Friday, December 24, 2010

Call Me Soft-Hearted

...But accused axe murderers who behave themselves behind bars generally get better treatment than PFC Manning.

Look, even if you stipulate the kid set out with deliberate intent to release information that would get soldiers killed and otherwise committed acts for which he can be stood up against a wall and shot, that's no excuse for being woke up through the night to confirm to the guards he hasn't, what, bit through his tongue and escaped justice by drowning in his own blood? Howcome he's sleeping in skivvies under genuine non-shreddable, abrasive blankets after the .mil's own head-shrinkers have said he's not a suicide risk? (He's got to hand over all his other attire at bedtime). What's with "exercise" consisting of an hour a day walking in circles, and no sit-ups or push-ups allowed in his cell?

Someone's gonna come back with soldiers in the field operating under far harsher conditions (true, but generally required for their mission) or the fact that folks grabbed by Random Islamofascist Ijits are often treated far worse and run the risk of starring in a televised beheading to boot. True and irrelevant, unless you think we're no better than a bunch of bloody-handed jumped-up goat-herders. This is the frikkin' U.S. of A.; we can keep one secretary-in-uniform locked up and outta harm's way (they've got 'im in solitary, lest some other uniformed miscreant try to pick up brownie points by short-circuiting normal procedures) and still treat him no worse than, say, the rat-bastards awaiting trial at Nuremburg were treated. Bring him up before justice, present the evidence, make a determination of guilt or innocence and render sentence. Until then, he ought to receive the same tender consideration that all the other Maximum Detainees receive -- no more, but no less, either. A sheet, a T-shirt, perhaps some good, healthy time outdoors maybe turning big rocks into littler ones; if he needs shot, there's plenty of time to do that by the book. It's not like there's any need to find out who his co-conspirators or ringleader might be.

Update: Howling snakes! --I guess I cannot get across that this isn't about how cushy he's got it compared to Nathan Hale or John Andres or even poor grunts on the front lines; it's about the government's treatment of a citizen accused of a (very serious) crime while awaiting trial. Punishment phase starts after the official determination or guilt or innocence, remember? And if they'll do it to him with our tacit approval, they'll find it all the easier to do it to you after your impassioned posting on the duty of citizens to resist UN gun-grabbers steps on the wrong toes and you're cooling your heels in the hoosegow waiting for your turn before a court. We have standards for the treatment of prisoners, especially of those who have not yet had their day in court, and we risk much when we bend them.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

I dunno. If he doesn't like how he's being treated, maybe he should have thought about that before he handed over the information.

Me, I have no sympathy for him.

Joseph said...

Folks, remember that under our system of justice, he is innocent until proven guilty.
If he is guilty, I have little sympathy for him also, as he abused his nation's trust. But we don't need him to develop mental illness on top of jail time.

Roberta X said...

If you drive 'em crazy before trial, they don't learn anything. Or y'don't get that moment of shocked horror before the switch is thrown. OMG! It was for keepsies!

Nathan: We got rules and customs. Even fools who won't play by 'em are not exempt from being protected by them. Justice isn't perfect; while it seems highly probable this dude is the leak, what about the next one? Or the one after that? Can't we wait 'til after the trial and punish the guilty rather than the accused?

George Groot said...

Roberta, I have sentenced soldiers to confinement and requested pre-trial confinement for other soldiers. Your sympathy does credit to your humanity.

However, Private Manning has adequate food, rest, and privacy. He has a single room and a light that turns on and off.

His confinement is on par with other service members accused of capitol crime such as murder or rape. Davila was held in pretrial confinement for about two years as attorneys sparred back and forth before the court martial ever got started.

And I would like to remind you that service members do not have all of the protections of the US Constitution and instead fall under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Funny coincidence, I am currently serving with one of the Officers who was in charge of Private Manning, and his opinion is that based on Private Manning's history of self destructive behavior to avoid deployment that "prevention of injury" confinement is justified.

We cannot serve the Republic with an undisciplined force. And nobody is drafted into this force. If you don't like you are free to lobby Congress to change the rules.

Wayne Conrad said...

"He deserves it" replays a post 9-11 theme: The government says they're guilty of a terrible crime, therefore we can skip justice and get right to the punishment.

Totalitarians love this theme. Why anyone else does, I don't understand.

Roberta X said...

This isn't, for me, a matter of sympathy; it's a matter of being able to look at myself in the mirror. As reported, this is no way for the United States to be treating any citizen or service member, even one accused of a crime, no mater how heinous. I don't care if the person murdered little children with piano wire, once the State has laid holt of them, they otta not be treated badly until we can get them tried and convicted and hanged in a civilized and decent manner. Not 'cos they are any great shakes but because we are.

AM: Actually, the lights don't go on and off. They're on 24/7. One source, purportedly in direct contact with him, says he is woken up every five minutes at night.

I get that UCMJ is a rougher set of rules than J. Random Accused Rapist is under down at the county lock-up, but it does not require the treatment this prisoner is getting.

As for the officer's opinion, I'm sure there's a procedure for sharing that information with appropriate persons. Would you rate his or her opinion higher, the same as or less than that of .mil experts in such matters, particularly in light of Manning's changed circumstances?

Wayne's got the right of it. If you will wink at abusing the merely accused, that whole "rule of law" thing is already gone -- and it took your freedom with it. The forms may endure a bit longer and you can play-pretend for quite some time. Hey, lookit! It still says SPQR!

Ed Rasimus said...

Consider the source. A "Wikileaks support group" has a visitor to Manning write a detailed article which he "memorized" quotes through repetition because there are no pictures, video, recordings, or note-taking capabilities.

I can't must a lot of sympathy. Manning gets visitors! He is subject to UCMJ. He is not entitled to presumption of innocence except by the court which will try him, which should not be one administered by the DOJ. I don't have to presume his innocence for a moment and I would be a fool to ignore his confessions to his treasonous behavior.

How long was Benedict Arnold held before execution? Justice delayed and all that...

You might want to interview a couple of hundred folks on the frontlines of Afghanistan for their opinion about classified leaks. You might want to ask some State Dept. people around the world trying to negotiate policy progress how they feel about Manning's itchy blankets.

Sympathy? Hell no!

Chuck Pergiel said...

Technically he might be a traitor, but I suspect the real reason for his treatment is he embarassed the security establishment: one lowly grunt stole all their secrets. There's another embarrassment as well: most of the stuff he stole was stupid. Why is the government classifying all this stupid stuff as secret? Most of it wasn't secret.

Funny how no one is talking about how poor our security is. I mean, this schmuck took it all right out the front door and no one had a clue.

Drang said...

Okay, you're soft-hearted.

Like the other vets here, I'm not impressed by reports that he's being treated like any so-called soldier who has been accused of crimes serious enough to warrant pre-trial confinement. It's true, ya' know: How does that saying go? "If you're innocent, you're better off before a military court; if you're guilty, before a civilian one."

The every-five-minute claim is drivel, probably ginned up by those who would proclaim him a hero. (Or a smack-talking guard.)

B.S. philosopher said...

In a more civilized time Manning would have already received his trial. The only thing lacking at this point would be a cigarette, blindfold and benefit of clergy.
Then several ounces of high-speed cupro-jacketed justice would be administered.

The treatment Manning is currently receiving is lawful under the UCMJ.

When you raise your hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution you accept that you are giving up some of the niceties afforded to civilians.

I had an instructor back in the late 80's who swore that when Clayton Lonetree got out of Leavenworth he was going to hunt him down and kill him for dishonoring the Marine Corps.

I suspect that Manning is in solitary at least for some of his own protection.

I don't have the slightest bit of pity for him.

George Groot said...

Roberta, waking him every five minutes would likely kill him inside of a month. Even in confinement soldiers are required to have a 4 hour period of uninterrupted sleep.

The light in the room has to be able to be turned off. The light in the hall doesn't have to be turned off. It is the light in the hall that is on 24/7
to allow guards to make their rounds. The door window to his cell is so that guards can visually check him without entering the room.

Did the PFC Manning in the interview sound like someone suffering from advanced sleep deprivation? Did the interviewer write about his bloodshot eyes, hollow cheeks, and incoherent rambling? I've suffered sleep dep, it is not fun.

I'm not saying that his lodging is comfortable, I'm saying that it isn't torture. If we really wanted to torture PFC Manning we would send him to Ranger school, and keep recycling him until his court martial. Of course when he showed up thirty pounds underweight with puss dripping out of his pores from cellulitis the judge might have something to say about it.

However I do respect that you really do care about the system. However, a soldier can be held in pretrial confinement indefinitely. A company commander can order pretrial confinement (depending on whether or not the CG has withheld that) for 72 hours before a Battalion Commander has to review the order.

Pretrial confinement starts a 120 day clock to court martial. This clock can be extended (and likely will) depending on how much the lawyers spar trying to get a deal before going to trial. However, if the Government does not make it's case prior to the 120 deadline it is likely that a Judge will simply dismiss the case and release PFC Manning with "time served".

It isn't a perfect system, but by all measures it is pretty good.

Bottom line? PFC Manning will arrive to trial hail and hearty. He won't have the opportunity to hang himself with bedsheets or injure himself in another manner.

George Groot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberta X said...

Ed, Benedict Arnold got away and died of gout, an old man. Perhaps you were thinking of John André, his opposite number -- but Major André was a spy, not a traitor, and managed his own death about as nobly as was possible under the circumstances.

Some of my readers seem to be conflating our duty to ourselves as honorable individuals to treat prisoners decently with having "pity," "sympathy" or "compassion." It's not about the accused. It's not about his tender feelings, either. It's about us. We don't allow the State to throw those only accused of crime to the wolves. Otherwise civil society is just a damned lynch mob -- and your rights are never more than the mob will allow.

Not being a brasshat or any sort of .mil legal-eagle, nor having firsthand evidence, I dunno if the treatment Manning is getting is in accord with what it should be under UCMJ. What is described strikes me as inhumane; if the .gov can treat one accused soldier that way, they can treat any of them that way and -- if the facts are as presented -- we should not allow it. Am I real happy with the .orgs on that side of the debate? Not one little bit. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

Drang said...

What we're trying to say is that the description of Manning's treatment is inaccurate, to put the kindest spin on it.

Roberta X said...

Based on your intuition? Based on the caring, lovingkindness and willingness to play by the rules of the .gov generally?

Angus McThag said...

Considering that if this had happened no so many years ago there'd have been a drumhead and the twang of a rope already; Private Manning is being well treated.

When you take the oath and put on the uniform you accept a different set of rules and they come with a different set of punishments. They make no attempt to hide that from you and there are classes on what's different from civilian life.

I doubt you are going to find many who've been in who have much sympathy for Private Manning. Especially since he's in a climate controlled building with a real bed, a good many of the troops don't have that and they have intact honors.

Roberta X said...

Understood. I am, however, far less inclined to believe the .gov's report on its own behavior in this matter -- and would have considered a swift hearing and a short drop with a sharp stop better treatment than what is being reported.

This is not about how well off the little sniveler is compared to others, it is a matter of how we-the-people allow the government acting in our name to treat citizens who are being held awaiting trial.

Anonymous said...

When he signed (of his own free will) on the dotted line, he became something other than a citizen. The rules ARE different in the military. The fact that he will be getting a tribunal and a defense speaks volumes about our system vs just about any other.
By rights he should be getting the same treatment that some of our allies will be getting at the hands of the headchoppers, he is being afforded a first world process. His victims will be lucky if they get a third world bullet to the back of the head....

Wayne Conrad said...

What is usual, or according to the rules, or permitted by the USMJ has no bearing upon the question: Is the accused being treated rightfully? What would you think of such treatment if the accused were innocent? Or if you were the accused?

The law is a terrible moral compass.

George Groot said...

Roberta, we in the .mil don't have a bail bond system, so if a soldier is placed in pretrial confinement that is where they stay.

If a civilian cannot raise bail, or is denied bail, they will stay in confinement as well.

There is one reason why the UCMJ is better than the civilian bail system, a civilian judge can set bail high to put pressure on a citizen to plea out. Why else would Joel Osteen have had such a high bail?

Roberta X said...

Wayne and AM have, I believe, summed up the two sides (for a libertarian and many conservative) of this debate. Each has its own merit.

I don't think we're going to get any closer to agreement.

Vinosaur said...

One thing many Civilians don't realize; is that, like it or not, the United States Constitution NO LONGER APPLIES to you when you join the military.
You don't get phone calls, you don't get bail, you can get solitary confinement.
All of this is explained prior to enlistment. Don't like it, don't join.
Back when the OJ trial was going on, he had WAY more rights and freedom than I had while deployed onboard a U.S. Submarine while serving my country. The entirety of my personal space was the size of a coffin and I NEVER had the opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air. Make a phone call or get a visit from a loved one.
Did I complain?? NO. Why not you ask? Because I had to volunteer twice to get there. Once to join the Navy, and a second time to join Submarine force. Both completly voluntary.
It may seem harsh to many that the same freedoms enjoyed by civilians don't apply to the military, but that is the way it is. Change the system by changing your government, but remember the system is in place and worked VERY well for over 200 years.
Unlike the Civilian Courts, Military courts do treat everyone the same.

Steve said...

Here is the crux of his argument:
"If Coombs & Co. were interested in protecting Manning from torture, they would have complained to either of the IG's who have the power -- and the clear duty -- to investigate the allegations. The IG is entirely independent by law. Commanders and civilian military chiefs cannot overrule his decisions to investigate, and it can have access to classified material at the highest levels. The IG can get access to the prisoner, get psychiatric experts to examine Manning, and interrogate any and all who are in charge of his imprisonment. The fact that the defense team has instead gone to the liberal media and UN make it clear that Manning's condition is being maintained properly by professionals."

As they say in the internets, read the whole thing.