Saturday, March 05, 2011

Nurse Ratched Handles National Security

My country is dying. Maybe my country is dead. The political entity known as "the United States of America" is still alive and kicking, and will likely remain so for centuries to come, but the ideals it once claimed to stand for are gone. Freedom, justice, liberty ... no. But there's this: "If American soldiers gun down unarmed journalists from a helicopter, or American contractors pimp out prepubescent little boys to serve as sex toys at Pashtun warlord parties, the government should ignore those criminals and instead go after Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for exposing them."

And now that Manning is in custody, the military forces him to sleep naked every night and report for attention naked the next day, but they claim they're doing this for Manning's own good, because they're afraid he'll commit suicide and when people feel suicidal you should treat them in the most degrading and dehumanizing fashion possible, to help them find life worth living again.

I've heard the arguments in support of the military here, the arguments Manning deserves all this and more, because national security blah blah terrorism and poor agents in the field who might die because Wikileaks exposed them. But the Department of Defense (note to non-Americans: that's the Orwellian name of the US government agency responsible for waging our country's wars) had the chance to vet the Wikileaks documents before their release, and refused. Any secret agent who suffered or might one day suffer from the Wikileaks revelations could have been saved, except the American war department let them be exposed in order to score points against Bradley Manning.

But if the potential for dead field agents truly does justify the military's treatment of Manning, then Karl Rove should sleep naked in his own cell at Quantico, after exposing Valerie Plame. Unlike Wikileaks, Rove didn't even offer the Department of Defense the courtesy of a chance to vet the information before he leaked it to the media.

Incidentally, here's what article 13 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says regarding Punishment prohibited before trial:
No person while being held for trial, may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement upon the charges pending against him, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon him be any more rigorous than the circumstances required to insure his presence, but he may be subjected to minor punishment during that period for infractions of discipline.
The authoritarian apologists bleating about "the rule of law" as though it somehow justifies Manning's shameful treatment should maybe -- just maybe -- stop kissing totalitarian ass long enough to contemplate the consequences of what they're endorsing: if the government itself has no respect for the rule of law, why the hell should anyone else?

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