The actions of one principled young US soldier, Bradley Manning, have embarrassed and enraged the most powerful nation on earth
Bradley Manning's crime is of revealing the truth about how the US carries on its business around the world, committing crimes against humanity on a gross scale. For a crime such as his there must be no mercy.
He is charged by the US military with sending hundreds of thousands of classified Iraq and Afghanistan war logs and videos and more than 250,000 diplomatic cables to the whistleblower website Wikileaks, while working as an intelligence analyst in the US army in Baghdad in 2008 and 2009. If he is found guilty, he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.
He was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 and then, in July that year, he was transferred to the US Marine Brig in Quantico, Virginia, where he was put in maximum security, designated a suicide risk, and kept in solitary confinement whilst forced to sleep naked, without covers. A military court was told about the harsh conditions in which Private Manning was held after his arrest at pre-trial hearings in Ft. Meade, Maryland. He had been tortured and held incommunicado illegally and in terrible conditions by the US government, for more than 900 days.
Such was the international concern that 295 academics, including prominent American legal scholars, signed a letter arguing that the detention conditions violated the US Constitution; as a result, later that month the Pentagon transferred him to Fort Leavenworth, where he was allowed to interact with other detainees. He is still waiting for his court-martial, which is due to take place in March 2013.
It isn't just embarrassment that has led to the determination of the US government to punish and destroy Manning (and Julian Assange and the whole Wikileaks machine). After the video Collateral Murder was made public - documented in the Iraq War Logs, which exposes the sheer brutality and hypocrisy of the US government in its so-called 'War on Terror' - the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.
Writing on the Foreign Policy Journal website in March this year, William Blum asserted that:
"The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country... Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia."
Whatever the actual relationship between the leaks and the Arab Spring, it's no wonder the US government is annoyed, having the truth revealed has given them lots of extra problems. For former establishment economist and critic of the 'War on Terror', Paul Craig Roberts, Bradley Manning is a problem, because he "complied with his oath of office, with the US Military Code, with the Nuremberg standards set by the US government, with the strictures expressed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the George W. Bush administration, and with his own conscience."
But messing up plans for an imperialist nation to achieve world domination is a really big no-no. On Nov 9 Manning testified in federal court about his treatment, which was not covered by the US media (although it has been extensively covered elsewhere). It is apparent that the American public must be shielded from the truth, that a soldier's oath of office, that the US Military Code, that the Nuremberg standards set by the US government - in fact the Constitution of the United States - have now become meaningless verbiage.
"If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia."
"I want people to see the truth"
Ironically, the US military unwittingly allowed the situation to develop in which the obscene practices it was using in the 'War on Terror' could be disclosed to the whole world. Early in his basic training in the US army Manning was sent to the discharge unit because of the opinion of another soldier that he, Manning, was having a breakdown - he was being badly bullied, and was fighting back by screaming back at the drill sergeants when they screamed at him (he became known as 'General Manning').
The army was aware from the start that he had emotional problems (he was an openly gay man and had been bullied throughout his life, at school, at work as well as in the army, for being effeminate and very small - only 5' 2" tall - and suffered from what is called gender identity disorder). The decision to discharge him was revoked because there was a shortage of intelligence analysts in the army. He was subsequently promoted to a high level status in the military intelligence sector, which gave him access to extremely sensitive data.
According to Associated Press:
“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces,”
But from Manning's own words from an on-line chat:
“If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
These words don't sound as though they are being spoken by a disturbed and irrational person. Bradley Manning is obviously an extraordinary person, who has dared to defy the US and its military for its hypocrisy and crimes against humanity. Perhaps his confronting of his inner devils and the bullying he was subjected to along the way, combined with his passion for justice and honesty, helps us to understand how this physically small - but mentally and morally very big man - found the courage to sacrifice everything in order to bring into the light the very dark and shameful actions of his own country.
Think of what the world we live in would be like if the most powerful nation on earth were to face up to its own inner devils. Unfortunately the Marx brothers were right, "There ain't no Sanity Clause".
Ellen Graubart was born in India of American parents and came to London from Virginia as a teenager to study art. She lives and works as an artist in Hackney. She is a member of Counterfire, Stop the War and Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign.