The U.S. Army private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks sits in solitary confinement in a military brig at Quantico, Va., isolated for 23 hours of every day. He’s been there for five months, and he was held in similar conditions for two months in a military jail in Kuwait.
Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald writes that Bradley Manning, despite being a model detainee without any episodes of violence or other disciplinary problems, has been declared a Maximum Custody Detainee, is isolated from human contact for all but one hour a day, is barred from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce the restrictions. And now the brig’s medical personnel administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of the isolation.
“In sum,” Greenwald writes, “Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything.”
There is no word to describe this sort of the treatment other than torture.
Despite what you think of Manning and his actions — and it’s evident from some of the responses to A War On The Truth that many believe there is no punishment sufficiently cruel for Manning and Julian Assange — his treatment at the hands of the U.S. Government is barbaric and extreme. In many nations — including our own, according to court rulings from the 19th and 20th centuries — extended confinement in extreme isolation is considered a form of torture.
This treatment is especially egregious when one considers that Manning is merely accused of a crime. He has not yet been convicted. In America, in theory at least, everyone is to be considered innocent until the state proves them guilty.
This is what happens when the camel’s nose gets in the tent, as it did when our government sanctioned the torture of enemy combatants at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo Bay and in secret facilities around the world. The camel’s nose was allowing the torture of foreigners. This expanded to torture of Americans — first Jose Padilla and now Manning — who are, in their own ways, considered terrorists by U.S. authorities.
Next, authorities will come for those who dare to stand up to oppressive government — Tea Party members, Ron Paul supporters, libertarians, returning military veterans, those who fear coming martial law and are stockpiling food and gold. Some in government already consider these people to be terrorists.
Don’t believe that can happen? Ask Padilla and Manning.
Or, if you could, it would be a wonderful exercise to query those German, Russian and Chinese citizens who were roused out of bed in the dark of night, only to disappear into some dank gulag, concentration camp or salt mine without benefit of trial, merely for being different or daring to speak the truth.
Is this the America you want to see?