Washington, DC - Private Bradley Manning was just 22 years old when he allegedly leaked hundreds of thousands of US State Department cables and video evidence of war crimes to the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. For that act of courage that revealed to the world the true face of the American empire, he faces the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison.
After waiting more than 18 months, half of which he spent in torturous solitary confinement that he was only removed from after an international outcry and the resignation of a top State Department official, Manning is finally getting a shot at justice - if we can think of a military court as justice - when his case moves to the pre-trial hearing phase this Friday. But whether Manning is ultimately found guilty or not is beside the point: All one needs to know about American justice is that if he had murdered civilians and desecrated their corpses - if he had the moral capacity to commit war crimes, not the audacity to expose them - he’d be better off today.
Indeed, if Manning had merely murdered the nameless, faceless “other”, as his Army colleagues on the notorious Afghan “Kill Team” did, he would not have had his right to a speedy trial blatantly violated. If Manning had intentionally killed unarmed civilians, posed for pictures with their dead bodies and slashed their fingers off as souvenirs, he would not have had his guilt publicly pronounced by his own commander-in-chief, President Barack Obama, months before he so much as saw the inside of a military court. If he had killed poor foreigners instead of exposing their deaths, he might even stand a chance of getting out of prison while still a young man.
This isn’t really a head-scratching development. While killing unarmed civilians for sport may not be officially sanctioned policy, it doesn’t threaten the functioning of the war machine as much as a soldier standing up and refusing to be complicit in mass murder. From the perspective of a Washington establishment much more concerned with maintaining hegemony than its humanity, the former - murder - is much less troubling a precedent than the latter.
And so the US government is making an example of Manning, lest any other cogs in the machine start thinking about listening to their consciences instead of their commanders.
“People say, ‘I’m going to sleep now,’ as if it were nothing. But it’s really a bizarre activity. ‘For the next several hours, while the sun is gone, I’m going to become unconscious, temporarily losing command over everything I know and understand. When the sun returns, I will resume my life. If you didn’t know what sleep was, and you had only seen it in a science fiction movie, you would think it was weird and tell all your friends about the movie you’d seen. They had these people, you know? And they would walk around all day and be OK? And then, once a day, usually after dark, they would lie down on these special platforms and become unconscious. They would stop functioning almost completely, except deep in their minds they would have adventures and experiences that were completely impossible in real life. As they lay there, completely vulnerable to their enemies, their only movements were to occasionally shift from one position to another; or, if one of the ‘mind adventures’ got too real, they would sit up and scream and be glad they weren’t unconscious anymore. Then they would drink a lot of coffee. So, next time you see someone sleeping, make believe you’re in a science fiction movie. And whisper, ‘The creature is regenerating itself.”—George Carlin
“Missing someone isn’t about how long it’s been since you’ve seen them last or the amount of time since you’ve talked. It’s about that very moment when you’re doing something and you wish that they were right there with you.”—Unknown
“NEW YORK—As media coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 ramps up this week, citizens across the United States collectively realized they would rather think about the terrorist attacks of 2001 than about anything else that has transpired in the subsequent decade. “The events of Sept. 11 were unspeakably tragic, but really, when you think about it, things have only grown more horrible and unbearable since then,” said Phyllis Bennett of San Jose, CA, who considered 9/11 a notably less unpleasant topic than the Iraq War, the worldwide financial meltdown, Hurricane Katrina, the nation’s debt burden, the deaths of 6,200 U.S. troops, China’s rise into a global superpower, the housing market, relentless partisan bickering, millions of job losses, the war in Afghanistan, nuclear proliferation, unchecked climate change, declining household income, swine flu, or the 9/11 Truth movement. “That was an awful day for America, but at least the nation came together and people actually seemed to care about one another. Just compare that to now, Jesus Christ.” While stating they felt “kind of terrible” about it, Americans expressed a longing to return to those “better days” of shared national agony in September 2001, when everybody truly believed things couldn’t get any worse.”—
“The U.S. is the only country that was condemned for international terrorism by the World Court and that rejected a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law. It continues international terrorism. [Nicaragua is] the least of it.
And there are also what are in comparison, minor examples. Everybody here was quite properly outraged by the Oklahoma City bombing, and for a couple of days, the headlines all read, Oklahoma City looks like Beirut. I didn’t see anybody point out that Beirut also looks like Beirut, and part of the reason is that the Reagan Administration had set off a terrorist bombing there in 1985 that was very much like Oklahoma City, a truck bombing outside a mosque timed to kill the maximum number of people as they left. It killed eighty and wounded two hundred, aimed at a Muslim cleric whom they didn’t like and whom they missed. It was not very secret.
I don’t know what name you give to the attack that’s killed maybe a million civilians in Iraq and maybe a half a million children, which is the price the Secretary of State says we’re willing to pay. Is there a name for that? Supporting Israeli atrocities is another one. Supporting Turkey’s crushing of its own Kurdish population, for which the Clinton Administration gave the decisive support, 80 percent of the arms, escalating as atrocities increased, is another.
Or take the bombing of the Sudan, one little footnote, so small that it is casually mentioned in passing in reports on the background to the Sept. 11 crimes. How would the same commentators react if the bin Laden network blew up half the pharmaceutical supplies in the U.S. and the facilities for replenishing them? Or Israel? Or any country where people “matter”?
Although that’s not a fair analogy, because the U.S. target is a poor country which had few enough drugs and vaccines to begin with and can’t replenish them. Nobody knows how many thousands or tens of thousands of deaths resulted from that single atrocity, and bringing up that death toll is considered scandalous. If somebody did that to the U.S. or its allies, can you imagine the reaction?
In this case we say, Oh, well, too bad, minor mistake, let’s go on to the next topic. Other people in the world don’t react like that. When bin Laden brings up that bombing, he strikes a resonant chord, even with people who despise and fear him, and the same, unfortunately, is true of much of the rest of his rhetoric. Or to return to “our own little region over here,” as Henry Stimson called it, take Cuba. After many years of terror beginning in late 1959, including very serious atrocities, Cuba should have the right to resort to violence against the U.S. according to U.S. doctrine that is scarcely questioned. It is, unfortunately, all too easy to continue, not only with regard to the U.S. but also other terrorist states.”
In Memphis, March 18, 1968, a few weeks before he was killed in that city:
…And I come by here to say that America, too, is going to Hell, if we don’t use her wealth. If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty, to make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to Hell. I will hear America through her historians years and years to come saying, “We built gigantic buildings to kiss the sky. We build gargantuan bridges to span the seas. Through our spaceships we were able to carve highways through the stratosphere. Through our airplanes we were able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. Through our submarines we were able to penetrate oceanic depths.”
But it seems that I can hear the God of the universe saying, “even though you’ve done all of that, I was hungry and you fed me not. I was naked and ye clothed me not. The children of my sons and daughters were in need of economic security, and you didn’t provide for them. So you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness.” This may well be the indictment on America that says in Memphis to the mayor, to the power structure, “If you do it unto the least of these my brethren, you do it unto me.”
“The worst crisis in Africa now, right now, this minute, and for the last several years is the Eastern Congo. Comparably worse than Darfur. Millions of people have been killed there. If you look into it, the west is doing essentially nothing. And it’s not that they don’t care, they do care. Western multinational corporations are robbing eastern Congo’s resources. Everyone who uses a cell phone knows that. That’s where the coltan comes from. Well, okay, as long as you can pay off militias to control your access to minerals, why care about the four, five million people being killed.”—Noam Chomsky