Ellsberg: Wikileaks Logs Show Clear US War Crimes in Iraq—Manning Was Reportedly Motivated By Conscience

by Ellsberg.Net on March 18, 2011

Edited transcript of today’s Democracy Now interview with Daniel Ellsberg

ELLSBERG: The conditions under which Manning is being held clearly violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment—even for someone being punished, having been convicted. Here we have someone who has not yet been tried, not yet convicted, being held in isolation, solitary confinement, for something over 9 months. This is something that is likely to drive a person mad, and may be the intent of what’s going on here.

The Wikileaks revelations that Manning is charged with having revealed, having to do with Iraq, show that in fact the US military in which Manning was a part, turns over suspect to the Iraqis with the knowledge that they will be and are being tortured. Turning these suspects over, with that knowledge, is a clear violation of our own laws and of international law. It makes us as much culpable for the torture as if we were doing it ourselves.

Moreover, the Wikileaks logs show, the order is given: “Do not investigate further.” That’s an illegal order, which our president could change and should change and must change with one call.

Reportedly, Manning was very strongly motivated, at one point, to try to change this situation, because he was involved in it actively, and knew that it was wrong. He found that it was not being investigated within the government and was not being dealt with at all.

That’s a big difference between the Pentagon Papers and the WIkileaks logs. The former were higher level things which didn’t reveal field-level war crimes. The Wikileaks actually do.

Well, P.J. Crowley described the conditions under which Manning is held as “ridiculous, counterproductive, and stupid.” That seems an accurate description as far as it goes. The words “abusive” and “illegal” would go beyond that, and are equally appropriate.

I was very dismayed that the president, faced with accustations at such a high level from his assistant secretary for public affairs, rather than investigating and discovering—as he easily could have—that the descriptions by Crowley’s counterpart at the defense department, have been totally false, and that Obama has been totally misinformed.

The president’s reaction was very dismaying. He was satisfied with having asked the Defense Department, whether the conditions were “appropriate” and met “basic standards.” He was assured that they did.

That was very like president Nixon asking the White House Plumbers, or asking his counsel John Ehrlichman, who was in charge of them–“Was it appropriate, and did it meet our standards, for you to be burglarizing Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist? Did that meet our basic standards?”

And when told by Howard Hunt, or G. Gordon Liddy, “Yes, no problem,” that’s the end of that matter.

It’s so absurd, it really raises the question very much about president Obama’s understanding of the law, or his willingness to abide by it, in this case. And not for the first time.