Pfc. B. Manning testified in a military court pre-trial hearing on Nov. 29 and 30 at Fort Meade, Md., about the horrendous prison conditions this whistle-blower had to endure, particularly in Kuwait and at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. Pfc. Manning’s court-martial trial is scheduled to begin next February. Manning could face life in a military prison if convicted.
More than two and a half years ago, Manning was arrested in Afghanistan, accused of sending Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, and transferred to Kuwait to spend two months locked in a tiny 6 foot by 8 foot cage. Manning testified: “I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die.’ I thought I was going to die in a cage.”
Then the Army transferred Manning to the brig at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where the outrageous treatment continued for nine months. Manning testified about often being stripped naked, and kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day.
The brig commanders testified that all of this was a necessary “suicide watch,” even though military psychiatrists who examined Manning at Quantico testified that they told the commanders that this “watch” was not necessary. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called Manning’s treatment “cruel and unusual” and amounting to torture.
A reporter from the progressive website “Democracy Now” spoke with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has obtained sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Assange said:
“There’s a question about who authorized that treatment. Why was that treatment placed on him for so long, when so many people — independent psychiatrists, military psychiatrists — complained about what was going on in extremely strong terms? His lawyer and support team say that he was being treated in that manner, in part, in order to coerce some kind of statement or false confession from him that would implicate WikiLeaks as an organization and me personally.”
Manning’s defense team asserts that this horrendous treatment constitutes such a travesty of justice that Manning should be released immediately.
Manning’s lawyers also presented motions to modify and eliminate many of the charges against him. The military judge will rule on these motions.
Of course, Manning and the defense team are completely justified in using any legal maneuver they deem necessary. But it must be clear to all progressives that Private Manning’s so-called “crime” was to refuse to silently obey illegal orders. U.S Army Field Manual 27-10 incorporates the Nuremberg Principles into military law, among them Principle IV: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.”
Since the Obama administration took office in 2009, it has refused to even investigate, let alone prosecute, the false imprisonment, torture and other war crimes committed by the George W. Bush administration, and has continued the occupation and war in Afghanistan to this day.
To prosecute and torture Private Manning for allegedly disclosing secrets of the U.S. government about its culpability in acts of torture and wars and other U.S. human rights violations does indeed itself constitute a war crime. It must be stopped! Free Private Manning now!