The Ongoing Torture of Bradley Manning

23:51 Mon 07 Mar 2011
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Yes, it is torture. Glenn Greenwald, among others, has been bringing into the public eye the suffering inflicted upon him.

It is morally indefensible; that should be clear. If you’re defending, or excusing, Manning’s treatment, either I don’t know what’s wrong with you, or you’re devoted to the protection of power for some reason. Remember that Manning has only been accused; he has not been convicted of anything, not even in a military court.

Manning is hardly the only person being subject to awful treatment by the United States. It’s also likely that his treatment is mild compared to some of the other cases. However, his treatment is important for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s happening almost in plain view. The reports about what’s being done to him are easily available. The denials that it’s “torture” are laughable and generally based in either exceptionalism (i.e. it’s simply impossible for American forces to engage in torture, because “we don’t do that”, hence their behavior must by definition not be torture) or highly selective definitions of the term. See Arthur Silber on his treatment for more on that front. So it’s quite public, and quite apparent, and yet continuing, obviously in the face of the laws ostensibly governing this country. It’s happening in a system headed by a President from the nominally more reasonable political party, whose rhetoric both on the campaign trail and since assuming office would lead one to believe that he would never allow this to occur, and yet it continues, in full view. The major media outlets here aren’t treating it with the outrage it deserves; while this isn’t surprising, it is illuminating.
  2. It’s obviously punitive. As Radley Balko points out, Manning is being punished far more—despite, again, not having been convicted of anything—than obviously more serious offenders, despite, again, not having yet been convicted of anything. And as Balko also points out, this is because Manning embarrassed a lot of extremely powerful people and institutions; his suffering is a result of that embarrassment.
  3. It’s a warning. Manning is being punished not just because of the embarrassment he caused, but also because he has demonstrated to others how to do the same thing. He, and WikiLeaks, have basically put out a blueprint for how to expose the lies and deceptions (and pettiness and idiocy and inanity) of the powerful, and his torture and the fact that it’s happening more or less in the open are both intended to deter others from contemplating such a course.

You can draw your own conclusions about what this might say about us as a society.

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