A few random thoughts on the Manning verdict…and the Snowden case


“I’ve been traumatized too much by reality to care about the consequences of shattering the fantasy.”
— Bradley Manning

It was a farce.

Really, what other conclusion can I draw when a military judge decides that Bradley Manning was not guilty of “aiding the enemy”, but still guilty on all counts of “espionage”? What is espionage if you’re not spying FOR someone — in other words, aiding an enemy? Such is the cognitive dissonance that seems to have taken hold of Col. Denise Lind, who presided over this utterly ludicrous case.

Of course, there were plenty of irregularities from the moment Manning was arrested. He was locked up in solitary confinement, physically tortured without striking a blow, and psychologically tortured using every technique in the book (and probably quite a few NOT in the book, too). The skinny little soldier was forced to “sleep” naked under a single rough blanket on chilly nights, and everything that could be done to break him down, mentally and physically, in the more than one thousand days between his arrest and his trial, was done without shame or compunction.

But even before that, Bradley Manning was tortured and tormented by the military and by his country. He was uncommonly bright in a land where averageness and anonymity are the standards. He didn’t conform to “masculine” norms. He came out as gay while DADT was still in effect. His small physical size didn’t help; it intensified his suffering. His barrackmates ragged him so relentlessly that on one occasion, he wet himself out of sheer emotional distress. His relationship with his boyfriend was fraught with long absences and infidelities, so there wasn’t enough support for him to draw strength from. His family were also far less supportive than they could have been. But when you come from Oklahoma — “the buckle of the Bible Belt” — it stands to reason that others will close ranks against you if you diverge in any way from the strict white, heterosexual, Christian norm. Isolation tormented Bradley Manning long before he ever landed up in the brig.

Thus, it’s no surprise that when he saw all the appalling things his own country’s military was doing, in Iraq and elsewhere, something in him just snapped.

Or maybe a better way of putting it would be that something in him just clicked.

Bradley Manning made the connections between his own suffering and that of the innocent Iraqis killed in the Collateral Murder video. He also made the connections between the sufferings of other countries and the skulduggeries of US diplomats and military attachés — CIA employees, actually — operating in them. All of it came together for him in a heap, and that is exactly how he dealt with it, burning all the incriminating data onto what had been a Lady Gaga CD and then sending it off to Wikileaks. As anguished and tormented as Bradley Manning was over just about everything, his mind was nonetheless clear enough to devise a clever, innovative and definitive solution to the entire mess: He became a whistleblower.

Certainly he exposed a lot of “classified” information that embarrassed and incriminated his government in every conceivable way. But there is a difference between revealing state secrets for the purpose of exposing state crimes, and espionage, which implies a direct advantage to a foreign (and enemy) power. What “enemy” benefited from all this previously secret knowledge? None, since all the damage in the leaked cables and Collateral Murder video had long been done. No US troops in any part of the world were exposed to enemy fire as a result of Bradley Manning’s revelations. No diplomatic installation came under attack either, and neither was a single US business interest placed in immediate jeopardy. Nothing terrible that the US was doing in any part of the world was at any greater risk than it already had been. The only thing that changed as a result of Manning’s “espionage” was that suddenly, all the betrayed, cheated and humiliated countries ever pissed on by US interests had documentary proof of their oppression in hand. Suddenly, what their ordinary citizens knew in their bones — and their politicians often railed against — was confirmed. Their one real enemy was exposed, and it was good old “benevolent” Uncle Sam. The troops who tossed candy to local kids from their tanks, the briefcase-toters of the IMF and World Bank, the suit-clad bringers of Coke and Marlboro and what have you — these smiling pretend-friends were the real enemy. They weren’t there to give the Third World — or the Second, or even the rest of the First — an equalizing hand up. They were there to crush them, to subject them to an undying US capitalist hegemony. All the resources and wealth that could be sucked out of any place you could name, would end up in one and the same place, while local miseries deepened and the call for more “foreign aid” intensified. It was the sweetest scam ever, the ultimate vicious circle, and it seemed manifestly destined to keep turning forever. E pluribus unum, with a vengeance.

And then little Bradley Manning came along and threw a monkey wrench into the wheel.

And the Star Chamber of the US military called it espionage, convicted him, and will sentence him — not to death, as that would provoke too much outcry at home, but to over a century in prison. Which amounts to life without parole, unless some future president sees fit to pardon him.

But who would have the wisdom, or the courage, to do that, if the US government is already firmly in the pocket of not only the Military-Industrial Complex, but all major industries? Under capitalism, democracy is but a mask, a pacifier, a means of keeping the people powerless while selling them the illusion of “empowerment”. There is no such thing as a government by, of and for the people. There is only a government by, of and for the money. And the consumer selection, as far as candidates goes, is dismal. Will it be Fascism, or Fascism Lite? Sorry, no substitutions. You cannot have democracy, nor can you have justice. All courts are kangaroo, and all trials are show. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down. Forever and ever, amen.

Which brings me to Edward Snowden. This is the same thing that awaits him, albeit in civilian form, should the former NSA employee ever decide to return to the United States of Amnesia. One can’t really blame him for deciding to stick it out in Russia for the time being, even to the extent of learning the language. When the former Soviet Union is a greater bastion of freedom than one’s own country (which still brashly prints “Liberty” on all its coins!), you know you’re dealing with a world that has gone through the Looking Glass. Up is down, black is white, wrong is right, day is night, truth is shite. When the “freedom-loving” capitalists have the old “communist” Stasi beat for internal espionage, what else can an agent do who has seen it from within, and decided that he’s had enough?

Oh sure, the US government has promised not to execute him. Just as they won’t execute Bradley Manning. I’m sure that’s a great comfort to everyone, knowing that he’ll still face the torments of the damned if he ever falls back into US hands. Just like Bradley Manning did when he was captured. How many days do you suppose Edward Snowden would go untried after he is captured? Place your bets, ladies ‘n’ gentlemen…I’m going to wager at least 1,000.

And if you don’t think he’s going to suffer crazy-making levels of scrutiny and intrusion into his private life, just look at how much of that has already happened, and then multiply it by the number of days he spends in jail before trial. It happened to Daniel Ellsberg, whose sessions with his shrink weren’t even off limits, 40-odd years ago. It happened to Bradley Manning.

And there is a reason why these guys are being treated this way: They are meant as examples to the rest of us. The message is this: Don’t protest. Don’t blow the whistle. Don’t you dare complain, or expose what you know, or terrible things will befall you. Be good, be compliant, keep your head down, and be thankful it hasn’t happened to you…YET.

But that’s the reason these guys blew the whistle: It could happen to all of us, someday, if things continue in this way. Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers because young men were being sent to unwinnable wars willy-nilly, and he wanted that to stop. Bradley Manning leaked Collateral Murder because innocent Iraqis were being killed in cold blood by psychopaths in helicopters who probably got medals for their contract hit-man jobs. And he wanted that to stop. Edward Snowden leaked the NSA’s long-standing cyberspying program because it affects every Internet user, everywhere, and effectively robs us all of our last vestige of online privacy…and by extension, safety and mental security. It doesn’t just target criminals or terror supsects; it targets EVERYONE, treating everyone as a potential criminal. And he wanted that to stop.

All that any whistleblower anywhere wants, is for “that” to stop. But it won’t stop unless we all work together to make it stop. We can no longer afford the luxury of complacency, of leaving the fantasy of “liberty” in place while ignoring the crushing reality of oppression. The plutocratic purveyors of the fantasy would rather we be too apathetic, too overworked, and too scared to protest. But in the past, downtrodden, overworked, scared people still marched, sat in, and freedom-rode for civil rights. Women died and went to prison for the vote. Soldiers, sailors and air-force pilots banded together with civilians to stop the Vietnam war. Individual whistleblowers are easy to isolate, persecute and make into negative examples, but mass protest means that the authorities are outnumbered.

We already know what to do about all this. The only question is, WHEN?

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3 Responses to A few random thoughts on the Manning verdict…and the Snowden case

  1. Alan Kurtz says:

    Your insistence that espionage applies only to “spying FOR someone” and “implies a direct advantage to a foreign (and enemy) power” is not consonant with U.S. law.

    Under 18 USC §798, “whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person … or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States … any classified information concerning the intelligence activities of the United States” is guilty of espionage.

    The term “unauthorized person” is not limited to a foreign (and enemy) power. Instead it means anyone who is not authorized to receive such information by the President or by the head of a department or agency of the United States Government which is expressly designated by the President.

    During his February 28, 2013 providence inquiry, PFC Manning repeatedly acknowledged that WikiLeaks was not authorized to receive the classified documents he uploaded to their website.

    You seem to be evaluating Manning’s guilt according to your own law, rather than that of the United States.

    • Sabina Becker says:

      Ever hear that phrase, “The law is an ass”? Applies here.

      Anyhow: What interest is served by state secrets? Covering one’s butt against embarrassment is a pretty shabby excuse for this kind of shit.

  2. Uzza says:

    Looks to me like large portions of the US Government are in violation of 18 USC §798. It became apparent decades ago that “the national interest” and the interests of the average citizen have become disjoint sets.

    Being an Accessory To Murder is not something the average housewife in Springfield has an interest in, no matter how much ExxonMobile needs us all to be.

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