“If there's one goal of this conference (on bullying),” President Obama told those gathered recently at the White House, “it's to dispel the myth that bullying is just a harmless rite of passage or an inevitable part of growing up. It's not.” In fact, he added, bullying is “not something we have to accept.” The president explained that as a child he had been bullied and so identified with the victims.
All this, of course, is part of the Obama spin op, part of the art of putting a good face on a commander-in-chief of an imperial military machine that is bullying much of the world from 800 foreign bases, that is slaughtering in drone raids the innocent together with those it illegally decides to call guilty, and that is torturing PFC Bradley Manning, perhaps one of the few men in its own military with a conscience having the guts to expose the war machine's criminality. Manning is interrogated twenty times every waking hour, denied virtually all human contact apart from his invasive jailers, denied freedom of movement in his cell, forced to sleep naked and stand naked at morning roll call, and allowed to “exercise” while dragging chains! Not bullying?
One tactic used on Manning the Pentagon seemingly picked up from the Soviets is to force Manning to sleep with his hands outside his coverlet. If it doesn't sound like torture, read how Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn describes this aspect of sleep deprivation in his book “In The First Circle” (Harper Perennial):
“Take your hands from under the blanket!” (the guard ordered the prisoner).
“What for?" Innokenty exclaimed, almost weeping. “Why did you wake me up? I had such difficulty getting to sleep!”
“Get your hands out!” the guard repeated, unmoved. “Hands must be out in the open.”
Innokenty obeyed. But it proved to be not so easy to fall asleep with his hands above the blanket. This was diabolically clever! Human beings, without even noticing it, have an inveterate habit of concealing their hands, pressing them to their bodies, while they sleep.
Innokenty tossed and turned, trying to adapt himself to yet another cruel humiliation.
President Obama said he'll take the Pentagon's word that its treatment of Manning in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., is “appropriate,” and immediately dropped a veil of secrecy over the reasons why he thought so, explaining, “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” -- proving he can tell a joke as well as Bob Hope. So the anti-bullying president takes the word of the Pentagon whose secret torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere -- including rape, sodomy and homicide -- only yesterday revolted the world when it was revealed. By the way, did you notice sleeping with hands outside the blanket advocated in Mr. Obama's “Change We Can Believe In”?
In a letter of March 16th, to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the ACLU's Anthony Romero had to remind the a former CIA Director that his treatment of Manning is “clearly forbidden by our Constitution.” Romero's plea for humane treatment is not likely to move Gates, who headed the CIA when it committed some of its most egregious crimes, and who as Deputy Director allegedly urged bombing Nicaragua even though that country had not attacked America. What's more, Wikipedia relates, “Gates has been criticized for concocting evidence to show that the Soviet Union was stronger than it actually was,” a falsehood that would be spread to fatten Pentagon and CIA budgets.
Denying that DOD has “any legitimate purpose in requiring Private Manning to stand naked in his observation cell at 'parade rest,' with legs spread and genitals displayed, in full view of guards and other officers,” Romero charged, “The very purpose of such treatment is to degrade, humiliate, and traumatize -- a purpose that cannot be squared with what the Supreme Court has described as 'the basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment, which is nothing less than the dignity of man.”
So we have the crazy spectacle of Secretary Gates, who urged bombing of innocent Nicaraguans, torturing PFC Manning, who protested Pentagon killing of civilians allegedly by leaking a video of a U.S. helicopter doing its dirty work over Baghdad. Of course, tyrannies consistently punish those who tell the truth. Asked about Manning's treatment, top State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley told an MIT audience that it was “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid” and that he could not grasp why the Pentagon would do such a thing. Crowley, a veteran of 26 years in the U.S. Air Force, paid for blurting out the truth with his resignation three days later.
If Mr. Obama ever identified with the victims of bullying, he has sped light years from that noble view, stating recently that PFC Manning's conditions comply with the Pentagon's “basic standards,” when, in fact, the Pentagon's “basic standards,” like those of the CIA, are now seemingly indistinguishable from those of Stalin's Russia. Michelle Obama, who introduced the president at the bullying conference, urged adults to treat others with compassion and respect. “It sends a message to our kids about how they treat others,” the first lady said. It sure does, and the suffering of PFC Manning sends a message to the world that reveals what her fork-tongued husband really thinks about bullying. President Obully?
Sherwood Ross, formerly reported for major U.S. dailies and wrote weekly columns for British and U.S. wire services. He currently directs the Anti-War News Service of Coral Gables, Florida. To comment or contribute, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org