2011-03-20 Manning set to become an issue during Obama's Ireland visit

Obama Torture Poster Bradley Manning's inhumane treatment during his pretrial incarceration looks set to become a millstone around Obama's neck in his dealings with other countries.

Today, International Bradley Manning Support Day, marks also the announcement of a campaign to have the United States president arrested once he arrives on Irish soil, during a planned visit to the Western European democracy in May. The #ArrestObama #May22 campaign holds that Ireland has an obligation under international law to pursue and prosecute all those within its jurisdiction who carry out or authorize torture, or who permit torture to be carried out, or who obstruct bringing those who do so to justice.

The campaign makes the claim that Obama's failure to prosecute high-ranking Bush administration officials - as well as the cruel and inhumane treatment to which U.S. military whistleblower Bradley Manning is being subjected in the Marine brig in Quantico - constitutes ownership of responsibility for torture.

The campaign comes at an inconvenient moment for the new Fine Gael/Labour coalition government, elected mid-last-month in a landslide ousting of the previously dominant Fianna Fail party. The new government will be seeking to establish strong diplomatic ties with the United States, in the hopes that this will reap benefits in the face of Ireland's withering economic situation. In November, the last Irish government revealed that it had negotiated a deal with the International Monetary Fund, in response to the deepening crisis in the banking sector. Any matter that jeopardizes the precarious bargaining position of the tiny European state will likely frustrate the fledgling government.

This is not the first incident during which the United States torture policies have come into contact with Irish affairs. Irish governments are traditionally very friendly to Washington interests, as is revealed in the release of State Department cables in December and early January. State Department cable 07DUBLIN916 reveals that the Irish government knowingly colluded with the United States government, against the will of the Irish people, to enable secret rendition flights through an Irish airport to torture sites and detainee camps like Guantanamo Bay. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern discussed with the ambassador ways in which NGO and public opposition to the use of the Shannon airport by the U.S. military could be defused, and requested of the U.S. diplomat that symbolic searches of planes could be carried out, in order to provide the Irish government political cover if it ever came out that rendition flights were occurring. WL Central covered this cable, among others, here.

The campaign to arrest Obama represents a transference of the torture-association from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Attempts to prosecute high ranking Bush administration officials were carried out in Canada and in France, and only this February, George W. Bush was forced to cancel a visit to Switzerland in avoidance of another prosecution attempt. As Glenn Greenwald noted PJ Crowley's forced resignation after criticizing the Department of Defense's treatment of Manning, last week, has forced the world to acknowledge that Manning's treatment is not the disconnected effort of stray personnel, but the actual Obama policy. It is becoming clear that the treatment of Bradley Manning under the Obama administration is beginning to erode the international goodwill felt towards Obama, who presented himself during his 2008 election campaign as the antidote to George W. Bush's poison. For a president who campaigned on transparency and whistlebower protection, the irregular treatment of Manning looks likely to become an international liability with the publics, if not the governments, of U.S.-friendly states.

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