Who’s The Real Bradley Manning?

1 Dec

Prosecution's Pink Noose (AP)Government prosecutor, Major Ashden Fein, took the offensive in the Bradley Manning court-martial pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade with a dramatic illustration of the whistle-blower’s alleged suicidal temperament.

The military court hearing the court martial of the WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning was on Friday shown a noose that the soldier made from a sheet in his cell just days after his arrest for having allegedly committed the largest leak of state secrets in US history.

The knotted pink sheet, which was held aloft by the chief prosecution lawyer, Major Ashden Fein, dramatically illustrated the suicidal state that Manning was in when he was brought to Kuwait immediately after his arrest at an operating base outside Baghdad in May 2010. The prosecutor also produced a second noose made from sandbag ties and two metal objects that he suggested Manning may have intended to use to harm himself, though the soldier said he did not recollect those items.

The prosecution also sought to discredit Manning as a publicity seeker.

Fein read from a weekly series of reports signed by Manning that gave a progress report to his army liaison officers. Most of the reports recorded that the inmate thought his treatment at the hands of the guards and the brig facility was “excellent” and several said that he had “no issues” of concern to raise.

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The prosecutor also brought up conversations between Manning and friends and family members who visited him at the brig, citing the transcripts of routine recordings that had been made. Fein said, incredulously, that in those interactions the soldier had asked how his glasses looked on his face, discussed hiring a PR agent and talked about his need of money, yet never made any effort to sound the alarm over the harsh treatment he was receiving.

“Rather than ever alluding to your treatment in the brig, you were more interested in asking a private investigator to find a fundraiser for you,” Fein said.

Manning later riposted that he had not gone into any detail about his conditions because he knew his visitor conversations were being recorded. “I was also concerned they might end my visits and say I did something wrong,” he said.

Another observer, Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a lawyer for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, had a different impression after Manning completed his testimony.

You know, it was one of the most dramatic courtroom scenes I’ve ever been in. I mean, for days we’ve been waiting to see whether Bradley Manning was going to testify, and it’s testimony about the conditions he was held in really for almost two years, but certainly the part in Kuwait and Quantico. And we didn’t have—we’ve seen him in the courtroom, but we didn’t see him ever take the stand. So we’re sitting in this small courtroom. There’s all of these guys in these formal-dress blue uniforms. I mean, they look like those Custers or Civil Wars with those little things on their shoulders, epaulets. And then, all of a sudden, we come back from lunch, and David Coombs, Bradley’s lawyer, says, “Bradley Manning will come to the stand.”

And you could have heard—I mean, the room was just mesmerized by what was going to happen next. And he says to Bradley, “I know you may be a little nervous about this. I’ll ease you into it.” When Bradley opened his mouth, he was not nervous. I mean, he was—the testimony was incredibly moving, emotional roller coaster for all of us, but particularly, obviously, for Bradley and what he went through. But 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. I mean, he knew what was going on. He tried to make it so that they wouldn’t keep him on the suicide risk, they wouldn’t keep him on preventive injury status, where he didn’t have clothes and all of that. And he couldn’t do it. And he kept trying it, and they kept lying to him. And it was really dramatic.

What came out—what it began with was really his arrest in late May of 2010. He was almost immediately taken to Kuwait. And that’s where—really where they got him in a way that really, for a period of time, almost destroyed him. They put him into cages that he described as eight-by-eight-by-eight. There were two cages. He said they were like animal cages. They were all—they were in a tent alone, just these two cages, side by side. One of them had whatever possessions he may have had; one of them, he was in, with a little bed for a rack and a toilet, dark, in this cage for almost two months. He was taken out for a short while and then, without explanation, put back in the cage, meals in the cage, etc., all of that.

And then—wait until you hear this. They would wake him at night at 11:00 p.m., 10:00 or 11:00, and his day—or night—was all night, and he was allowed to go back to sleep at 12:00 or 1:00, noon, the next day. So when we think about what happened to people at Guantánamo or sensory deprivation or what McCoy says in his books on torture, what are they trying to do except destroy this human being?

And he 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. And I’m person,” he said—this was really, I thought—all of us really were interested in it. He said, “I’m someone who likes current events. I take a broader view of the world.” And he gave an example of the oil spill in the Gulf. And he said, you know, “When that ended,” and he said, “my world all of a sudden was totally confined to these cages.” And that was almost two months in Kuwait, something that none of us really knew about for this period. And he went on to talk about then what happens when he went to Quantico.

Of course, the two portraits, of a suicidal publicity seeker and an earnest victim of unlawful punishment, are not mutually exclusive. But, the chicanery the prison guards have practiced on PFC Manning involve a far more extensive dimension of sadism than a publicity seeker could imagine.

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