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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