Sunday, March 06, 2011

How Manning Handling Eroding Progressive Support

Note to fellow progressives: Blogfather Kevin Hayden said he isn't voting for Obama in 2012. Obama seems so concerned with the 3 percent of undecided voters who don't follow daily politics. What is Obama going to do if he loses the base. The Republican Party has a built in base with the Tea Party.

Hayden took exception with Obama on the treatment of Bradley Manning. The latter is accused of supplying classified information to Wikileaks. Manning's attorney, David Coombs, told blogger Jane Hamsher that Manning is being stripped down.


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.


I don't know if the allegations are true. However, I think it is fair to have a healthy dose of skepticism after the U.S. military's past disasters with the handling of detainees. The best case scenario is the the Obama administration has let the detainment of Manning become a PR disaster. This is an administration that came into office vowing to clean up the detainment abuses that ran rampant in the Bush administration.

The Wikileaks provided valuable information into how the United States government works. America has a Fourth estate. If we do not have access into the inner-workings of our government then our democracy fails. At the same time, we are a nation of laws. Manning is accountable to military laws, if he is found guilty of revealing classified information. The same holds true for Chief Warrant Officer Denise Barnes. Sec. of DEfense Robert Gates should investigate the allegations against Barnes.

Politically, whose vote does Obama feel he is going to gain from the handling of Manning. Is the stripping down detainees vote the new NASCAR dad?

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