The president's dismissal of PJ Crowley for defending core American values is a teaching moment for me. My take here. Transcript of Frontline's interview with Manning's father here. The full video here. The Pentagon responds:
“The circumstances of PFC Manning’s pretrial confinement are regularly reviewed, and complies in all respects with U.S. law and Department of Defense regulations.
“In recent days, as the result of concerns for PFC Manning’s personal safety, his undergarments were taken from him during sleeping hours. He was not made to stand naked for morning count, but on one day, he chose to do so. There were no female personnel present at the time. PFC Manning has since been issued a garment to sleep in at night. He is clothed in a standard jumpsuit during the day. None of the conditions under which PFC Manning is held are punitive in nature.”
Solitary confinement 23 hours in a 12' x 6' cell a day not "punitive in nature"? For a model prisoner not even convicted of anything yet? Money quote from Wiki:
Manning's lawyer released an 11-page letter from Manning on March 10, 2011, written to the U.S. military in response to their decision to retain his Prevention of Injury status. In the letter, he described having been placed on suicide watch for three days in January, and having had his clothing removed, apart from underwear, as well as prescription eyeglasses; he said the loss of the latter forced him to sit in "essential blindness." He wrote that he believed this was done as retribution for a protest his supporters had held outside the jail the day before; he alleged that, just before the suicide watch began, the guards began harassing him and issuing conflicting orders, telling him to turn left, then not to turn left.
He also described being required to sleep without clothes and stand naked for morning parade: "The guard told me to stand at parade rest, with my hands behind my back and my legs spaced shoulder width apart. I stood at "parade rest" for about three minutes until the DBS [duty brig supervisor] arrived. … The DBS looked at me, paused for a moment, and then continued to the next detainee's cell. I was incredibly embarrassed at having all these people stare at me naked. …" He wrote that he was later given a smock to wear at night, which he described as coarse and uncomfortable, and said he regarded the decision to remove his other clothing at night as unlawful pretrial punishment.
The Pentagon has described this as "poppycock", a dimissal agreed with by the president – indeed so passionately he has fired PJ Crowley.
I wish I could believe the Pentagon any more about this kind of thing. They have repeatedly lied – and been caught doing so – in this war, especially when it comes to prisoner treatment. What I do know is that the president needs to do more when such reports emerge than merely ask the people responsible for Manning's treatment if he was being mistreated. And that, it appears, is all he has done:
"I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assured me that they are."
If you believe that, you'll also believe we're winning in Afghanistan. One wonders: does this president take everything the military tells him at face value? Is he that deferent to them? He's the commander-in-chief.