Bradley Manning: American hero
Four reasons why Pfc Bradley Mannning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not a prison cell.
Bradley Manning faces many years in prison and a court martial for exposing the truth about US foreign policy [EPA]
We still don’t know if he did it or not, but if Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old Army private from Oklahoma, actually supplied WikiLeaks with its choicest material – the Iraq War logs, the Afghan War logs, and the State Department cables – which startled and riveted the world, then he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom instead of a jail cell at Fort Leavenworth.
President Obama recently gave one of those medals to retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who managed the two bloody, disastrous wars about which the WikiLeaks-released documents revealed so much. Is he really more deserving than the young private who, after almost ten years of mayhem and catastrophe, gave Americans – and the world – a far fuller sense of what the US government is actually doing abroad?
Bradley Manning, awaiting a court martial in December, faces the prospect of long years in prison. He is charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He has put his sanity and his freedom on the line so that Americans might know what their government has done – and is still doing – globally. He has blown the whistle on criminal violations of US military law. He has exposed the secretive government’s pathological over-classification of important public documents.
Here are four compelling reasons why, if he did what the government accuses him of doing, he deserves that medal, not jail time.
1: At great personal cost, Bradley Manning has given the foreign policy elite the public supervision it so badly needs.
In the past ten years, US statecraft has moved from calamity to catastrophe, laying waste to other nations while never failing to damage our own national interests. Do we even need to be reminded that our self-defeating response to 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan (and Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia) has killed roughly 225,000 civilians and 6,000 US soldiers, while costing our country more than $3.2 trillion? We are hemorrhaging blood and money. Few outside Washington would argue that any of this is making the US safer.
An employee who screwed up this badly would either be fired on the spot or put under heavy supervision. Downsizing our entire foreign policy establishment is not an option. However, the website WikiLeaks has at least tried to make public scrutiny of our self-destructive statesmen and women a reality by exposing their work to ordinary citizens.
Consider our invasion of Iraq, a war based on distortions, government secrecy, and the complaisant failure of our major media to ask the important questions. But what if someone like Bradley Manning had provided the press with the necessary government documents, which would have made so much self-evident in the months before the war began? Might this not have prevented disaster? We’ll never know, of course, but could additional public scrutiny have been salutary under the circumstances?
Thanks to Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures, we do have a sense of what did happen afterwards in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just how the US operates in the world. Thanks to those disclosures, we now know just how Washington leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War and just how it pressured the Germans to prevent them from prosecuting CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man and shipped him off to be tortured abroad.
As our foreign policy threatens to careen into yet more disasters in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, we can only hope that more whistleblowers will follow the alleged example of Bradley Manning and release vital public documents before it’s too late. A foreign policy based on secrets and spin has manifestly failed us.
In a democracy, the workings of our government should not be shrouded in an opaque cloud of secrecy. For bringing us the truth, for breaking the seal on that self-protective policy of secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
2: Knowledge is powerful. The WikiLeaks disclosures have helped spark democratic revolutions and reforms across the Middle East, accomplishing what Operation Iraqi Freedom never could.
Wasn’t it US policy to spread democracy in the Middle East, to extend our freedom to others, as both recent American presidents have insisted?
No single American has done more to help further this goal than Pfc Bradley Manning. The chain reaction of democratic protests and uprisings that has swept Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and even in a modest way Iraq, all began in Tunisia, where leaked US State Department cables about the staggering corruption of the ruling Ben Ali dynasty helped trigger the rebellion.
In all cases, these societies were smouldering with longstanding grievances against oppressive, incompetent governments and economies stifled by cronyism. The revelations from the WikiLeaks State Department documents played a widely acknowledged role in sparking these pro-democracy uprisings.
In Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen, the people’s revolts under way have occurred despite US support for their autocratic rulers. In each of these nations, in fact, we bankrolled the dictators, while helping to arm and train their militaries. The alliance with Mubarak’s autocratic state cost the US more than $60 billion and did nothing for American security – other than inspire terrorist blowback from radicalised Egyptians such as Mohammed Atta and Ayman al Zawahiri.
Even if US policy was firmly on the wrong side of things, we should be proud that at least one American – Bradley Manning – was on the right side. If indeed he gave those documents to WikiLeaks, then he played a catalytic role in bringing about the Arab Spring, something neither Barack Obama nor former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (that recent surprise recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) could claim.
Perhaps once the Egyptians consolidate their democracy, they, too, will award Manning their equivalent of such a medal.
3: Bradley Manning has exposed the pathological over-classification of America’s public documents.
“Secrecy is for losers”, as the late Senator and United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say. If this is indeed the case, it would be hard to find a bigger loser than the US government.
How pathological is the government’s addiction to secrecy?
In June, the National Security Agency declassified documents from 1809, while the Department of Defense only last month declassified the Pentagon Papers, publicly available in book form these past four decades. Our government is only just now finishing its declassification of documents relating to World War I.
This would be ridiculous if it weren’t tragic. Ask the historians. Barton J Bernstein, professor emeritus of history at Stanford University and a founder of its international relations program, describes the government’s classification of foreign-policy documents as “bizarre, arbitrary, and nonsensical”.
George Herring, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky and author of the encyclopedic From Colony to Superpower: A History of US Foreign Policy, has chronicled how his delight at being appointed to a CIA advisory panel on declassification turned to disgust once he realised that he was being used as window dressing by an agency with no intention of opening its records, no matter how important or how old, to public scrutiny.
Any historian worth his salt would warn us that such over-classification is a leading cause of national amnesia and repetitive war disorder. If a society like ours doesn’t know its own history, it becomes the great power equivalent of a itinerant amnesiac, not knowing what it did yesterday or where it will end up tomorrow. Right now, classification is the disease of Washington, secrecy its mania, and dementia its end point. As an ostensibly democratic nation, we, its citizens, risk such ignorance at our national peril.
President Obama came into office promising a “sunshine” policy for his administration while singing the praises of whistleblowers. He has since launched the fiercest campaign against whistleblowers the republic has ever seen, and further plunged our foreign policy into the shadows.
Challenging the classification of each tightly guarded document is, however, impossible. No organisation has the resources to fight this fight, nor would they be likely to win right now. Absent a radical change in our government’s diplomatic and military bureaucracies, massive over-classification will only continue.
If we hope to know what our government is actually doing in our name globally, we need massive leaks from insider whistleblowers to journalists who can then sort out what we need to know, given that the government won’t. This, in fact, has been the modus operandi of WikiLeaks.
Our whistleblower protection laws urgently need to catch up with this state of affairs, and though we are hardly there yet, Bradley Manning helped take us part of the way. He did what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office. For striking a blow against our government’s fanatical insistence on covering its mistakes and errors with blanket secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves not punishment, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
4. At immense personal cost, Bradley Manning has upheld a great American tradition of transparency in statecraft and for that he should be an American hero, not an American felon.
Bradley Manning is only the latest in a long line of whistleblowers in and out of uniform who have risked everything to put our country back on the right path.
Take Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a Pentagon-commissioned secret history of the Vietnam War and the official lies and distortions that the government used to sell it. Many of the documents it included were classed at a much higher security clearance than anything Bradley Manning is accused of releasing – and yet Ellsberg was not convicted of a single crime and became a national hero.
Given the era when all this went down, it’s forgivable to assume that Ellsberg must have been a hippie who somehow sneaked into the Pentagon archives, beads and patchouli trailing behind him. What many no longer realise is that Ellsberg had been a model US Marine. First in his class at officer training school at Quantico, he deferred graduate school at Harvard to remain on active duty in the Marine Corps. Ellsberg saw his high-risk exposure of the disastrous and deceitful nature of the Vietnam War as fully consonant with his long career of patriotic service in and out of uniform.
Transparency in statecraft was not invented last week by WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. It is a longstanding American tradition. James Madison put the matter succinctly: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”
A 1960 Congressional Committee on Government Operations report caught the same spirit: “Secrecy – the first refuge of incompetents – must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society … Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognise that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.”
John F Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” Hugo Black, great Alabaman justice of the twentieth-century Supreme Court had this to say: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”
And the first of World-War-I-era president Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points couldn’t have been more explicit: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”
We need to know what our government’s commitments are, as our foreign policy elites have clearly demonstrated they cannot be left to their own devices. Based on the past decade of carnage and folly, without public debate – and aggressive media investigations – we have every reason to expect more of the same.
If there’s anything to learn from that decade, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money. Thanks to the whistleblowing revelations attributed to Bradley Manning, we at least have a far clearer picture of the problems we face in trying to supervise our own government.
If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations, then, for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.
Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, the American Conservative magazine, CounterPunch.org, and Le Monde Diplomatique. His next book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, will be published by O/R Books this fall. He is covering the Bradley Manning case and trial for TomDispatch.com. To listen to Timothy MacBain‘s latest TomCast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
A version of this article was previously published on TomDispatch.
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Isn’t It An Oxymoron To Call America The Champion Of Human Rights?
Today, America and the other western countries have attacked Libya. Even though the western countries are saying that the purpose of this attack is to protect the civilians, but this is common knowledge that the real purpose of this attack is change of the regime. Whenever America and the western countries want to dethrone any leader, they accuse him of violating human rights.Saddam Hussein was accused of hiding weapons of mass destruction and trying to acquire nuclear material for the purpose of making nuclear weapons. He was also accused of violating human rights of the people. To this day, no weapons of mass destruction have been found. Now we know that the CIA forged the documents which were supposed to be dealing with the acquisition of the nuclear material. He was also accused of killing a large number of the Shias and Kurds. However, if we compare the number of people killed by Saddam to the number of people killed by the American supported rulers, then the fact becomes obvious that they have killed many more people than Saddam. This can be verified from the declassified documents of the CIA itself.In 1953, Mohammad Mossaddegh was the Prime minister of Iran. He was very popular and was a nationalist. He wanted to nationalize the oil. However, the CIA conspired to dethrone him and bring to power the Shah of Iran. For this purpose it recruited the goons and the Mafia. Mossaddegh was imprisoned and the nationalists were wiped out. Until the Islamic revolution of 1979, the Shah of Iran tortured and killed many opponents.
In 1961, Patrice Lumumba, a very popular and nationalist prime minister of Congo in Africa, was killed along with many nationalists in a military coup led by colonel Mobutu and supported by the CIA.
In 1965-1966, General Suharto, supported by the CIA, put the very popular and world-known President Sukarno of Indonesia, under house arrest and withheld the medical treatment which led to his death. Sukarno, along with Nehru, Tito, and Nasser is considered the founding leader of the NAM (Non Aligned Movement). With the help of the CIA, Suharto went on to massacre the communists and the nationalists. It is estimated that he killed more than half a million people and imprisoned and tortured more than one and a half million people.
In 1973, a very popular nationalist and the first democratically elected Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was dethroned by general Augusto Pinochet who was supported by the CIA. Pinochet went on to kill thousands of the nationalists. He was later tried for the human rights violations.
Besides these, there are many other popular and nationalist leaders who were dethroned by the CIA during this time. However, America continues to project itself as the Champion of human rights.
There is another aspect of the human rights violation by America. It has killed many people by bombing the other countries. Many times, these bombs were not thrown for the military victories but were thrown to take revenge and to cause the maximum number of civilian causalities. One of the American pilots who threw the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and also participated in bombing the German soldiers in France and Germany, became a writer and wrote the book The Bomb. He writes that the atom bombs on Japanese cities were used even after Japan had already conceded defeat. Similarly, the German cities were heavily bombarded, even after Germany conceded defeat. In France, he was supposed to bomb the German soldiers. However, from the height he could not make out whether they were German soldiers or French citizens.
Even after the Second World War, America did not change its policy of bombing the population of the other countries. In the Korean War, many South Korean Civilians were hiding under a bridge in No Gun Ri. However, the Americans bombed the bridge, killing hundreds of the South Koreans, even when the pilots knew that they were not North Korean soldiers or even North Korean citizens. In Vietnam, Napalm bombs were used not only to burn the vegetation and the jungles, but burn many people alive. In Iraq, Cluster bombs were used to maximize the civilian causality.
In Afghanistan, even the American puppet President Karzai has repeatedly criticized the Americans and the NATO for deliberately killing many civilians. Similarly, the Pakistan Government has criticized the use of Drones to kill the civilian population.
Another area of massive violation of the human rights by the Americans is the rights of the prisoners. Not only the prisoners, but their dead bodies have not escaped the abuse. Guantanamo Bay became very famous for the prisoner abuse. President Obama at one time called for the investigation of the prisoner abuse there. However, like many other issues, he had a change of heart after becoming the president. There were many alleged cases of abuse, including urinating on the holy Koran and water bloating. Gang rapes of the prisoners are a relatively common occurrence in the American prisons. The prisoners have been used for medical experiments, including inoculating them with cancer cells and various diseases such as Hepatitis.
There are many reported cases of sadistic behavior of the American soldiers in dealing with the prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, there was a case in Afghanistan where the American soldiers lifted the dead prisoners from their hair and had their pictures taken while smiling. This particular incident has increased the hate of the Afghan people for the Americans and these soldiers are being court martialed. There was a case of the prisoner abuse in Iraq which became very famous. The American soldiers took their pictures with the prisoners while abusing, insulting, and humiliating them. Even the female soldiers took their pictures with the prisoners in an extremely humiliating manner. Somebody made these pictures public, which led to the court martial of these soldiers. This reminds us of an exhibition of a collection of the photographs of the lynching victims in many American cities. The white people took these photographs as the souvenirs with the black victims of the lynching.
All of these incidences of human rights violation have been reported in the era of western domination and the American era. One can imagine what is going to happen when the era of western domination and the American era is over. The history of the last two centuries of the Western domination will be rewritten and the cruelty, barbarity, hypocrisy, and the double standards of the American and the other Western countries will be completely exposed.
Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at email@example.com or 509-962-3652.
So this is what we’ve come to now… corporate interests blatantly trump common human decency. We are living in a Police State… and the only right we have is “The Right To Remain Silent”! Well fuck that… REVOLUTION NOW! Free America! Free wikiLeaks! Free Assange! Free Bradley Manning! Free The Middle East! Free the whole fucking world from your tirrany! People Rise Up!
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Alex Jones, David Icke, Aaron Russo, Jordan Maxwell, G. Edward Griffin, Jim Marrs, Bill Hicks, Daniel Estulin, Jim Tucker, Ted Gunderson, Anthony Hilder, Professor Steven Jones, Webster Tarpley, John Taylor Gatto, Charlotte Iserbyt, Dave vonKleist, Stan Monteith and others…
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