Bradley Manning testifies about how the Obama administration tried to break him

Israel/Palestine
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Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights attended accused whistleblower Bradley Manning’s pretrial hearing at Fort Meade on Thursday and spoke about it on Democracy Now! yesterday. Extended excerpt:

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 [POI] 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 a 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 the image was just at the—as you’re saying, Juan [Gonzales], was the opposite of what I would have thought going in there, of this sort of—of this person who couldn’t make their way in the world, of who just, you know, was unable to really function. This person was articulate, strong, self-aware, as I said, and it was—and very sympathetic. I mean, very sympathetic. And not even a shade that he shaded anything, not anything close to, you know, mendacity, lies, nothing. This was incredible testimony…

[Then they decided] they’re going to put him—he’s always on POI [prevention of injury watch], but they’re going to put him back on suicide risk. And they showed the video of—it’s videoed—of him passing his clothes through the mail, through the little hatch, out of the prison. And then, that—

AMY GOODMAN: Like a mail slot.

MICHAEL RATNER: Like a mail slot. And that night, he’s standing there stark naked. They only show you the top, but he’s standing there stark naked in front of these really beefy, big marines in camouflage. That’s the scene you see.

And then there’s another video showing, asking—he’s trying to ask, “Why am I here? What did I do wrong?” And they’re lying to him. One of them says—one of them, who’s—you know, who’s playing like Mutt and Jeff, he’s saying, “Well, you’re a great—if I had a hundred, you know, defendants like you—or prisoners like you, it would be—you know, I would be great.” They’re lying to him all the time.

And what comes out, because as that video—as that clip you read, Amy, of the psychiatrist, is that it never happens, really never happens, that the head of a brig disregards psychiatric information like they were given about Bradley Manning. And here they did. And so, the question you have to ask yourself is, where was that order coming from? We know there was a three-star general involved. How much did it go up to the Pentagon?…

AMY GOODMAN: And this is, of course, all under President Obama.

MICHAEL RATNER: Right. Right, that’s correct. I mean, this was—and that cell, when he’s in that cell—I mean, when we talk about the light on, when he sleeps on that little bunk and his—he’s facing—he has to face the light so they can observe him. If he turns over to avoid the light, they come in, and they wake him up. That’s night. Day—what happens during the day? He’s in that cell 23-and-a-half hours a day, maybe 20 minutes of what they call sunshine exercise, which is just nothing. And what can he do? Because he’s on duty, supposedly, he has to either stand or he can sit on that metal bunk with his feet on the ground and can’t lean against anything. That’s 10 or 15 hours a day of what you have to call sensory deprivation

What’s remarkable is that he still has this incredible dignity after going through this. But I think all these prison conditions were—sure, they were angry at Bradley Manning, but in the face of that psychiatric statement, that this guy shouldn’t be kept on suicide risk or POI, they’re still keeping him in inhuman conditions, you can only ask yourself—they’re trying to break him for some reason. The [defense] lawyer, David Coombs, has said it’s so that he can give evidence against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks…

[I]t showed us how this government—and when Julian Assange said yesterday on your show, Amy, this is really about the U.S. being on trial, that’s what this is. This is how the U.S. treats—treats people who, in my view, have taken heroic actions around disclosing secrets of this government…

My opinion, of course, is the prosecutor ought to stop. Bradley Manning, you know, is someone who has disclosed some of the most important secrets of our government having to do with torture and wars and U.S. complicity in human rights violations.

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