Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Real Crime of Bradley Manning

I suppose it could have been worse. He could have got sixty years, he got thirty-five.

Thirty-five years for telling the truth, blowing the whistle on war crimes. 

Among the 700,000 classified documents Mr Manning downloaded while stationed in Iraq was a video that showed a US Apache helicopter in Baghdad opening fire on a group of Iraqis, including two Reuters journalists and their children, who had attempted to rescue a severely injured man. More devastating than the film was the cockpit chatter of the soldiers who joked as they shot people in the streets. "Look at those dead bastards," said one. "Nice," said another.

And embarrassing the powerful. Thirty five years to send a warning to others:

It is unclear what the US military hopes to achieve by securing a sentence that dwarfs those of other military convictions. Deterrence features large in its thinking. Whistleblowing will not only endanger your career, it wants to say, but your freedom – for most of your adult life.

A lifetime in jail for a young and troubled LGBT kid who was operating in a hostile environment, was in way over his head, but really believed this.

It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

Which in my book makes him a decent soldier, a good human being, a hero, not a traitor.

But then Bradley Manning's real "crime" in the eyes of those who tortured him, and prosecuted him so viciously, was not just exposing the criminality of an insane war. Or revealing the secret life of a superpower.

It was inadvertently exposing an even bigger secret...

One he couldn't have seen as he downloaded all those files while listening to Lady Gaga. The one they REALLY didn't want us to know. That what the U.S. was doing in Iraq it was planning to do to all of us.

At one point, more than 100 NSA teams had been scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might be useful to military planners. The agency's director, General Keith Alexander, changed that: he devised a strategy called Real Time Regional Gateway to grab every Iraqi text, phone call, email, and social media interaction. "Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, 'Let's collect the whole haystack,'" said one former senior US intelligence official. "Collect it all, tag it, store it, and whatever it is you want, you go searching for it." Sound familiar, Mr. Snowden?

And here we are now eh? Living in a world where thanks to Manning and Snowden and Wikileaks we now know that all our communications are being monitored and tracked, and no doubt colour coded for easy access... 

A world where we are told we have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Western governments are waging war on whistleblowers and journalists. 

In the building's basement, Rusbridger wrote, government officials watched as computers which contained material provided by Snowden were physically pulverized. "We can call off the black helicopters," Rusbridger says one of the officials joked.

By whatever means necessary.

And the only way to protect information is to destroy it... 

Welcome to the surveillance state.

Oh boy. Poor Bradley Manning, the small, gentle soldier who thought the truth would set America free. But didn't really understand what was in that Pandora's Box.

Or even know his own country...

And now must be punished as an example to others.

While we live in Harperland, the Kingdom of the Big Lie, where the truth is what Stephen Harper says it is, and so many still believe it won't or isn't happening here.

Yup. Here's to those who shine lights in dark places. And still believe the truth will set us free. Here's to the hopeless idealists of this increasingly sinister world.

Here's to Bradley Manning.

My American hero...

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  1. Anonymous3:36 AM

    Cheers to all the courageous idealists.

    1. hi anonymous...I'll second that, we really can't get enough of them. I know it's fashionable to be cynical, but it's ultimately such a dead end...

  2. Glenn Greenwald continues to rail against a terrible tactic the powerful continue to use to attack the honest, the labeling of dissidents as naive, weird, troubled, or crazy.
    I seriously don't think Bradley Manning was in any way troubled, and it's a major disservice to him and what he has sacrificed to continue this narrative against him.
    The only way Manning was troubled was by his conscience, and he acted upon it. He knew the risks of speaking out. He was never naive about his actions. He was merely unfortunate in whom he confided. Had he kept his secret closer to his chest, then he'd remain a free man.

    1. hi Troy...Manning came from a troubled home, and he had gender identity issues, but I don't see that as something shameful, and what counts is he did let his conscience guide him, and he did do the right thing...

  3. Anonymous9:51 AM

    Manning really should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor for conspicuous bravery in the face of a monstrous enemy.
    He is eligible for parole in 7 years from now. Let's hope he survives Leavenworth and comes out in one piece psychologically as well. He's headed for hell, Simon.
    God Bless and help Manning.

    1. hi anonymous... I didn't mention the hopeful fact that he could be eligible for parole in seven years, because my confidence in U.S. military justice is just about zero. But maybe Obama can pardon Manning before he leaves office. He is heading back to hell. But I was impressed by the way he handled himself during the sentence, and I think he'll survive...

  4. I'm so worried about Bradley Chelsea Manning, who has also had the guts to reveal that he is a she, at least in terms of self-definition.

    We'll have to start pondering how we will be referring to her/him. Under other circmstances I'd just call her Chelsea, as I believe transgender people have the right to define themselves, even without any sex re-assignment surgery or necessarily "cross-dressing" (which means less in uniform anyway, or in prison garb). But at the same time, s/he is known the world over as Bradley and it is imperative above all to seek her/his freedom and a full pardon.

    I'm just terrified of what a military prison will mean for a small, fragile, "nerdy" person who is also of a very minority sexual orientation.

    1. hi lagatta...yes I just saw that, and it does complicate things a bit. We're going to have to change all our posters. But that's a small thing, and Manning is still the same human being. Whatever letter in the LGBT alphabet he defines himself as is good enough for me. Do I prefer Brad;ley as a name? Yes. But Chelsea will do fine. ;)
      As for serving his sentence in a military prison, as bad as they are they are probably safer than your average civilian prison in the U.S. And Manning is a high-profile prisoner, so I'm sure they will take the necessary precautions.
      But yeah, let's keep pushing for early parole or a pardon...

  5. The sentence? Expected..The reaction of the US population? Depressing as one cares...
    I grew up in the States, and you are inculcated from Day One to believe that it's the greatest country with the greatest democracy etc etc blah blah blah...and so the people who should be really, really angry about this are too busy trying to find still another McJob to support their increasingly broken families. Once the American public is good and broken, the corporate types will gladly leave Asia high and dry to move their sweatshops back to the States, where the people will be so grateful for their jobs that they'll work for any piddling amount, unions will be some archaic memory, and the armed forces will look like a great career..after all, if you can blast away the oppositrion you can control all the resources, just look at the British Empire...oh, wait...
    Bradley Manning was caught in the crossfire..there is a bought and paid for push to relegate the majority of the citizens of the US to either serfs or soldiers, interchangeable puppets who will obey out of blind ignorance or fear...not just a recession is going on, but a permanent, terminal regression - back to the bad old days of the Industrial Revolution..and with all the dumbing down going on in the States, it won't take them long to complete this 'mission'...what are a few civilians worth, and journalists? Like Manning, they are the enemy...

    1. hi mizdarlin...yes you're right about Manning being caught in the crossfire. Caught in the larger battle to keep people living in ignorance and fear, while the sharks of this world reduce us to slaves to make themselves even richer.
      They know if they hope to get away with it that they must exert total control, and that's what they are trying to do all over the place. My answer to that? The harder they push, the harder we must push back...

  6. Anonymous8:46 PM

    There's no such thing as a martyr without sacrifice. He's lucky they no longer hang you for treason. As always Capt Krunch. (not really a Captain and nor was the real Krunch.....that bastard)