Friday, August 23, 2013

122.8 - Outrage of the Week: Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years

Outrage of the Week: Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years

We finish up this week with our other regular feature, the Outrage of the Week.

This week, the choice of Outrage was simple, straightforward, and obvious. Bradley Manning, as I expect you know, was the whistleblower who leaked a very large number of documents to WikiLeaks, resulting, ultimately, in his arrest, trial, and now sentencing. Manning has been sentenced to 35 years in military prison for the crime of enabling the American public to know about what its own government was doing and about the crimes, the war crimes, it was committing in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was also reduced in rank, dishonorably discharged, and had his pay and benefits stripped away.

This is a moral and ethical outrage.

The sentence was condemned by human rights groups. Amnesty International called on President Obama to commute Manning's sentence to time served "to allow his immediate release." The Center for Constitutional Rights called for a full pardon. The American Civil Liberties Union called Wednesday "a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate."

There are a number of things notable here, primary among which is the fact that Bradley Manning is being sent to prison for 35 years for telling the American people about crimes committed in their names while the people who committed those crimes, who organized them, oversaw them, even came up with twisted supposed legal justifications for them, who were responsible for the murder, the torture, the illegal detention, the abuse, the war crimes, walk free, free because in the words of our esteemed president, we must look forward, not backward - words which, it's actually not necessary to say but I will anyway, were not applied to Bradley Manning.

After his arrest, Manning was held for several months in solitary confinement - which is regarded as torture by international treaty, but hey, y'know, who's gonna stop us - in a blatant attempt to break him and force him to testify against the person the Obama gang really wanted to get: Julian Assange, director of WikiLeaks.

And across that time, during his confinement in solitary, during his trial, all through it, across more than three years we heard government officials accuse Bradley Manning of murder. Members of Congress, the administration, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the leaks endangered US interests and lives. He, we were told more than once, had blood on his hands.

But when it came to the sentencing portion of his trial, when the actual question of harm had to be addressed, when actual harm was supposed to be demonstrated, not just claimed in a Congressional or prosecutorial rant, the government was utterly unable to do so. The government could not, did not, produce any evidence that anyone died as the result of the leaks; it couldn't produce any evidence that anything rationally under the term "national security" was harmed by the leaks; it couldn't even produce evidence that international relations were harmed by the leaks. The closest they came was when one government witness said some allies, offended by what the documents revealed about US attitudes, got "chesty."

Some allies got "chesty?" That's the harm? That's the justification for 35 years in prison?

But that, almost unintentionally, raises an important point that almost no one seems to be mentioning. What we ultimately come down to is the fact that, according to our government, lying to our political allies is not a crime; letting those allies know about the lies is a crime. Torture is not a crime, letting people know about the torture is a crime. Even war crimes are not crimes, letting people know about war crimes is the crime. According to our government, by doing so Bradley Manning committed crimes worthy of 35 years in prison. But the fact is, if there had been no lying, if there had been no torture, if there had been no war crimes, there would have been nothing for Bradley Manning to leak!

Which is the real point. This case, this trial, this sentence - a sentence 17 times longer than any previous sentence for leaking classified documents to the media (by the way, a long-forgotten facet of this is that Manning first tried to go to the Washington Post and the New York Times and it was only after the Times ignored him and the Post wouldn't take him seriously that he went to WikiLeaks) - this trial, this sentence, is not really about Bradley Manning. It's about any future Bradley Mannings.

It's a warning to anyone in government, in or out of the military, who may have any moral qualms about what they learn, who may be upset or even outraged by what they find, to just shut up, keep quiet, don't let anyone know, because if you raise your voice, we will track you down and destroy you.

Bradley Manning is a patriot and a hero. And don't you forget it.

Footnote: I'm going to repeat here something I said about this a few weeks ago:

There was one significant effect of Manning's actions: The end of US participation in the Iraq War.

The Bush gang had been forced by the Iraqi government into an agreement to remove US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. But the Obama gang was pressuring the Iraqis to allow for perhaps tens of thousands of US troops to stay beyond that deadline under a new "security agreement." Among the things Bradley Manning leaked was a video of US soldiers on a helicopter gunship shooting up a group of people and then going back to shoot up a van that came to take away the wounded. The video was put on YouTube under the title Collateral Murder. You can see the video at The Pentagon decided the soldiers had acted within "the rules of engagement" and there would be no punishment.

In the wake of that, the Iraqis demanded that any US troops remaining in Iraq be subject to Iraqi law. The Obama gang refused, so there was no new agreement - and all US troops left Iraq on schedule. I can't help but wonder if the extremism of the case against Bradley Manning and the furious attempts to crush WikiLeaks were an outgrowth of frustrated egomania.

This is the simple hard truth: This case was not about protecting the nation. It was - and is - about protecting the privileges of the powerful, this was - and is - about control, this was - and is - about the imperious condescension of a government and military elite treating the rest of us as, the joke has it, mushrooms, kept in the dark and fed shit. It was - and is - about the Obama gang getting another skin to hang on its wall of secrecy. That's what this was and is about. And don't you forget it.

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