The Marines put a lot of stock in their reputation and image. Words like “honor” play a large part in Marine culture, as does the Marine motto “Semper Fi.” The Marines’ recruiting website puts it like this:
Marines are held to the highest standards, ethically and morally. Respect for others is essential. Marines are expected to act responsibly in a manner befitting the title they’ve earned.
That may be the expectation, but the reality — at least insofar as the Marines are responsible for the conditions of Bradley Manning’s detention — is something else.
The conduct of Quantico Brig commander CWO Denise Barnes in particular is not doing much to enhance the image of the Corps, but she’s hardly alone in that. Marines above and below her in the chain of command are at least as responsible for the abuse of the reputation of the Corps as she is.
What kind of Marine treats prisoners with disrespect, and plays petty, degrading, and humiliating games with them?
What kind of Marine overrules expert medical opinion for the care of those under his/her control and command?
What kind of Marine lies about his or her actions and stands in the way of legitimate legal processes?
What kind of Marine detains civilian visitors to the brig for no reason other than to prevent the prisoner from having visits by attempting to intimidate those who try?
What kind of Marine subjects prisoners in custody to conditions that the International Committee of the Red Cross would call a violation of the Geneva Conventions?
What kind of Marine? The kind found up and down the chain of command at the Quantico brig, apparently. If it is a military crime to “bring discredit upon the armed forces,” as Manning is charged with doing, then there are more than a few leathernecks who ought to be facing a military tribunal of their own.
Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News summed up the situation like this in January, and things have only gotten worse since then:
Regardless of whatever crime Private Manning may or may not have committed, he’s innocent until proven guilty. Both Mr. House and Private Manning have constitutional rights. These KGB-like government tactics are not only obscenely un-American, they are wholly unconstitutional and unlawful.
Barnes is not only not showing respect, but bringing the Corps into disrespect by her punitive approach to a prisoner in her brig awaiting trial. By not putting a stop to this conduct, Barnes’ superiors are joining her in bringing disrespect upon the Corps.
What kind of Marine sits by in silence as the reputation of the Corps is trashed?
They are The Few. The Proud. The KGB-Like.
It wasn’t always like this, you know. I have a feeling that PFC Guy Gabaldon, USMC (Reserve), would not be impressed (emphasis added):
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Guy L. Gabaldon (517054), Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty while serving with Headquarters and Service Company, Second Marines, SECOND Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan and Tinian, Marianas Islands, South Pacific Area, from 15 June to 1 August 1944. Acting as a Japanese Interpreter for the Second Marines, Private First Class Gabaldon displayed extreme courage and initiative in single-handedly capturing enemy civilian and military personnel during the Saipan and Tinian operations. Working alone in front of the lines, he daringly entered enemy caves, pillboxes, buildings, and jungle brush, frequently in the face of hostile fire, and succeeded in not only obtaining vital military information, but in capturing well over one thousand enemy civilians and troops. Through his valiant and distinguished exploits, Private First Class Gabaldon made an important contribution to the successful prosecution of the campaign and, through his efforts, a definite humane treatment of civilian prisoners was assured. His courageous and inspiring devotion to duty throughout reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.
Approved by the Secretary of the Navy on November 23, 1960
Aren’t there any Marines like PFC Gabaldon around today?