The Cruel and Unusual Detention of Bradley Manning

November 29th, 2012

As Pfc Bradley Manning’s court-martial moves forward, disturbing new information has been released regarding his detention conditions. NBC news is reporting that Navy Captain William Hocter, Manning’s psychiatrist during his detention at Quantico, repeatedly expressed concerns that Manning was being held in solitary confinement without cause for 11 months. He was also constantly sexually humiliated by being forced to remain nude while in confinement.

The Huffington Post is reporting that UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E Mendez submitted Manning’s case to the UN Human Rights Council. Though the UN has no authority to criticize the US for anything, it is alarming that the United States’ reputation on civil liberties has eroded to this point. It looks like the type of brutal treatment experienced by Guantanamo Bay detainees may now be applicable to US citizens or soldiers held in other facilities. Let’s discuss the implications.

First Extra-Judicial Killings of US Citizens, and Now, Torture

When fighting monsters, it is important to take steps to ensure one doesn’t become a monster oneself during the process. This age-old wisdom is desperately needed by the US, now struggling with its own soul after abandoning civil liberties in the wake of the 911 attacks.

First, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year old US citizen born in Denver, was targeted for summary execution by drone strike after being mistakenly listed as a 21-year old militant on President Obama’s kill list. Now, we hear that Bradley Manning is being tortured while in detention, just because he blew the whistle on wrongdoings being committed by his own government.

Bradley Manning’s Treatment

Bradley Manning was essentially tortured via bureaucracy at Quantico. Psychiatrist Captain William Hocter noted that Manning was held in solitary confinement for 11 months because he was classified as a suicide risk. Hocter had recommended multiple times that this classification be removed and that he be allowed to socialize with other detainees and to have exercise. Instead, officials refused to change his status and kept him in a 6′ by 8′ cell for 23 hours out of the day without the ability to talk to others.

Claiming clothing was a risk to his health, officials first required him to strip down to his boxers while in confinement, but later required him to strip totally nude. Imagine being naked in a tiny cell with nothing to do and no one to talk to. It’s important to note that Manning has not yet been convicted of a crime.

Manning’s attorneys are attempting to leverage this inhumane treatment to attain leniency in his sentencing, but, given the seriousness of the charges facing him, it’s unlikely that he will experience any additional freedom as a result of his harrowing experience at Quantico. Hopefully, any sentencing reductions that he experiences will at least make it more difficult for the same treatment to fall on future detainees.

America’s reputation as a leader on human rights has been mortally wounded throughout the past few Presidential administrations. Civil liberties have been uniformly tossed out the window, in some cases just to make matters more convenient for government employees. It’s high time for Americans to demand better. We’re supposed to be above this kind of stuff.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.