No longer can President Obama keep the plight of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is currently in isolation at Quantico Brig in Virginia, on the backburner. For that, fans of humane prisoner treatment can thank former State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley, who called the treatment of Manning "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid." Three days after these remarks, Crowley was forced to resign from his post.
No matter what you think of Manning -- I've had people tell me that he is a true patriot while I've had others say he ought to be executed -- I hope that everyone can at least agree that whatever Manning's outcome, it should be decided by some kind of justice system (military or otherwise). The main objection I, and I believe many progressives, have is that Manning has yet to be convicted of any type of crime yet is being treated as if he were guilty. Solitary 23 hours a day, no exercise allowed, and force nudity are not trademarks of treatment worthy of a fellow, presumed innocent human, no matter what the allegations against him.
But now Crowley has forced Obama's hand and his administration responded swiftly. Skirting around Manning's treatment at a press conference on Friday, Obama said that he had asked the Pentagon "whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of (Manning's) confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards." While Obama's seeming indifference -- if not implicit support -- of Manning's maltreatment is disturbing, the fact that his administration has forced out an important State official over these comments is downright scary.
As Glenn Greenwald points out, Democrats were up in arms when the Bush Administration forced out Gen. Eric Shinseki for speaking out against the Wolfowitz/Rumsfeld misguided plan for Iraq. It remains to be seen what Congressional democrats will have to say about this, but chances are it will be much more tempered than their consternation during the first eight years of the millennium.
While Crowley may have already lost the admiration of the administration before his comments, his accelerated ouster certainly sends a message to other government officials who may disagree with the Obama Administration. You may see wrongdoing; you may disagree with administration tactics; you may even think that these tactics run counter to the Constitution, the administration's political goals, or both; but say something about it and you're gone. I suppose that forced resignation is better than solitary and forced nudity.