Bradley Manning has slipped off the media’s radar, and not because he isn’t newsworthy: his "trial"—which has now reached its 1000th day – has been conducted largely in secret, with motions classified and testimony not available to the general public. This underscores the significance of and motive behind Manning’s "crime," and highlights the fear his heroism inspires in his persecutors: the "crime" of truth-telling, and the terror truth inspires in our political class.
Manning is accused of releasing not only the secret history of the Iraq and Afghan wars, in the form of intelligence reports, by allowing Wikileaks to post them on the Internet, but also revealing a good part of the secret diplomatic history of the US government for the past decade or so. How and why a mere private had access to all this material is a question the US military has yet to answer: it’s astonishing in view of the nature and scope of the materials. That must have had several high mucka-mucks unable to sleep at night.
Among the secrets revealed was clear, even dramatic evidence of war crimes, including a video, "Collateral Murder," showing US military helicopter gun ships gleefully mowing down Iraqi civilians. The Iraqi and Afghan intelligence reports demonstrated how the Pentagon underreported civilian casualties, and allowed their local sock-puppets to engage in torture. To this day, new revelations are coming out of the Wikileaks files, which have become a veritable online encyclopedia of US government depredations around the world.
Quite a feat for a lowly 20-something private in the US Army.
That the authorities went after him with unusual viciousness is hardly surprising. What’s surprising is that he wasn’t murdered in prison, like Ben Zygier. Kept in solitary confinement, stripped of clothing, and subjected to perpetual harassment by prison guards, the conditions of Manning’s imprisonment were so extreme that a UN rapporteur intervened and a letter signed by 295 legal academics raised a hue and cry: he was eventually transferred to Ft. Leavenworth, where he is free to interact with other inmates.
Charged under the terms of the Espionage Act with "aiding the enemy," Manning could conceivably face the death penalty, although prosecutors are saying they are going for life imprisonment. This has been the crux of the government’s case against him, but who, more precisely, is the "enemy"? They can’t admit that the "enemy" is the American people, and the people of the world, who learned for the first time of Washington’s crimes due to Manning’s efforts. So they have to argue he was actively aiding that all-purpose bogeyman known as al-Qaeda. Prosecutors have cited the terrorist group’s alleged official magazine, Inspire, to "prove" the Wikileaks cables have given that dwindling threat a step up, but that’s a pretty thin reed on which to hang such serious charges. What the government is hoping for is a plea bargain that will enable them to go after their real target – Wikileaks, and Julian Assange.
Assange, you’ll recall, has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for the past 8 months, seeking refuge from the frame-up engineered by US (and Swedish) spooks that have him entangled in charges over the "rape" of a rather dubious lady with connections to the Swedish government as well as right-wing Cuban exiles. It is a measure of the American Empire’s dominance of its European vassal states that both Sweden and the Brits are dutifully doing their part in Assange’s persecution: the former in upholding these obviously trumped up charges (although, I might note, no formal charges were ever presented to a court), and the latter in denying him political asylum and spending almost 3 million pounds (nearly $4.3 million) watching the Ecuadorian embassy day and night to make sure Assange doesn’t escape.
What this is all about is the most vitally important issue of our day: government secrecy. That the US government is waging a worldwide war under cover of darkness means that opposition to US foreign policy is crippled from the outset. How can we oppose what we don’t know is happening? We don’t know, and our wise rulers want to keep it that way. Foreign policy, after all, is the exclusive domain of the political elites: the hoi polloi have no say, no role, and hopefully no knowledge of what is being done with their tax dollars behind their backs.
Secrecy is the first principle of our "democratic" dictatorship, the one principle the political class is willing to go to the mat for, because it enables them to act with impunity while still preserving the illusion of popular consent. Once elected, they have a blank check to act as they like – and that is precisely what they do. Everything is "classified," even the most innocuous documents, and whistle-blowers are relentlessly pursued – especially by this "liberal" administration, which campaigned for office under the banner of "transparency."
In this case – or, rather, in these two cases – the media has played a notably pernicious role as a conduit for the government’s smear campaign. In Manning’s case, they trumpeted salacious gossip about his sexuality, and in a particularly disgraceful episode, Wired magazine "edited" the transcripts of online communications between Manning and Adian Lamo – the professional snitch and former mental patient who entrapped him – in order to put the young whistleblower in the worst possible light. As far as Assange is concerned, the non-charges of "rape" were trumpeted by a credulous and complicit "mainstream" media all over the world, in a rather obvious attempt by the US government to undercut support for Wikileaks. What better weapon to use against the "left" than the double-edged sword of political correctness? The "feminists" who claim Assange raped that Swedish whore neither know nor care that they are being used by Washington’s spooks and their European poodles: George Galloway has their number, to be sure.
Manning’s trial – in the course of which much of the testimony and the motions accompanying them are bound to be "classified," and thus unavailable to our lickspittle media – is scheduled for June. This has to be one of the longest, most drawn out crucifixions in history, one meant to warn off anyone else who might be thinking of revealing the secrets of the elites.
Yet, try as they might, the Powers That Be will never eliminate what is quite possibly the deadliest threat to their dominance – the ability of "insiders" to break the code of silence and reveal the truth of what is happening in our world. Both Manning and Assange are heroes, but, I’m afraid, also martyrs, who sacrificed their lives for the twin principles of peace and liberty.
This Saturday, to mark Day 1000 of Manning’s long ordeal, the Bradley Manning Support Network is holding demonstrations worldwide. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the afternoon.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
We don’t hear much about either Manning or Assange in what passes for the "mainstream" media these days. After an initial burst of publicity, much of it negative (as I pointed out above), these two vitally important cases have been dropped down the Memory Hole, with only minor updates. One of the few places you can learn the facts about the issues involved is right here on this web site – but that’s only because we aren’t part of the corporate media.
Antiwar.com is independent journalism freed of the constraints imposed on the "mainstream" by the cozy relationships enjoyed by their journalists with those they are supposed to be covering. But we can’t continue to do that kind of journalism without your financial support.
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I’m bringing this up because we now have an opportunity to put a little oomph into our fundraising effort – the pledging of $26,000 dollars in matching funds by a few of our generous donors. The key word here is "matching" – we won’t get the money unless we manage to match it. And that’s where you come in.
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More Notes in the Margin
I’m on Twitter quite a bit these days, and having a lot of fun: indeed, I’m almost up to 3,000 "followers"! Help me cross the 3000 mark by following me here.
I’ve also written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Forward by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).