During the 2008 presidential campaign, then candidate Obama’s slogan was “Change We Can Believe In“. And we were told about how he was going to close the Guantanamo prison within a year, stop the torturing of suspects, etc. Well, that was all pretty much lip service, as we have seen within the past week that the President has restarted military trials for terror suspects. Not the change many voters were looking for, and today the change train made another screeching halt with the resignation of State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley for his remarks about Army Private Bradley Manning, who is being held as a suspect for leaking classified documents that have become the part of the WikiLeaks website.
Since being arrested last spring, Private Manning has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours out of the day and has been stripped naked during the night. Currently, he’s being detained inside the Brig of the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia. There have been multiple criticisms of how Manning is being treated in his detention with even the U.N. examining the case. The key thing to remember here is that Manning is a suspect — he has not yet been put on trial, but he is already being subjected to treatment and conditions that one can liken to punishment.
Last week State Department Official P.J. Crowley said that the treatment of Manning was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid” at a seminar at M.I.T., while adding that the Private was in the right place (meaning he thought that the Private should be held as a suspect). And today, he resigned as spokesman for the State Department for those remarks. My feeling is that Crowley spoke the truth and did not say anything controversial — it is ridiculous to deprive a suspect of sleep or have him endure prolonged nudity. But I understand the protocol of towing the administration line. What is problematic about this episode is that candidate Obama campaigned against the mistreatment of prisoners, and this Manning case appears to be a case study in said mistreatment.
If there is one positive to come out of this Crowley statement and subsequent resignation, I hope to see Mr. Crowley speak more freely as a private citizen.