Bradley Manning Is A Prisoner of Conscience
Above: Bradley Manning, Patriotic Leaker, original painting by Deborah Vanpoolen.
One of the most disgraceful elements of the corporate media’s campaign against whistleblower Bradley Manning has been the constant attempts at character assassination. The corporate media, when they cover Manning, constantly need to obsesses over gossipy details of Manning’s personal life. While that may be the grade of material tabloids thrive on it has nothing to do with Manning’s extraordinary act of conscience that will land him in prison for possibly the rest of his life.
watching 15 detainees taken by the Iraqi Federal Police… for printing “anti-Iraqi literature”… the iraqi federal police wouldn’t cooperate with US forces, so i was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the “bad guys” were, and how significant this was for the FPs… it turned out, they had printed a scholarly critique against PM Maliki… i had an interpreter read it for me… and when i found out that it was a benign political critique titled “Where did the money go?” and following the corruption trail within the PM’s cabinet… i immediately took that information and *ran* to the officer to explain what was going on… he didn’t want to hear any of it… he told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding *MORE* detainees…
During his opening statement at Manning’s court martial his defense attorney David Coombs recalled a story that illustrates Manning’s deep moral convictions. On Christmas Eve a roadside bomb went off. It was meant to target a US convey, but missed. Instead it killed an Iraqi civilian. Manning’s fellow troops went onto celebrate the escape, but according to Coombs Manning “couldn’t celebrate…He couldn’t forget about the life that was lost on that day. He couldn’t forget about the family lost on that Christmas Eve.”
Manning suffered from the problem that he believed Iraqi lives were equal to American ones and that the loss of Iraqi life, the torture of the Iraqi people were grave moral wrongs. Moral wrongs that he wanted to right. This is what motivated Manning to become a whistleblower. As his lawyer explained, “When he decided to release this information, he believed this information showed how we value human life. He was troubled by it and he believed if the American public saw it they too would be troubled by it and maybe things might change”
“I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I [Iraq War Diaries] and CIDNE-A [Afghanistan War Diaries] tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan”
He stated that he believed by his actions he was “removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare.” Daniel Ellsberg, possibly America’s most famous whistleblower, said at a Free Bradley Manning rally that asymmetric wars are wars that are
“the strong against the weak. What used to be called colonial wars. Wars asymmetric because one side has planes, helicopters, drones, napalm, artillery, tanks, and the other side has none of that–only suicide bombers if they’re fighting and IEDs–improvised explosive devices–so it’s asymmetric. And the result of that is the great slaughter of innocence which a war crime..”
Mannning’s detractors have often pointed out that he not only leaked information detailing rampant violence in Iraq and Afghanistan, but diplomatic cables–thus proving that Manning is not a whistleblower, but an irresponsible attention seeker who dumped a large amount of information without forethought. However, Manning explained these actions to Lamo very lucidly as well. He stated that he had access to “crazy, almost criminal political backdealings … the non-PR-versions of world events and crises” and that he believed the diplomatic cables demonstrated “how first-world countries exploited third-world countries.” While much brouhaha has made over the sanctity of diplomacy and the importance of secrecy in carrying it out when one sees that the cables reveal things such as how the most powerful country on Earth used its diplomats to try to bully one of the poorest countries in the world (Haiti) into not raising its minimum wage at the bequest of a private corporation it becomes very clear how the “first world” exploits the “third world.”
What emerges here is a clear pattern. Manning’s actions and motivations are not that of a troubled individual, a misfit, or a malcontent, but someone who saw great crimes being committed, crimes that shocked his conscience. He believed that if the American public saw these crimes they too would be shocked, that they would make sure that they did not continue in their name.
Sadly, this was not the case. The corporate media with its self-appointed role as gatekeepers of information has always censored and kept from the public at large the senseless violence implicit in US wars. It has also now marginalized Manning for failing to be what Prof. Cornel West has for years refereed to as “well adjusted to injustice.” It is because Manning refused to be “well adjusted to injustice,” that he saw slaughter and corruption and decided to follow his conscience to stop it that he is now imprisoned most likely for the rest of his life.
Bradley Manning is a prisoner of conscience. But we must not rest. We must not only continue to demand his freedom, to demand that those who commit war crimes be prosecuted, not those who blow the whistle on them, but we must also demand an end the senseless dehumanization of foreign people that allows our government to murder and exploit them.
*Certainly not the “corporate media” in a technical sense but this particular piece is most illustrative of a wider trend.