Our Lost Morality

George Washington had this to say about a thousand prisoners of war the American colonists had recently captured: “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.” Since even before we were a country, we have walked the moral high ground.

Lincoln in 1863 forbid torture. Eisenhower and MacArthur did too. We followed the Geneva Convention of 1929 during the American war in Vietnam.

“Treat them with humanity,
and let them have no reason to Complain…”

George Washington, on prisoners of war

We walked the moral high ground for 226 years, then George W. Bush launched an ethic of kidnapping, seizure of travelers because of their name, capture of questionable child “combatants”, secret detention sites, rendition of captured persons to countries that torture, extensive torture in our own prisons, and permanent imprisonment without trial. We have no remaining moral authority. All gone in eight years.

To quote Mahatma Gandhi in a different context from when he was asked what he thought of American culture, this time about American morality: “I think it would be a good idea.”

Army Private Bradley Manning is the only person accused of leaking “secrets” to the Wikileaks “sunshine” site, shall we call it, where thousands of documents that have no business being protected by the SECRET stamp were exposed. He is accused by my own Senator Diane Feinstein of sedition, of “aiding the enemy” by leaking thousands of “secret” documents to Wikileaks, of endangering Americans. Almost none of these messages deserve the “secret” designation. Some have embarrassed undiplomatic diplomatic officials. None of them have resulted in physical harm to anyone.

It is an absurd situation, but that is not what troubles me most. As soon as he was arrested, Bradley Manning was tortured. He was kept in solitary confinement for 11 months of the 2 years since his arrest under cruel conditions that ought to embarrass our government and engender an official apology.

As soon as he was arrested,
Bradley Manning was tortured.

The UN special rep on torture found that Manning’s 11-months “in the hole” was “inhumane”, and in many countries such treatment is without question considered torture. Not ours. He was kept completely isolated for this period, with an hour a day out, during which he was not allowed to exercise. He was denied clothing for long periods. The lights in his cell were on 24 hours a day. He was denied reading and writing material, and any contact with the outside world. He was denied bedding. His cell was kept cold. He was denied contact with a legal representative for a long period. Manning has been convicted of nothing, yet he was forced to endure 11 months of this.

Manning’s defense lawyer says this: terrorist suspects are brought before military commissions and accused of the very same charge as Manning. When this happens, the military prosecutors have to prove that the defendant “knowingly and intentionally” aided the enemy. Manning has not received even this courtesy. Nor is there any evidence he “knowingly and intentionally” aided the enemy. To say that something posted on Wikileaks “aided the enemy” goes beyond the ridiculous. If it were so, any published information anywhere could “aid the enemy”.

There is no reason Manning could not have been treated like any other prisoner. He has not been tried, let alone found guilty. Even if he were, no person should be treated this way.

If the US government can treat one of its own soldiers this way, none of us is safe. And in fact, we have simply seized several persons for no good reason, shipped them off to be tortured, and eventually let them go without so much as an apology. Several government agencies are guilty of similar crimes. Federal prisoners are routinely shipped to different facilities so no one knows where they are and they cannot obtain legal defense or contact their families. ICE routinely confines people incognito for months before doing anything, then deports them secretly. They have deported US citizens to countries where they have never been and don’t know the language. Some have been deported multiple times.

If the US government can treat one of its
own soldiers this way, none of us is safe.

Will we ever be able to reclaim the high moral ground? Perhaps, but it will take many decades, and perhaps in the meantime we have grown too fond of torture and mistreatment.

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. In my opinion, the phrase “Innocent until proven guilty!” A joke. Rather, you ARE GUILTY until you prove Innocence? All it takes are malicious, fabricated and unfounded allegations. And, one who ‘lies’ ‘reports” anonymously is Immune from liability. A good example is the Orange County Prosecutor and his wife. A “Social Worker”, accused them of allegations of abuse with their adopted daughter. Now, they are suing. It’s a sad and pathetic day when men serving our country are not exempt. This just opens the floodgates. Morality in the U.S? The word “Humanity?” A foreign word. Land of the FREE? To an extent. We live in a systemic maze under the control of ‘Big Brother!’ One is free if Compliant, Obedient, and Submissive. If you’ve been wronged by ‘Big Brother’, an attempt to seek Justice, red flags you for further persecution when your claim is valid. After all, ‘Big Brother’ cannot look bad. Therefore, it’s far easier to ‘torture’ those the system knowingly wronged. Because? To live by Morality and Humanity, one must also live by Humility. Too many in charge are Prideful and would rather see innocent Americans destroyed than submit to Humility. I can freely state my opinion, as my own family has been victims of ‘Big Brother!’ I am proud to be an American. And, we have a Government system that most Public Servants follow. It seems to vary dependent upon geographics. Corruption is everywhere.

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