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Obama's presidency, 2011-2012

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US Military Retreats on Manning Abuse

By Kevin Zeese
April 21, 2011

Editor’s Note:  Mounting protests over the harsh treatment of accused WikiLeaks leaker, Pfc. Bradley Manning, appear to have forced a concession by the U.S. military, Manning’s transfer to a medium-security Army facility where he may have contact with other inmates.

At the Quantico Marine brig, Manning was locked in his cell 23 hours a day, given only one hour for exercise, and sometimes stripped naked, conditions that prompted international complaints about pre-trial punishment and torture, but this controversy may just be the start of trouble for the U.S. government in the Manning case, as Kevin Zeese observes in this guest essay:

After months of pressure, the Obama administration has finally transferred Pfc. Bradley Manning to a military prison appropriately designed for pre-trial detention in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.

While the transfer of Manning away from the abusive Quantico Marine Corps Brig may be a positive step, the U.S. government remains trapped in a Manning quagmire. If it proceeds with his prosecution, the embarrassment will continue to grow as the truth about U.S. foreign policy is reviewed under a microscope. 

The nine-month-long mistreatment of Manning in the brig at Quantico already has brought international attention to his case. The prosecution of Manning will result in the videos and documents he is accused of releasing being more closely examined.

This attention will not be kind to the U.S. military and State Department as the documents show consistently illegal and unethical behavior by the U.S. government; support for dictators, oligarchs and royalists who work against their people’s interests; as well as U.S. foreign policy and war being a vehicle for big business interests.

The war crimes and other misdeeds of military and foreign policy personnel will be highlighted to the world. 

People are already wondering why this young private has been so mistreated. What did he do to aggravate the Obama administration, U.S. military and foreign policy establishment?

They also question whether a fair trial by the U.S. military is possible. If the Obama administration allowed nine months of abusive solitary confinement before trial, how can the military be expected to give Manning a fair trial?

Rule for Courts-Martial 806(b) states that military courts are presumptively open to the public. In a series of cases, military courts have found the media has a right to attend preliminary hearings and trials in military courts.

This is consistent with a long-line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning with Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555 (1980) where the court recognized that public access to criminal proceedings is a critical component of a fair justice system that inspires public confidence and integrity.

In 1987, the Court of Military Appeals wrote: “[W]e believe that public confidence in matters of military justice would quickly erode if courts-martial were arbitrarily closed to the public.”

The focus will not be primarily on process but on content – what is Bradley Manning accused of leaking? And, that is a question the U.S. military and foreign policy establishment does not want Americans or people around the world to look at. 

It is not a pretty picture. Here are a few examples among many:

--U.S. troops kill civilians without cause or concern and then cover it up (more examples of hiding civilian killings here, here and here) including killing reporters;

--The diplomatic cables also show that beyond the war fronts that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has turned State Department Foreign Service officers into a nest of spies who violate laws to spy on diplomats, all with marching orders drawn up by the CIA;

--The U.S. looks the other way when governments it supports engage in torture;

--Israel, with U.S. knowledge, is preparing for a wider war in the Middle East and keeping the Gaza economy at the brink of collapse.

--The CIA is fighting an undeclared war in Pakistan with Blackwater mercenaries;

--The Collateral Murder video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of Iraqi men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist and his driver, killing 16 and sending two children to the hospital. This one video describes multiple war crimes;

--Another document showed the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, in which as many as 140 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a U.S. attack, a fact disputed by the U.S. military.

The U.S. is in a Bradley Manning quagmire that is going to undermine its reputation in the world unless a way is found out of this case quickly.

President Obama has an opportunity to acknowledge the reality of the history and current make-up of U.S. foreign policy and begin a discussion within the government and among the people about radically altering the direction, strategies and tactics of the U.S. around the world.

Kevin Zeese directs Come Home America and is on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network

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