House's report is quite thorough in pointing out instances where the military authorities are lying -- or to use philosopher Harry Frankfurt's formulation, "bullshitting" -- about how the 23-year-old Army intelligence worker is being treated.
Here's some of psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kaye's comment on House's report:
"The human nervous system needs a certain amount of sensory and social stimulation to retain normal brain functioning. ... From what can be ascertained, the effects of solitary confinement are having some effects already on Bradley Manning. His concentration and thinking processes appear somewhat slowed. He avoids certain topics. He has little access to humor. His color is pale, and his musculature is starting to look soft and flabby."
There is, unfortunately, a long and sordid history behind this kind of "slow torture," and the use of it should be a battleground for all Americans still interested in compassion, fairness and justice.
(Iraq infantry veteran Josh Stieber was a member of the ground unit shown cleaning up after the Apache strike released by WikiLeaks as "Collateral Murder" that showed two Reuters videographers being gunned down, plus two kids being wounded.)
In his book A Question Of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War On Terror, Alfred McCoy connects decades and billions of dollars of "black" US torture research with the current sophisticated techniques Global War On Terror jailers are using to torture human beings without laying a finger on them.
The key is absolute control -- and time. These are clearly the methods now being employed against Manning, who is accused of leaking the WikiLeaks material. The question is, given Manning's high-profile status, do his jailers at the Quantico, Virginia, military facility have the necessary control and time to really scramble young Manning's mind? And what are they after: his mental breakdown and/or his giving up of larger prey like Julian Assange?
House's account from his visit with Manning suggests Manning's jailers, within the limitations they have, are doing their best to break Manning psychologically, Their primary limitation is the publicity surrounding the Manning case and the fact he has a strong, and hopefully growing, support network.
Some of the restrictions House reports would be quite absurd if they didn't make such sense as slow torture tactics.
Guards apparently enter Manning's cell and physically prevent him from doing exercises, which he is permitted to do only for one hour a day -- and that amounts to walking around in a circle in leg irons. He is not permitted any personal items in his cell. His clothes are confiscated at night and he must sleep in boxer shorts under a very heavy, scratchy blanket that causes carpet burns on his skin if he moves too much. A light always shines brightly into his cell, and he is checked on periodically all night by guards, who often enter his cell and wake him. This is his life day-in-day-out.
The fact Manning's jailers are compelled to allow people like House into the prison to talk with Manning makes "slow torture" that much more difficult, since absolute control and the exclusion of human contact are the keys to effective slow torture. Strong advocacy and loud public support can be life-savers.
During the mid-2000s, in the case of American citizen Jose Padilla, an entire wing of the South Carolina military brig he was imprisoned in was expensively re-designed for the special requirements ("theater") of his incarceration/interrogation. From the moment of his arrest for planning a "dirty bomb" attack Padilla was a pariah. He reportedly went three years with absolutely no contact from family, friends or lawyers. His only human contact was his interrogators. By the time of his trial for charges unrelated to those he was arrested for he was a walking zombie.
Here's how Alfred McCoy describes the process:
"(S)ensory deprivation has evolved into a total assault on all sense and sensibilities - auditory, visual, tactile, temporal, temperature, survival, sexual, and cultural. Refined through years of practice, the method relies on simple, even banal procedures -- isolation, standing, heat and cold, light and dark, noise and silence -- for a systematic attack on all human senses."
Over decades, CIA research delved into the ways these techniques create "a synergy of physical and psychological trauma whose sum is a hammer-blow to the fundamentals of personal identity."
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