Even across mainstream media, President Obama is increasingly being criticized for the way in which the Pentagon has decided to treat Bradley Manning (23), the WikiLeaks whistleblower. As documented earlier on this blog (and earlier before that), Manning is under a detention regime of enforced nudity, 23-hour isolation, and constant surveillance. As he is, according to his laywer, family and friends, not suicidal, this is clearly meant to intimidate him and possible future whistleblowers.
Just three days ago, the spokesman of the State Department Philip J. Crowley publicly criticized the treatment of Manning, calling it “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”.
And how does Barack Obama react to that? By firing the guy. That’s how this president deals with criticism regarding the torturous treatment of an American citizen and soldier at the hands of the US army on American soil, after an act of whistleblowing.
As Andrew Sullivan (a longtime Obama cheerleader) has written, Obama now officially “owns” the case of the treatment of Bradley Manning. But not only Sullivan is starting to get his doubts about this president; across the media spectrum, commentators formerly supportive of Obama are voicing their concerns about his decisions. Glenn Greenwald has a nice round-up:
Denunciations of the President from his own supporters are as intensive and pervasive here as they have been for other prior incident, if not more so. Matt Yglesias wrote that “to hold a person without trial in solitary confinement under degrading conditions is a perversion of justice” and that it’s a ”sad statement about America that P.J. Crowley is the one being forced to resign over Bradley Manning.” Andrew Sullivan — writing under the headline ”Obama Owns the Treatment of Manning Now” — said that Crowley was forced out “for the offense of protesting against the sadistic military treatment of Bradley Manning,” that “the president has now put his personal weight behind prisoner abuse,” and that “Obama is directly responsible for the inhumane treatment of an American citizen.” Meanwhile, Ezra Klein previews his denunciation of the President’s treatment of Manning and Crowley by announcing that it’s his first ever lede “that isn’t about economic or domestic policy” but rather is ”about right and wrong,” and then questions “whether the Obama administration is keeping sight of its values now that it holds power.” Those strong words are all from supporters of the President.
Elsewhere, The Philadelphia Daily News‘ progressive columnist Will Bunch accuses Obama of “lying” during the campaign by firing Crowley and endorsing “the bizarre and immoral treatment of alleged Wikileaks leaker.” In The Guardian, Obama voter Daniel Ellsberg condemns “this shameful abuse of Bradley Manning,” arguing that it “amounts to torture” and “makes me feel ashamed for the [Marine] Corps,” in which Ellsberg served three years, including nine months at Quantico. Baltimore Sun columnist Ron Smith asks: ”Why is the U.S. torturing Private Manning?,” while UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman — who only last year hailed Obama as “the greatest moral leader of our lifetime” and eagerly suggested on Friday (before Obama’s Press Conference) that Crowley was speaking for Obama — mocked Obama’s defense of the Manning treatment as “clueless on the Bush level” and now says of Crowley’s firing: ”The Torturers Win One,” lamenting Obama’s overt support for a policy that is ”unconscionable and un-American and borderline criminal.”
Not all is bad for Obama though. On the Republican right, his policies are increasingly finding approval…
HotAir‘s Ed Morrissey, as but one example, lavishly praises the President’s decisions: ”The White House acted appropriately in kicking Crowley out at State, and should be commended for taking quick action,” and then defends the conditions of Manning’s detention as appropriate and necessary. It really is quite striking — and quite revealing — how, at least in the areas about which I wrote most (civil liberties, secrecy, surveillance, privacy, war, due process, detention, etc. etc.), and for many of the specific controversies on which I’ve focused (WikiLeaks, Manning, indefinite detention, Afghanistan, drone attacks, the due-process-free assassination program, legal immunity for Bush officials, state secrets, etc.), the greatest support for the President’s policies (with a few early exceptions) are found, by far, among the same faction of America’s Right who so eagerly supported the Bush/Cheney policy framework.