This BBC report on yesterday’s comments by US State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley is remarkable. Not only does it report a figure within the US Government calling the treatment of Bradley Manning “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid,” it also includes the following:
Amnesty International has described the treatment of Pte Manning, whose mother is Welsh, as “harsh and putative” and has called on the British government to intervene.
The BBC have, in other words, recognised for the very first time that there is a British dimension to this story. Admittedly, they are doing so in terms which only come close to the level of accuracy achieved by the Guardian on 2nd February – and if you’d like to see some really impressive coverage, I can recommend their print edition today – but this is a breakthrough nonetheless. It means that the British Government’s responsibilities towards Bradley Manning are now a mainstream political issue in this country.
I really should have added: the BBC could do with a proofreader.
The Telegraph’s report on Crowley’s statement makes the following statement of fact in absolutely unambiguous terms:
President Barack Obama was forced to defend the Pentagon’s treatment of Manning, a 23-year-old dual British and American citizen
CNN reports that P.J Crowley is “abruptly stepping down as State Department spokesman under pressure from White House officials.” Such is the price exacted for speaking the truth.
P.J Crowley’s breaking rank has brought forth criticism of Bradley Manning’s treatment from some rather surprising quarters. The usually compliant New York Times took the Obama administration to task in a strongly-worded editorial yesterday, that opened as follows:
Pfc. Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned for nine months on charges of handing government files to WikiLeaks, has not even been tried let alone convicted. Yet the military has been treating him abusively, in a way that conjures creepy memories of how the Bush administration used to treat terror suspects. Inexplicably, it appears to have President Obama’s support to do so.
Like Mr Crowley, I believe that the treatment of Corporal Bradley Manning, who has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day since last summer and subjected to episodes of forced public nudity and other deliberate crass humiliations on suspicion of having leaked documents to WikiLeaks, is ridiculous and counterproductive. And I can say so in this blog. But house style rules would normally prevent me from calling it “stupid”, had not Mr Crowley had the courage or just plain good sense to tell a graduate seminar at MIT that Mr Manning’s treatment was “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” So thanks, Mr Crowley.
Crowley himself puts this all rather more eloquently in his resignation statement.
My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values.
This statement displays a clear understanding on Crowley’s part that the rules of the political game are shifting in quite fundamental ways. It is a shame this seems to elude so many of his former colleagues.