Future, Present, & Past:
Speculative~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
"Aiding the enemy"
I very rarely post here to urge a particular course of immediate action. But as a card-carrying member of Amnesty International, I occasionally write letters calling for the release of or better treatment of political prisoners. All the more reason when the prisoner is one's fellow-citizen, held by one's own government.
PFC Bradley Manning (of Wikileaks fame) has since last July been confined 23 hours a day to a 72-square-foot cell with a toilet and a bed. Now the man is a military prisoner and we do not expect the accommodations to be those of an upscale minimum-security prison with a golf course. Even the fact that he has only just been (finally) charged with any crime ("Aiding the enemy") is not really too shocking. But Manning is reported to be allowed no private belongings whatsoever, to be allowed to receive or compose correspondence under extremely restricted circumstances, he's woken up if he tries to nap. He's not allowed to work outside his cell. He's considered a maximum-security prisoner under Prevention-of-Injury status, but so far no clarification has been given to inquiries about why this status has been assigned. His POI status means Manning is checked by guards every five minutes, and is prevented from sleeping during the day. Of late he is subject to daily nude inspections and must sleep naked. All while being checked every five minutes.
It is well known that forced nudity (to say nothing of solitary confinement itself) has the (designed) effect of increasing the sense of helplessness and desperation in a human being. The suggestion that this is a measure to prevent or lessen Manning's alleged suicidal tendency warrants derision; it is either a gross misunderstanding of human psychology, or a transparent lie attempting to justify the vindictive treatment by the military of one of their own who stepped significantly out of line. I have a guess as to which.
There have been plenty of speculations about what motivated Manning to provide the leaks to Wikileaks, including (inevitably) aspersions on his character, and snide insinuations about his mental health. While I have no doubt that it takes, at least, a good deal of alienation to prompt one to make a decision like Manning's, to turn against a culture he had wanted to be a part of, this is not my concern. I am concerned with the apparent casualness with which the United States military recreates in the state of Virgina the (allegedly aberrant) maltreatment of prisoners that characterized Abu Ghraib. (I know that this comparison will be called overblown. I'm interested in that defensiveness.) I am cynical enough to be unsurprised (though I was for a while ready to believe that the President had really meant to close Guantanamo, as soon as something feasible could be worked out, I am not so sure anymore); but I still have some hope in the ability of enough public outcry to shame its leaders into doing the right thing, at least when there is no money at stake. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama need to hear, from as many people as possible, that this is unacceptable. You can write via Amnesty International.
Online support network for PFC Manning here.