Stripped Naked and Humiliated: The Torture of Bradley Manning

Stripped Naked and Humiliated: The Torture of Bradley ManningAmerica, while you condemn the repression and human rights abuses in the Middle East, you sit back and advocate the repulsive debasement of a young citizen who once made a moral choice in the name of political progress.

America, your hypocrisy makes me sick to my stomach.

The charge of “aiding the enemy” facing Bradley E. Manning, the 23-year-old army intelligence analyst accused of leaking confidential military and diplomatic information to WikiLeaks – a capital offense for which he could be executed, is just one form of draconian punishments being instigated by the US. Manning has no doubt been fearing the worst already, given the psychologically torturous conditions he has had to bear while incarcerated at the Quantico Brig detention facility in Virginia.

For the past 219 consecutive days, Manning has been subjected to solitary confinement for 23 hours a day while under constant surveillance. Now as of Wednesday, Manning has been ordered to sleep naked in his cell and, come the 5am wake up call and morning inspection, is forced to stand outside of cell, still naked, before his clothes are returned.

According to Marine spokesman, first Lt. Brian Villiard, the humiliation is a “precautionary measure.” He said: “Because of recent circumstances, the underwear was taken away from him as a precaution to ensure that he did not injure himself.” The circumstances, while allegedly “event driven,” will not be disclosed, supposedly to protect Manning’s privacy.

Turns out that Manning allegedly sarcastically remarked about committing suicide with his briefs or his flip-flops. Hmmm. Glenn Greenwald, who has been studying the case closely, makes a persuasive argument when he asks whether “There’s no underwear that can be issued that is useless for killing oneself’?”

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, vehemently attacked his clients treatment, deeming it a “humiliation,” before going on to say that “There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning.”

According to Coombs, no other detainee is forced to endure the same degree of “isolation and humiliation.”

Forcing Manning strip naked for the sake of his protection and well-being is part of his detainment under the “prevention of injury watch”. Manning’s supporters deem that he has never been suicidal.

If, however, there is a justifiable means behind these restrictions, there is little room for speculation as to where and how Manning developed such a grave psychological disorder.

David House, a researcher at MIT who helped set up the Bradley Manning foundation, is one of few people to have been granted visiting rights to Manning at Quantico Brig. In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, House said that Manning is “being punished” and that “The US government wants him to crack.”

In an interview with the Guardian last December, House said that Manning had been declining in his mental and physical well being, and that the solitary confinement had taken a toll on his intellect.

The psychological torture, potentially pushing a young man to the brink of suicide, has drawn critics from both within the US government (Democratic representative for Ohio Dennis Kucinich compared the Brig to Guantanamo Bay and described the treatment as a “violation of international law”. At least someone there has a spine) and online. Internet meme Anonymous has promised a “media war” with the US military within a week unless Manning’s conditions improve and he has access to clothes, blankets and books. Watch this space.

What is also tragic about this, however, is that it’s occurring under President Obama’s watch. In 2008, the then-presidential nominee said that “Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal.” Now it seems that he’s happy to allow a man who revealed the injustices of governments to face capital punishment, but not before being driven to insanity in his six-by-eight foot cell.

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