“I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die’... I’m stuck inside this cage. I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it: an animal cage.”
Bradley Manning testifying at a pretrial proceeding, November 29, 2012
Bradley Manning has been imprisoned for over two and a half years, and finally on November 29 he was able to tell the world directly of the torture and abuse he has faced at the hands of the U.S. imperialist military and government.
Manning testified as part of a pretrial hearing which began November 27 and is expected to run through December 2. This hearing is on a motion filed by Manning’s lawyers charging the military with unlawful pretrial punishment and demanding all charges against him be dropped and that he be released from custody.
Manning, a 24-year-old private and intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq and was held in conditions amounting to torture for nine months. He’s charged with “aiding the enemy,” and is now facing a military court-martial and possible life in prison. He is accused of leaking nearly a half-million classified documents which were later published by the website WikiLeaks. These documents include the Collateral Murder video, Afghanistan War Logs, Iraq War Logs, U.S. State Embassy cables and Gitmo Files releases.
Kevin Gosztola, an author and civil liberties blogger at Firedoglake, told Revolution in June, “The Collateral Murder video shows a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in which two Reuters journalists were gunned down. A ‘Good Samaritan’ with his two children pulled up with a van and tried to save those wounded. He was shot and killed and his two children were severely wounded. The Afghan War Logs revealed a directive known as Task Force 373, an assassination squad of Navy SEALs and members of the Delta Forces who decided whether to arrest or kill targets. The logs also revealed that U.S. and UK forces adopted a military order, ‘Frago 242,’ to avoid taking responsibility for the torture of Iraqis by military or security forces in the country. These are just a few of the documents released to WikiLeaks.” (“Interview with Kevin Gosztola: The Political Persecution & Inhumane Punishment of Pfc. Bradley Manning,” Revolution #273, June 24, 2012)
These documents published by Wiki-Leaks have exposed many truths about the nature of U.S. imperialist actions around the world. And whoever is responsible, this is one of the most heroic and courageous actions in recent memory and a clarion call for others who know truths about the savage U.S. empire to act on their conscience and blow the whistle on such crimes.
The response of the Obama administration to the revelation of these crimes has not been to end them, prosecute those who committed them, or change its policies now that these horrendous crimes have become known to the public. Its response has been to viciously attack Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks so that they can continue lying about and covering up the crimes against people all over the world. And it is important to repeat: The torture and abuse of Bradley Manning has taken place entirely on Obama’s “watch.”
The shocking testimony of Manning and others, including military doctors and officials, reveals the extreme and barbaric lengths to which the military has gone to punish Manning before any trial has even taken place. Such torture is aimed at breaking Manning and intimidating other military personnel from leaking documents that expose the crimes the U.S. imperialists are committing on a daily basis around the world
Julian Assange, the founder of Wiki-Leaks, told Democracy Now! (November 29), “What is happening this week is not the trial of Bradley Manning. What is happening this week is the trial of the U.S. military. This is Bradley Manning’s abuse case . . . [he’s been] subject to conditions that the U.N. special rapporteur, Juan Méndez, special rapporteur for torture, formally found amounted to torture.
“Why was that treatment placed on him for so long, when so many people—independent psychiatrists, military psychiatrists—complained about what was going on in extremely strong terms? His lawyer and support team say that he was being treated in that manner, in part, in order to coerce some kind of statement or false confession from him that would implicate WikiLeaks as an organization and me personally . . . this young man’s treatment . . . is directly as a result of an attempt to attack this organization by the United States military, to coerce this young man into providing evidence that could be used to more effectively attack us, and also serve as some kind of terrible disincentive for other potential whistleblowers from stepping forward.”
Caged Like an Animal in Kuwait
Manning took the stand on November 29, and in just one day conveyed both the barbarity of the U.S. government and military and his own courage and humanity. Manning began by describing what happened to him after he was arrested by the military on May 27, 2010 while serving in Iraq and then taken to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.
He was brought into a military tent that had two cage-like cells inside. It was 8 x 8 x 8 feet and had a rack and toilet. Kevin Gosztola, who attended the hearing, wrote, “He was not told why he was moved and it was the same cell he was in during ‘indoctrination.’ After being moved back to segregation, there still were no formal charges. He didn’t know what was going on. He was limited, he said, and it was ‘very draining.’”
He was not sleeping much because his jailers were waking him up in the night and only allowing him to try to sleep in the day. Attorney Michael Ratner, who is representing Julian Assange and also attended the hearing, recounted on Democracy Now! (November 30) that Manning said, “For me, I stopped keeping track. I didn’t know whether night was day or day was night. And my world became very, very small. It became these cages.... I’m someone who likes current events. I take a broader view of the world.” Ratner said Manning gave an example of the oil spill in the Gulf and then said, “When that ended, my world all of a sudden was totally confined to these cages.”
Solitary Confinement, Sensory Deprivation = Torture
Manning also testified to his treatment in the brig at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia, where he was transferred from Kuwait on July 29, 2010 and held until April 20, 2011, when he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is currently being held there, awaiting court-martial scheduled for February 2013.
Gosztola told Revolution that during the hearing, “Manning’s lawyers outlined the 6- x 8-foot cell Manning was confined to with tape, and then Manning did a walk around pointing out where everything was—the toilet, sink, bed. There was hardly any space to move around in. He said he basically sat on his bed, he was not allowed to lay down because he was supposedly ‘on duty,’ the most he could get away with was sitting cross-legged on his bed. He said his mirror was one of his best sources of entertainment—he’d make faces just to entertain himself as he was alone in his cell without human contact. He’d do resistance training by stretching his arms because he was forbidden to exercise. Or he would dance with himself. He was bored out of his mind and had to do things to keep himself sane. He testified, ‘If I needed toilet paper I would stand to attention and shout: Detainee Manning requests toilet paper!’”
Attorney Michael Ratner spoke on Democracy Now! about how they forced Manning to sleep on his bunk facing the light so they could observe him: “If he turns over to avoid the light, they come in and they wake him up. That’s night. Day—what happens during the day? He’s in that cell 23-and-a-half hours a day, maybe 20 minutes of what they call sunshine exercise, which is just nothing. And what can he do? Because he’s on duty, supposedly, he has to either stand or he can sit on that metal bunk with his feet on the ground and can’t lean against anything. That’s 10 or 15 hours a day of what you have to call sensory deprivation.”
The justification for this abuse was that Manning was supposedly a suicide risk and a danger to himself and others—despite the fact that an experienced military psychiatrist testified that he found that Manning posed no such risk and that he’d recommended he be removed from this category. He also testified that the detention conditions Manning faced at Quantico were extremely harsh and “unprecedented”—and that his recommendations had never been ignored before including at Guantánamo.
Speaking of Manning’s composure during his court appearance, attorney Ratner said, “It was so horrible what happened to him over a two-year period. But he described it in great detail in a way that was articulate, smart, self-aware.” And later, after pointing out how the government is trying to break Manning, Ratner said, “What’s remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this.”
Since Manning’s imprisonment, many, many people have supported him—including contributing to his defense fund and organizing mass protests demanding, “Free Bradley Manning!” It is critical that many more rally to Manning’s defense and demand that all charges against him be dropped and that he be released.
This article originally appeared on revcom.us in the December 9, 2012 issue.