PJ Crowley Resigns as State Department Spokesman

Ousted for criticizing the Army's treatment of accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning

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State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned Sunday, two days after saying the treatment of accused WikiLeaker Bradley Manning was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Crowley's ouster was considered imminent when President Obama told reporters that the Pentagon had assured him Manning was being treated appropriately. White House officials called the Manning remarks the "last straw," according to The New York Times.

Some suggested Crowley made the comments about Manning's treatment--he's in solitary confinement and has to sleep naked--because Crowley's father was a prisoner of war. But CNN's Ed Henry reports "the biggest factor is simply that Crowley believes what he said."Though Crowley took "full responsibility" for his comments, which he made at a university forum in Boston attended by a BBC journalist who's visiting Harvard as a Nieman Fellow. But Crowley did not walk back his basic claim. His resignation letter reads in part:

My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. ... The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values...

While conservative blogger Ed Morrisey commended the White House for taking care of Crowley quickly, critics on the left say this is a sign that the Obama administration tolerates no dissent on national security issues. Salon's Glenn Greenwald wrote that President Bush was widely criticized for punishing Gen. Eric Shinseki for dissenting with the administration's plan for the war in Iraq--which "all good Democrats thought that was so awful, such a terrible sign of the administration's refusal to tolerate any open debate." So much for Obama's supposed "team of rivals," Greenwald wrote, seconded by John Cole at Balloon Juice.

The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan agreed: "It is not necessary to have had a father as a prisoner of war to see the evil of prisoner abuse, and the stain it places on everyone enforcing it. And in the military, as with Bush, so with Obama. As commander-in-chief, Obama is directly responsible for the inhumane treatment of an American citizen. And Crowley's firing will make it even less likely in the future that decent public servants will speak out against such needless sadism."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.