So as best I can tell Manning is, in fact, guilty of serious crimes. And unlike the nutty and dangerous effort to legally sanction Julian Assange for publishing leaks, I have no problem with the government punishing people who violate the terms of their classification status. But Manning hasn't had a trial and hasn't been convicted. Somewhat punitive post-arrest pre-trial measures are kind of a necessary evil, but the prolonged confinement of Manning under cruel conditions go well beyond the necessary into the straightforward evil.
Incidentally, I assume the majority of humanity, including many of the officials responsible for the conditions of Manning's detention, haven't read Atul Gawande's brilliant March 2009 article on solitary confinement. But absolutely everybody should. It utterly transformed my conception of what it meant to hold someone in isolation like this, and makes the idea of doing it to someone who hasn't even had his day in court seem completely outrageous.
The way our society treats prisoners is shocking, and to me, frankly un-American. Extended solitary confinement, prison rape--we tolerate things that we would never allow if we thought there was any chance that they might happen to us. But since prisoners come from a different social class, and are often members of a racial minority, we ignore it. In fact, we joke about it. America wouldn't treat stray dogs the way it treats the millions of human beings it has incarcerated. This is not just a problem for them, though it is, horrifically so. It turns us into torturers and rapists, because we are the ones who pay for the system, and implicitly endorse its terrorizing prisoners.
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