My Photo

« Your zeitgeist post | Main | Snog In The Fog: Science Fiction And Weekend Open Thread »

March 08, 2011

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834515c2369e2014e8690cc9b970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference how do you like living in Omelas?:

Comments

Argh, but I can't stay out:

I am ashamed that I volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008. My "but the Republicans are worse" justificaiton is sounding more hollow by the day.
You can feel ashamed all you want. I'm so sure John McCain, war with Iran, war with Russia, war with Libya, and god knows what else, would be ever so much an improvement.

The perfect is not just the enemy of the good, but stances like this result in tremendous evil.

Yes, there are always terrible things in the world, and we must passionately fight them.

But to equate all evil with all other evil, despair, and declare that there's no point in distinguishing any evil from any other, and do nothing is, in my view, the worst evil of them all.

After all, there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush: how many leftists explained that?

And how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are now dead because of this Wonderful Moral Purity?

Etc.

I don't think we can know for certain unless the government is prepared to publish all manner of internal communications that it will never publish in a million years.
Um, as I pointed out in March of 2006, including April 07, 2006 at 02:25 AM on Obsidian Wings:
[...] The President's authority over what's classified or declassified is essentially absolute. Among other points:

(l) "Declassification authority" means:

(1) the official who authorized the original classification, if that official is still serving in the same position;

(2) the originators current successor in function;

(3) a supervisory official of either; or

(4) officials delegated declassification authority in writing by the agency head or the senior agency official.

Needless to say, the President is the ultimate "supervisory official" of everyone in the Executive Branch. Further:

(cc) "Original classification authority" means an individual authorized in writing, either by the President, the Vice President in the performance of executive duties, or by agency heads or other officials designated by the President, to classify information in the first instance. [...] 13292 was a modification of 12958 , written by Clinton's office.

I'll add that
13526:
Executive Order 13526 was enacted on December 29, 2009 by United States President Barack Obama.[1] It is the latest in a series of executive orders from US Presidents outlining how classified information should be handled. It revokes and replaces the previous Executive Orders in effect for this, which were EO 12958 (text) and EO 13292 (text).

[...] These latest regulations went into full effect on June 25, 2010 except for sections 1.7, 3.3, and 3.7, which were effective immediately on December 29, 2009. [...] A significant provision of EO 13526 is the creation of the National Declassification Center. The major focus is the idea that information should become declassified systematically as soon as practicable. Specific time limits are mentioned for different kinds of information, but there is also the provision that information that still needs to be classified can stay classified. Mechanisms are outlined for periodic reevaluation of the need to classify information, even if the result of the evaluation is to keep the information classified.

You can read read tremendously more about how all this works at the NARA's site on the The National Declassification Center (NDC).

"A million years" isn't there. The law and EOs and physical buildings, are:

NDC began operations in early January 2010 under the direction of Dr. Michael J. Kurtz, Assistant Archivist for Records Services, Washington. Initially, the NDC will focus on the following:

* timely and appropriate processing of referrals between agencies for accessioned Federal records and transferred Presidential Records;
* general interagency declassification activities necessary to fulfill the requirements of sections 3.3 and 3.4 of this order;
* the exchange among agencies of detailed declassification guidance to support equity recognition;
* the development of effective, transparent, and standard declassification work processes, training, and quality assurance measures;
* the development of solutions to declassification challenges posed by electronic records, special media, and emerging technologies;
* the linkage and effective utilization of existing agency databases and the use of new technologies to support declassification activities under the purview of the Center.

Have any doubts?
Contact Us

National Declassification Center (NDC)
National Archives and Records Administration,
Room 3400
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001

* E-mail: ndc@nara.gov
* Phone: 301-837-3110
* Fax: 301-837-3633

Call them and ask.

You mean besides his administration's documented refusal to prosecute US government agents who tortured people? And besides the administration's efforts to suppress and delay civil cases by torture victims against the US government?
The POTUS is not a dictator. There are endless bureaucracies, most manned with senior people moled into senior civil service from political positions in the Bush administration, but in any case defending their own bureaucratic turf, interests, policy and office politics.

Then there's Congress, and the politics of it all. I would love it if Obama could wave a wand and change all this. And I'm 1000% for the utmost pressure to be brought, politically and popularly, upon the administration and Congress and public, to do what's right in Manning's case, against torture in general, against our policies in regard to prisoners, terrorists, Guantanamo, and a hundred thousand other issues.

But personalizing all this as if the President were absolute monarch isn't, I think, helpful in analyzing how things really work.

Fiddler:

[...] I don't think it's out of line to feel overwhelmed by Manning's situation. But I don't think that's the end of the story. Putting information together like this may be the first step, or maybe the second, since I have pulled quotes from all over the place to do it. The next step might be for people who are distressed by this to take an action that might help change things. It's not up to me to say what that would be for anyone, though writing to or visiting one's Congressperson may be in order. I do not think self-immolation would be helpful.
What fiddler said.

Although actually, in fact, I have to say that if a bunch of people engaged in self-immolation, it would have one hell of a political effect if properly publicized, and it probably would be.

But I couldn't possibly argue that anyone should go do that.

Meanwhile, politics and justice is something that must be fought for on a daily, constant, basis, but only so far as our own psyches and lives allow for. No one is helped by exhausting themselves into depression and despair.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it...always."
— Mahatma Gandhi
"Those who make us believe that anything’s possible and fire our imagination over the long haul, are often the ones who have survived the bleakest of circumstances. The men and women who have every reason to despair, but don’t, may have the most to teach us, not only about how to hold true to our beliefs, but about how such a life can bring about seemingly impossible social change."
— Paul Rogat Loeb (The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear)
"To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing."
-- Raymond Williams

These things I believe.

Don't mourn. Organize.

Good thing Gandhi never became Prime Minister I guess, since he, too, would undoubtedly have succummed like a slowly boiled frog to the pragmatic need to countenance some justifiable amount of evil.
Probably not the boiled frog part.

Setting aside the nonsense about boiling frogs, lived in the real world. He was a lawyer. He worked for real solutions, not fantasies:

[...] Although there are elements of unity in Gandhi's thought, they are not reduced to a system. It is not a rigid, inflexible doctrine, but a set of beliefs and principles which are applied differently according to the historical and social setting. Therefore there can be no dogmatism, and inconsistency is not a sin. Interpretation of the principles underwent much evolution during Gandhi's lifetime, and as a result many inconsistencies can be found in his writings, to which he readily admitted. The reader of Gandhi's works published by Navajivan Trust will notice that many are prefaced with the following quotation from an April 1933 edition of “Harijan”, one of Gandhi's journals. He states straightforwardly: "I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search after Truth I have discarded many ideas and learnt many news things.... What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he still has any faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the later of the two on the same subject."

That there are inconsistencies in Gandhi's writings accords with the fact that the ideas are not a system. In coming to grips with Gandhi's way of thinking it is most important to understand that the perception of truth undergoes an ongoing process of refinement which is evolutionary in nature.

In Gandhi's thought the emphasis is on idealism, but on practical idealism. It is rooted in the highest religious idealism, but is thoroughly practical. One label (and almost the only one) Gandhi was happy to have pinned on him was that of "practical idealist". The important principle of compromise is relevant here, as is the acknowledgement that perfect truth and perfect nonviolence can never be attained while the spirit is embodied.

[...] Gandhian philosophy is also compatible with the view that humankind is undergoing gradual moral evolution. While conflict is seen as inevitable, in fact not always undesirable, violence as the result of conflict is not regarded as inevitable. Simply put, human beings do have the capacity to resolve conflict nonviolently. This might be difficult, but it is not impossible. Liberation from a violent society is seen as requiring many decades or longer - but it is not an imposible ideal.

Importantly also, it is not an intellectual doctrine. Gandhi was not an intellectual. Rather, Gandhi's thought was conceived, to a great extent, out of action and as a guide to action, by a man of action. He hesitated to write about anything of which he did not have personal, first-hand experience.

Possibly if people want to cite Gandhi, they might actually quote what he wrote, or to direct references to what he actually believed, not some myth in their heads.

He's worth reading, you know.

Just a bit of reading material about Obama and his "pro-torture values," and on equating Obama and Republicans:

Vote Hurts Obama’s Push to Empty Cuba Prison

Republicans Move To Strip Detainee Authority From Holder And Future Attorneys General

Holder: Politics has Delayed KSM Trial

All We Ever Do Anymore is Fight

Obama is not omnipotent. He's doing what's possible.

I think the point is that candidate Obama said the right things. President Obama tried to do some very watered down versions of those things, and was stymied. For the most part, however, he never really even considered the maximalist civil liberties position. You can argue that he'd have been dumb to do so (which may well be true, sadly enough). What I don't think you can do is argue that Obama has a strong record on civil rights/torture issues. I think his record is terrible, and I feel betrayed.

That's not good news for John McCain, mind you...

Call them and ask.

I'm sorry Gary, but I don't understand how this comment of yours is relevant to the discussion here. Can you clarify?

My original point was that the administration is simply not going to release the sort of documentary evidence that would prove that the White House has not directly or indirectly encouraged the brig commander to harass Manning until he cooperates. Do you dispute that?

I really don't think giving the phone number for the National Declassification Center advances the discussion here. I mean, do you honestly believe that if I call that number and ask them that specific question, I will get a useful answer?

sapient: Just a bit of reading material about Obama and his "pro-torture values," and on equating Obama and Republicans

Please don't distort the discussion. You were the one who introduced the phrase "pro-torture values" into the discussion by claiming that there was no basis for believing that the administration had "pro-torture values". Your claim was incorrect: the administration's stated desire to ignore violations of the CAT is in fact some evidence for "pro-torture values".

Obama is not omnipotent. He's doing what's possible.

I certainly know that the President is not omnipotent. Now, if you don't mind, has the administration done ANYTHING to redress the sufferings of even one torture victim? Can you find even one case where the administration acknowledged that a victim was tortured or made a financial settlement?

I've asked you this question several times and you've made a point of not answering. I trust this question is sufficiently concrete.

Given that there are hundreds if not thousands of people who have been tortured by the US government in recent years and given that the executive branch has broad authority to do a great many things (including the authority to launch a nuclear strike against an American city), I find it rather unlikely that an administration that interested in giving redress to torture victims manages to fail so consistently and universally.

"Can you find even one case where the administration acknowledged that a victim was tortured or made a financial settlement?"

He certainly acknowledged that waterboarding was torture. As I explained, he doesn't have the legal authority to hand out money to people. If there's going to be financial redress given to torture victims, it has to be by Congressional authorization. Have you encouraged your Congressional representative to propose such legislation?

"I think the point is that candidate Obama said the right things. President Obama tried to do some very watered down versions of those things,...."

It may come as a surprise but I am not a big Obama fan, but this statement defines everyone who ever ran for the Presidency, and pretty much any other office. He just promised a bit more, was little better(maybe a lot better) at the rhetoric, and got a lot more people to believe in fairy dust and unicorns.

After the Thrill is Gone he is surely doing the best he can to live up to the image of himself he sees in the mirror you hold up to him.

So he looks tired and not so bold as he did. He isn't as audacious as he was. He is a man searching for some fairy dust and a unicorn, cut him a break. He is, after all, NOT the most powerful man in the world. That's a myth.

He is the President of a cauldron of competing political interests and entities that would make Solomon a simpering idiot, even mythically. Overall he takes his gains when he can get them, tries not to do anything too stupid and is trying to hold his ground on a few things that he believes will make a difference over the next few decades or longer. And he plays rope a dope on the rest domestically.

All that and he gets a B- on foreign policy for not starting any new stupid wars yet.

If I were a Democrat I might have an I love Barack demonstration just to give him a little energy to help him through the next few years.

Frogs and other amphibians often refer to the "boiled human" syndrome.

Sapient:

"He's doing what's possible."

I can be persuaded by this.

America has become a small-potatoes joint under the Party of No.

Literally nothing is possible with the Republican Party in existence.

Still, a quick helicopter ride to Manning's prison by the President to personally order that the humiliation/torture cease would be a quickening.

What the hell, he's nothing to lose considering the slave price 27% and more of the unAmerican public have placed on him.

I don't have a cite at the moment but Sullivan has a post up about Rand Paul and the Lee creature from Utah (or is it Nevada?) arguing against indefinite detention for detainees found innocent of the charges.

Deal is, though, that we'd have to abolish child labor laws, Medicare, and the income tax to please these denizens of the murky depths of the impossible.

Did you say abolish child labor laws? Covered.

He certainly acknowledged that waterboarding was torture.

Are there any cases, EVEN JUST ONE CASE where the administration has said "Yes, the United States government was responsible for torturing John Smith"? A blanket statement that some technique that a previous administration had authorized in the distant past is now no longer authorized really is not equivalent here. It doesn't name a specific victim and it doesn't acknowledge that said victim was harmed.

To make this more concrete, is there some reason that the administration cannot publically say, today, that it has concluded that Maher Arar was tortured on behalf of the US government? Does such an acknowledgment require explicit congressional approval and funds?

As I explained, he doesn't have the legal authority to hand out money to people.

My understanding is that it is much easier to win court cases against the federal government when the government acknowledges that it did harm as opposed to using every possible method to delay and block justice. There is no statuary requirement that the government raise the state secrets privilege at every possible opportunity is there?


In all seriousness, thank you for (finally) addressing the question. If I may summarize your answer, we can say that the administration has done absolutely nothing to acknowledge wrongdoing for any torture victim.

And how many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are now dead because of this Wonderful Moral Purity?

The correct answer is: Zero.

Don't Mourn. Organize.

I'm with ya' there.

Have you encouraged your Congressional representative to propose such legislation?

Has Obama encouraged congress to propose such legislation? He's certainly doing what's possible, since no one can do the impossible. The question is whether he's doing all that's possible, or something reasonably approaching it, on torture and prisoner abuse.

If you want to make the argument that he's done all that's possible at the minimal political risk, you can probably do it pretty easily. But sometimes people expect more, and justifiably so.

I mean, are you saying it's unreasonable to expect Obama to do more than he has done, sapient? Would you say he's maxed out given the constraints he's under? He has no room for improvement?

Serious questions - I'm not being a wise ass.

I mean, are you saying it's unreasonable to expect Obama to do more than he has done, sapient? Would you say he's maxed out given the constraints he's under? He has no room for improvement?"

The most radical thing that he tried to do which needed the support of Congress was closing Guantanamo. If the Guantanamo obstruction bill vote in the Senate (90-6) doesn't tell you all you need to know about the support he was getting, then what can I do to persuade you? The minute he took office, he did this. That's what the executive branch could do all by itself. He did it.

Is there more that should be done? Sure. Can he do these things alone? No. Is he getting help? No.

Is there more that should be done?

Here is a list of several of the techniques approved for use by the CIA back in early 2002. They include waterboarding, of course, but also holding detainees naked in 50 degree cells while dousing them with water, and forcing them to stand handcuffed and shackled to a bolt on the floor for up to 40 hours straight.

Through other sources we know that keeping detainees awake for up almost two weeks straight was also approved.

These things are torture. All of them.

Per Obama's instruction, we apparently no longer waterboard.

I don't know about the others. Do you?

Can he do these things alone?

Yes. If he can prohibit waterboarding by executive order or other Presidential diktat, he can prohibit the others, as well as anything else we've dreamed up since 2002.

Yes, he can do that alone.

He's been President for over two years. This is no longer a "legacy of the Bush years", it's Obama's now.

If he doesn't want this crap going on, it's in his power to stop it.

russell, really? Are we still doing that? Give me any, any, any evidence that we are? Didn't you look at my link that we were abiding by the Geneva conventions?

Stop libeling Obama. You're worse than the f*&#ing teaparty.

How about taking a little time to chill out here. If you (and this is the generic you) are feeling like you are just repeating what you said before, maybe you might not want to repeat it. This includes the 'why won't you answer my question' trope. Your attention to this is greatly appreciated.

lj, I find it really difficult to "chill out". 95%? of the people here are accusing Obama of being not so much of an improvement over Bush/Cheney. Are you kidding me? These people are collaborators - with the hard right. That's all I really have to say.

Stop libeling Obama.

Why should he? The President is powerless to do anything about it...I mean, congress never appropriated money specifically for suing russell, so the entire administration can only quake impotently at him.

You're worse than the f*&#ing teaparty.

I've met russell in real life, and I have to say, the first thing you notice about him is the sheer size of his tri-corner hat.

95%? of the people here are accusing Obama of being not so much of an improvement over Bush/Cheney. Are you kidding me? These people are collaborators - with the hard right. That's all I really have to say.

To clarify my own position:

(1) I voted for Obama in 2008

(2) I donated time and money to his campaign in the primary and the general

(3) Knowing what I know now, I absolutely would have done (1) and (2) in 2008; I have no regrets about that

(4) I think Obama has done a wonderful amazing job in some policy areas (i.e., the ACA)

(5) But I think he has failed to do a good job in other policy areas, starting with:

(a) either enforcing the Convention Against Torture or withdrawing from the treaty

(b) government secrecy

(c) management of the Fed

Now, if you think that makes me a collaborator with the hard-right, well, I don't think many people on the hard-right are comfortable with my belief that the ACA is awesome.

These people are collaborators - with the hard right.

That would be me, mostly. Possibly some other unsavories.

Seriously: enabling Obama to in effect continue the policies of the Bush administration is an opposition tactic?

I must be missing something. Or possibly Jed Babbin is, in effect, tongue-bathing Mr. Obama's feet.

That's all I really have to say.

More is wanted. Or less, depending on quality.

Snark aside: you either have values, or you don't. If you abandon your values out of expediency, what is it that makes you better than others who have abandoned their values in favor of expediency?

the ACA is awesome

Yes, the American Chiropractic Association IS awesome.

paraphrasing Slart: "abandon your values out of expediency..."

What? I have lots of "values." If I can do meals on wheels because I know that, right now, doing Amnesty International is a bust, I'll do meals on wheels. That's what Obama's doing.

If I can do meals on wheels because I know that, right now, doing Amnesty International is a bust, I'll do meals on wheels.

But if by doing that, you are enabling the hard right (or (shudder) collaborating), what then?

I suppose I need to unpack. It's unfortunate. But by " you either have values, or you don't. If you abandon your values out of expediency, what is it that makes you better than others who have abandoned their values in favor of expediency"?, I wasn't referring to you, personally, sapient. s/you/one

Stop libeling Obama.

Here is the text of the executive order Obama signed on January 20, 2009, which was to end the use of illegal detention and treatment of prisoners captured in armed conflict. It requires compliance with Geneva III and the Army Field Manual section on Human Intelligence Collection.

Here is Geneva III.

Here are the 19 interrogation methods permitted by the Army Field Manual section on Human Intelligence Collection.

Yes, I understand that Manning was not captured in armed conflict. So, strictly speaking, the executive order doesn't apply to him.

I expect Obama to require Manning to be treated at least as humanely as he requires members of Al Qaeda to be treated. That seems, to me, like a fairly minimal bar.

What could he do about it? He could issue an executive order requiring that prisoners held under UCMJ rules be afforded *at least* the same treatment and protections as people captured and held as combatants or terrorists.

He has not done that, to my knowledge.

It may, in fact, be utterly unnecessary for him to do that, because the UCMJ may already require some baseline level of human treatment for detainees.

If that's so, they aren't meeting it in Manning's case, and Obama could simply require adherence with existing regulation, without being guilty of meddling.

In any case, he's done neither.

The feds are f**king with Manning. They're squeezing him like a grape to get him to say what they want him to say. That may, in fact, not even be possible, because what they want him to say may only exist as a reality in their own minds. But either way, they are going to f**k with Manning until he either says what they want him to say, or totally loses his sh*t and melts down into a psychic puddle of goo.

I say that that is wrong, and not only wrong but evil.

If someone breaks the law, the state has the right to prosecute them. If someone presents an imminent and material threat to the security of the nation, the state has a right to act with dispatch to prevent that from happening.

The state does not have the right to systematically screw with people because those folks have caused them significant embarrassment.

IMVHO, Assange is a self-aggrandizing hotdog, Manning is some kind of naive, weirdly idealistic screwup, and neither of them appears to operate with a particularly serious regard for the possible consequences of their actions. That is My Very Humble Opinion.

But the treatment Manning is receiving is stupid, petty, inhumane, evil, illegal, gulag-light bullsh*t. Blatantly so. It should stop immediately, and Obama could make it stop immediately if he wished to do so.

He has not done so.

And seriously, I don't give a crap if I'm insufficiently liberal for your tastes. If you can't address the facts, political positions are sort of beside the point.

95%? of the people here are accusing Obama of being not so much of an improvement over Bush/Cheney.

sapient,
this is the first time I've seen the argument framed as 'but all the lurkers are against me'. Quite honestly, I'm rather sympathetic to your arguments, and I've been wondering about hsh's questions. Who precisely would be the person to bring such a bill and how would it be written? So that the question is not 'has Obama encouraged Congress to propose such legislation', but 'who is the one who is going to propose it'?

Chris Bertram, over at Crooked Timber in the comments, suggests something interesting which I quote below

I think there’s a connection between the US emphasis on rights and a strong retributivism which finds expression in the public desire to blame and punish. Hence strong US support for the death penalty. Hence the contrast between the European treatment of 60s radicals who took up terrorism (generally released and rehabilitated by now) and the US treatment (some still in jail with no prospect of release). Hence John Walker Lindh, basically a confused kid.

I'm also interested in Turb's suggestion of the US going out of the Convention on Torture and I thought that I would look into the history of the Convention, how it was proposed, what went into the writing of it, etc. But RL has sort of put a kink in that, so I can only ride shotgun on the list.

So returning to the meta, I think you've made your points. If you feel that 95% of the list is against you, you are not going to move anyone into your column by saying that this majority is functionally equivalent to the hard right.

Quoth the always indispensable jrudkis:

It is not undue command influence for any commander to tell his subordinates to comply with the law, whether generally, or in a specific case.

I agree. And from the UCMJ section titled "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.

EIther you think the treatment of Manning is somehow "required to insure his presence", or you think it's punitive horsecrap.

I personally am in the latter camp, and IMO the preponderance of evidence is on my side.

If sapient or anyone else would like to explain why requiring Manning to be in isolation, and to not be allowed to do freaking pushups, and to be nude during daily inspection, is somehow "required to insure his presence", I am all ears.

But frankly, it strikes me that the feds are simply lousing the boy up for the sake of lousing him up, to make the point that they can bloody well do so if they wish to, and to encourage him to say the things they'd like him to say.

Call me crazy.

What Bush and Cheney did has not a freaking thing to do with it. They're gone and good riddance.

I'm talking about what Obama is and is not doing, today. The reason I'm talking about that is because Obama is the President, today, and he's the President because he ran for the job at some considerable level of effort, and he won. He's the President because *he wanted to be President*, and having jerks on blogs like me insist that he *comply with the freaking law* comes with the job.

Requiring the folks *in his direct line of command* to comply with the law would seem to be a fairly minimal bar. I don't get what the problem is here.

"Requiring the folks 'in his direct line of command' to comply with the law would seem to be a fairly minimal bar."

Sounds good to me.

I guess the question is, how do we determine whether the "folks" are complying with the law. Do we trust Glenn Greenwald, the go-to civil rights expert (who's actually litigated very few cases, and won fewer)? Do we choose Coombs, obviously trying to do the best for his client? Do we choose the brig commander, obviously trying to defend what goes on? Or maybe we trust the established due process provisions, passed by Congress (the Article 138 proceeding) - the ones that were designed to redress a soldier's grievances in these situations (a hearing that Manning recently lost)? Or maybe we're dissatisfied with the laws that Congress has passed. Maybe we should urge Congress to pass better laws?

Or maybe Obama should personally hang out in the brig?

Oversight, management - call it what you will. It's a full-time job. It's already somebody's job. It's already ordered. There's a procedure. It's the law. There's an appeals process. There are statutory remedies.

Don't like the law? Change the law.

I'm not sure what your argument is, sapient. If you're questioning whether what we think we know is factual, well, fair enough. But if you think that Greenwald is somehow automatically incorrect because of lack of experience...well, no.

And I say that as a guy who has never really been a fan of Glenn Greenwald. He rubs me the wrong way. He's what I think of as a blowhard, and he has tons of people who seem to worship him. But all of that; all of my disdain for him is more or less beside the point, isn't it? Either Manning's circumstances as described by Greenwald (and others, IIRC) are factual, or they aren't. If they're factual, it doesn't matter if Greenwald says them or hilzoy does. Does. Not. Matter.

If they're not factual, then this entire thread is beside the point.

Don't like the law? Change the law.

Why the trouble to change the law, when you can just get an AG to write an opinion that a particular thing, for example waterboarding, does conform to the law and you get the same effect. What are the Obama's options in changing the practices of a brig commander? He can visit Manning and talk to commander about it. Or he can start "fireside chats" like FDR did. Visiting Maning would surely change this one case, but talking about it every week can shame all of the brig commanders in the country and in the future.
Obama is not doing everything possible, just what his perception, created by his advisers, allows him to believe is possible.
More important question is what to do about economy and how. I can see only one possible way. Pound the importance of political capture by lobbyist (rich) money in decision making into the public, over and over again every week in "fireside chat" manner just as FDR did. FDR faced even bigger problems then Obama have, and he was able to transform the public zeitgeist and threaten the oligarchs with public outrage.
There is a rumor that Obama, in one of those closed door meetings with bankers about new regulations, said to them: "I am the only thing that stands between you and public rage". That would show that he understands the issue, but is protecting the bankers and campaign donations. I heard this rumor on Morning Joe a year ago from one of the pundits that pundits for White House.
FDR ushered Democratic dominance for next 30 years by doing the right thing, all that is possible, not by him directly but by informing the public how it should be done and getting majority of population to stand behind him for four presidential terms. FDR pounded the informations and economic education over and over in fireside chats. Obama could do the sam if he is not afraid to loose campaign financing.

"Either Manning's circumstances as described by Greenwald (and others, IIRC) are factual, or they aren't."

Why is no one talking about the Article 138 hearing? Where "facts" were apparently brought before a "fact finder"? Due process and all.

How many levels of the bureaucracy are we accusing of being corrupt? If many of them are, to what extent will Obama, issuing a proclamation to "Obey the law!" be obeyed? If we don't have faith in the due process protections that have been set up, what good is it that Obama issues that proclamation? What does Obama have to do, personally, to ensure that the law is obeyed, when there are procedures already available to "ensure" that the law is obeyed?

How many cells does Obama have to babysit before we're satisfied?

Gary,
The trouble with being willing to settle for the lesser of two evils is that it guarantees evil will win. I know that McCain would have been worse, but I believe there really ought to be a bright line at torture. No matter what the alternative, I won't vote for anyone who authorizes torture. I'll work in the primaries to get someone better, but if that fails I will either vote third party or not vote.

Just for the record, I don't think Obama is as bad as Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld. He's just not as good as I'd like him to be or as good as I thought he would be. I find it hard to imagine a Republican candidate in 2012 I would vote for over Obama. So, at least from me, you get no false equivalence, or equivalence at all. (Though it's beside the point.)

What does Obama have to do, personally, to ensure that the law is obeyed

Why would he do anything? That would be "looking backward".

"Why would he do anything? That would be 'looking backward'."

No, Duff, actually, it would be prospectively to "to ensure". Oh, the poignant sadness of off-the-mark snark.

hairshirthedonist, OT, but iI'm celebrating hair shirts today.

It's about time for the President to decide whether he is Corporate USA or people USA. He campaigned as "people" he appears "Corporate." Harassing an American doing his duty..."ratting on the liars and cheats of the US systems. The crooked diplomacy of 3 decades in the land of Egypt. Billions spent. And the messenger gets to hang out naked in the night. Well Soldier...you stand for the NAKED truth!

I'm limiting my indulgence in the good health that comes from drinking only moderately, myself, and flagellating my liver instead, sapient. Here's to you!

Oh, the poignant sadness of off-the-mark snark

Your posts do rather have that quality, don't they?

Well, russell, I suppose one could argue that to ensure Manning's presence that he must be prevented from committing suicide from which we get to the prohibition on underwear. While the whole situation appears untenable, I really do have to give a lot of credit to sapient for not giving up on arguing his point of view.

As most everyone here, I am extremely opposed to torture, and it seems to me that we have three basic questions with regard to Manning's treatment, is it legal, is it humane, and is it torture. Now IANAL but it I do think that sapient makes the case that the treatment may conceivably be legal, not necessarily just, but legal.

However, if half, or just a quarter, of what I have read about Manning's treatment is accurate, then it is certainly inhumane, but our treatment of prisoners appears to be routinely inhumane so the Manning case may not in actuality be all that remarkable in that regard.

Finally, as to the question of torture, without knowing the real facts of his treatment then I am not sure. I do think the definition of torture is evolving, from what I read about how Padilla was treated, severe isolation etc., that clearly appeared to be torture to my mind.

It is ludicrous that we do not have an exact picture of Manning's treatment, that fact alone means something is seriously wrong with our system. OTOH, the obvious torture that was occurring under Bush may have been halted under Obama, that would be a step forward. A baby step but, nonetheless, a step.

Dr. Science's fantasy of how Obama might have approached things after the election is utterly detached from reality. Sapient's point about closing Gitmo is irrefutable, he tried and he got smacked down. Also recall that the economy was in freefall, Obama had to compromise on a minimal stimulus that even a few people here on this blog thought was excessive but, in hindsight, was clearly inadequate.

Remember John Emerson's post on the media, Obama has had to constantly fight to get any kind of fair hearing. If he had tried to press the case on war crimes does anyone imagine that it would have been anything less than an ummitigated PR disaster. His ability to do anything substantive might very well have been crippled.

My final thought is thank the gods that someone like Obama had the endurance and guts and wherewithal and monomania to run for and win the Presidency, without people like that we are good and truly screwed. Of course, we may be screwed with them as well.

(Obligatory cry to the heavens--where is Hilzoy!?!)

is it legal, is it humane, and is it torture

Thanks for setting a very low bar for humanity. There are basic questions here that fall well outside of those three.

Say what you like about Republican's, at least they told a good story. Frankly I'm finding sapient's ticking-mildly-progressive-legislation-bomb scenario a bit underwhelming.

If this is how the US Government treats someone who is in custody before a trial and a verdict, then quite how would Bradley Manning be treated if tried and found guilty? On this evidence, for a European, it hardly bears thinking about. The way in which the custody of someone, who can only be called a political prisoner, has been handled puts your country outwith the pale of civilisation. When your politicians who pride themselves on freedom, the observance of due process and the rights of the individual look at this case they should be ashamed.

The only slight ray of sunlight is that I can't see Sweden or the UK extraditing Julian Assange to receive this sort of treatment, setting aside the presumption of guilt and the death penalty already foreshadowed by a lot of your shining lights of freedom.

Devil's advocate here!
The argument that the US have to treat prisoners well because otherwise US citizens could become victims of the same mistreatment in case of capture by the enemy does not fly.
a) since the other side is evil by definition, it will not care anyway
b) mangled corpses of US citizens (real or fake) can be quite a useful political tool if the intention is to rally the rubes for war.
c) the other side will claim mistreatment anyway, so why not indulge in it in the first place?

Why is no one talking about the Article 138 hearing?

I assume this is a rhetorical question, because no one can answer for everyone. Everyone is free to discuss the Article 138 hearings as much as they wish, of course.

"Why is no one talking about the Article 138 hearing?"

I cannot speak for others, but I'm still consumed by the fact that O.J. Simpson was found innocent.

then quite how would Bradley Manning be treated if tried and found guilty?

he will be executed, as some of his alleged crimes carry the death penalty.

I do like how President George W. Bush was able to set up a secret worldwide program of kidnapping, torture, and indefinite detention without trial and have it all blessed by the DOJ as perfectly legal, start a land war in Asia for no good reason, and spy on Americans without a warrant (among god knows what else), yet President Barack Obama is somehow incapable of getting a single prisoner treated humanely.

Gosh.

it is certainly inhumane, but our treatment of prisoners appears to be routinely inhumane so the Manning case may not in actuality be all that remarkable in that regard.

OK then, no problem.

Sorry for the snark, but it seems to me that "inhumane" is a sufficient bar to object to Manning's treatment. As it is a sufficient bar to object to any prisoner's treatment.

It's not necessary to deprive somebody of any form of exercise, or to require them to sleep with no clothes or covering, or to stand for inspection naked, in order to keep them from killing themselves. Those things are being done to pressure Manning, either to give information he's believed (rightly or wrongly) to have, or simply to bust his chops for embarrassing the State Dept.

It's not a good idea to allow the government the privilege of operating on an "if you screw with us, we will screw with you" basis. The reasons for this should be obvious.

I have absolutely no doubt that Obama is aware of the conditions of Manning's detention, and I have absolutely no doubt that he could change them with a phone call. Without overstepping any legal or proper bounds on the command structure.

Make of all of that what you will, but the basic facts of the matter seem fairly obvious. To me, anyway.

I don't see the point or value in not criticizing Obama, or anyone else, when he acts in ways that seem wrong or objectionable. He's a big boy, I'm guessing he can take the heat.

"I have absolutely no doubt that Obama is aware of the conditions of Manning's detention, and I have absolutely no doubt that he could change them with a phone call. Without overstepping any legal or proper bounds on the command structure."

No doubt at all?

As it is a sufficient bar to object to any prisoner's treatment.

^
|
This

sapient, IANAL, but I don't see how your 10:10 AM link is relevant. The president would not be interfering in any court-martial proceeding were he to order better treatment of Manning while in custody awaiting court-martial. I don't get it.

No doubt at all?

It's considered polite in argumentation, in my experience, if you don't make others suss out your argument for you. Linking to several pages of stuff that doesn't seem to immediately apply is not the best way to press your point home.

" Sapient's point about closing Gitmo is irrefutable, he tried and he got smacked down"

Was he trying to change the practice of holding prisoners indefinitely without trial, or was he just trying to change the location where this would occur?

If you said that you had "no doubt at all" that the Bible contains no mention tiddlywinks, and I posted a link to the Bible, would that constitute a rebuttal?

If you think the UCMJ precludes Obama from intervening to stop the inhumane treatment of a suspect, please cite the specific place it says that.

Russell has already helpful quoted a part of the UCMJ which would seem to indicate that Manning's treatment is in breach of the UCMJ:

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.

It seems to me that the part of the UCMJ Russell excerpted flatly defeats your argument. I also noticed you haven't addressed it. Do you give up?

"I'm guessing he can take the heat."


I suppose so. This whole argument that "the Left" should be eternally grateful is...well, grating. What I see here is high moral dungeon masquerading as a critique of.....high moral dungeon...and pounding the Left for the inability of standard issue democrats to make their case toward the so-called independents....that's all the Left's fault, too. But what really gets my goat is this crap about "perfect" and "good" and the insinuation that what is "not perfect" is, ipso facto, "better", and in effect....drum roll please...therefore PERFECT.

And, of course, President John McCain, like George Bush before him would, unlike Democratic Party presidents, not be subject to any institutional constraints.

So when centerist democrats gleefully work with corporate fat cats to ship manufacturing jobs overseas, dismantle the New Deal safety net, crush the labor movement, support aggressive wars, and buy into the need for the American Empire....well, we should just "shut up" and sing hosannahs becasue we got Lily Ledbetter and kept John McCain away from the nuclear football.


I'm going to copy this in it's (brief) entirelyt because Doug Hill of Balloon Juice is exactly right:


"There’s probably a lot of you that thought the way I did for most of my life, until recently, that something about your circumstances insulated you from the ravages of Galtism and McCarthyism. To quote Don Corleone, you found paradise in America, had a good trade, made a good living. The police protected you; and there were courts of law.

After what happened today, at NPR and in Wisconsin, I hope no one believe that now. I know I don’t."

bobbyp,

The frogs! The frogs! Have you no respect?

If you said that you had "no doubt at all" that the Bible contains no mention tiddlywinks, and I posted a link to the Bible, would that constitute a rebuttal?

I was going to link to the internet, but doing that actually takes you somewhere rather more specific than what I had in mind.

Perhaps this. No, still too specific. Maybe this is big enough. Yeah, that'll do.

Why is no one talking about the Article 138 hearing? Where "facts" were apparently brought before a "fact finder"? Due process and all.

Article 138 is not part of the judicial process that the military judge is responsible for. Article 138 gives the soldier the right to ask his chain of command (the one that is doing the wrong) to redress his issue. If his commander does not fix it, it goes to the commander's boss.

§ 938. Art. 138. Complaints of wrongs
Any member of the armed forces who believes himself wronged by his commanding officer, and who, upon due application to that commanding officer, is refused redress, may complain to any superior commissioned officer, who shall forward the complaint to the officer exercising general court-martial jurisdiction over the officer against whom it is made. The officer exercising general court-martial jurisdiction shall examine into the complaint and take proper measures for redressing the wrong complained of; and he shall, as soon as possible, send to the Secretary concerned a true statement of that complaint, with the proceedings had thereon.

The article 138 request that Manning made went to COL Choike, the base commander, through the brig commander, not the judge. I don't think this is due process in the generally accepted meaning.

It is not really clear to me that article 138 is even the appropriate path for the complaint.

On the other hand, complaints that are generally inappropriate for Article 138 review are those based upon adverse actions against a Soldier. These actions are inappropriate for review because Soldiers are already entitled to due process with "more specific channels and procedures to ensure the Soldier has an adequate opportunity to be heard." (24) Article 138 complaints provide Soldiers an avenue for redress when there is no other remedy available.

Speaking only for myself, solely with respect to civil liberties issues:

Bush/Cheney--Congress--Obama-----What I'd like.

I recently wrote my Congresscritter a scathing (for me) email about his YES vote on the recent re-upping of the PATRIOT Act. I'm aware that POTUS is not *the problem* though I think he's part of it. That he's slightly better than Bush/Cheney does not impress me, though. That doesn't translate into support for the GOP.

Rob in CT, Obama voter (primaries, general), ally of the far-right wing.

Ack, collaborator, not ally. Silly me. Collaborator sounds so much better. Not quite as cool as quisling, though...

jrudkis, Coombs's website contains interesting information, but I wish it had more. It would be interesting to see the actual Article 138 application, and the paper he received denying it. Apparently there's a rebuttal opportunity, and then it's all sent to the Secretary of the Navy. Perhaps it's not due process in the sense that it allows a hearing, confrontation of witnesses, etc., but it does bring the complaint to the official attention of people who are more visibly accountable for policies.

There is a link to the complaint in the above article.

Thanks, jrudkis. It's been awhile since I read the original post. I do wonder what the response was, and whether it actually provided reasons for the denial of redress.

I see now that Coombs has his rebuttal linked to his web site.

It's always dangerous to pick up someone's argument in mid-charge, but I hope it will be of some use in trying to get us back to discussing the issues rather than making claims about who people support and who people are supporting even though they are unaware of it.

I'm not completely convinced by this argument, but so please take it in the spirit that it is offered. Being in the military means permitting people to subject you to any number of humiliations. These are to test you for 'gameness', a concept that Malcolm Gladwell mentions and I quote in this post and are woven into the general structure of the military. This is not offered to condemn the military, nor is it to excuse the military, just to point out that the question of what is inhumane takes on a different color when discussing people who enlisted in the military.

Here's the part of that quote that I think is relevant
In one way or another, plenty of organizations select for gameness. The Marine Corps does so, and so does medicine, when it puts young doctors through the exhausting rigors of residency. But those who select for gameness have a responsibility not to abuse that trust: if you have men in your charge who would jump off a cliff for you, you cannot march them to the edge of the cliff

If you accept that 'gameness' is part of the culture of the military, this, quoted by Russell, takes on a different meaning
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. (my emph)

This is not to claim that what is being done to Manning are minor punishments. However, one might understand how, in a military system, they might be viewed as such.

My knowledge of the military is purely second hand. I've never done well in situations where hazing and testing for gameness were the norm and my interest in it has been from the standpoint of an anthropologist discovering a tribe of cannibals in the highlands of New Guinea: I really don't like it, but think it is not some incredibly bizarre anomaly of human existence, so I want to at least understand it.

I also think that there are a number of structural problems that prevent Obama from just flying down there and telling them to knock it off as has been suggested. Perhaps Obama is showing moral cowardice because he doesn't realize that these problems should be ignored, but Obama's reaction here is similar to Obama's dealing with DADT. If you think that Obama showed moral cowardice by not simply issuing an executive order rescinding it, I respect that opinion, but it seems you have a similar situation here.

There's another problem that I think is important to note, which is that there is a problematic relationship between the punishments and the goal. This is not to suggest that folks here don't recognize that, but it's useful to look at this as a systematic problem. Manning can only be tried within the military justice system, yet that system is a part of a system that uses minor punishments in order to train people within that system. This is a huge problem, but one that can only solved by moving Manning to another system, a possibility that really doesn't exist.

A final point, I don't mean to dismiss anyone's opinion, but (and this is a lacuna in the commentariat here) even though we have several lawyers, we don't have anyone who has worked as a military lawyer and we don't have a lot of people who have been thru the military. I believe that is one reason why sapient has quoted soonergrunt from BJ and failure to realize that might be one of the reasons the conversation is getting so heated. This isn't to say that anyone discussing this has to accept sapient's citation of soonergrunt, but I think that's what he is getting at with the citation.

This has taken a bit to get down, and on preview, a few other comments have come up, so this shouldn't be taken as addressing anyone's comments specifically, more like trying to take a step back from the discussion.

I understand your point LJ. I realize that there are substantial distinctions between the military justice system and our criminal justice system. However, I think that Manning's treatment is beyond the pale of both systems. I do not see prolonged solitary confinement as a minor punishment.

One thing that is interesting about the Article 138 Complaint is that they are not claiming that his treatment is per se impermissible (though it was filed before he lost his underwear). They are claiming that it is an abuse of discretion, in that it should not be applied to his circumstances.

Abuse of discretion is typically a pretty high bar to overcome.

I'm not disagreeing, but solitary confinement is part and parcel of military imprisonment, I think. I remember that James Yee was given 76 days of solitary confinement. I don't say this to defend the treatment of Manning, but just to point out that this is sort of the modis operandi of military punishment.

lj, you're very open minded. It's comforting.

Sapient,
as I said, I'm sympathetic to the points you make, but I am still disappointed by what has happened and I really don't like it one bit. I responded to hsh's comment about wondering who would spearhead some sort of legal effort. fiddler pointed to Kucinich, which is great, but you mention the name, and you kinda realize the vibe.

In googling I came across this article. Reading that, you see how the treatment of Manning is an outgrowth of military culture and also something that is deeply troubling. But I do think this problem is a deeper problem than Manning and I don't see how you address just Manning without addressing all those other problems. So, while I agree that demanding Obama do something about this may be unrealistic, I still share the massive sense of disappointment that others do, such that I think a lot of their anger is driving their comments.

I totally agree that the treatment of Manning is brutal, and that it is a systemic problem, not only in military prisons but in prisons generally. The article you pointed to is horrific. It also demonstrates that the problem is very longstanding. There's no excuse for a civilized country to treat anyone that way. The prison reform movement (which had some success in the 1960's until 1980 with Reagan) is one of the most heroic civil rights movements, because prisoners are so invisible. And, of course, the United States has the highest percentage of its people incarcerated of almost anywhere.

Kucinich is brave, and I'm glad he's giving his attention to Manning's plight. Jim Webb, my Senator (who has announced that he will not be running again) had, in 2009, proposed legislation to bring about prison reform generally. (To Glenn Greenwald's credit, he did support Webb's initiative.) But as far as I know, the legislation has died, at least I haven't heard about it since 2009.

My concern is that the "disappointment" meme, and the "Obama is Bush-lite" accusations, are not only counterproductive, but they add to the sense of despair that even the people on our side aren't really on our side. That attitude foments the kind of reaction we see by Baskaborr in the third comment. People sat home in the midterm elections because they were too "disappointed" to get out the vote. The result? We have racist "Muslim Radicalization Hearings" in the House of Representatives going on instead of hearings on prison reform.

I'm as seriously depressed and disappointed at what's happening in this country as anyone. Maybe more so. But Obama is the wrong target. In a previous thread where the Obama-bashing came up, I noted that Obama had appointed two Supreme Court Justices, and pointed to an article in the New York Times about Sotomayor's reaction to certain degrading prison conditions:

In the courtroom, she was no less outraged at the argument in a case concerning prison conditions in California, peppering a lawyer for the state with heated questions.

“When are you going to avoid the needless deaths that were reported in this record?” she asked. “When are you going to avoid or get around people sitting in their feces for days in a dazed state?”

Compare her reaction to Alito's in the same article. Yes, support prison reform legislation in Congress and in statehouses. But the most powerful branch to give immediate relief to prisoners is the judicial branch. Democrats the same as Republicans? Read judicial decisions. On health care, on the environment, on criminal defendants' rights, on prisons, on torture .... Read who appointed the judges who wrote decisions that bring the country forward.

I'm sure that my diatribes won't persuade the chronically "disappointed."

And, of course, the United States has the highest percentage of its people incarcerated of almost anywhere.

The "almost" makes this statement false. The United States of America has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

People sat home in the midterm elections because they were too "disappointed" to get out the vote. The result? We have racist "Muslim Radicalization Hearings" in the House of Representatives going on instead of hearings on prison reform.

You have those results because people vote for economic factors first and the economy in November 2010 sucked.

It still sucks.

And your favourite little political pony has done f*** all about it. He has appointed the people who destroyed the US economy to high positions in his administration.

That is insane. I do not vote for insane people.

The "official" unemployment rate has been around 9% for years now, the worst since the Great Depression. Heard any plausible plans from the Obama administration today about how to fix this?

We needed an FDR and we got a Hoover.

I want action. I want a leader who knows torture is wrong. I want a leader who believes in habeas corpus. I want a leader who realises that every unemployed person in the US could be employed tomorrow, by noon, and who is not afraid to threaten the Chamber of Commerce with this fact.

And instead, I've got yet another torturer in chief who eagerly bends over for the bankers and the generals.

I could vote in the next election. It is incredibly unlikely that my vote would make a difference. I could use the hour or so that it would take me to vote to pursue political causes in other ways. It is also incredibly unlikely that this would make a difference, but if I have to choose between the two, I'm not voting for a torturer in chief who reappointed Bernanke.

No way.


People sat home in the midterm elections because they were too "disappointed" to get out the vote.

Actually, the numbers show that is not the case. And blaming 'the disappointed' for the disappointment of the mid-terms elections is both wrong headed and does not comport with the actual facts. Was it the firebrand liberals who were swept from office last November? Not. It was the blue dogs in marginal districts picked up in the tidal wave of '08.

But by all means, let us blame those who criticize from the 'professional' left (an actually very small sliver of the electorate) for this political ineptness. We should have all volunteered to go into swing districts and work like dogs to re-elect blue dogs so we could continue to hear loons calling themselves "Democrats" like Even Bayh pontificate about the 'crisis' in Social Security.

Placating "the left" in this country is pretty damned easy. A smile. A wave. A pat on the back. It doesn't take much.

That the administration and many of its supporters did not even try is telling. If "our" support is so critical to "your" success, why the kicking in the teeth? Why the trashing of our agenda (EFCA, single payer, get out of Afghanistan)?

Let the left serve it's small role in our polity. It's not so much to ask.

Obama lost the middle. The debate is this: Why? The sniviling left says it's because he was handed a great political opportunity and squandered it. You say he did the best he could under the circumstances. I get that. Try getting our points once and a while.

Like I said. It doesn't take much.

Have a nice day!

sapient, what I hear you say is yes, the treatment of Manning is wrong, but folks are wrong to criticize Obama for it. And if they do criticize Obama for it, they are equating Democrats and Republicans and putting progressive politics at risk.

First, the point of the original post is that the treatment of Manning is wrong, so apparently we have consensus on the issue at hand. Yay!

Obama is the President. He's the Commander in Chief, and is constitutionally responsible for faithfully carrying out the laws of that nation. It beggars belief that he is unaware of the conditions of Manning's detention. He bears some responsibility for Manning's ill treatment. He is not solely responsible, but neither is he without responsibility.

Saying that comes nowhere near equating the policies or actions of the Republican and Democratic parties. It comes nowhere near wishing that Obama was not President, and it comes nowhere near adopting an attitude of despair and defeatism.

It is, quite simply, observing that, as President, it's within the scope of Obama's responsibility and power to require the brig commander at Quantico to observe the UCMJ rules for detaining prisoners. Period.

And IMO it's freaking foolish to talk about the 'professional left' because there is no significant political left in this country, whether professional, amateur, or weekend hobbyist. There is no significant left, at all, whatsoever.

LJ, I sort of see what you're saying about Manning's treatment being to some degree a function of military culture, but I'm not sure that's what's going on here. Manning is not being beaten up, or forced to do a million pushups. He's being subjected to treatment that is typical of hard-@ss intelligence gathering. That's less military culture and more spook culture. They're screwing with the boy's mind.

LJ mentioned Gladwell and I can't help but think about his recent article on the effects of solitary confinement. So for LJ I have a question: if the government told Manning "if you won't cooperate with us, we're going to keep hitting you on the head until you fall unconscious and that level of trauma will probably give you permanent psychological problems", would you view that as more or less acceptable than his current treatment?

I ask because according to Gladwell, isolation produces physical changes in the brain as well long term psychological impairment. If the government's isolation of Manning can bring about the same long term effects as repeated head trauma but without leaving any marks, then do you see a moral difference between that and beating him over the head repeatedly?

In the US, we often treat mental illness as inferior and less serious than "real" physical illnesses and my sense is that Japan is even worse in this regard.

Being in the military means permitting people to subject you to any number of humiliations. These are to test you for 'gameness', a concept that Malcolm Gladwell mentions and I quote in this post and are woven into the general structure of the military.

I think this analysis fails because it ignores intention and context. People in the military are not subject random degradation for no reason whatsoever. They're expected to endure certain indignities, but only in the context of operational need. I mean, when soldiers are raped by their superior officers, we don't just say "meh, they're in the military, so they should expect degradation and brutalization". I guess the real test for this argument is how you distinguish abusing Manning and raping soldiers: if one is acceptable and the other not, what is it that separates them?

As far as I can tell, abusing Manning has nothing to do with "gameness"; this is just a shakedown. The government wants cooperation and it will abuse him until he cooperates.


solitary confinement is part and parcel of military imprisonment, I think. I remember that James Yee was given 76 days of solitary confinement. I don't say this to defend the treatment of Manning, but just to point out that this is sort of the modis operandi of military punishment.

I'd like to see a cite for that please. I'm sure you realize that even if Yee was given solitary confinement, two data points aren't sufficient to establish that. Note that I'm specifically interested in the role of solitary confinement in military prisons in the US, not in the field.

the "disappointment" meme

That really takes the cake.

I think the isolation article you're thinking of was actually by Gawande, I reread it yesterday:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/03/30/090330fa_fact_gawande

Also, yes, "meme?"

Did you really mean to imply that reasoned arguments criticizing Obama are now equivalent to a mashup of lolcats? Thoughtless iteration of someone else's idea? Either you're being insulting or you're stretch the meaning of "meme."

the "disappointment" meme

I am disappointed that this is your argument, sapient.

It appears that you've disappointed a few people, at least.

Turb,
First of all, about cites. Yee writes in his book For God and Country: Faith and Patriotism Under Fire that he was kept in solitary confinement for 76 days. link. I pointed to Yee because I thought most people would be familiar with that. If two data points are not enough, you could look at this or this which has this

On appeal, Appellant asserts that during the period of his pretrial confinement, the brig had a policy of confining all pretrial detainees in maximum custody who could be sentenced to more than five years’ confinement, and that the policy was applied arbitrarily to him. Again, my understanding of military procedure is just through reading, so I welcome anyone correcting me, but maximum custody describes the regime that Manning is facing.

All of these are in the US, not in the field.

would you view that as more or less acceptable than his current treatment?

It would be just as acceptable as his current treatment. Which is to say, not acceptable at all. But arguing that Manning is some sort of incredibly special case is one of the things that folks arguing with sapient seem to be missing.

Manning is not being 'randomly' picked on. It is not like they are pulling out every 10th man and subjecting them to this treatment. They have a "reason" to treat Manning this way. I think it is brutal, I think it is wrong, but using words like 'random' to support your argument is as misleading as your use of the phrase 'raping soldiers'. Hence my reference to the anthropologist studying cannibalism.

I also didn't say that Manning was being abused because of 'gameness', I was pointing out that the system of discipline arises for a particular reason, that of gameness. The problem is that it is built into the system, so that when the system has an objective that is outside the goals of that system, bad things happen.

re your noting of Japan, the regime that Manning is under is pretty much the standard feature of the Japanese prison system, with the added bonus that there are much fewer pre-trial rights. I don't point that out to say it's correct, just to explain why I have an interest in this.

Russell suggests that it is not military culture but spook culture. I'm not sure you can make such a clear separation between the two. The Coombs link above is quite instructive in this regard.

The harassment by the guards continued as I was escorted to my one hour of recreation. When I arrived at the recreation room, I was told to stand still so they could remove my leg restraints. As I stood still, one of the guards yelled "I told you to stand still." I replied "yes Corporal, I am standing still." Another guard then said, “you mean 'aye' Corporal.” Next, the same guard said “I thought we covered this, you say 'aye' and not 'yes', do you understand?" I responded "aye Sergeant." Right after I replied, I was once again yelled at to "stand still." Due to being yelled at and the intensity of the guards, I mistakenly replied, "yes Corporal, I am standing still." As soon as I said this, I attempted to correct myself by saying 'aye' instead of 'yes,' but it was too late. One of the guards starting yelling at me again, "what don‟t you understand" and "are we going to have a problem?"

This is an interaction that is based on gameness. It is an interaction designed to 'break' someone. Manning has not been discharged, he is still subject to military discipline, and I don't think there is any way to take him out of that system to try him. If others have an idea of how this would work, I welcome someone explaining it to me.

I think this is the origin of Salient's complaint. In a system like this, Where he runs off the rails is drawing such a strong linkage to being disappointed with Obama and claiming that folks who are upset about this are missing 'the big picture'. I had some bon mot about being a liberal means that you are constantly disappointed, but, as JanieM notes, that whole word 'disappointed' makes it sound like folks are upset because the grocery store stopped selling your favorite salad dressing. I think that folks are right to get angry and I think fiddler has done a fine job of explaining why. But because this is a systemic problem, while you can get angry at Obama for not calling up the brig commander and telling him to lay off, you also have to realize that there are reasons that he can't/won't do that. Understanding what those reasons are is important and I think the base of sapient's point gets at those reasons. But, when confronted with a whole bunch of people yelling at him for putting forth those reasons, he starts arguing that it is some sort of liberal tendency. Which not only gets us further away from what is at issue, but also tends to make the kind of interaction we have had so far.

On going to check if anyone has posted, slarti tells me about the earthquake in Japan. I'm in the US with my dad right now, but my family is in Western Japan, so quite far from the epicenter I think. Anyway, apologies for any loose ends here, and I might not be able to return for a while.

Thanks for the update, lj. I'd forgotten you are in-country.

I'm not sure you can make such a clear separation between the two.

I more than agree with this.

My point upthread was that IMO Manning's treatment was not ordinary military hard-@ssedness, but treatment specifically intended to get him to say what folks want to hear.

But because this is a systemic problem, while you can get angry at Obama for not calling up the brig commander and telling him to lay off, you also have to realize that there are reasons that he can't/won't do that.

To be clear, I'm not looking for Obama to get on the phone with the brig commander at Quantico and tell him to lay off of Manning.

I'm looking for Obama to provide direction and discipline to ensure that folks throughout the military comply with the UCMJ.

So yes, a systemic problem, but Obama's the boss. It's not solely his responsibility, but he is not without responsibility.

And I appreciate the political obstacles, but part of the definition of providing leadership is making things happen in spite of the obstacles.

Overcoming obstacles to achieve goals is one of Obama's core responsibilities as President. It's an executive position, that is one of the things executives are expected to do. That is the bar he should be held to.

Maybe if the president had a few people working for him, a staff of some sort, he would be better able to get things done without getting directly, personally involved. That might help with some of the obstacles he's facing.

lj -- I've been thinking of you all morning. Ordinarily I might not even be up yet, but I had an appointment to get to, and the radio was covering not much else besides the earthquake and tsunami. Hope everyone is okay. It's hard for you to be away from them right now, I'm sure.

LJ, when I saw the news, I first thought of you (perhaps a sad indication of the depth and breadth of my friends bench) and I'm glad to hear you're safe. I hope you can get in touch with your family soon.

LJ, so glad that you were able to let us know you're okay. Thinking of you and your family.

The State Department seems to have a few issues with the way Manning is being treated:

What did Crowley think, he asked, about Wikileaks? About the United States, in his words, "torturing a prisoner in a military brig"? Crowley didn't stop to think. What’s being done to Bradley Manning by my colleagues at the Department of Defense 'is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

Alas, nothing can be done.

Maybe if the president had a few people working for him, a staff of some sort

You're saying there are gaps in the military chain of command? Who's missing? SecDef is filled. SecArmy is filled. CSA is filled. Are there gaps in the JAG or other relevant commands?

I really don't understand the Army command structure all that well, but neither do I understand what you're getting at, here, so: please 'splain.

so: please 'splain.

You could call it facetiousness, or maybe sarcasm; even irony could work, Slart.

I mean, aside from the military chain of command, there are various minions and underlings on the civilian side of the executive branch that could take this up on his behalf.

The Republican strategy for Obama's first two years in office was to block everything they could, not because they necessarily opposed everything but so that Obama would never win anything for his supporters. So that he would disappoint his supporters. So be disappointed in Obama. Play your part!

Ugh, thanks for the link. Have to disagree with Philippa Thomas's analysis that Crowley's comment provides "an extraordinary insight into the tensions within the administration over Wikileaks." It does provide some insight into what Crowley thinks of the way the Department of Defense handles military justice. Crowley was pretty clear about the need for secrets in diplomacy, and the fact that Manning committed a crime. He's opposed to the way Manning is being treated.

For the most part, however, he never really even considered the maximalist civil liberties position.
If you know what Obama is thinking, a lot of intelligence agencies would like to speak to you.

If you're privy to the political and policy discussions, so would many more people.

So be disappointed in Obama. Play your part!

Look sapient, this is obnoxious.

I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a Republican. I'm an American citizen. Obama is the President. If he does stuff I think is not good, or doesn't do stuff I think he should do, I'll speak up about it.

If that's all it takes to deny him reelection in 2012, we're well and truly screwed anyway, there's damned little my blog comments are going to do about it either way.

I've spent thousands of dollars and many hours over the last several years trying to put progressive minded people in office. Including Obama. Money, canvassing, phone calls, standing on the corner with a stupid sign on a stick. Oh yeah, plus voting.

What have you done, other than scold people on blogs for being insufficiently enthusiastic about Obama's performance?

I seriously do not need a lecture from you telling me what I should think, do, or say.

Manning should be treated humanely while waiting for trial, as is required by the UCMJ. And, for that matter, as is required by basic decency and simple pragmatic common sense. He is, apparently, not being treated humanely.

Obama is where the buck stops in the chain of command that controls Manning's treatment. If he wanted to do so, he could change the situation. Apparently, it's not at the top of his list.

It's not just about Manning, it's about basic human rights and dignity and the rule of law. Jared freaking Loughner should be treated humanely. Charles Manson should be treated humanely. Khalid Sheik Mohammed should be treated humanely.

Manning, no different, regardless of his guilt or innocence.

Why? Because when you begin to make exceptions for the "really bad" guys, the not-quite-that-really bad guys are next. Then, the not-so-bad guys who are just that much more manageable if you can put thumb screws on them.

And so on.

And this is an area where Obama has, generally, failed to live up to his campaign promises. He has not only failed to accomplish them, he appears to have put them aside as priorities.

That sucks.

The fact that there are political impediments to making the right thing happen begs the question as far as I'm concerned. Dealing with political impediments to make the right things happen is Obama's job.

It's not solely his responsibility, but he is not without responsibility, and there's nothing wrong with noting that.

there are various minions and underlings on the civilian side of the executive branch that could take this up on his behalf

Outside the chain of command? How do you think that might be effective?

Facetious/ironic is ok. I was just wondering if you had anything specific in mind, or if you were being oblique, or some third thing that I wasn't getting.

Sapient: So be disappointed in Obama. Play your part!

Who the hell else is there to be "disappointed" in? No matter what stupid or vicious things Republicans do or say, they lack the power to "disappoint" me, strictly speaking.

Gary: If you know what Obama is thinking ...

Hey, I know ONE thing Obama is thinking, Gary: "I want to get re-elected".
I don't have any cites for that, so you can accuse me of mind-reading or eavesdropping if you like.

--TP

The comments to this entry are closed.

Whatnot


  • visitors since 3/2/2004

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31            
Blog powered by Typepad

QuantCast