Whistleblower Bradley Manning was beaten down, day and night. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. He was locked in solitary, denied access to a support group, separated from his supporters (the many thousands of us), and worked over by psychologists whose mission was to break him. And it appears to me, based on what I can make of the scanty reports of his incarceration and trial, that in the end he did break, as his tormentors are now triumphantly proclaiming to the world. He apologized for his supposed “crimes,” despite having done nothing wrong. He apologized, despite having done what was right.
Probably most of us have seen persons fall apart in situations far less trying. The amazing thing is not that Bradley Manning finally broke, but that he held up as long as he did — apparently for something like three years. He does seem to have been a very strong person. But there does seem to be a point at which even the strongest person will break. Is there really anyone out there who really thinks they could’ve done better? Held out longer? Held out perhaps forever? Consider his top persecutor — Persecutor-in-Chief Barack Obama, a hollow man who never stood up for any worthwhile position that he didn’t soon back down from.
I’m old enough to remember when we used to hear about the awful things that went on in Stalin’s Russia, the ultimate example of the “bad country” where political prisoners were subjected to months of abuse, broken down, then put on show-trials where they’d confess to crimes against the state. There was a lot about it on the radio, and I grew up listening to it. At the age of ten I knew all about Pavlov’s dogs, and how cruel and brutal the Russians were. “They could break anybody,” I remember the radio saying. Nightmarish stuff I can never forget. But now, here we are, America in 2013. Welcome to land of the kangaroo court and the show trial.