According to Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the US Army has kept alleged WikiLeaker Bradley Manning in solitary confinement at Quantico for the past 7 months and refused to allow him basic necessities like exercise, a pillow, and sheets.
If this is true, it’s a disgrace. It’s also conduct unbecoming of the US military.
Now, before you go howling that whatever treatment Manning is getting is actually way too good for him because he’s a traitor who should just be taken out and shot, let me be clear:
It may well be that Manning should be taken out and shot.
He just shouldn’t be subjected to these petty and demeaning punishments in the meantime.
What can the Army possibly be hoping to accomplish by depriving Manning of exercise, sheets, and a pillow? Does it want him to see who’s boss? Does it want to teach him a lesson about allegedly leaking secrets to WikiLeaks? Does it want to show him how tough it is and what it thinks of alleged traitors?
If the Army’s goal is any of these things, all it is doing is embarrassing itself and every other American.
As was demonstrated in spades at Abu Ghraib, how we treat our prisoners matters. It matters to other soldiers. It matters to the country. It matters to humanity. And subjecting prisoners to petty tortures and humiliations just lowers us to the level that we’re fighting to try to rise above.So how should Manning be treated?
If the answer to the following three questions is “yes,” he should, in fact, be shot.
1) Did Manning actually leak the information to WikiLeaks? Has this been proven beyond a reasonable doubt? If so, fine. If not, when will it be proven? And why is Manning being treated this way in the meantime? Aren’t Americans presumed innocent until proven guilty?
2) Does leaking this information to WikiLeaks qualify as “treason”? Some would argue that leaking information about our conduct in the Iraq war was actually a patriotic act, not a crime against the country. I won’t pick a side on that one here. In any event, if this leak has been proven to qualify as “treason” under the legal definition of the word, fine.
3) Is treason always punishable by death? Are there lesser forms of treason that result in jail time or public service, or are traitors always shot? If they’re always shot, fine.
In other words, if Manning “did it,” if his crime was treason, and if treason is always punished with death, then the Army should man up and just take Manning out and shoot him.
What it shouldn’t do is subject him (or anyone) to wimpy, petty punishments that are beneath our military and country.
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