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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
The BBC reports that the health of Bradley Manning, the alleged source for Wikileaks, is deteriorating after months in custody:
Pte Manning, a US soldier, is being held in solitary confinement in a high-security military prison at Quantico marine base, Virginia.
US journalist David House, who has been visiting him since September, told the BBC World Service he looked “frazzled”. …
The 23-year-old was arrested earlier this year and charged with stealing secret information. One accusation is that he handed Wikileaks video of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
However, there has been no formal indictment and no date for a trial has been set, according to Mr House.
“He is being kept in a kind of punitive fashion before his trial and it is definitely weakening his mental state,” the journalist said.
When Mr House first visited Pte Manning in September, he found him mentally “very alert” and, physically, he looked to be “in very good health”.
“Over the months, I’ve seen his condition deteriorate. Mentally, he now has trouble keeping up with some topics of conversation. He has bags under his eyes and he appears to be very weak.”
This information comes after earlier reports that the UN was investigating the treatment of Manning, after allegations surfaced that the conditions he is being held under equate to torture. It is impossible to know precisely how Manning is being treated, since his situation is cloaked in so much secrecy. But it is not difficult to surmise that, at the very least, Manning is being intentionally mistreated in an attempt to coerce him into cooperating.
US authorities are no stranger to allegations of torture. After all, torture was essentially legalized under the Bush regime as “enhanced interrogation” techniques, and the Obama administration has thus far failed to reverse the disturbing precedent. It should come as no surprise that similarly inhumane tactics will be utilized against a prisoner as loathed as Manning. In fact, we should expect that anyone deemed to hold valuable information, or to be in any way an enemy of the State, will be subjected to whatever treatment the authorities believe will escape public scrutiny.
In Manning’s case, clearly such blatant torture techniques as waterboarding cannot be used. Instead, a more subtle strategy of psychological manipulation is being implemented, in which Manning’s sanity is gradually worn down. Trapping a human being in a cell for twenty-three hours per day, and only allowing him contact with the outside world through a single man, in heavily monitored meetings once every two weeks, is bound to have devastating effects on a person’s psychological well-being. But these facts of his treatment are what we know; it is impossible to guess what other subtle mind-games are being played behind the scenes.
The issue here is one of fundamental human rights. Regardless of whether one considers Manning a despicable criminal or a champion of democracy (I consider him to be the latter), he should be entitled to a basic level of care appropriate for a human being – or, one might argue, any sentient being. Psychological torture is a violation of human rights, and Manning’s treatment thus far represents but one more stain on the disgustingly soiled reputation of the world’s self-professed champion of democracy and human rights.
Manning must be tried for his crimes without delay, and in the interim he must be entitled to regular contact with the outside world, daily time spent outside of his cell, and access to all the amenities – including proper bedding – required by a dignified human being.