The commander-in-chief of the armed forces could be removed from office and prosecuted for the torture of his subordinate Private Bradley Manning. Manning’s testimony at a pretrial hearing yesterday disclosed circumstantial evidence of a conspiracy to subject him to inhuman conditions of imprisonment over the course of many months, including close confinement, sleep interruption, extended exposure to cold, solitary confinement, threats, forced nudity, constant surveillance, and other conditions amounting to torture. Manning is accused of snatching the video of a US Army helicopter crew slaughtering a group of people on a Baghdad street and making it public, along with thousands of other documents his job gave him access to.
All indications are that he was singled out for abuse and that his maltreatment was systematically inflicted as punishment, as well as to force him to testify against others. His case is unprecedented, and there is little question that his maltreatment could not have continued except on orders from the highest level. That would be Barack Obama, commander-in-chief of the armed forces throughout Manning’s captivity.
The conditions Manning described are not simply instances of prosecutorial misconduct or harsh military discipline but serious crimes. A judge hearing such charges is obliged by her oath to initiate an inquiry and ensure that the people responsible are brought to justice. Same with the Army lawyers prosecuting the case against Manning. The judge and prosecutors could be subject to disciplinary measures if they fail to act on Manning’s testimony. The wheels of justice must grind in this case, and the law doesn’t care what offices the culpable people might hold.