In an earlier Focal Points post on depriving Pfc. Bradley Manning of his clothing for three days, we quoted the New York Times:
First Lt. Brian Villiard, a Marine spokesman, said. . . . that the step was “not punitive” and that it was in accordance with brig rules, but he said that he was not allowed to say more. . . . “It would be inappropriate for me to explain it. . . . I can confirm that it did happen, but I can’t explain it to you without violating the detainee’s privacy.”
Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, subsequently learned the rationale, which he posted it at his website Army Court Martial Defense.
On Wednesday March 2, 2011, PFC Manning was told that his Article 138 complaint requesting that he be removed from Maximum custody and Prevention of Injury (POI) Watch had been denied by the Quantico commander, Colonel Daniel J. Choike. Understandably frustrated by this decision after enduring over seven months of unduly harsh confinement conditions, PFC Manning inquired of the Brig operations officer what he needed to do in order to be downgraded from Maximum custody and POI. . . . In response to PFC Manning’s question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm. PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were “absurd” and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.
Hey, maybe Col. Choike is right: look at the self-abuse Manning has already inflicted on himself with his humor and sense of irony. Still, Choife is whiffing on a learning moment. He should interrogate Manning to learn how he would turn the elastic in his underwear or flip-flops into a his garrote. It could be incorporated into SERE training* to help our troops escape if they’re captured by the enemy.
As for the rest of us, Pfc. Manning has much to teach us in the way of courage.
*SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) military training in, among other things, evading and/or surviving capture.