The Government is Torturing Chelsea Manning! Does Anyone Give a Damn?

Photograph Source: Mattia Luigi Nappi – CC BY 4.0

Chelsea Manning is being tortured for her refusal to testify before a federal grand jury. She already has told a military court as a whistleblower while in the Army about documents pertaining to alleged war crimes that were committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. She has already been tortured and imprisoned for releasing that information once (“Collateral Murder” video, for example), but here in the US, the land of the free and the home of the brave, readers must be protected from reading and viewing documents about the horrors of the endless wars the US fights. Some journalists and publishers must be brought into line when disclosing information to the public about our endless wars.

War is seldom defensive these days, but rather, more about killing people deemed enemies by the government, about massive profits, and about empire.

Thinking about Manning’s plight, I recall the little-known book, Fort Dix Stockade: Our Prison Camp Next Door  by Joan Crowell (1974), about how imprisonment and torture was used against those in the stockade at Fort Dix, News Jersey who protested the Vietnam War while in the military.  Some accounts of Manning’s first imprisonment in a Marine Corps stockade recall the treatment that recalcitrant and protesting soldiers received at the hands of their guards, some of whom were returned Vietnam veterans. Manning was not beaten by the Marines, but her treatment amounted to torture.

Readers need only look to the masses of US citizens and immigrants, including immigrant children, locked up in the US prison system and detention “camps” to get the picture of the kinds of grotesque abuse that untold numbers of people suffer while incarcerated. If a nation gets away with the imprisonment and abuse of incarcerated children, just how far behind can a political system of general or selected  repression be?

Here’s what the UN special rapporteur on torture had to say about Manning’s current treatment: “an open-ended, progressively severe measure of coercion fulfilling all the constitutive elements of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” (“Top UN official accuses US of torturing Chelsea Manning,” Guardian, December 31, 2019).

I guess ii’s only a certain cohort of troops and veterans that we as a nation support.

Democracy Now’s New Year’s Day program was dedicated to the legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt “First Lady of the World: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Impact on New Deal to U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.” “War destroys all human rights and freedom,” Roosevelt said. Roosevelt is adamant in that position in the segment’s opening and knows firsthand that human rights die with the onset of war.

Where are the patriots like Roosevelt? Where are the patriots in the media who have published some of Manning’s revelations? Where are those who will stand up and do something about the torture and harassment of those who bring sunlight to the dark corners of power and the dark corners of the empire? Those at the highest levels of power don’t like Manning for what she represents and does and they’ve made her pay dearly.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).