Psychologists Speak Out Against the Torture of Bradley Manning

If Bradley Manning had gunned down an innocent Iraqi family and a pair of journalists, he’d be free right now – and probably up for some sort of medal. Instead, he allegedly leaked video evidence of said war crime to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. So, naturally, rather than being subjected to the torture of a lengthy speech at an awards ceremony, he’s being held in mind-destroying solitary confinement 23 hours a day, which the group Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) labels cruel and inhumane punishment.

Such is the price of having a conscience.

A 23-year-old Army intelligence officer, Manning allegedly leaked, among other things, the “Collateral Murder” video released by WikiLeaks last summer that shows U.S. soldiers in a helicopter gunship calmly and coldly firing upon two Reuters journalists and killing an innocent Iraqi father who, having come upon the scene as he drove his two young children to school, attempted to rescue them.

When troops on the ground arrived, they quickly reported the tragedy they came across, noting that the helicopter crew had just killed an innocent man while filling his children with bullets. “Well, it’s their fault for bringing kids into a battle,” a not-terribly-remorseful soldier remarks in the July 2007 video.

Though Reuters had requested the video soon after the killing of two of its employees, it wasn’t until 2010 that it was released – and no thanks to the military, which unilaterally determined U.S. taxpayers were not entitled to see how their hard-earned money was being spent abroad. If it had not been leaked, the Pentagon cover story – that those whom its soldiers fired upon were all insurgents who had probably killed the journalists too – would have gone unchallenged.

By any measure, then, Bradley Manning is a hero: confronted with clear evidence of wrongdoing, he fulfilled his moral duty as a human being and leaked the truth, his career with the military be damned.

Yet as the socially conscious psychologists at PsySR note in a letter sent Monday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Manning is currently wasting away in solitary confinement, barred from even doing a push up – a condition he’s been held in for more than 220 days.

“As an organization of psychologists and other mental health professionals, PsySR is aware that solitary confinement can have severely deleterious effects on the psychological well-being of those subjected to it,” the group writes. “We therefore call for a revision in the conditions of PFC Manning’s incarceration while he awaits trial, based on the exhaustive documentation and research that have determined that solitary confinement is, at the very least, a form of cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment in violation of U.S. law.”

“[H]istory suggests that solitary confinement, rather than being a rational response to a risk, is more often used as a punishment for someone who is considered to be a member of a despised or ‘dangerous’ group,” the letter states. “In any case, PFC Manning has not been convicted of a crime and, under our system of justice, is at this point presumed to be innocent.”

While the chest-beating patriots who defend government’s right to commit war crimes in secret cast the U.S. military as the last line of defense between Freedom, Glorious Freedom, and the imposition of Islamic sharia law, it’s clear the Pentagon is not terribly concerned with basic-but-troublesome rights like that guilty-until-proven innocent thing.

Firedoglake’s Jeff Kaye suggests there’s a good reason for that.

“While it is used to break and control prisoners in America’s Supermax prisons, when used on accused prisoners, such as the detainees at Guantanamo, it can be used to ‘exploit’ the prisoner,” Kaye writes. “Such ‘exploitation’ is a key component of torture programs, as the torture regime seeks not just information, but ways to manipulate prisoners for political benefit, or for use by intelligence agencies,” he argues, hinting that the military may be seeking to compel Manning to testify that he colluded with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leak classified information.

Though Manning has been condemned by the entirety of the political and media establishment, with the liberal New York Times dutifully running a hit piece suggesting he’s but a maladjusted homosexual — no, seriously — he’s not without his defenders. The group Courage to Resist has raised well over $100,000for Manning’s legal defense and is encouraging his supporters to contact officials at Quantico military base and demand he be treated humanely. Anti-war group Code Pink has likewise taken up Manning’s case, launching a petition on urging the Obama administration to live up to its rhetoric against torture when it comes to the treatment of one of its own soldiers.

Think the Obama administration should be prosecuting war criminals, not whistle-blowers? Then consider making your voice heard.

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