Saturday, January 08, 2011

Why Bradley Manning is fighting for his sanity

Coercion and humiliation seep through American culture, writes Alexander Cockburn

Brad Manning

For the past seven months, 22-year-old US Army Private Bradley Manning, first in an army prison in Kuwait, now in the brig in Quantico, Virginia, has been held 23 hours out of 24 in solitary confinement in his cell, under constant harassment. If his eyes close between 5am and 8pm he is jolted awake. In daylight hours he has to respond “yes” to guards every five minutes. For an hour a day he is taken to another cell where he walks figures of eight. If he stops he is taken back to his other cell.

Manning is accused of giving documents to Julian Assange at WikiLeaks. He has not been tried or convicted. Visitors report that Manning is going downhill mentally as well as physically. His lawyer’s efforts to improve his condition have been rebuffed by the Army.
Accusations that his treatment amounts to torture have been indignantly denounced by prominent conservatives calling for him to be summarily executed. After the columnist Glenn Greenwald publicised Manning’s treatment in mid-December, there was a moderate commotion. The UN’s top monitor of torture is investigating his case.

Meanwhile Manning faces months, if not years, of the same. Will he end up like accused Chicagoan Jose Padilla, four years in total isolation and silence before his trial in 2007? Padilla was convicted as a terrorist and given 17 years, but only after his lawyer had been informed by prison staff that he had become docile and inactive to the point that he resembled “a piece of furniture”.

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