“Ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”

That’s State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on the torture of Bradley Manning.

I would have used stronger language, but I’m glad he said it.

And I very much doubt that he would have said it if his boss hadn’t wanted it said.

And if he’s not fired, that’s a hint that her boss more or less agrees. Which would be good to know.

But – unless Secretary Gates gets the hint – it doesn’t change what’s happening to Bradley Manning.

Comments

  1. SamChevre says

    And if he’s not fired, that’s a hint that her boss more or less agrees.

    Shouldn’t the “her” be “his”?

  2. Henry says

    Obama has obviously authorized the torture of Bradley, if only by his silence. Whether he has authorized Crowley’s statement is another question. If he didn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will authorize Crowley’s firing. This is because Crowley’s firing could prove more embarrassing to Obama than Crowley’s statement did. This is because Crowley’s firing would give Manning’s torture more publicity.

  3. says

    Great Mark.
    So your argument is we should vote for Obama the Torturer because he has shown the moral clarity of, after about a year of testing how the wind is blowing, he is willing to make the bold step of not preventing a low-level underling from saying that what is happening to Manning is wrong? (But not admitting that it is torture.)

    I’m sorry but
    (a) I demand a little more than this from a president and
    (b) Still nothing about the even more central issue here, the imperial presidency. No acknowledgement of the on-going lying by the state; no acknowledgment of the frequent use of claims of “state secrets” to prevent the state being embarrassed.

    Obama is now basically in the same position as Wall Street execs: “OK, so you caught us. How about we pretend to be ashamed for a day or two, then it’s back to business as usual?”

  4. Henry says

    My prior comment may have been incorrect in its assumption that Obama would be embarrassed by his torturing Manning receiving publicity. He obviously is not embarrassed by betraying his former “base,” and he probably welcomes, in the name of “bipartisanship,” Republicans’ cheering his torture of Manning.

    But I don’t mean to imply that torturing Manning is just politics to Obama. He must be genuinely angry that Manning may gave committed the crime of revealing American war crimes. I believe that Obama’s torturing of Manning is, at least at this point, more an attempt to deter potential whistleblowers than to coerce him to inculpate Assange.

  5. Mark Kleiman says

    Maynard, I’m not drawing any conclusions right now. I’m trying to figure out whether the DoD folks who have been torturing Manning have been acting on orders from the top, or whether they’ve been free-wheeling. This is the first indication that the latter might be the case.

    Sam; no, I meant Crowley’s boss’s boss: the one on whose desk the buck stops.

  6. Brad says

    Mark,

    Torture is a crime and peculiarly evil. Obama is ultimately responsible for torture (Manning and others). Thus Obama is a criminal and is evil. I am no longer going to vote for evil, even “the lesser evil.” ObaMA should be tried in the same court that tries Bush. The torture of Manning isn’t just a disgrace, it is evil and criminal – support of Obama is also evil. The idea that such support is a pragmatic necessity is a pernicious rationalization.

  7. Bernard Yomtov says

    Mark,

    I’m trying to figure out whether the DoD folks who have been torturing Manning have been acting on orders from the top, or whether they’ve been free-wheeling.

    My guess is neither, unless I misunderstand what you mean by “free-wheeling.” I doubt there were orders, but suspect there has been knowledge and tolerance. Manning’s treatment has been sufficiently publicized that it’s hard to believe a Sgt Schultz act.

  8. Ralph Hitchens says

    I am ashamed of what my country is doing to this young man. He deserves the prison sentence he will receive, but nobody deserves the sort of semi-active torture the military justice system is practicing in advance of the trial. And for sure some system administrators at SIPRNet should be publicly fired. They had the requisite computer security tools to monitor the “insider threat” but failed to use them.

  9. Henry says

    “He deserves the prison sentence he will receive.”

    If he is guilty, then he deserves it legally, under a law that punishes those who reveal war crimes but not those who commit them. Morally, he deserves to be honored as the hero he is.

  10. Ebenezer Scrooge says

    Bush tortured both Americans and foreigners. Obama has completely repudiated this policy. As far as I know, he only tortures Americans. A distinction without a difference, maybe, but a distinction nonetheless.

  11. dave schutz says

    Well, I think Henry’s probably right, that what is being done to Bradley Manning is designed to send a message to any other lonely schmoes who may be laboring away in the security vineyards that life after being unmasked would be very unpleasant. Is this justified? It’s tawdry and unseemly. If it deters someone else from similarly damaging the national interest? Manning’s leaks are reported to have had dreadful effects in Zimbabwe and other countries. If every one of our Presidents suffers this kind of stuff to happen, it is probably not the unique evil of George Bush which leads to it.

  12. says

    I suspect that DoD finds itself in a difficult situation: it has trumpeted Manning’s guilt to the world without actually having enough evidence to convict him. The chat logs would have to be authenticated by the other party to the chat, who is, it would seem, likely to be an unreliable, perhaps even easily impeachable, witness. I used to think that DoD was trying to push Manning into a confession which would implicate Assange. I now think DoD is trying to coerce Manning simply into a confession. It is hard to explain both their delay in prosecuting Manning and their treatment of him under any other hypothesis.

  13. dave schutz says

    Daily Caller reports the following:

    Obama said, “With respect to Private Manning, you know, I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards.”

    He continued, “They assured me that they are. 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.”

    Tapper pressed Obama, “Do you disagree with PJ Crowley?” Obama responded, “I think I gave you an answer to the substantive issue.”

    Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/11/obama-rebuffs-state-department-spokesmans-statement-on-manning/#ixzz1GKZwSmhO

    So, the tsar is in Moscow, but he’s not so far away.

  14. Henry says

    And of course it would not occur to Obama to doubt the word of the Pentagon. But, of course, he has authorized, directly or indirectly, their treatment of Manning. It reminds me of Bush’s relying on the legal opinions of John Yoo after telling him what they should say.

  15. Anderson says

    After reading Dave’s comment and the link he provides, Kleiman should correct his post: Obama does not agree with Crowley.

    He is content to take the word of the institution that operated Abu Ghraib and operates Bagram and Guantanamo.

  16. koreyel says

    Still nothing about the even more central issue here, the imperial presidency.

    Imperial presidency? Barack?
    We’ve got a Republican House versus a Democratic Senate and Presidency.
    And if you ask me who is controlling the tempo, the dialogue, the country, I’d say the House (and whomever paid their campaign bills).
    Has our “imperial presidency” ever put his foot down hard and demanded something? Ever?
    If instead you want to say: Great Imperial Compromiser and Temporizer… I’m with you…

    But calling Barack emperor?
    That’s like calling Twiggy a fat pig.

  17. Swift Loris says

    “And I very much doubt that he would have said it if his boss [i.e., Clinton] hadn’t wanted it said.

    “And if he’s not fired, that’s a hint that her boss [i.e., Obama] more or less agrees. Which would be good to know.”

    Well, now we know that Obama doesn’t agree with Crowley. And if Mark is correct that Clinton wanted Crowley to say what he said, she and Obama disagree.

    Hmm, maybe Crowley and Clinton will be fired.

  18. says

    No, I still don’t think Mark needs to edit his post. Obama’s emphasis on “substantive” is weird and looks like a dodge to me. If he really didn’t agree with Crowley and wanted him fired then he more likely would have said so more bluntly before trying to move on. Obviously I think what happens to Crowley going forward will tell us a lot.

    And just ftr: torture is an enormously important issue for me and I find what’s been happening to Manning to be heinous and profoundly depressing; at this juncture however I think it tells us more about the institutional moral rot throughout our national security state than it does about Obama.

    But only at this moment.

  19. urban legend says

    Hey, people, give the President a break. True, he may have cowered behind the curtains on Bradley Manning, threw his courageous employee at State under the bus, and bailed on Wisconsin public employees (along with those in some 20 other states), but give him credit where it is due: he really stepped up and took a tough and politically-risky stand against middle school bullies.

  20. Barry says

    Mark Kleiman says:

    “Maynard, I’m not drawing any conclusions right now. I’m trying to figure out whether the DoD folks who have been torturing Manning have been acting on orders from the top, or whether they’ve been free-wheeling. This is the first indication that the latter might be the case.”

    Mark, a few things – first, ‘free-wheeling’ is not the default assumption when discussing the treatment of a high-profile prisoner.

    Second, the US Military doesn’t come in with clean hands – they deliberately tortured some vast number of people in Iraq, and those orders came from the top. They got away with it. In cases like this, they in fact are presumed guilty until cleared, since it’s their SOP.

    Third, Obama being satisfied with the word of the torturers that they’re innocent is clearly dishonest – remember ‘British Intelligence has learned….?’.

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