Op-ed: The Most Dangerous Man in America?
BY Vic Mazzaraco
February 14 2012 5:00 AM ET
Nearly two years ago, Army specialist Bradley Manning was arrested and charged with a series of crimes against the U.S. government, including leaking thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks and aiding the enemy. The questions raised by the indefinite detention of a the gay soldier — who has been imprisoned in torturous conditions that violate the Geneva Convention — go to the heart of President Obama's expansion of Bush-era civil liberties violations, like the indefinite detentions of alleged enemy combatants at Guantanamo. Except Manning is not an enemy combatant but an American citizen. And since Manning himself says his actions were spurred by his outrage over the conditions in which he was forced to serve under "don't ask, don't tell," we must ask what impact Manning's sexual and gender orientation have had on his treatment.
As of press time, investigators had yet to make a determination whether to try Manning. Under a law signed by Obama he could be held as an enemy combatant indefinitely. If he is found guilty of treason, he could face the death penalty. Either way, Manning is already the victim of both the Obama administration's war on terror and its homophobic ideology.
It's no surprise that last year 250 legal scholars signed an open letter declaring Manning's treatment unconstitutional. He was kept in solitary confinement for nearly a year, in a constantly lit cell without a pillow, sheet, or window. He was forced to be naked for hours at a time and examined every morning. He was allowed only an hour a day of exercise, and if he stopped moving during that hour, he was returned to his cell. He was denied legal representation as well as visits or conversations with anyone, including military personnel and Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who had made requests to visit with Manning.
But when Manning was transferred from maximum security at Quantico, Va.'s Marine brig to a medium-security facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., it was less about ending his torture and more of an indication that he is viewed as an enemy combatant rather than a member of the U.S. military. But Manning was not a spy; he was not working for a foreign government. As Michael Whitney of FireDogLake reported, more than 10 statements by the Pentagon referencing the move indicated that Manning would be detained at Leavenworth for an indeterminate period and that no trial was imminent.
His mental and psychological states have declined rapidly due to his treatment, and in all the celebration over the repeal of DADT, the case of Bradley Manning has faded into invisibility. Sadly, Manning, who was living as a gay man but had expressed a feeling that his gender identity might be female, may be out personally, but his case is the most closeted in recent U.S. military history.
Manning is the forgotten soldier, emblematic of the struggles queer service members face. Alone, attempting to figure out his sexual and gender identities (he spoke with a gender counselor days before he allegedly sent the documents to WikiLeaks), angered and frustrated by his own growing belief that there was no sense to military actions in either Iraq or Afghanistan, Manning was in crisis. Transcripts of emails between Manning and bisexual hacker Adrian Lamo indicate the panoply of emotions he was grappling with as he deliberated over leaking the documents.