Rationality from Right on Manning? Not Much.

Ed Morrissey thinks that “The White House acted appropriately in kicking Crowley out at State …” in response to Crowley’s public criticism of Pfc. Bradley Manning’s abusive treatment in detention. Then he defends the abuse itself (although of course he doesn’t consider it to be abuse) thusly:

The Guardian dishonestly leaves out some important context in their report:

Commentators were quick to point out the apparent double standards within the government. Glenn Greenwald, a Salon reporter who has been outspoken about Manning’s detention, tweeted that “detainee abuse is allowed, speaking out against it isn’t”.

Last week Manning gave his own personal account of theconditions in which he is being held, saying that it amounted to harsh treatment that was designed to be punitive even before he had been put on trial. He described being stripped naked every night having made a sarcastic comment to guards about the absurdity of the regime he was under.

But what was the comment?  As Jazz Shaw wrote a week ago, even FireDogLake managed to be honest about it:

In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm. PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.

“Joking” about suicide while in a brig is akin to joking about having a bomb when going through airport security.  The authorities won’t just assume you’re stupid enough to joke about it and will take it seriously, because if they don’t and the suspect was serious, they will get the blame for what follows.  The Guardian’s coverage leaves the implication that being stripped naked was punitive and had nothing to do with Manning’s actions, which is objectively not the case.

I am sure you will not be shocked to hear that Ed Morrissey and Jazz Shaw themselves dishonestly left out some important context in their criticism of the Guardian article. Here is the full quote from that Firedoglake post, from which Ed selected the above tiny snippet with which to disingenuously credit Jane Hamsher for “being honest” about the reason for the forced nudity. And note, especially, where Jane places HER bolded emphasis:

On Wednesday March 2, 2011, PFC Manning was told that his Article 138 complaint requesting that he be removed from Maximum custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) Watch had been denied by the Quantico commander, Colonel Daniel J. Choike.  Understandably frustrated by this decision after enduring over seven months of unduly harsh confinement conditions, PFC Manning inquired of the Brig operations officer what he needed to do in order to be downgraded from Maximum custody and POI.  As even Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell has stated, PFC Manning has been nothing short of “exemplary” as a detainee.  Additionally, Brig forensic psychiatrists have consistently maintained that there is no mental health justification for the POI Watch imposed on PFC Manning.  In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm.  PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.

Without consulting any Brig mental health provider, Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes used PFC’s Manning’s sarcastic quip as justification to increase the restrictions imposed upon him under the guise of being concerned that PFC Manning was a suicide risk.  PFC Manning was not, however, placed under the designation of Suicide Risk Watch.  This is because Suicide Risk Watch would have required a Brig mental health provider’s recommendation, which the Brig commander did not have.  In response to this specific incident, the Brig psychiatrist assessed PFC Manning as “low risk and requiring only routine outpatient followup [with] no need for … closer clinical observation.”  In particular, he indicated that PFC Manning’s statement about the waist band of his underwear was in no way prompted by “a psychiatric condition.”

While the commander needed the Brig psychiatrist’s recommendation to place PFC Manning on Suicide Risk Watch, no such recommendation was needed in order to increase his restrictions under POI Watch.  The conditions of POI Watch require only psychiatric input, but ultimately remain the decision of the commander.

Given these circumstances, the decision to strip PFC Manning of his clothing every night for an indefinite period of time is clearly punitive in nature.  There is no mental health justification for the decision. There is no basis in logic for this decision.  PFC Manning is under 24 hour surveillance, with guards never being more than a few feet away from his cell.  PFC Manning is permitted to have his underwear and clothing during the day, with no apparent concern that he will harm himself during this time period.  Moreover, if Brig officials were genuinely concerned about PFC Manning using either his underwear or flip-flops to harm himself (despite the recommendation of the Brig’s psychiatrist) they could undoubtedly provide him with clothing that would not, in their view, present a risk of self-harm.  Indeed, Brig officials have provided him other items such as tear-resistant blankets and a mattress with a built-in pillow due to their purported concerns.

And here is Jane’s commentary below the quote:

This is just vile.  The former brig commander, James Averhart, violated military rules by putting Manning on suicide watch as punishment, and was subsequently replaced by Denise Barnes.  Now she’s stripping him naked to punish him for a sarcastic quip. Who is she, Nurse Ratched? Abusing someone’s mental health classification in order to subject them to torture “for their own good” is sick and sadistic, reminiscent of Soviet gulags.

Maybe she wants to become his “god.”

Let me wholeheartedly concur with Coombs’ smack-down of Brian Villard, who oozes sanctimony as he refuses to answer questions about sexually abusing and humiliating Manning “for his own good”:

The Brig’s treatment of PFC Manning is shameful.  It is made even more so by the Brig hiding behind concerns for “[PFC] Manning’s privacy.”  There is no justification, and there can be no justification, for treating a detainee in this degrading and humiliating manner.

These people are barbarians. If they gave a shit about Manning’s “good” they’d listen to the brig psychiatrists who have repeatedly said Manning is not at risk of harming himself.  There is no question they are abusing his mental health status so they can torture him and not be held accountable for it.

Barack Obama is Commander in Chief.  The actions of these sick bastards are his responsibility.  Instead of fulfilling his campaign promises to close Guantanamo Bay, he has imported their sadistic tactics to American shores so Bank of America can have something to pin on Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.  He has turned his Justice Department into corporate America’s consiglieri.

“For your own good” is now the new “national security.”  A way for the government to paint a smiling face on its dripping fangs.  And the silence of those who would be howling in outrage had George Bush done the same thing is repellent.

It’s not easy to make a convincing argument that forcing Manning to sleep naked every night and stand at attention naked every morning — a practice that is clearly, inherently, and definitively humiliating and emotionally debilitating — is being done “for his own protection,” because he is a “suicide risk.”  It’s that much harder to do so when you leave out all of the context.

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