Protest over the treatment of PFC. Bradley Manning
20 Mar 2011

Our group assembles. There were about 400 of us there to protest how Private Manning (He's still a soldier on active duty) has been treated while awaiting trial on the charge of passing a huge cache of information over to Wikileaks.

[T]he office of Manfred Nowak, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, confirmed that they received an official complaint about Manning’s situation. Two other United Nations special rapporteurs also released a joint statement meant to “recall a number of international legal principles”, point number three being protection for so-called “whistle blowers” when they release information about wrongdoing.

Here's the entrance to the Marine Corps base at Quantico, VA. We never set foot inside the railings. 35 of our group were arrested because they were blocking the gate by sitting down in front of it.

The protestors remained cordial until police in riot gear formed a wide barricade in the middle of the U.S. 1 and Joplin Road intersection.

Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok said some demonstrators stood on U.S. 1 and refused to move.

“At this point, an unlawful assembly was declared and as a result approximately 35 total arrests were made,” Perok wrote in a news release.


Daniel Ellsberg, who spoke and was afterwards arrested, said:

“Bradley Manning, if he was the source, can well feel that he was one critical link in the chain of actions and events that led to the downfall of the dictators in Tunisia and in Egypt,” said Ellsberg. “I don’t know of another revelation… that has [had] such an immediate and immense effect in the direction of human rights and democracy. We owe him a great debt… If he is found to have been the source there will be statues of him in Tunisia, in Egypt, I think. Just like [there will] probably [be] a statue of Mohamed Bouazizi, who gave his life, burned himself to death, to protest what was going on [in Tunisia]; another critical link in that chain of events.”

two-person band
Here's our two-person band. They sang a number of golden oldies we all recognized.

Facebook photos by Bill Perry. Bill and I arrived together and stayed until the very end.

FireDogLake's Bradley Manning page. Includes not just the latest pieces on him, but many links with which one can tell authority figures what we think about how he's being treated.

what cars saw
Major problem for the US Government is that they simply can't tie Manning to Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

Manning himself would have broken a contractual obligation as a US government employee if he leaked classified documents, but civilians who received such documents are difficult to prosecute.

As to why Manning is being treated the way he is:

I suppose we are supposed be grateful that they are only using this particular technique on an American soldier for seven hours a day instead of the weeks or days they routinely used on Al Qaeda members. Perhaps they learned through their long experience at Gitmo and Bagram that combined with the sleep deprivation and isolation, the intermittent period of being clothed and naked coerces false accusation and confessions more easily. That's the only proven result of such techniques, after all.

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg speaks.

Is Manning being tortured?

The American government, of course, insists that such treatment does not rise to the level of torture. In fact, Col. T. V. Johnson, a Quantico spokesman, characterized charges that Manning has been mistreated as "poppycock." After all, Manning is not being starved, beaten or waterboarded. He's merely been denied human interaction and the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment. Yet as surgeon Atul Gawande points out in a 2009 article for the New Yorker, solitary confinement rises to the level of torture: "A U.S. military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam, many of whom were treated even worse than [John] McCain, reported that they found social isolation to be as torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they suffered."

"Blowing the whistle" may just be exactly what the President is objecting to.

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.

But the news isn't all bad for the President.  Aside from his shrinking though still-vocal The-Leader-Can-Do-No-Wrong loyalists (whose mirror image counterparts stood behind George W. Bush to the end no matter what he did), Obama is finding support for his conduct in the Manning/Crowley episode from the Far Right.  HotAir's Ed Morrissey, as but one example, lavishly praises the President's decisions:  "The White House acted appropriately in kicking Crowley out at State, and should be commended for taking quick action," and goes on to defend the conditions of Manning's detention as appropriate and necessary.

As the left and the right switch sides in their views of President Obama, at least on this one issue.