The long-term consequences to America of torturing Bradley Manning

Summary:  What do our government officials hope to gain by torturing Bradley Manning?  There’s a reason, it’s insignificant compared to the long-term consequences — which remain unexamined by both sides.


First, we have the ritual lies by Obama (never believe anything about the government until they deny it the second time).  From Friday’s press conference:

With respect to Private Manning, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are. I can’t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning’s safety as well.

Of course Obama knows better (note the classic liar’s trait of omitting names; nobody talks to a building).  Most likely they want Manning to incriminate Assange of Wikileads (falsely will do), now on his way to Sweden (he’s immobilized by the seven month old and obviously fake rape accusation; see the posts at the end for more information).  Either way, that’s the small story.

The big story concerns the type of people who thrive and advance in our government.  People are policy.  Government attracts people who enjoy the exercise of power.  A government with limited powers has little appeal to people with larger appetites for power, raw power.  People with different values than the gentlefolk who run our bureaucracies, who pull the lever in our voting machines — and who have no idea what lies out there in the dark.  We are opening the door to these people, and they will accept the invitation.

O’Brien:  “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. … The object of torture is torture.  The object of power is power. … How does one man assert his power over another, Winston?”

Winston:  “By making him suffer.”

O”Brien:  “Exactly, by making him suffer.  Obedience is not enough.  Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own.  Power is inflicting pain and humiliation.  … Do you begin to see the kind of world we are creating? … Always there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.”

— From George Orwell’s 1984

This is the danger of allowing the ends to justify the means, allowing in people for whom the means are the ends.  People for whom our values and beliefs are jokes, who say the words but laugh inside.  This is the vice of extreme movements.  Animal rights, civil rights, pro-life — all have high goals but tolerate animals in their midst.  People willing to kill, people for whom their high goals provide concealment.

Revolutionary movements provide secure homes for such people.  They easily move to the top, rotting organizations from within.  Communists, Irish Republican, and leftists have all been terminally infected.

Such organizations are outsiders, and can inflict only limited damage on society.  Now we face a far greater danger, as they find a home in the US government.  That Homeland Security tortures legitimizes it for law enforcement agencies at all levels, exacerbating an always endemic problem.  Now they know the public will tolerate torture.  We will see more of it in the future.

And so we take another slice from the corpse of the Constitution (it’s already died in our hearts, the only place it ever really lived).

For more information

One of the few reporters closely following this story (writing about the slow death of our Consititutional regime) is Glenn Greenwald, published at Salon.  It deserves to be at the top of everybody’s bookmarks.

Other posts about this Assange affair:

  1. Sad news about the CIA – Delusional assumption about America savvy.
  2. The full story of the rape charges against Julian Assange of Wikileaks, a possible covert op.
  3. Update to the Wikeleaks rape story, and why it’s important – If a covert op, it’s working
  4. New and strange developments in the prosecution of Julian Assange (Wikileaks) – New but not more enlightening.
  5. Endgame for the affair Assange: a big win for the government, 27 September 2010
  6. The US government successfully smears Wikileaks, while America sleeps, 22 October 2010

Other posts about Wikileaks:

  1. A major leak of government secrets – read all about it!, 9 February 2010
  2. About the Wikileaks footage of possible war crimes, 7 April 2010
  3. Afghanistan war logs: Shattering the illusion of a bloodless victory, 28 July 2010

Other posts about torture:

  1. Something every American should read, 25 March 2009
  2. We close our eyes to torture by our government. The Brits are stronger., 9 April 2009
  3. So many Americans approve of torture; what does this tell us about America?, 30 April 2009
  4. The Reverse Nuremberg Defense – “We were just giving orders“, 20 May 2009
  5. Our government does torture, but it is just like the treatment of young reporters by newspapers, 16 February 2010
  6. The US government at work, doing dark deeds in our name, 13 March 2010
  7. Reading about American torturers is a bummer. Let’s close our eyes and pretend it didn’t happen, and will not happen again., 22 March 2010
  8. An expert speaks to us about torture, 5 May 2010



2 thoughts on “The long-term consequences to America of torturing Bradley Manning”

  1. Being inconvenienced is not torture.
    Not having access to ESPN is not “cruel and unusual punishment.”
    By definition this man has given top secret information to an enemy during a time of war.
    US and International law declares that he should be executed.

  2. Obama inadvertently mocks himself -- and us, update

    President Obama speaks on Manning and the rule of law“, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, 23 April 2011 — This deserves to be read in full. Excerpt (links omitted):

    The impropriety of Obama’s public pre-trial declaration of Manning’s guilt (“He broke the law”) is both gross and manifest. How can Manning possibly expect to receive a fair hearing from military officers when their Commander-in-Chief has already decreed his guilt?

    … But even more fascinating is Obama’s invocation of America’s status as a “nation of laws” to justify why Manning must be punished. That would be a very moving homage to the sanctity of the rule of law — if not for the fact that the person invoking it is the same one who has repeatedly engaged in the most extraordinary efforts to shield Bush officials from judicial scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution of every kind for their war crimes and surveillance felonies. Indeed, the Orwellian platitude used by Obama to justify that immunity — Look Forward, Not Backward — is one of the greatest expressions of presidential lawlessness since Richard Nixon told David Frost that “it’s not illegal if the President does it.”

    But it’s long been clear that this is Obama’s understanding of “a nation of laws”: the most powerful political and financial elites who commit the most egregious crimes are to be shielded from the consequences of their lawbreaking — see his vote in favor of retroactive telecom immunity, his protection of Bush war criminals, and the way in which Wall Street executives were permitted to plunder with impunity — while the most powerless figures (such as a 23-year-old Army Private and a slew of other low-level whistleblowers) who expose the corruption and criminality of those elites are to be mercilessly punished. And, of course, our nation’s lowest persona non grata group — accused Muslim Terrorists — are simply to be encaged for life without any charges. Merciless, due-process-free punishment is for the powerless; full-scale immunity is for the powerful. “Nation of laws” indeed.

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