In a recent public presentation regarding the abusive and criminal treatment of Bradley Manning while detained inside the Quantico brig, defense atttorney David Coombs said:
Though we have a thick file on Mr. Manning’s detention as an example of domestic “no touch” torture, well described in Coombs’ Motion to Dismiss, we had not previously been aware of a truly disgusting email referencing the nightly removal of Mr. Manning’s underwear. It seems that Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Greer, chief legal officer at Quantico during the time of Mr. Manning’s detention, tapped out a clever little poem to Colonel Robert Oltman, who was the officer in charge of the brig’s security:
Colonel Oltman then responded with an equally clever email: Sam I Am.
Such official mockery of an individual already suffering extremely degrading and injurious conditions reflects a level of depraved indifference that one typically finds in societies experiencing terminal decline. Though written way back in 1971, the analysis provided by George Steiner’s In Bluebeard’s Castle resonates quite vividly with the present, as we strive to keep “vital in ourselves” the appalling scandal of Manning’s treatment both in Kuwait and at Quantico:
The utter absence of compassion, the inability to identify with the suffering of another human being, offers one of the key foundation stones for the “extinct theology” of our hell above ground. In their mocking emails, officers Greer and Oltman express the sort of degraded inner being that leads to the gradual normalization of torture and incarceration throughout society.
While the beautiful ideals expressed in our Constitution set a very high standard for the conduct of a republic, the creation of a living hell is just so much easier. To echo Steiner: no skill holds greater menace.