Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Procrastination Is My Middle Name

I've been fiddling around with a couple of other posts for the past few days, but haven't been able to finish anything. Here's something that I can toss out there quickly, with minimal comment -- it speaks for itself. Glenn Greenwald has posted an article at on the inhumane conditions in which Pfc. Bradley Manning, alleged leaker of classified documents to Wikileaks, is being held. Although Manning
has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture....

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).
Greenwald quotes John McCain, who endured such confinement while a POW in Vietnam: "It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit." He's probably aware of the irony involved, but some of his commenters aren't. (Neither, it's safe to say, is the President of the United States.) I haven't taken the time read all 494 comments that have been posted so far, but there are several writers (this one, right off the bat) who are saying that this is what will happen to you if you break the law, as Manning is alleged to have done, and if he'd done the same thing in China or Russia he'd be dead by now, he's a traitor traitor traitor ... the usual, predictable ranting that appears in various fora, including as content in right-wing media, when a story like this breaks. Since Manning has not, as Greenwald stresses, been convicted of any crime, there's no basis for punishing him at all, let alone in this draconian manner. (Except for Catch-22: You must have done something wrong, or you wouldn't be in jail.) And isn't it inspiring to be told once again that the US is not, and needn't be, any better than regimes like Russia or China or Iran or Saddam's Iraq? This, remember, is what such people consider a defense of the United States: that we are simply behaving like the official enemies, whose horrific behavior justifies our demonization of them, but should also be our role model.

Remember this bit from informer Adrian Lamo's appearance at a Hackers on Planet Earth conference a few months ago?

EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN: Adrian, I mean, you say it’s—you know, it’s been a pleasant experience for you, you know, working with the government on this, I guess. But Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker, is currently sitting in prison in Kuwait, I believe, and he could be locked up for the rest of his life. How do you feel about that?


ADRIAN LAMO: I think that it’s a little bit ludicrous to say that Bradley Manning is going to be tortured. We don’t do that to our citizens.
Oh, don't we?

Greenwald has written an important article, which should be read by everyone.