Politics / War / Whistleblowers

Setting an Example: The Prosecution and Persecution of Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning’s trial finally got its start on Monday, June 3rd (after a mere four years of pre-trial detention). Transcripts from the first day of trial have been released and they are nothing if not a shameful and despicable look at our government’s calculated plan to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers in all areas of government and military.

It is almost difficult to read, even from the opening statement of the prosecution.

“The evidence will show that those are the words of PFC Bradley Manning, Your Honor. This is not a case about an accidental spill of classified information. This is not a case about a few documents left in a barracks with you. This is not a case about a government official who made discrete targeted disclosures of classified information based on content (INAUDIBLE) careful. This, Your Honor, this is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of documents from classified databases and then literally dumped that information on to the Internet and into the hands of the enemy. Material he knew, based on his training and experience, could put the lives and welfare of his fellow soldiers at risk.”

The prosecution continued, “The evidence will show that PFC Manning used his military training to gain the notoriety he craved. In short, the evidence will show that PFC Manning knew the consequences of his actions and disregarded that knowledge in his own self interest.”

The desire to strip Manning of careful intent has been a tactic of the government that is prosecuting him and the mainstream media who parrot their propaganda from the start. Manning did not make “discrete targeted disclosures of classified information”, they claim, instead he “systematically harvested” thousands of documents and “literally dumped” the documents “into the hands of the enemy.” They want us to see him not as a careful, logical man who desired to expose war crimes and criminals. Instead, they tell us, he lashed out because he was a mad homosexual in the military. Instead of portraying Manning as a man with a strong morality, as someone who risked his own safety to expose wrongdoing, they portray him as a frustrated gay man who was bullied and thus illegally released a flood of information without consideration. As Julian Assange of Wikileaks said in an interview with Chris Hedges,

“The old media attempted to remove his alleged heroic qualities…An act of heroism requires that you make a conscious act. It is not an unreasoned expression of madness or sexual frustration. It requires making a choice—a choice that others can follow. If you do something solely because you are a mad homosexual there is no choice. No one can choose to be a mad homosexual. So they stripped him, or attempted to strip him, of all his refinements.”

Now the prosecution has taken that a step further: not only was he a frustrated homosexual with pent-up anger, but he was an arrogant young man looking for notoriety.

Most chilling is the argument made by the prosecution that Manning knowingly and willingly released classified information into the hands of the enemy. The absurdity is two-fold. First that Manning released information into the hands of terrorist groups, noting documents found in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Second that Manning released the information to Wikileaks, which the prosecution describes quite clearly as “the enemy.”

“Finally, Your Honor, the evidence will show that the accused knowingly gave intelligence to the enemy. As discussed earlier, Your Honor, the evidence will show that PFC Manning searched for WikiLeaks more than 100 times on the SIPRNET. The evidence will show that he understood the nature of the organization.”

So since Manning released information to Wikileaks – a news outlet – which is read by the public, and included in that public may be terrorists or terrorist organizations, it must follow from this Orwellian line of inference that Wikileaks, and by extension, Manning have aided terrorist organizations. ‘Aiding the enemy’, the harshest of charges against Manning, could mean life in prison for the 25-year-old.

It is par for the course now for the government to claim that journalists involved in covering national security issues are enemies of the state. There was the AP scandal of course, where the DOJ subpoenaed the phone records of editors and reporters following a story about a foiled terror plot. Perhaps even more disturbing is the subpoenaed records of Fox News reporter James Rosen. I say more disturbing because the FBI described Rosen in an affidavit as a co-conspirator in espionage. It can now be considered espionage for reporters to do their jobs in gathering information.

The clear desire to strip Manning of his humanity, his morality, is an attempt to strip his actions of meaning and heroism. As Manning’s defense noted in their opening statement, Manning wanted to “lift the fog of war” and show the “true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” He released the classified documents to expose the public to the true costs of war – the horrific, grisly aspects of war. Manning thought that if the public knew what war was – if the public knew how little value was placed on the lives of the people living in “enemy” states, perhaps there could be change.

In Manning’s own statement in February, he spoke specifically of the Collateral Murder video. He recalled his horror at watching as the men in the helicopter gunned down civilians without regard to human life.

“They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote “dead bastards,” and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”

And this is why Manning has been made an example of. It is not permitted to expose The Empire for what it is. It is not permitted to pull back the curtain on the rampant greed and disregard for human life that fuels U.S. hegemony. It is not permitted to question the oligarchy. We must buy the line that says that our wars are just, clean, and efficient. We must accept the decrees of the ruling class when they tell us that our involvements abroad in country after country are for our own safety. Fear mongering is essential to keeping the masses under control.

Thus The Empire will do everything in its power to put Bradley Manning away forever. If he can be made invisible, so too can the lies that his documents uncovered. If Manning can be silenced and thrown into a prison cell for life, if the mainstream media continues to parrot the propaganda of the ruling class (lest they be implicated as co-conspirators in espionage), then our hegemonic wars of power and greed can continue, so long as we pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Also published on Raging Chicken Press and CounterPunch.

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7 thoughts on “Setting an Example: The Prosecution and Persecution of Bradley Manning

  1. Yes, Manning and all the other ants (us) need to be kept in line so the grasshoppers (them) can continue to eat the food we produce for them.

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