is in extreme danger.”

    The Republic is in extreme danger, and in fact I would say we’re in a terminal condition at this point. The question is not “will our republic collapse?” but only “when will it collapse?”

    A police state is what we have right now, one which is not so overt yet as to be indisputable or even noticeable to those who are not victims of it or caught in its clutches, but it is manifestly present. Most Americans are so distracted by trivial entertainments or not-at-all trivial desperation to find or keep jobs or find or keep homes that they are not focused on analysis of what is wrong, and to the degree they are looking to assign blame, it is at the scapegoats we have been led to believe are the cause of our problems, (e.g., illegal immigrants, terrorists, poor people taking out mortgages, etc.). We have been led to see these chimera as boogie men by the very forces who are the sources of our terminal condition, i.e., the corporate/military/governmental establishment.

    I can’t offer any words of hope, as I fully anticipate things will get worse and we will see a century ahead of us that will make last century seem an idyll of peace and love among men.

  6. “Abolishing torture.” You know how sometimes you read or hear something and suddenly realise just how crazy everything is? The fact that torture was even there to be abolished. In America. In the 21st century. Jesus Christ.

  7. Politician Cohen with his Goebbels analogy was castigated: but he was right in that the destruction & distortion of language under the Nazis is the same as in the US. German words such as ‘family’, ‘patriotism’, ‘loyalty’ lost all meaning under the Nazi regime. Similarly, ‘freedom’, ‘liberty’, ‘American dream’, human rights’ are diluted or lose meaning. It took a generation of writers (Gunter Grass)to rehabilitate the German language:its going to take as much in the US to give meaning again to the English language.

    • …as an American living over 20 years in Germany, I have to say that you’re on the right track about what you say about the perversion of language in America as it compares with what happened in Germany under Hitler. Have you read Victor Klemperer’s “I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years 1942-1945”? Probably the best treatment of this theme to have appeared in English. And speaking of “the English language” … well, I have friends in England who differ with the assumption that English is actually spoken in America to begin with (be that as it may).

      … and as far as “rehabilitation” goes … I imagine that what is required in America goes much further than language matters. More like the post-war “de-Nazification” program carried out in Germany by the occupying Allied Forces (lasting, say, maybe 50 – 100 years).

  8. Your intro is in error in at least one detail: The two were in fact on base. That’s where one goes when entering any military facility without a DoD registration sticker. Hamsher’s tweets acknowledge that they were on the Quantico registration, albeit just inside.

  9. Thanks for this excellent column.

    Manning’s treatment is horrendous and seems to be worsening as support for him grows. The Marines are getting more extreme in their arbitrary detention of David House and Jane Hamsher on Sunday and putting him on suicide watch last week, even though the psychiatrist at Quantico told them he did not need it. This led to him being denied everything except underwear for two days.

    It is also important to re-think Manning’s alleged crime. He is not accused of giving documents to Iran, China or Russia, but to the media. He is not accused of selling documents to the highest bidder to become wealth, he gave them away. According to the chat logs, if they are accurate, Manning wanted to expose crimes and start a debate. He wanted the U.S. to live up to its highest ideals. Isn’t that patriotism rather than being a traitor?

    The Bradley Manning Support Network,, put out the statement below this morning.


    Kevin Zeese
    Bradley Manning Support Network

    Military steps up retaliation against accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower with arbitrary “suicide watch”, followed by detainment of approved visitor

    QUANTICO, VA, 23 January 2011 — Military officials at Marine Corps Base Quantico today increased the isolation of accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning by detaining Manning’s friend and regular visitor David House at the base entrance until visiting hours were over. House was accompanied by Jane Hamsher of, a website that has collected 42,000 signatures on a petition calling for improvements to the conditions of Manning’s detention, which constitute extreme and illegal pre-trial punishment.

    “The Bradley Manning Support Network is dismayed that Brad was denied contact with his only regular visitor besides his attorney,” founder Mike Gogulski stated. “Immediately following a rally by more than 150 supporters at Quantico last week, Brad was put on suicide watch for two days for reasons his counsel could only conclude were punitive. He was stripped of all of his clothing except his boxer shorts and his glasses were taken away. It seems to me that the Marine command is now reacting in the worst possible way to rising pressure on them.”

    David House has been making regular trips from his home in the Boston area to visit Manning at the Marine Corps brig since he was transferred there from Kuwait last summer. While detained at the base gate, House posted to Twitter that “one of the many MPs around the car says his orders to stop us come from on high.” House and Hamsher were held on entry to the base for nearly the entire period of visiting hours, repeatedly demanded to provide information and documents the MPs already had, and threatened with arrest. Hamsher’s car was towed away under the pretext that she lacked proof of insurance, despite having presented a digital copy.

    At, founder Jane Hamsher wrote: “There is no doubt in my mind that the primary objective of everything that happened today was to keep Bradley Manning from having the company of his only remaining visitor.”

    “This is a bizarre action by the Marines. I think they see the growing support for Bradley Manning, they see more and more people realizing that he is being treated unfairly, and that as the facts of the case come out more and more people see that he is a patriot and not a traitor,” said Kevin Zeese, Director of Voters for Peace and member of the Bradley Manning Support Network’s steering committee.

    In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week, Amnesty International stated that “the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning’s case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive.” The letter also suggests that Manning’s confinement is in contravention of international law, and calls upon the military to conduct a review.

    House intends to return to Quantico next weekend to once again attempt to visit Manning and to deliver the petition.

    In addition to petitions and public protests across the nation, the Bradley Manning Support Network has asked supporters to speak out against Manning’s inhumane treatment by contacting officials at Quantico. The Support Network encourages concerned individuals to phone Quantico public affairs at +1-703-432-0289, to write to base commander Colonel Choike at 3250 Catlin Avenue, Quantico, VA 22134, and to write to brig commander CWO4 Averhart at 3247 Elrod Avenue, Quantico, VA 22134. We are asking that Bradley Manning’s human rights be respected while he remains in custody; specifically, that he be allowed social interaction with other inmates, that he be allowed meaningful physical exercise, that approved visitors be allowed to see him without interrogation and harassment, and that the “Prevention of Injury” order (the military’s basis for the extreme pre-trial punishment regime) be lifted.

    # # #

    References:, “Sign Our Letter: Stop the Inhumane Treatment of Bradley Manning”, link to

    Mike Gogulski, Bradley Manning Support Network, “Manning removed from two-day suicide watch; attorney files complaint, calls action punitive”, link to

    David House, Twitter: link to

    Jane Hamsher, Twitter: link to

    Jane Hamsher, “Goal of Quantico Incident Was To Abuse Bradley Manning and Intimidating David House”, link to

    Nadim Kobeissi, interviewing Kevin Zeese, CHOMP.FM, “EMERGENCY BROADCAST: Denying Bradley Manning Basic Civility”, link to

    Amnesty International, “USA: Open letter to Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense”, link to

    • I participated in a Bradley Manning support demonstration on MLK Day. That night I went back and re-read his anti-Vietnam War speech. It resulted in this column “Bradley Manning Walking in the Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” see link to

  10. Clearly its time for me to save a bit of money & forward it to both Greenwald & Cole for their service in keeping the nation’s principles alive & kicking. I so value their blogs for the development & maturing of my own principled thought during these recent years of eroding liberties. Huge gratitude
    to you Professor Cole!

  11. You know how recent Presidential State of the Union addresses always seem to feature some Citizen or Citizens flown in as props, to be singled out in the speech and shown off?

    So, how’s ’bout President Obama has Bradley Manning in the gallery? “See, folks, he’s all right. And I have ordered his release from incarceration, he hasn’t been even charged with a crime and it turns out some military guys have unfortunately been holding him in solitary for six months, go figure. Somebody made a boo-boo, sorry about that.”

    Great idea.

  12. Yes, Professor Cole you said it. Cheney, Yoo, Rove and Bush committed crimes that have irreparably damaged this country, and it can be argued successfully that Manning did not. It is time we got past this “too privileged to be punished” mentality that protects political celebrities. I think France had some success in this regard.

  13. “President Obama, has made some important advances in abolishing torture and restoring some civil liberties..”
    I would like to know about these “important advances.” I don’t know of any. Would you please elaborate?

    • I’d second this request Prof. Cole.

      The only “advance” I’m aware of is Obama’s advance forward as Driver of the Torture Getaway Car.

      If you, like Greenwald, are giving him some credit for “banning” torture by Exec. Order upon taking office, your point is nonsensical — he may just as well have “banned” rape and murder, no? In fact by definition, his “banning” was an attempt to arrogate to himself the power to “unban” it by fiat.

      The simple reality is that non-prosecution is legalization. You just can’t kick sand over the pile and continue playing the same games there. It’s sad to see you lending a foot to that effort.

  14. Dear Professor Cole,

    What will move the conscious people of the USA to take serious the situation you excellently outline? At 78 I feel too old to take to the streets and immolation is not an option. What has anesthetized the ethical and moral sense of this nation. I can only weep.

    • First Americans have been lulled into a “Brave New World” and then came “1984”. End of story – sorry.

      People are the same everywhere. I have heard many people ask the question “where were the good Germans?” The answer can be found in today’s America – the good Germans back then were exactly where good Americans are today.

      • Difference is that Brave New World was sustainable. 1984 isn’t, the Soviet bloc proved that — the whole thing is going to self-destruct in one way or another, sometime after everyone stops seriously paying attention to the government.

        Unfortunately, global warming and ocean acidification are going to catch up with us well before then, and start the extinction of humanity — unless we halt coal burning as soon as possible.

  15. “If Manning has broken the law, he will be tried and convicted and punished in accordance with the law.”

    There is very little evidence that any such thing will happen.

    And by the time that a Kangaroo Court has been lined up there is a very good chance that Manning will have been reduced to the defenceless state that Jose Padilla was in when he went to court.

    The rule of law, even for real estate matters, appears to be long gone. The truth bis that while there are decent juries and honest judges around, at the very top of the pyramid there is a phalanx of cynical ideologists of the sort that gave Totalitarian States their flavour.

    Catch 22 is that the State can do no wrong and the State is the Presidency.

  16. Things change but it used to be that the boundary of a quasi-military reservation like Quantico was considered to end at some publicly observable boundary, like a gate and/or a fence.

    Inviting, overt or otherwise, people within the boundaries, then treating them as the enemy, is considered bad form and hardly defensible in a court a few years ago.

    Sounds to me like the gate was staffed with “special” people, just for those dirty hippies.

  17. What will happen to the 42,000 people who signed the petition (I am among them) once it is delivered? The very fact one has to ask this question tells us where we are today….

    I agree with Madisolation; I’ve read Glenn Greenwald’s comments about the putative improvements under Obama but frankly they seem trivial compared to the underlying reality – Obama and his team have solidified virtually all of the practices instituted by Bush and team, and given them a bipartisan stamp of approval. As a retired political science professor, I cannot imagine returning to the classroom and presenting the US system as a republic. What are we now exactly? Perhaps some one will devise a new model, not quite fascist, not quite monarchic, but a uniquely American form of repression.

    • Professor Marshall,
      I share your sentiments, and though I do not have a doctorate in political science, I have watched it for decades with a particular focus on American foreign policy, and would argue (sadly) against your position that America is not fascist. Fascism is really a euphemism for corporate welfare in a police state, and there is no doubt that the federal government is entirely at the service of short-term corporate profit, citizenry be damned. What is worse is that the powers in control have no interest in restoring democracy – not a single presidential candidate has ever even alluded to restoring the constitutional system of checks and balances that the Bush administration expunged even more fully than previous administrations, of restoring the congress to its capacity of executive oversight . The Obandawagon, as so many people were able to see during the election campaigns, was entirely misled that Obama would, or could, change anything. Chalmers Johnson (what a tragic loss!) is entirely right – militaristic imperialism has doomed democracy in the USA. I think it can be argued that Democracy in the USA is gone. The illusion is very carefully crafted and maintained, but it is an illusion. No society is more heavily surveilled and more skillfully duped by popular spectacle and media trivialities into apathetic passivism. Super Bowl, anyone? Oops, I have to go now… I have to see what Lady Gaga’s up to today. Or was it “10 things guys really need to know about fashion?” Damn, can’t remember because my brain has been conditioned to a 4 point 3 second attention span, but MSN will let me know…
      Happily, there are us voices in the wilderness, and there are remnants, if one cares to look, of independent journalism. Thanks Juan Cole, Seymour Hirsch, and Tom Englehart, Amy Goodman and John Pilger, Jeremy Scahill, Robert Fisk and others, for your courageous contributions to truth… It has never been needed more than today.

      • Fascism that pretends not to be fascism? And yet, out here in west Texas, the audulation of the “warrior” is beginning to feed into this picture. We don’t take proper care of the poor souls who are fed into the military machine but we lionize them as warriors, apparently the only honorable profession other than business.

        Yes, Chalmers is a terrible loss. I hope that someone can carry on his work.

    • It’s not going to be worth giving this system a name — it’s blatantly unstable: unable to provide for the needs of the populace, unable to address pressing environmental problems, unable even to maintain the financial system which is the source of the elite’s wealth. It’s just going to be another self-destructing, failed non-system of power grabs and “rule by men, not laws”.

  18. Dear Juan Cole:

    If Bradley Manning’s treatment while imprisoned is torture, as it appears, perhaps it is one of the “circumstances” to which President Obama alluded in a 2009 press conference. Reporters overlooked or ignored the subtlety of the president’s response when asked for his views on torture. At the time, I wrote a brief analysis suggesting that far from renouncing torture, President Obama merely said he hadn’t yet found a situation where torture would be required. Here’s my commentary from May 2009.

    Published on The Smirking Chimp (

    President Obama Won’t Rule Out Torture
    By Doug Giebel
    Created May 1 2009 – 8:40am

    During his April 29, 2009, press conference, President Obama was asked if he would ever authorize or resort to torture. His answer more than implied an acceptance of torture, and true to form it was ignored in conference recaps by the main stream media.

    The question was asked by Mark Knoller of CBS News. Here is the exchange (emphasis added):

    OBAMA: Mark Knoller?

    KNOLLER: Thank you, sir. Let me follow up, if I may, on [the previous] question. Did you read the documents recently referred to by former Vice President Cheney and others saying that the use of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” not only protected the nation but saved lives? And if part of the United States were under imminent threat, could you envision yourself ever authorizing the use of those enhanced interrogation techniques?

    OBAMA: I have read the documents. Now they have not been officially declassified and released. And so I don’t want to go to the details of them. But here’s what I can tell you, that the public reports and the public justifications for these techniques, which is that we got information from these individuals that were subjected to these techniques, doesn’t answer the core question.
    Which is, could we have gotten that same information without resorting to these techniques? And it doesn’t answer the broader question, are we safer as a consequence of having used these techniques?
    So when I made the decision to release these memos and when I made the decision to bar these practices, this was based on consultation with my entire national security team, and based on my understanding that ultimately I will be judged as commander-in-chief on how safe I’m keeping the American people.
    That’s the responsibility I wake up with and it’s the responsibility I go to sleep with. And so I will do whatever is required to keep the American people safe. But I am absolutely convinced that the best way I can do that is to make sure that we are not taking short cuts that undermine who we are.
    And there have been no circumstances during the course of this first 100 days in which I have seen information that would make me second guess the decision that I have made. OK?

    So there, in a passing comment, is the answer to the broadest question of all: Would President Obama ever condone “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the favored euphemism for “torture”)? He “will do whatever is required,” especially if he sees “information that would” change his mind about the use of torture.

    Is it any wonder President Obama is gun-shy about investigating, interrogating and prosecuting those from the Bush administration who violated laws prohibiting torture?

    Doug Giebel

  19. I think the names of those making the decisions to keep Manning locked up under these conditions should be made public. They know they are corrupted by following orders from on high and lack the courage to speak out against Manning’s treatment.

  20. Glad to read US citizens supporting Manning. If this guy is the one who leaked those documents, he is certainley a true hero, and I’m amazed that there are no demostrations, activism, campaings and so on raging the States for the liberation, or at the very least the correct treatment, of this hero.

    does he know at least that the leaked documents are starting to make a real effect? does he know that an entire country has deposed a brutal dictator thanks in part to those leaks? I hope so, and I hope that the future will bring us a world where people like Manning will be praised while people like those that are jailing him will be prosecuted and repudiated.

  21. It is interesting that PFC Bradley, an Army enlisted man, is being held in a Marine Corp jail. The Quantico brig has a reputation among the military as being the worst place to be held as a prisoner. Additionally, the Marines pride themselves as being the toughest of the American military and typically view Army personnel as weak. Putting an Army enlisted person in Quantico is sending a not-so-subtle message to any other military personnel who may be thinking of leaking documents. If you do, you will be severely punished, and we will worry about the guilty part later.

    • A former commander at Quantico made similar points in a leter to the current commander. The fact that an Army soldier is being held at the Marine brig is an indication that Manning is not being treated normally. This is cruel and unusual punishment.

      See letter at:
      link to

  22. While Manning suffers in solitary confinement, former Speaker of the House Tom Delay remains FREE while he appeals his conviction for Money Laundering.

    While Manning is denied exercise, blankets, uninterrupted sleep and personal possessions, former Chicago policeman Jon Berge remains free until sometime in March despite having been convicted of perjury regarding Chicago Police’s longterm practice of torturing suspects to get confessions.

    How is that people who have never been convicted are imprisoned and tortured, while thugs and corrupt politicians who HAVE been convicted remain free?

    What a country we live in.

  23. Since the 2000 Supreme Court appointment of George Bush to the presidency, there has been very little objection to anything, including two wars. We were kept in line by something called the “Patriot Act”. It shredded the Constitution. “Torture is illegal”. “We do not torture”. That’s B.S. Yes, we do. From a local level on up to Pvt. Manning. Always the same obstacle. Define torture. Funny thing, until Bush, Cheney, Yoo and Co. took over we all seemed to know what torture is. Now suddenly it requires a definition which John Yoo will immediately discredit. We’ve become the land of Walmart Stores and Whoppers. People have become shallow and indifferent. What’s really sad is the huge numbers of people who have no idea who Private Manning is. Government meets with very little resistance. But it is encouraging to see small but effective groups popping up to prove that we’re still out there.

    • In response to AnnaCatherine 01/25/2011 at 11:24 AM

      Your comments are right on the mark, with one small exception. You state that “there has been very little objection…” when in fact there has been massive objection–it has just not been reported in the government controlled corporate press. As the Supreme Court prepared its decision to appoint Bush as president, overruling the state of Florida, there were tens of thousands of us on the steps of the Court, protesting. On January 20, 2001 when Bush assumed office, we vastly outnumbered those who had come to Washington DC to party in support of Bush. The authorities brought in thugs from every local police force from suburban Virginia and Maryland, as well as the dozen or so police forces in DC (local police, Capital Police, Secret Service, Park Police, etc. etc.) on horses, in cars, and on foot in riot gear (I have hundreds of pictures that I personally took to prove this). The media refused to report any of this, because they wanted to make sure that Bush’s war plans were carried out, resulting in huge profits for their corporate masters.

      The vast majority of Americans opposed both wars, and expressed that opposition at the polls and in the streets. I was there, I saw it directly, and I took pictures. When I confronted so-called journalists who reported the opposite, they readily admitted that the articles they were writing and publishing were lies, and they had no ethical problems with their dishonesty. They were all trying to get their next promotions, and didn’t care about the hundreds of thousands of deaths of innocents that they were enabling.

      Jonathan Inskeep
      Crofton, Maryland

  24. No one is saying that Manning is being physically abused.

    Wrong. I’m saying it right now.

    If he’s being deliberately deprived of sleep, then he is being physically abused.

    (I haven’t yet read the whole thread, pardon if this point’s been made. If so, it needs to be made repeatedly.)

    Sleep is an essential bodily function. Sleep deprivation causes physical harm. There’s no way the military doesn’t know this. If they are deliberately depriving sleep, then they are deliberately causing physical harm. That’s abuse.

    Denial of sleep causes: muscle pain, headaches, hand tremors, increased blood pressure. It increases risk of fibromyalgia, a chronic condition of muscle pain. It increases risk of diabetes, a permanent and dangerous condition.

    Neurological and psychological effects include confusion and memory loss, depression, hallucinations, and psychosis.

    It will, always, cause immediate pain and suffering. It may, if endured long enough, cause permanent injury.

    Hell yes, he’s being physically abused if he’s being denied sleep.

  25. Thank you RobW for pointing out that deprivation of sleep IS physical abuse.

    And obviously, this is the least of the physical and mental abuse being exerted on a young man who has not even been charged for any wrong-doing.

    It is extreme punishment on someone who -according to purported rule of law- is INNOCENT (since not proven guilty and never may be.)

Comments are closed.