Skip to content or view screen version

The Torture of Bradley Manning

Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis (repost) | 09.03.2011 12:49 | Anti-militarism | Repression | World

If you point out that the emperor has no clothes, it seems the empire will make sure you have none either.

Bradley Manning is accused of humiliating the political establishment by revealing the complicity of top U.S. officials in carrying out and covering up war crimes. In return for his act of conscience, the U.S. government is holding him in abusive solitary confinement, humiliating him and trying to keep him behind bars for life.

The lesson is clear, and soldiers take note: You're better off committing a war crime than exposing one.

An Army intelligence officer stationed in Kuwait, the 23-year-old Manning – outraged at what he saw – allegedly leaked tens of thousands of State Department cables to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. These cables show U.S. officials covering up everything from U.S. tax dollars funding child rape in Afghanistan to illegal, unauthorized bombings in Yemen. Manning is also accused of leaking video evidence of U.S. pilots gunning down more than a dozen Iraqis in Baghdad, including two journalists for Reuters, and then killing a father of two who stopped to help them. The father's two young children were also severely wounded.

“Well, it's their fault for bringing kids into a battle,” a not-terribly-remorseful U.S. pilot can be heard remarking in the July 2007 “Collateral Murder” video [1].

None of the soldiers who carried out that war crime have been punished, nor have any of the high-ranking officials who authorized it. Indeed, committing war crimes is more likely to get a solider a medal than a prison term. And authorizing them? Well, that'll get you a book deal and a six-digit speaking fee. Just ask George W. Bush. Or Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice. Or the inexplicably “respectable” Colin Powell.

In fact, the record indicates Manning would be far better off today – possibly on the lecture circuit rather than in solitary confinement – if he'd killed those men in Baghdad himself.

Hyperbole? Consider what happened to the U.S. soldiers who, over a period of hours – not minutes – went house to house in the Iraqi town of Haditha and executed 24 men, women and children in retaliation for a roadside bombing.

“I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head,” said one of the two surviving eyewitnesses [2] to the massacre, nine-year-old Eman Waleed. “Then they killed my granny." Almost five years later, not one of the men involved in the incident is behind bars. And despite an Army investigation [3] revealing that statements made by the chain of command “suggest that Iraqi civilian lives are not as important as U.S. lives,” with the murder of brown-skinned innocents considered “just the cost of doing business,” none of their superiors are behind bars either.

Now consider the treatment of Bradley Manning. On March 1, the military charged Manning with 22 additional offenses [4]– on top of the original charges of improperly leaking classified information, disobeying an order and general misconduct. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” is punishable by death. That means Manning faces the prospect of being executed or spending his life in prison for exposing the ugly truth about the U.S. empire.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has decided to make Manning's pre-trial existence as torturous as possible, holding him in solitary confinement 23 hours a day since his arrest 10 months ago – treatment that the group Psychologists for Social Responsibility notes is, “at the very least, a form of cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. law.”

In addition to the horror of long-term solitary confinement, Manning is barred from exercising in his cell and is denied bed sheets and a pillow. And every five minutes, he must respond in the affirmative when asked by a guard if he's “okay.”

Presumably he lies.

And it gets worse. On his blog, Manning's military lawyer, Lt. Col. David Coombs, reveals that his client is now being stripped [5] of his clothing at night, left naked under careful surveillance for seven hours. When the 5:00 am wake-up call comes, he's then “forced to stand naked at the front of the cell.”

If you point out that the emperor has no clothes, it seems the empire will make sure you have none either.

Officials at the Quantico Marine Base where Manning is being held claim the move is “not punitive” but rather a “precautionary measure” intended to prevent him from harming himself. Do they really think Manning is going to strangle himself with his underwear – and that he could do so while under 24-hour surveillance?

“Is this Quantico or Abu Ghraib?” asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich in a press release [6]. Good question, congressman. Like the men imprisoned in former President Bush's Iraqi torture chamber, Manning is being abused and humiliated despite having not so much as been tried in a military tribunal, much less convicted of an actual crime.

So much for the constitutional lawyer who ran as the candidate of hope and change.

Remember back when Obama campaigned against such Bush-league torture tactics? Recall when candidate Obama said “government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal”? It appears his opposition to torture and support for whistleblowers was only so much rhetoric. And then he took office.

Indeed, despite the grand promises and soaring rhetoric, Obama’s treatment of Manning is starkly reminiscent of none other than

Richard Nixon. Like Obama – who has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history – Nixon had no sympathy for “snitches,” and no interest in the American public learning the truth about their government. And he likewise argued that Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, had given “aid and comfort to the enemy” for revealing the facts about the war in Vietnam.

But there's a difference: Richard Nixon never had the heroic whistleblower of his day thrown in solitary confinement and tortured. If only the same could be said for Barack Obama.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace.

Charles Davis is an independent journalist. On March 20 CODEPINK and others will be traveling to the Quantico Marine Base to rally [7] in support of Bradley Manning. You can sign the CODEPINK petition [8] asking President Obama to pardon Bradley Manning


Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis (repost)
- Homepage:


Hide the following 2 comments

Naked Protest

10.03.2011 01:31

I mooned the MoD once but only due to peer pressure. I am not a big fan of naked protests, naked bike rides make me cringe because they seem to my old-fashioned mind to be full of exhibitionist hippies. Horrible, chaffing.

However, I'm going to strip off naked in front of US diplomats though because of this bizarre abuse of Bradley. I don't want anyone to join me, and if any newspaper prints photos then I'd rather you didn't look, please pixelate them if they are posted here, but I would ask everyone else who hates the abuse of Bradley more than they dislike naked protests to strip off to show that it's the Emperor of the USA who is wearing no clothes.

Dick Witted

United Nations Passed Resolutions To End Torture.

20.03.2011 04:18

Torture has been made illegal by the liberation side for quite some time now. The Geneva Conventions of War (1949) describes torture as a war crime, and that the anti-fascist covenants are signed on to the U.S. Constitution, which says therefore it is the supreme law of the land.
It is Bush and Obama that are the lawless wreckers by allowing torture to continue instead of abolishing it, as required also by the United Nations that says torture cannot be used at any time, and or for any reason, and in fact it specifically says no one can be put to cruel or unusual punishment while under arrest, and that with no charges the U.S. Military code says the POW cannot be punished before the trial.

The liberation side is not being followed with the U.S. Military breaking its own rules to inflict maximum harm to Bradley Manning.

Torture is an advent of the Slaveholders empires globally and was brought into negative use also during the medievil dark ages of the feudal empire, and taken forward by the axis powers of the Nazis-Fascist empires.

It was the side that fought against Nazism and Fascism that made torture illegal. Everyone ought therefore to rise against the U.S. Imperialist Military, and its unjust war, and illegal violence used to persecute Bradley Manning, who believes in the freedom of press to get out truths of the false practices done throughout the Imperialist Military against all those who are courageous enough to speak truth to power and truth to the people, while exposing the practioners of this new dark age false spread of illegal torture thoughout the Imperialist Camp.

Bradley Manning is a true hero of the anti-fascist organic liberation side, who along with Wikileaks and Julian Assange rose up like Daniel Ellsburg before, and exposed the false and illegal suppression of the Pentagon, when dealing with freedom of the Press. Free Bradley Manning now, he is innocent of any crime, as exposing war crimes is not a crime.

Union Jack