260 School Children Killed in Chicago in 3 Years — Where Are the Tears for Them?
Like President Obama and many others across the country, I too wiped away tears as I watched the horrifying news coverage of the tragic shootings in Newton, Conn. I immediately called my children who were still in school. I sat watching the television trying to fathom how I would respond if I got a call that a shooting had occurred at my children’s school. This brought on more tears. But for the parents of 20 children and six other families in Newton, it wasn’t an exercise; it was an excruciating reality.
I then watched and listened to our President, and like parents around the world, the shooting had affected him emotionally as well. Twenty children gunned down. He struggled to hold back tears.
It was then that my phone buzzed. I quickly grabbed it to see if it was one of my children calling back. But it wasn’t. It was a colleague in Chicago. I had emailed her the day before asking for research into one of the mentoring programs in the city’s schools for youth with the highest risk of being shot.
She provided me with the information I was seeking. Then she included a P.S.: “What a devastating horrible day in CT. But frankly I wish people cared this much when it was children on the south and west sides of Chicago.”
I was snapped back into reality with the email. The tragedy in Newtown was truly horrific. But there is similar carnage carried out every day in the streets of America’s cities, especially in the President’s hometown of Chicago, where I work in Oakland, in Philadelphia, and many other cities across the nation.
In 2010, nearly 700 Chicago school children were shot and 66 of them died. Last year, Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended a memorial for 260 school children who had been killed in just the previous three years. On several occasions in the past year, tens of people have been shot in a single weekend on the streets of the city. The worst three-day stretch saw 10 killed and 37 wounded in gun fire. But Google the term “Chicago weekend shootings” and the results are far too many deadly weekends to count.
Oakland, Calif. has seen a huge increase in shootings. Last year, three small children were murdered in shootings. The youngest victim hadn’t yet turned 2. Oakland has become the first city in the country to have its police force taken over by a federal court. Because of a lack of resources, the city has one of the lowest police to resident ratios in the country.
Gun violence in America is a pandemic, but there is no round-the-clock news coverage. No national address from the President with tears. No pledge for urgent change.
Why? Is it because the children who die on the streets of America’s cities are black and brown? Is it because they are poor? What makes the victims of everyday inner-city gun violence expendable?
Like the horrendous shooting in Newton, easy access to guns and the challenges of mental illness contribute to the violence on America’s streets. Like the calls for change in guns laws that have been heard following this massacre, so too do we need tighter gun control because of the death and destruction that touches the hearts of mourning mothers in American cities every day.
Speaking at a prayer vigil in Newton, Obama said, “Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm? The answer is no, we’re not doing enough. And we’ll have to change.”
Mr. President, this is so very true. But it is not only these one-day mass shootings that cause us to cry out for the need to change, but also the daily gun violence that plagues our cities.
“We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true,” Obama said. “No single law, no set of laws, can eliminate evil or prevent every act, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this.”
We can do better in Chicago, in Oakland, in Philadelphia, and in every city in America.
(David Muhammad is the former Chief Probation Officer of Alameda County in California and the former Deputy Commissioner of Probation in New York City. He now consults with philanthropic foundations on juvenile justice issues)
© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at email@example.com.
States slowly killing capital punishment
Md. among 3 to debate abolition
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Question of the Day
Accelerating a recent trend, several states are moving to pull the plug on the death penalty. Do you want your state keep the death penalty?
DENVER — The death penalty, already on the decline across the United States, could face its own demise at the hands of several state legislatures next year.
Accelerating a trend, lawmakers in Colorado, Maryland and New Hampshire are expected to make a push for pulling the plug on capital punishment in the next legislative session, following the moves of Connecticut, which abolished the death penalty this year.
Any action would continue the national trend away from capital punishment. Only nine states carried out executions this year, down from 13 states last year. The same number of people, 43, were executed this year and last, but it was a steep drop from the 85 in 2010, according to a report released last week by the Death Penalty Information Center.
“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” said Richard Dieter, DPIC executive director. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a smaller number of states.”
Despite the decline in the number of executions, polls consistently show that voters support the idea of capital punishment. In a closely watched test at the ballot in one of the nation’s bluest states, Californians in November rejected Proposition 34, which would have eliminated capital punishment, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, even though some late polls suggested that the measure would pass.
Polls from Gallup and the Pew Research Center late last year found that Americans generally favor the death penalty by a roughly 2-1 margin – 62 percent to 31 percent in the Gallup survey, and 61 percent to 35 percent according to Pew. Both polls also found rising opposition to the death penalty since the mid-1990s and falling support for capital punishment. According to Gallup, the 62 percent in favor is the lowest the pollster has recorded since 1972.
California has 724 inmates on death row, the largest number in the nation and nearly twice as many as Florida with 407. At the same time, California has not carried out an execution in seven years, and while voters opted to keep the death penalty, the report noted that support was far lower than in 1978, when 71 percent voted to reinstate capital punishment.
Even with the November vote, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said recently that she does not expect executions in California to resume for at least three years because of problems with the lethal-injection process.
Support for the death penalty remains stronger in red states. South Dakota acted to strengthen its capital-punishment law by limiting death-row inmates to one post-conviction appeal, to be filed within two years. Of the 43 people put to death this year, three-fourths were from four states: Arizona, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
But Connecticut became the fifth state in five years to repeal the death penalty. The Connecticut bill, signed in April by Gov. Dan Malloy, a Democrat, was not retroactive, meaning that the 11 inmates now on death row still face execution pending appeals.
Sixteen states have abolished the death penalty, and three more may join their ranks next year. In Colorado, Maryland and New Hampshire, a combination of Democratic legislative majorities and Democratic governors has created a favorable climate for abolishing capital punishment.
“These are states like Connecticut, New Mexico and New Jersey where the use of the death penalty is very sparse, and yet it’s still expensive to continue and it takes a lot of time and resources,” Mr. Dieter said.
New Hampshire Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan has made it clear that she opposes the death penalty, unlike outgoing Gov. John Lynch, a fellow Democrat who signed a bill in 2011 extending capital punishment to home invasions.
In Colorado, the legislature came within one vote of passing a bill to repeal capital punishment in 2009. After flipping the state House from Republican to Democrat in November, Democratic lawmakers are expected to introduce repeal legislation as early as January.
But such legislative efforts often clash with high-profile crimes that can shake voter sentiments. Connecticut abolished the death penalty eight months before a lone gunman entered a schoolhouse in Newtown, Conn., and fatally shot 20 students and six schoolteachers and administrators. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed himself, but the state narrowly missed the dilemma of what punishment to mete out had the perpetrator survived.
The problem is more than theoretical in Colorado. Any law against the death penalty enacted next year presumably would apply to James Eagan Holmes, the graduate student accused of murdering 12 people in July at an Aurora movie theater. Supporters of capital punishment are expected to frame an abolition effort as an attempt to save the life of the accused mass murderer if he is convicted.
In Maryland, where debate over ending the death penalty is a hardy perennial, another bill to eliminate capital punishment is expected to be introduced in January. Standing in the way is a 3-year-old compromise that restricts the death penalty to cases with conclusive DNA or video evidence, or a videotaped confession, which still has support from some Democratic lawmakers.
The DPIC report also showed that three states that traditionally have carried out multiple executions – North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia – have not had any this year.
Mr. Dieter attributed the decline in part to the recent spate of cases in which people convicted of crimes were found to be innocent after the introduction of DNA evidence.
“As that was happening, we started to see the steady drop starting in 2000, with this year representing a low,” said Mr. Dieter. “The availability of life without parole offers an alternative to the death penalty, so that if a mistake was made, you can rectify it.”
© Copyright 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
We Have Become Death
By Camillo Mac Bica
|“We knew the world would not be the same. Few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.” – Robert OppenheimerFirst broadcast as part of the television documentary The Decision to Drop the Bomb (1965)|
December 18, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – “Evil visited this community today,” is how Governor Molloy described the awful events that occurred at a Newtown Connecticut Elementary school. Whenever a “terrorist” attacks and innocents are slaughtered, we begin referencing religious concepts and asking the inevitable questions. Why do they hate us? Why would someone commit such an atrocity? Why was a flawed, obviously insane individual allowed access to weapons? The 24 hour cable “news” networks voyeuristically “report” firsthand accounts and talking head “experts” speculate regarding motive and intent. But yet we ignore the obvious, and refuse to look at who we are, better, what we’ve become, as a nation, a people, that makes such awful events not an aberration, but an all too common occurrence of slaughter and mayhem.
We live in a culture where violent video games replaced Mr. Rogers as entertainment for our children; where the youngest and most impressionable among us “cyber kill” virtual human beings for amusement, to occupy their time, and to prepare them to become weapons in perpetual war that goes unquestioned; where violence has replaced diplomacy; where torture is condoned; where truth telling (“whistle blowing”) is a crime warranting imprisonment and solitary confinement; where murder is celebrated as a positive achievement of leadership and as evidence for a candidate’s qualification for four more years as president; where drones summarily execute human beings without trial, accusation, and with little outrage many of whom are innocents dehumanized as “collateral damage”; where the adoration of the weapons and technology of killing and destruction (“Memorial Day Air Shows”) serve to honor the wasted in war and to ritualize the changing of seasons.
We are a culture of hate, greed, and violence, killing our own as we kill others. We have lost our moral compass and have become the pariah of the human community. So Governor Molloy, I fear that evil is not merely an unwelcome visitor but lives among us and if I may quote the Bhagavad Gita, we “have become death the destroyer of worlds.”
My purpose in this commentary is not to exploit the deaths of victims and the suffering of families for political purposes. Rather it is an attempt first to bring attention to the murder, suffering, and pain of ALL innocents much of which is a direct consequence of American foreign policy (imperialism); second, it is an attempt to move beyond the useless rhetoric of American Exceptionalism in order to critically and fairly examine who we are, what we’ve become, and what we stand for as a people and as a nation; and finally, it is a plea for sanity, compassion, and morality so that we will no longer have to suffer and grieve the senseless and unnecessary deaths of innocents ANYWHERE in the world. To bring attention and awareness to the suffering of ALL innocents is not to be insensitive to or diminish the suffering of some. Children are children, each as important and as valuable as the other and murderers are murderers, each as despicable and reprehensible as the other. So let us grieve the children and then ACT to increase awareness of our failings in order to ensure that such insanity never occurs again.
Camillo Mac Bica is a Professor of Philosophy at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the Coordinator of Veterans For Peace Long Island.
Remember All the Children, Mr. President
By Bill Quigley
December 17, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – Remember the 20 children who died in Newtown, Connecticut.
Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.
Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.
Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.
Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.
Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.
Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.
Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.
These tragedies must end.
Bill Quigley is Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He volunteers with the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH) and the Bureau de Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in Port au Prince. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Torture of Bradley Manning
After more than 900 days of detainment in United States military jails for allegedly disclosing state secrets, the haunting imprisonment of accused WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning was discussed in court for the first time at the latest round of pretrial motion hearings that began on Nov. 27 in Fort Meade, MD. Below is an account of those court proceedings. The case will continue intermittently into 2013.
By Andrew Blake
December 16, 2012 “Information Clearing House” – If there’s a bad time to discuss holiday shopping, it’s while waiting for someone to describe being tortured.
I was soaking wet and still half asleep when our driver turned to the back seat of the press shuttle and said something so totally irrelevant and ill-timed that I knew right then and there that she was either innocently naïve or politely retarded.
“Can you believe it,” she said, “Christmas is already less than a month away.”
Festive fucking cheer is not particularly on the mind, at least not on this Tuesday morning at Fort Meade, Maryland. The sprawling 6.6-square mile United States Army base just outside of Washington, DC is the venue for the pretrial motion hearings in the case against Private First Class Bradley Manning. By the time the trial is over, a soldier considered a hero by some could be sentenced to life in prison. I was likely not the only one uninterested in having a holly jolly ol’ time, but that didn’t do anything to change the fact that our driver had just adjusted the FM dial to pick up “Santa Baby.”
When only 22 years old, Pfc. Manning was arrested at his barrack in Baghdad and dragged off to Kuwait, then to perhaps the worst locale yet— Quantico, Virginia—for the longest stretch of the two-and-a-half years of imprisonment that’s been condemned by the United Nations and Nobel laureates as tantamount to torture. Pfc. Manning won’t be court-martialed by a military judge until next March, and at that point he’ll likely have spent over 1,000 days—ten percent of his life—in solitary confinement.
This, of course, is because the US says Manning took 250,000 diplomatic embassy cables and a trove of sensitive military documents and sent them to the website WikiLeaks. Among the documents Pfc. Manning allegedly leaked are the Afghan War Diaries, the Iraq War Logs, secret diplomatic communications, and a video of US soldiers firing at Iraqi civilians and journalists from the air in a clip that was dubbed “Collateral Murder.”
“This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare,” Pfc. Manning is alleged to have written of the footage. Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder currently sought for extradition from the UK to Sweden, credits those documents and particularly the video with ending a war that left over 4,400 Americans dead and countless Iraqis murdered.
“It was WikiLeaks’ revelations—not the actions of President Obama—that forced the US administration out of the Iraq War,” Assange wrote last month. “By exposing the killing of Iraqi children, WikiLeaks directly motivated the Iraqi government to strip the US military of legal immunity, which in turn forced the US withdrawal.”
But the Obama administration doesn’t consider Manning’s alleged actions heroic—they deem them treasonous. The indictment against Pfc. Manning has made him one of just a handful of Americans charged under the World War I-era Espionage Act, and this week the court had to declassify a CD-ROM belonging to Osama bin Laden, presumably to prove that the al-Qaeda leader accessed the WikiLeaks files attributed to Manning thus justifying another charge he faces: aiding the enemy. That crime is punishable by death, but prosecutors have already acknowledged they won’t seek anything beyond a life sentence.
It was overcast and gloomy as we made our way through the morning’s relentless rain toward the court early Tuesday, the first day of the hearings. A throng of political protesters demonstrated their own country’s treatment of Manning. Just like with every motion hearing so far, they brandished protest signs saying “Free Bradley,” and wore matching T-shirts adorned with only the word “Truth.”
Soon we’d be shuffled into the tiny, 50-person-capacity courtroom, but for now we were in our cars, part of a caravan of two-dozen autos with hazards flashing as we meandered across Ft. Meade. Our trek through the base and toward the judge’s quarters seemed too eerily like a slow march from mortuary to cemetery for me to handle. The Christmas tunes didn’t help either: “Feliz Navidad.”
It wasn’t the drizzle or the drive that got me thinking about death. We were preparing for at least a week of hearing about the torture of a man not-yet-convicted of any crime.
At this point it was likely too late to break Manning. Since the summer of 2010 Pfc. Manning has been held in military custody, and sadly that was the reason a handful of us had assembled this week. The latest round of hearings would involve soul-crushing first-hand accounts of the nine months at Qauntico that had nearly killed the soldier. Defense attorney David Coombs is asking the court to dismiss all charges with prejudice due to alleged illegal pretrial punishment that he says his client was subjected to in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the US Constitution. At a rare public appearance in Washington on December 3rd, Coombs said Pfc. Manning’s time at Quantico will forever be etched in history as “a disgraceful moment in time.”
Inside the courtroom Manning, now 24, looks as if he’s still in high school. He’s just five-two and weighs less than my last four girlfriends. His dashing blue military garb, particularly his fitted jacket donned with decorative accolades, dwarfs him, sleeves extending almost past the tips of his fingers. To say Pfc Manning looks like he’s playing dress-up with items from his dad’s closet wouldn’t be inaccurate; the only difference is no one, not at any age, can manage to look so goddamn confident in the court as Pfc Manning. Despite being detained for over 900 days and subjected to conditions considered cruel and inhuman by the UN, Pfc. Manning is not the ghost I imagined he’d resemble. As we found out, though, that’s all anyone would have expected.
Immediately upon his arrest on May 26, 2010, Manning was transferred to an 8’ x 8’ x 8’ wire mesh cage in Kuwait with just a toilet and a shelf to keep him company. He had confessed online to a supposed confidant earlier in the week that he had submitted compromised intelligence to WikiLeaks, only for that correspondence to be handed to the FBI.
“Hypothetical question: If you had free reign [sic] over classified networks for long periods of time … say, eight to nine … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do?” Manning is alleged to have asked in an AOL chat with Adrian Lamo, a hacker whom the private had never met.
“I was the source of the 12 July 07 video from the Apache Weapons Team which killed the two journalists and injured two kids.”
Within hours, the soldier was shackled and succumbing to what he described in court as a complete and total breakdown.
“I just thought I was going to die in that cage. And that’s how I saw it—an animal cage,” he told the judge as he testified for the first time.
Pfc. Manning was held captive in Kuwait for nearly two months, but it wasn’t until he landed on American soil that the fury of Uncle Sam came completely crashing down on him. Weeks after being rushed out of Iraq, Manning found himself in full restraints onboard an airline en route to Baltimore, Maryland. It was only when the pilot announced the flight plan that the soldier was ever sure he knew where he was going: Military prisons in Germany and Guantanamo Bay all could have been possibilities, he thought. Ironically, a stay at Gitmo may have actually given the soldier a more fighting chance at justice than what he and his legal team have had to endure during the last two years: The US has been sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights for the government’s failure to release court motion papers and transcripts—items the CCR say are easier to obtain in the cases involving al-Qaeda insurgents detained at the Cuban military jail.
Once in Baltimore, Pfc. Manning was loaded into a car and transferred to the military base in Quantico, Virginia. There he was held for nine months in maximum custody in a cell smaller than the one he saw overseas—just 6′ x 8′. For only 20 minutes a day, Pfc. Manning was left to see the sunlight while shackled in chains. Other times, he found that if he arched his neck and angled himself just right he could catch the reflection of the sun from a window that was mirrored into his unimaginable concrete hellhole. Once inside his isolation chamber for the customary 23-and-a-half hours or so, he was deprived of just about everything, including contact with other inmates and often his clothes. He was forced to sleep from 1 PM to 11 PM, naked, and was allowed to do so only when facing his lamp.
“I started to feel like I was mentally going back to Kuwait mode, in that lonely, dark, black hole place, mentally,” he said.
“The most entertaining thing in my cell was the mirror. You can interact with yourself. I spent a lot of time with it,” he told the court on Thursday.
For those nine months, Manning had to. His commanders at Quantico were put on the stand this week and testified that the soldier was regularly stripped of his underwear and flip-flops because he was classified consistently as prevention-of-injury, or POI, a status that made his imprisonment essentially on par with the strictest of solitary confinement sentences on the basis that he was a suicide risk.
Pfc. Manning was”as normal as a max prisoner would be,” Lance Corporal Joshua Tankersley told the court. Normal doesn’t necessarily have the same definition with military detention personnel as others.
“You would look in the mirror at yourself or stare at the wall.” That, said Tankersley, was normal behavior.
In the brig, Pfc. Manning was only allowed to make contact with the detainees directly on either side of his cell; for the duration of his extended stay, both rooms on the left and right remained vacant.
Sometimes, said Tankersley, POI status inmates were found snoozing. “And we catch them and wake them back up,” he said. “There’s basically nothing to do.” Any time Pfc. Manning had to be moved from his cage, the entire facility was put in lockdown.
To pass the time, Pfc. Manning would dance. He’d dance alone and make funny faces, both habits his psychiatrist attested on the stand as being normal given his condition. Because he wasn’t allowed weights, he lifted imaginary ones to stay agile.
“I would pace around, walk around, shuffling, any type of movement. I was trying to move around as much as I could,” he said. “I would practice various dance moves. Dancing wasn’t unauthorized as exercise.”
When asked to explain in court this week why nine months of maximum custody was necessary, his jailers gave varying answers akin to what would be expected for such strict handling: He could have harmed himself; he could have been harmed by others; he wasn’t mentally sound. Upon cross-examination, though, other information was unearthed revealing that the egregious conditions could easily be viewed as imputative, not imperative.
In multiple instances, the Quantico guards admitted that they subjected Manning to harsh treatment because the very antics he used to amuse himself in his cage were giving them cause for concern.
“His erratic behavior” was reason for putting him in protected watch, said Col. Dan Choike, the brig commander at the base
“His acting out, playing pee-a-boo, licking the bars on the cell itself. Different dancing. Erratic dancing”
“Erratic dancing?” asked Coombs.
In another example, Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. William Fuller cited Manning’s “little interest in discussion” as a reason to him as POI. Col. Choike, the brig chief, had similar rationale.
He was “withdrawn, depressed,” Col. Choike said of Pfc. Manning.
“He wasn’t the kind of guy that was going to sit there and talk to you, his jailers, ad nausea?” Coombs asked Choike, deadpan.
“Would you agree with me that if you’re talking with your jailers and you make causal conversation and then they use that casual conversation to take away your underwear from you, then you might stop talking to your jailer?” he asked.
Upon further questioning, Quantico staffers acknowledged that the severity of the aiding the enemy charge—although not formally introduced yet by the government—also warranted harsher imprisonment. While innocent until proven guilty is the norm for civilians, Manning hasn’t been awarded that luxury of democratic society.
“The United States government with all of its resources, all of its personnel, I see them standing against me and Brad, and I have to admit to you—that could be rather intimidating,” Coombs told the crowd in DC during his first and likely only public appearance before his client’s court-martial. “And I was intimidated. Especially when the president of the United States says your client broke the law. Especially when Congress members say your client deserves the death penalty.”
Supporters of the soldier have argued that Pres. Obama’s extrajudicial declaration that Pfc. Manning’s guilt during a candid moment caught on camera last year may influence the military’s eventual court decision. During his turn cross-examining the Army’s witnesses, Coombs made it clear that his client was not accommodated like any other inmate at Quantico. Sgt. Fuller told that court that in his 17 years in military corrections, most inmates were listed POI for “a few days. No more than a week.” Manning was held in maximum confinement for nine months.
When a forensic psychiatrist was eventually commissioned to assess Manning at the brig, repeated recommendations were made to remove him from protected watch, which left him forced to cover himself with only a suicide smock and bedding that resembled something between a cardboard box and a liquidation sale rug. Those professional suggestions were all ignored in favor of the guards’ own instincts. Many of those staffers testified that they were trained in corrections for one month at an Air Force base in Texas and rightfully admitted that the guidelines for dealing and assessing with a suicide case they were taught there were thrown out the window when Private Manning arrived.
On Saturday afternoon, five days into the latest round of hearings, Quantico Staff Sgt. Fuller acknowledged that he routinely signed off on keeping Pfc. Manning a max custody detainee, and cited his reasons specifically for the court.
“Those times that I actually did have interaction or communication with Manning, it seemed he was distant, withdrawn, or isolated. That gave me cause for concern,” he told the court. When asked him to explain why he was worried, Fuller said, “I’m not sure why. You really couldn’t get him to talk.”
Quantico guards also testified that for initial health evaluations, a dentist was the qualified physician tasked with assessing Manning’s mental wellbeing.
“Why were you getting weekly updates from a dentist as opposed getting them directly from a forensic psychiatrist?” Coombs asked Col. Choike.
“She was the commanding officer,” he said.
At Quantico, Pfc. Manning treatment wasn’t by the book: the sleep depravation and stripping of clothes; the humiliation; the taunts and mockery; the nine months of putting Pfc. Manning in protected custody citing concerns over suicide—concerns that were rebuffed relentlessly by both Pfc. Manning himself and qualified psychiatrists. That’s why Coombs is looking to have the case against his client thrown out, and Manning’s own testimony this week only accentuated the living nightmare he was made to endure for nearly a year while only a half-hour drive from the capital of the nation. As testimonies from Quantico staff, health professionals, and the private himself continued late into the night all week, often for hours without intermissions, more unraveled about not just the torturous conditions imposed on Pfc. Manning but the blatant mismanagement in the same institution he is accused of blowing the whistle on.
On Wednesday, the night of Manning’s first day of testimony, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange embarrassed CNN during a 20-minute interview that seemed all too perfectly orchestrated to accentuate the mainstream media’s mistake of first underestimating WikiLeaks, then thinking it’s the site’s founder who needs to be forced into the spotlight.
“The case is not about whether Bradley Manning allegedly stole cables or not. The case is about the abuse of Bradley Manning,” said Assange.
Days earlier, Assange had again appealed the actions that his accused source is credited with contributing to the annals of history.
“The material that Bradley Manning is alleged to have leaked has highlighted astonishing examples of U.S. subversion of the democratic process around the world, systematic evasion of accountability for atrocities and killings, and many other abuses,” he wrote.
During his address in DC, Coombs didn’t come close to buying Assange’s hyperbole. He did, however, acknowledge that the circumstances in the case against Manning—and to a lesser degree, other whistleblowers charged under Obama—have very real implications for everyone in the country.
“When you look at the offense of aiding the enemy and take it out of this case and simply say, ‘If you can possibly aid the enemy by giving information to the press with no intent that that information land in the hands of the enemy, and by that mere action alone you could be found to have aided the enemy,’ that’s a scary proposition,” said Coombs. “Right there that would silence a lot of critics of our government, and that’s what makes our government great, in that we foster that criticism and often times when its deserved, we make changes. “
“Last Tuesday, the president of the United States signed into law the Whistleblower Enhanced Protection Act,” he continued. “As President Obama was signing this bill into law, Brad and I were in the courtroom for the start of his unlawful pretrial punishment motion.”
Coombs paused, dumbfounded.
“How can you reconcile the two?”
“I don’t know the answer to that question.”
Before wrapping up his remarks, Coombs acknowledged Daniels Ellsberg, the former Pentagon staffer who spent countless hours inside the Department of Defense photocopying classified logs of the Vietnam War to release what became known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg, perhaps the country’s most recognized whistleblower, has saluted Pfc. Manning as his own personal hero.
“One of our nations most famous whistleblowers, Daniel Ellsberg, has on multiple occasions spoken out for Brad,” said Coombs. “History has been the ultimate judge of his courage and sacrifice. History has judged him well. I hope that history will judge Private first class Manning.”
Meanwhile, though, history will be taking it’s sweet fucking time. During the latest round of motion hearings, Pfc Manning’s court-martial was yet again postponed, this time from February to March. When the trial is convened next spring, Manning will have spent over 1,000 days in prison.
Someday, says Coombs, Brad Manning wants to walk out of his cell, earn a degree, enter public service, and perhaps even run for office.
“I want to make a difference in this world,” the soldier said to Coombs.
If one outcome occurs, Pfc. Manning may enter the history books as a traitor and sentenced to rot behind bars for acts of espionage and aiding the enemy. In another, he’s renowned as a patriot and a hero. Either way, his life has already been ravaged by a flawed system.
No matter the verdict, at Ft. Meade this weekend, Pfc. Manning looked determined to fight. He did not look dead, like his treatment the last two and a half years might suggest. He even acknowledged dozen supporters who had just sat through 12 hours of arguments in a cramped military courthouse.
“I’m confident that by the time this case comes to a conclusion, the record of trial will be the longest record of trial in our military’s history,” says Coombs. “And that record will reflect one thing: that we fought at every turn, at every opportunity, and we fought to assure that Brad received a fair trial.”
When I last saw Pfc Manning, he was brought out of the court, hands shackled, flanked by two deputies equipped with semi-automatic assault rifles as they ushered him into a SUV and sent him back to whatever cage he now occupies. It was cold, and the radio in the nearest car belonging to the Ft. Meade media convoy was predictably tuned to the hits of the holiday.
“Can you believe it?” the press liaison said as I tried to defog my camera lens. “Less than three shopping weeks left.”
his article was originally posted at Vice
© 2012 Vice Media Inc
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