Monday, March 7, 2011

What Eighth Amendment?

Quick now . . . who is Bradley Manning? What if I said Private Bradley Manning? Does that help? I hope so. He's the Army private who's been accused of being the source for Wikileaks massive outpouring of U.S. state department cables. For the past seven months he has been mouldering in a Marine brig at Quantico, VA--since August of last year--and he was in jail in Kuwait for two months before that. Under hellish conditions. Here's a description of his situation from Glenn Greenwald.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions.  For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch).  For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs.  Lt. Villiard [a brig official] protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
Got that? Manning is not in a movie. What he is in are "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. Greenwald goes on to remind us that solitary confinement for long periods of time "is widely viewed around the world as highly injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture." The likelihood that Manning, who has been nothing but a model prisoner, will suffer permanent psychological damage is very high."

But this is not all. Just recently Manning has been literally been forced to strip naked every night to sleep. Villiard explains that this is for Manning's "own protection," which of course is bullshit. He is being punished for making a sarcastic comment. You can read about this barbarity here.

Now, remember: Manning has not been convicted of any crime. He is merely accused of a crime. He has not been brought to trial. But reflect also that the notion of innocent until proven guilty has gone the way of the dodo bird in America. The atmosphere of terrified paranoia that we operate in in this country has turned us into animals. But this is typical military "justice." Why isn't there widespread outrage over what amounts to torture of a prisoner right here in America? Because, brothers and sisters, we don't care.

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