Remember Bradley Manning? The soldier who made Julian Assange a household name? Do you know how he's been spending the last nine months in the brig? Glenn Greenwald brings us up to speed:
Let's review Manning's detention over the last nine straight months: 23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he's allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards' inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards' full view.
Now Manning's jailers are forcing him to sleep nude and stand at attention nude with his cellmates. The rationale is allegedly suicide prevention, but his attorney retorts, "“If a person is at risk of self-harm, then you get them treatment, you get them to a mental health professional and address the issue — you don’t strip them... There is no excuse, no justification to having a soldier stand at attention naked. There can be no mental health reason for that.”
How odd--keeping a man alive by destroying his will to live.
I tried to cut the Obama administration some slack when they missed their deadline to close Gitmo. I figured their predecessors had so poisoned the well that the Obama people were faced with a Hobson's choice. But as time dragged by, it began to look as though we Americans now have a choice between politicians who torture and politicians who cover up for the torturers.
It's even worse. The Manning affair is solely the Obama administration's. And in this case they seem just as prepared to abandon the law and international standards of justice as the Bush administration. Forced nudity and sleep deprivation were Abu Ghraib techniques, remember?
This is what we've become since 9/11. I say "We" because I think that torturing terrorists or traitors enjoys broad public support these days. President Obama knows that there will be no price to be paid at the polls for this.
At Kevin Drum's blog, some are taunting others about primarying Obama over this, and there's some who'd like to take the bait. Not me. I don't like lost causes.
But anyone who's even slightly disturbed by this ought to be emailing the President and anyone else in government who will listen, and donating to good attorneys who will fight the good fight for basic decency.
Most importantly, there is prayer. This is a spiritual crisis. It's rooted in the fact that we allowed our justifiable anger over 9/11 to curdle into blood lust. In fact we nursed it. It's rooted in a media culture that eroticizes the slow, methodical destruction of the human body and spirit. Worst of all, it's rooted in our houses of worship. Church-goers are more likely to chuckle at Bradley Manning standing at attention naked than non-church-goers are. This week Christians will walk around with charcoal crosses emblazoned on their foreheads. Do they know that the cross is an instrument of torture? Do they know that they worship a tortured God? Do they get the irony when they turn a blind eye to what the government is doing in their name?
At this point I think that only the Muslims can save us. If the revolutions in the Middle East are followed up with free and fair elections, and the tender shoots of a civil society emerge, that may well drain the Arab street of the hopelessness that terrorism feeds on.
We, on the other hand, seem incapable of changing direction.