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As A Warning To Others

March 15, 2011

Private First Class Bradley Manning is being tortured by the U.S. Government.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to Wikileaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so.

Private Manning is in solitary confinement at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va. For one hour a day, he is allowed to walk around a room in shackles. He is forced to remove all his clothes every night. And every morning he is required to stand outside his cell, naked, until he passes inspection and is given his clothes back.

His torture is being carried out with the full knowledge and approval of the President and his cabinet. He is not being interrogated for information in a broader investigation, nor has he been tried or convicted of any crime. The torture being conducted on Pfc Manning is serving two distinct purposes: to coerce his cooperation in targeting Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and, more importantly, to serve as a warning to any other would-be leakers that they will face similar torture and misery.

It’s long been obvious that the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers “comes from the President himself,” notwithstanding his campaign decree — under the inspiring title “Protect Whistleblowers” — that “such acts of courage and patriotism should be encouraged rather than stifled.”  The inhumane treatment of Manning plainly has two principal effects:  it intimidates future would-be whistleblowers into knowing that they, too, will be abused without recourse, and it will break him psychologically (as prolonged solitary confinement and degrading treatment inevitably do) to render him incapable of a defense and to ensure he provides whatever statements they want about WikiLeaks.  Other than Obama’s tolerance for the same detainee abuse against which he campaigned and his ongoing subservience to the military that he supposedly “commands,” it is the way in which this Manning/Crowley behavior bolsters the regime of secrecy and the President’s obsessive attempts to destroy whistleblowing that makes this episode so important and so telling.

If there is one thing in this world that can never be justified under any circumstances, it’s torture.  There is simply no excuse to engage in, nor condone such acts of violence against helpless victims no matter who they are or how terrible their supposed crimes.  None.  Any government employee or official who participates in, condones, covers for, or orders the torture of another human being should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.

Some on the left will continue to thrash about in abject hypocrisy as they try in vain to excuse, mitigate, or ignore this disgusting breach of human decency by our President.  I will not. I cannot ignore or condone any leader who allows torture to occur under his command, or even worse orders torture to be carried out.  If it wasn’t acceptable under George W. Bush, it certainly isn’t under Barack Obama.

United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT)

Article 1
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
2. This article is without prejudice to any international instrument or national legislation which does or may contain provisions of wider application.

Article 2
1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Article 16
1. Each State Party shall undertake to prevent in any territory under its jurisdiction other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture as defined in article I, when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. In particular, the obligations contained in articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 shall apply with the substitution for references to torture of references to other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

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