Oath Keepers Speaks Out Against Bradley Manning's Treatment

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 9 2011 10:34 AM

Oath Keepers Speaks Out Against Bradley Manning's Treatment

Last week, at the Tea Party jamboree in Greenville, SC, I talked briefly to Stewart Rhodes , the founder and director of Oath Keepers. He was milling around and talking to activists before his scheduled speech, so I asked whether he and Oath Keepers opposed the treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning. Oath Keepers was labelled "extremist" basically the second its web site went live, but on this issue, Rhodes is firmly allied with the left.

"He hasn't been convicted of anything!" Rhodes said of Manning. "Look, you shouldn't be punished until you're convicted. It's ridiculous to put him in isolation. And what's happening is happening in violation of the 8th Amendment -- it's cruel and unusual punishment. This shouldn't happen to any American. It shouldn't have happened to Jose Padilla. He should have gotten a trial before he was punished, and he didn't."

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Rhodes shook his head. "I think it's abhorrent, but this is the problem with Americans in general -- they don't understand due process. In their minds, if you're guilty, you deserved it. They don't stop and think, "'One day, there but for the grace of God go I.'"

He illustrated this point by bringing up the case of Terry Lakin, the "birther colonel" court-martialed after refusing to serve under Obama.

"What if Terry Lakin had been treated exactly the same way? The guy who said I don't think the president is an American citizen, and under conscience, I can't deploy -- what if he'd been treated just the same as Manning? Would the people who cheer the treatment of Manning have cheered that? Of course not! They're judging the cause and whether the person is good or not, not judging due process. If this happened to Lakin, there'd be all this screaming from them about due process. They'd be right! But the same goes for Manning. It's just a sad cycle of how human nature works."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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