This Tuesday, a military judge refused to drop the case against PFC Bradley Manning, accused of releasing classified military documents to Wikileaks, but ruled that whatever sentence Manning receives should be reduced by 112 days due to his mistreatment during confinement.
The “mistreatment” that Manning received included being denied exercise, social interaction, and sunlight. On many occasions Manning was forced to stay completely naked. He was kept alone in a 6-by-8-foot cell for 23 hours a day and kept under constant surveillance and on suicide watch, despite advice by forensic psychiatrists who saw Manning and said there was no medical reason for him to be on suicide watch. According to a recent piece in the Washington Post,
“At Quantico, he was monitored 24 hours a day, at times growing so bored and starved for companionship that he danced in his cell and played peekaboo with guards and with his image in the mirror — activity his defense attorney attributed to “being treated as a zoo animal.”
He was barred from exercising in his cell and slept on a mattress with a built-in pillow. He had no sheet, only a blanket designed so that it could not be shredded.”
Juan Mendez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture sought many times to interview Manning but his requests were refused. After being blocked access to Manning repeatedly, Mendez issued a statement saying that his treatment was “cruel and inhuman.”
What’s more, Manning has now spent over 900 days in pretrial detention. Since May 29, 2010, Manning has been held without trial for his alleged crimes and has effectively received pre-trial punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s statute against cruel and usual punishment and the Fifth Amendment’s statute against punishment without a trial.
And what are Manning’s alleged crimes? He saw crimes against humanity. He saw immoral and illegal actions being committed by United States soldiers. And instead of closing his eyes or looking the other way, Manning decided to act. Manning is charged with releasing, among other things, the “Collateral Murder” video to Wikileaks, a video which depicts the indiscriminate murder of over a dozen people in Baghdad in 2007 by a U.S. Apache helicopter, including civilians and two Reuters’ employees, photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chmagh. In the video, the pilots open fire after mistaking Mr. Noor-Eldeen’s camera for a weapon. After opening fire on the group, a wounded man can be seen crawling and the pilots can be heard saying that they hope the man fires at them so they can shoot them again without breaking the rules of engagement. “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon,” one pilot says. Later, a van arrives to gather the wounded and the pilots open fire, wounding two children inside.
Also released were the “Iraq War Logs“, which revealed thousands of reports of prisoner torture and abuse filed against Iraqi Security Forces. These reports included medical evidence that explained in detail of how prisoners were, according to the Bradley Manning Support Network,
“whipped with heavy cables across the feet, hung from ceiling hooks, suffered holes being bored into their legs with electric drills, urinated upon, and sexually assaulted.”
The Wikileaks cables also detailed allegations of child abuse and child trafficking activities by U.S. defense contractors in Afghanistan. The defense contracting company DynCorp (which garners about $2 billion per year in revenue from the U.S.) had a party for Afghan security recruits that featured boys who were purchased from child traffickers for entertainment.
The list of crimes against humanity that the Wikileaks cables brought to light is filled with endless lies and cover-ups by the U.S. government of torture, indiscriminate killing of civilians, theft, and other international crimes. THIS is why Bradley Manning is in jail. Because he had the courage and the moral compass to see that these things were wrong and to do something about it. For his heroism, Manning has spent close to three years in jail without trial, has been subjected to inhumane conditions and has been demonized by the government. What he deserves is not a mere 112 days off of his sentence but all of the charges against him dropped and a medal of heroism for his bravery and courage to stand up for what is right.
It is time we speak out against this treatment of an international hero. Today, I wrote a letter to Major General Horst, the prosecution authority who makes decisions about Manning’s case, urging him to see the injustice being done to Manning.
You can write him here:
7115 South Boundary Boulevard
MacDill AFB, FL
Here’s what I said:
Dear Maj. General Horst,
I think that the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning is immoral and unconstitutional. His treatment during his imprisonment at Quantico, Va. was inexcusable for any person, let alone a United States citizen who was imprisoned for doing the right and moral thing. Blowing the whistle on crimes against humanity is NOT something to be punished but should instead be what we EXPECT of our soldiers and of our citizens. Bradley Manning is a HERO. He did what was right even in the face of danger. His case should be dismissed and he should be lauded for his actions, not demonized, imprisoned, and stripped of his most basic civil liberties of the right to a fair and speedy trial.
Alyssa Pauline Rohricht
We all need to speak up and speak out for this hero. Write, protest, raise your voices. I AM BRADLEY MANNING.
Alyssa Röhricht blogs at Crash Culture: Political Train Wrecks for Political Junkies