Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:19 AM
xchrom (108,903 posts)
Manning Up: The Just Actions of a ‘Fan of Sunshine’
Whatever one’s views about his alleged actions, you would need a pretty hard shell not to be moved by the case of Bradley Manning. Hero to some, traitor to others, this diminutive soldier has endured an unprecedented level of mistreatment, languishing in a largely incommunicado pretrial state for more than two years and facing repeated episodes of humiliation and degradation. Compounding this case is Manning’s status as a gay solider, for which he had experienced repercussions well before gaining international notoriety as a purported Wikileaks source for some of the whistleblowing site’s most damning allegations about governmental and military machinations around the world.
Being accused of revealing the “emperor’s new clothes” is likely to land one in hot water, but Manning’s treatment has crossed all bounds of fairness, decency, and legality. Having one’s life stripped down (literally) to its most basic functions, being confined in a space barely the size of a standard bathroom, having to formally ask even for toilet paper while standing at attention, and getting access to the outdoors for only 20 minutes per day is the sort of thing that could drive anyone mad. The fact that the military has justified the conditions of Manning’s confinement by asserting that he was a suicide risk is a specious argument; being in such a state can cause one to seek any way out, and putting all options on the table is more a sign of sanity than the opposite.
We can speculate how any of us would hold up in similar circumstances, which hopefully we’ll never have to find out. But the art and science of breaking down the human spirit is quite well-developed by now, and the harshness of Manning’s confinement is likely intended as a warning and deterrent to anyone else even contemplating blowing the whistle on the architects of empire. It is thus all the more important and impressive that Manning has endured this brutal captivity -- doing so through methods like dancing in his cell, “working out” with imaginary weights, and making faces at himself in the small mirror on the wall. Indeed, as Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights observed upon attending the recent hearing on Manning’s confinement, the testimony Manning gave showed him to be “dignified, articulate, smart and self-aware…. His incredible sincerity and strength was visible to all. We are lucky to have people with the courage of Bradley Manning.”
Where Manning found this resolve will likely be a subject for biographers someday, but early signs indicate that the military itself may have ironically contributed to it. From his first days as a soldier, Manning seemed to be ill-suited for the role, at least in the eyes of some of his colleagues. In an interview with The Guardian, an anonymous soldier who served with Manning recalls the situation: “The kid was barely 5ft -- he was a runt. And by military standards and compared with everyone who was around there -- he was a runt. By military standards, ‘he’s a runt so pick on him’, or ‘he’s crazy -- pick on him’, or ‘he’s a faggot -- pick on him.’ The guy took it from every side. He couldn’t please anyone. And he tried. He really did…. A lot of people let him down. He is not the first one they let down and he is not the last one.” If we subscribe to the school of thought that says our scars make us stronger, then Manning’s early duress may have steeled him for what would come later.
2 replies, 777 views
Manning Up: The Just Actions of a ‘Fan of Sunshine’ (Original post)
Response to xchrom (Original post)
Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:19 PM
JDPriestly (57,936 posts)
1. Compare: Soldiers who were convicted of committing acts of
mistreating prisoners at Abu Ghraib:
An Army reservist who appeared in several of the most infamous abuse photos taken by guards at Abu Ghraib prison was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison for her role in the scandal that rocked the U.S. military's image at home and abroad.
The sentence for Spc. Sabrina Harman came a day after she was convicted on six of the seven counts she faced for mistreating detainees at the Baghdad lockup in late 2003. She faced a maximum of five years in prison, though prosecutors asked the jury to give her three years.
With credit for time served, Harman's actual sentence will be just more than four months.
The United States Department of Defense removed seventeen soldiers and officers from duty, and eleven soldiers were charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery. Between May 2004 and March 2006, eleven soldiers were convicted in courts martial, sentenced to military prison, and dishonorably discharged from service. Two soldiers, Specialist Charles Graner, and his former fiancée, Specialist Lynndie England, were sentenced to ten years and three years in prison, respectively, in trials ending on January 14, 2005 and September 26, 2005. The commanding officer of all Iraq detention facilities, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, was reprimanded for dereliction of duty and then demoted to the rank of Colonel on May 5, 2005. Col. Karpinski has denied knowledge of the abuses, claiming that the interrogations were authorized by her superiors and performed by subcontractors, and that she was not even allowed entry into the interrogation rooms.
. . .
The prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi died in Abu Ghraib prison after being interrogated and tortured by a CIA officer and a private contractor. The torture included physical violence and strappado hanging, whereby the victim is hung from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back. His death has been labeled a homicide by the US military, but neither of the two men who caused his death have been charged. The private contractor was granted qualified immunity.
Who fares better in the US military prisons and justice system?
Someone who violates the law and mistreats prisoners?
Or someone who blows the whistle on perceived violations of law?
Can a bully expect a lighter sentence than a person who speaks out from a compassionate, if arguably misguided motive?
We shall see.
But I recognize that a part of me is in all of them.
There are moments in life, in the life of a nation as in the life of a person, in which the underlying moral fiber of the nation is tested.
Is there a moral rectitude that supersedes all else?
Do we confront our own evil and allow ourselves to be judged and condemned by others?
Or do we cower behind the rigid application of rules to condemn that part of ourselves that is honest and open about our mistakes and misdeeds?
Manning is a challenge for our nation and for our military. What happens to Manning may predict whether we survive as a free nation or whether we become a nation that lies to itself and hides its ugly truths.
Sometimes the path between insuring the security of our nation and destroying the very freedom and human values that make our nation worth securing is very hard to find much less follow.
Response to JDPriestly (Reply #1)
Sun Dec 2, 2012, 12:21 PM
coalition_unwilling (14,180 posts)
2. They allowed Betray-us to retire with full benefits, even though he arguably
did exactly what Manning is alleged to have done, disclosed classified information to unauthorized persons.