News article clip:
President Obama defended the Pentagon at a news conference Friday, when ABC television reporter Jake Tapper pressed him about Crowley’s comments. Obama said he had been assured that Manning’s treatment was “appropriate and was meeting our standards.”
President Obama’s behavior is a crystal clear example of what we have witnessed across time of his thinking. He is by no means the only US citizen who lacks a sharply critical mind when the preference is to “rely on authority”. Our culture is rife with this behavior.
I don’t want to insist authoritative explanation, on any particular question or issue, must always be challenged or questioned. But when there is strong ‘undercurrent’ voice that an authoritative action is wrong, even cruel as in Bradley Manning’s prison treatment, the undercurrent should put all of us, including the President, on alert. Undercurrent opinion very often has a strong dose of honest, critical, and valid evaluation.
I am certain undercurrent dismay and sharp criticism of Manning’s treatment has reached the White House. I’m sure President Obama has received letters, phone calls and petitions, challenging treatment of Bradley Manning.
? These are dismissed because the Pentagon says “Trust us, it’s OK.” (The Pentagon has never demonstrated questionable or brutal policy in its history — right?)
? “Appropriate and meeting our standards”, that’s what Pentagon officials told President Obama. And he, trusting man that he is, believed them. (“Good to hear it’s OK, thanks for the reassurance”).
Has President Obama read details of Manning’s prison treatment? If not, it’s time he did.
Has President Obama held details of Manning’s treatment against his own (presumed) principles of justice and compassion? Did he have a critical report of Manning’s treatment on hand when he spoke to the Pentagon? Did he ask the spokesperson, point by point, to justify Manning’s treatment?
Did he specifically ask: “How, tell me, is it appropriate?”, and did he ask: “What, tell me, are your standards?” Did he say: “Spell it all out – justify it so I can understand.”?
What motivates the President at his ‘personality core’? I’ve not dipped into Obama-bashing, and don’t plan to start. Whatever else we say of his presidency, he certainly has a complicated set of deep concerns to steer us through.
But we asked him to steer the ship because of the higher-minded principles he promised were at his core. And I, like countless others, have come to dis-believe his capacity, will, and determination to use these principles to guide his office behavior.
The following do not originate in higher minded principles, yet appear to be true: He believes citizens crave great wealth and recognition, so are best suited to carrot-stick ‘management‘ to “be more competitive”. He believes the sole best sources of economic analysis and wisdom are corporate heads and top-liners who do crave great wealth, recognition, and power. He ‘stood by’ while single-payer was denied legitimacy in health care reform debate, and gave no significant assistance to a public option plan. In both instances he contributed to on-going public ignorance and fear of non-profit health delivery systems. Appropriate and just American dis-entanglement from Guantanamo, directly relevant to Manning’s imprisonment, is far from resolved, although closing Guantanamo was also a major Obama campaign persuasion.
It sometimes looks as if ‘at his personality core’ President Obama does not know how to challenge when appropriate, or believes so strongly in power that he trusts its incorruptibility. He appears to believe in the ‘merit’, if not also the ‘honor’, of power.
President Obama appears to believe he can pass his personalized reassurance of Manning’s treatment onto us citizens. We can now relax about issues of injustice for Bradley Manning. He (Obama) trusts the Pentagon, and we, in turn, should trust him.
Critical thinking means recognizing the truth about human behavior caught in the wisdom: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The more powerful an institution, the stronger should be the call for it to justify its policies.
The need to hold power to higher principled accountability is true of economic institutions, and in this case of Manning’s abusive treatment, most certainly true of the Pentagon.
This is not a ‘closed discussion’ for me. What do I want from President Obama? I want him to phone the Pentagon spokesperson back and schedule a meeting. I want President Obama to say he needs hard and detailed justification.
And I want Private Bradley Manning’s prison conditions to radically change for the better. I want him treated humanely, with respect and compassion. And as quickly as can be arranged, I want him released.
(I’m not overly impressed with Crowley’s words to explain his resignation. Crowley as quoted does not cite injustice, and he should. Maybe he has, elsewhere. But I do appreciate Crowley’s criticism!)
Justice-watch must never sleep, not even in some imagined ‘perfect’ society. Humans haven’t yet learned to manage their own corruptibility. We have inborn lesser and more noble impulses.
It’s up to us to “tame the wild ox“. Authority and leadership must be questioned. In the case of abusive imprisonment, President Obama is the one to deliver the challenge – to the Pentagon.
Once tamed, the ‘ox’ continues to need ‘discipline’!. So long as we live in a material universe, (the only ‘location’ we can identify for physical life), there will not come a day when we can correctly say “justice is in place, job done.” Questions and challenges are essential! –MaggieAnn