We’ve been a bit remiss in covering this story, but recent revelations about the treatment of PFC Bradley Manning (for details, see Glenn Greenwald) make clear that the military — and thus the Obama administration — is subjecting Manning to a regimen that constitutes torture. Manning’s treatment appears to be designed solely to inflict mental suffering and break his will (most likely, as Greenwald suggests, with the goal of getting him to implicate Julian Assange and Wikileaks).
Like many, I’ve been disappointed with Obama’s civil liberties record, but in some cases — such as the failure to close Guantanamo and to prosecute Bush administration officials responsible for torture — his administration’s failings might reasonably be blamed on political forces beyond his control (such as the willingness of other politicians to demagogue the Guantanamo issue). This is not such a case. No one is forcing the Obama administration to torture Manning in this way, and there is no apparent reason why his administration — having made such a concerted decision to inflict suffering on Manning — should be treated any differently from the Bush administration when it made similar decisions.