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Your government tortures people

Remember Bradley Manning? The soldier who made Julian Assange a household name? Do you know how he's been spending the last nine months in the brig? Glenn Greenwald brings us up to speed:

Let's review Manning's detention over the last nine straight months:  23-hour/day solitary confinement; barred even from exercising in his cell; one hour total outside his cell per day where he's allowed to walk around in circles in a room alone while shackled, and is returned to his cell the minute he stops walking; forced to respond to guards' inquiries literally every 5 minutes, all day, everyday; and awakened at night each time he is curled up in the corner of his bed or otherwise outside the guards' full view.

Now Manning's jailers are forcing him to sleep nude and stand at attention nude with his cellmates. The rationale is allegedly suicide prevention, but his attorney retorts, "“If a person is at risk of self-harm, then you get them treatment, you get them to a mental health professional and address the issue — you don’t strip them... There is no excuse, no justification to having a soldier stand at attention naked. There can be no mental health reason for that.”

How odd--keeping a man alive by destroying his will to live.

I tried to cut the Obama administration some slack when they missed their deadline to close Gitmo. I figured their predecessors had so poisoned the well that the Obama people were faced with a Hobson's choice. But as time dragged by, it began to look as though we Americans now have a choice between politicians who torture and politicians who cover up for the torturers.

It's even worse. The Manning affair is solely the Obama administration's. And in this case they seem just as prepared to abandon the law and international standards of justice as the Bush administration. Forced nudity and sleep deprivation were Abu Ghraib techniques, remember?

This is what we've become since 9/11. I say "We" because I think that torturing terrorists or traitors enjoys broad public support these days. President Obama knows that there will be no price to be paid at the polls for this.

At Kevin Drum's blog, some are taunting others about primarying Obama over this, and there's some who'd like to take the bait. Not me. I don't like lost causes.

But anyone who's even slightly disturbed by this ought to be emailing the President and anyone else in government who will listen, and donating to good attorneys who will fight the good fight for basic decency.

Most importantly, there is prayer. This is a spiritual crisis. It's rooted in the fact that we allowed our justifiable anger over 9/11 to curdle into blood lust. In fact we nursed it. It's rooted in a media culture that eroticizes the slow, methodical destruction of the human body and spirit. Worst of all, it's rooted in our houses of worship. Church-goers are more likely to chuckle at Bradley Manning standing at attention naked than non-church-goers are. This week Christians will walk around with charcoal crosses emblazoned on their foreheads. Do they know that the cross is an instrument of torture? Do they know that they worship a tortured God? Do they get the irony when they turn a blind eye to what the government is doing in their name?

At this point I think that only the Muslims can save us. If the revolutions in the Middle East are followed up with free and fair elections, and the tender shoots of a civil society emerge, that may well drain the Arab street of the hopelessness that terrorism feeds on.

We, on the other hand, seem incapable of changing direction.

Originally posted at Avdat.

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Your God Loves People

Interesting post from someone who turns his back not only on the politician he once supported, but on God. "Only the Muslims can save us?" Is that supposed to be an exhortation of Christian faith, hope, or love? I find none of them. Manning should not be mistreated, nor should any other person. I don't believe there is a valid connection between the treatment that Manning is suffering and the conclusions that you have drawn.

A couple thoughts. First, there should be no surprise that Barack Obama advances his own interests by saying one thing and then doing something else. It is the only political tradition that can be consistently demonstrated in his relatively short but overwhelmingly meteoric ride to top of the most visible government on the planet. That meteor of a career will become meteorite soon enough, burning up, crashing, and leaving only a mess to record its passage, just like the presidential careers of others before.

Second, disillusionment with an American president is hardly a basis to turn your back on Christianity, nor is your shallow attempt to impugn the faithful who observe imposition of ashes. "Free and fair elections" that are run by people are just that, and nothing more. They are not the soil from which your poetic "tender shoots of a civil society emerge." Case in point: the world seems to believe that "free and fair elections" take place in Iran. Yet Iran continues to boast that it will "wipe Israel from the map." Are those the "tender shoots" to which you refer? Is that the "civil society" that you are looking for? I don't think so.

For Christians to answer our calling to be a shining city on a hill we have to do more than complain and condemn. We actually need to shine, which is something we can do only by reflecting the love of God. If we tear down the city, it cannot reflect. The cross was used to torture and kill, but it was also used to lift high the Son of Man. It was the place where mankind demonstrated its most visceral attack on God, and where God demonstrated once again that love conquers all.

I will look to Christ to save me and to save the world, and I will continue to lift high the cross on Ash Wednesday and throughout the year. Muslims deny that the crucifixion even occurred. I am not looking to them to carry the Gospel to the people, much less bring civilization to the world (even if they use "free and fair elections" in the process). My prayer is that all may see and know the truth of Christ, crucified, buried, and risen. This is a Christian century. Let's share a Christian message, or at least a Christian word.

Christian nation or Kingdom of god?

The USA is an empire like any other, with its good and bad points. It is not--and was never meant to be--the City on a Hill. That is another Kingdom entirely. It is up to the citizens of that Kingdom, whether they live under the rule of Rome or France or the Ottoman Empire or the Third Reich or the USA or the EU, to work for justice and to call attention to injustice.

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