On Bradley Manning and America

By Richard Falk

I am posting on this blog below two important texts that deserve the widest
public attention and deep reflection in the United States and elsewhere.
I would stress the following:

• the extraordinary disconnect between the impunity of Bush, Cheney,
Rumsfeld, Yoo, and others who authorized and vindicated the practice
of torture, were complicit in crimes against humanity, and supported
aggressive wars against foreign countries and the vindictive rendering
of ‘justice’ via criminal prosecution, harsh treatment, and overseas
hunts for Snowden and Assange, all individuals who acted selflessly out of concern
for justice and the rights of citizens in democratic society to be informed
about governmental behavior depicting incriminating information kept secret to hide
responsibility for the commission of crimes of state and awkward diplomacy.

A perverse justice dimension of the Manning case is well expressed in
the statement below of the Center of Constitutional Rights “It is a travesty
of justice that Manning who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S.
forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators
are not even investigated.” And “We fear for the future of our country in
the wake of this case.”

• the vindictive punishment of Bradley Manning, a historically stiff
imprisonment for the unlawful release of classified documents, a dishonorable
discharge from military service that is a permanent stain, a demotion to
the lowest rank, and imprisonment for 35 years;

• the failure of the prosecution or the military judge or the national
leadership to acknowledge the relevance of Manning’s obviously ethical
and patriotic motivations and the extenuating circumstance of stress in a combat zone that was producing
observable deteriorations in his mental health;

• an increasingly evident pattern of constructing a national security state
that disguises its character by lies, secrecy, and deception, thereby undermining
trust between the government and the people, creating a crisis of legitimacy; it is
part of the pattern of ‘dirty wars’ fought on a global battlefield comprehensively
described in Jeremy Scahill’s book with that title;

• the mounting challenge directed at President Obama to grant Manning’s request
for a presidential pardon, and to reverse course with respect to the further authoritarian
drift that has occurred during his time in the White House;
ever since Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech when he claimed American
adherence to the rule of law, it has been evident that such a commitment does not
extend to high level governmental violators at home (“too important to prosecute”) or to the
sovereign rights of foreign countries within the gunsights of the Pentagon or
the CIA or to the crimes of America’s closest allies; international law is reserved
for the enemies of Washington, especially those who resist intervention and
occupation, or those who dare to be whistle-blowers or truth-tellers in such
a highly charged atmosphere that has prevailed since the 9/11 attacks; the opening
of Manning’s statement below suggests the relevance of such a context to the
evolution of his own moral and political consciousness;

• read Bradley Manning’s statement and ask yourself whether this man belongs in
prison for 35 years (even granting eligibility for parole in seven years), or even
for a day; imagine the contrary signal sent to our citizenry and the world
if Manning were to be awarded the Medal of Freedom! It is past time that
we all heeded Thomas Jefferson’s urgent call for ‘the vigilance’ of the
citizenry as indispensable to the maintenance of democracy.

Statement by Bradley Manning: On Being Sentenced

“The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”

Statement by the Center for Constitutional Rights

August 21, 2013 – Today, in response to the sentencing of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

“We are outraged that a whistleblower and a patriot has been sentenced on a conviction under the Espionage Act. The government has stretched this archaic and discredited law to send an unmistakable warning to potential whistleblowers and journalists willing to publish their information. We can only hope that Manning’s courage will continue to inspire others who witness state crimes to speak up.

This show trial was a frontal assault on the First Amendment, from the way the prosecution twisted Manning’s actions to blur the distinction between whistleblowing and spying to the government’s tireless efforts to obstruct media coverage of the proceedings. It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes he exposed are not even investigated. Every aspect of this case sets a dangerous precedent for future prosecutions of whistleblowers – who play an essential role in democratic government by telling us the truth about government wrongdoing – and we fear for the future of our country in the wake of this case.

We must channel our outrage and continue building political pressure for Manning’s freedom. President Obama should pardon Bradley Manning, and if he refuses, a presidential pardon must be an election issue in 2016.”

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