by Kevin Zeese and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
Bradley Manning, a prisoner of the U.S. military and the national security state, could serve life in prison for revealing the “true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare.” His crime was to expose the real “purpose, posture and pretenses of the US government around the world.”
Whistleblower Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty to Exposing US Atrocities
by Kevin Zeese and Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“He demonstrated the depth of his intellectual grasp of US foreign policy and unshakable poise in the face of a powerful foe.”
US Army Private Bradley Manning was arrested May 2010 in Iraq for allegedly providing classified materials that exposed US military atrocities and murder of civilians to Wikileaks. Manning was arrested and tortured while in US army detention and later extradited to Fort Meade, Maryland for trial. Manning’s case has not only placed US foreign policy on trial but exposed the ham-fisted behavior of the US government toward whistleblowers.
For those of us who follow US foreign policy and are critical of the abusive nature of the US Empire, the documents released by Bradley Manning through WikiLeaks were an important moment in history. On February 28th, 2013Manning standing in open military court pled guilty to ten charges revealing that he released three large batches of documents totaling hundreds of thousands of pages: the Iraq war logs, the Afghanistan war logs and the diplomatic cables. These documents taken together provide a snap shot of US foreign policy on a day-by-day basis over the course of critical time periods during two US wars and ongoing US foreign policy debates. Americans, and the world, were exposed to the true purpose, posture and pretenses of the US government around the world.
“The government has decided to continue the prosecution of Manning on the more serious charges of “aiding the enemy” and the Espionage Act.”
Manning’s guilty plea was not made as part of a plea agreement in exchange for a lighter sentence. In fact, his plea exposes him to a potential 20 years sentence in prison. Manning pled guilty to what he acknowledges he did, not what the government has accused him of doing. Supporters of Manning hoped that the government would show magnanimity and reduce or drop the remaining charges. However, since the plea, the government has decided to continue the prosecution of Manning on the more serious charges of “aiding the enemy” and the Espionage Act; charges that could bring him life in prison.
Journalist Alexa O’Brien published her transcription of Manning’s February 28thstatement, since the court has not released an official document. Much of this article and narrative below is based on the O’Brien transcript.
The Iraq and Afghanistan War Diaries: A Need to Re-Evaluate Modern War
Manning took responsibility and explained himself by reading a 35 page statement, as he says written in “the confinement facility.” He began describing the events in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning saw “frustration and anger on both sides.” He had “become depressed with the situation that we found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year.” The US had become “obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.” He hoped release of the documents would change things:
“I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I [Iraq War Diaries] and CIDNE-A [Afghanistan War Diaries] tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment every day.”
“This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare.”
Manning testified he first tried to take the documents to the Washington Post, and received no interest. Then, he took them to the public editor at the New York Times, again he was met with indifference. He had been following WikiLeaks and decided to leak the documents through that outlet. He uploaded the Iraq and Afghanistan War Diaries from a Barnes and Noble in Rockville, MD on February 3, 2010. He told Wikileaks that the documents had
“already been sanitized of any source identifying information. You might need to sit on this information – perhaps 90 to 100 days to figure out how best to release such a large amount of data and to protect its source. This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.”
After taking this action Manning “felt this sense of relief by them having it. I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan every day.”
The Collateral Murder Video: Dehumanized Bloodlust
The document that set off the public chain of events is what has become known as the “Collateral Murder” video showing the US killing Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Manning says “I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other war porn type videos depicting combat.” Other veterans have made the same point; these types of conflicts in Iraq were more common than rare.
When troops were discussing the video Manning did not participate but instead went online to research the event. When he discovered that Reuters had submitted a FOIA request but the government was not providing a copy, Manning was disturbed that they “would not voluntarily release the video.”
This video brought out a lot of the concerns with the way the US military operated. He was upset with the killing of ‘good Samaritans’ who had come to the scene to try and save lives after the initial shooting. He described US troops acting with “delightful bloodlust” and how they “dehumanized the individuals” and did “not value human life.” The soldiers congratulated each other for their “ability to kill in large numbers” even when they were killing someone who was “attempting to crawl to safety.” He saw the soldiers treating humans as “similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
When it was evident there were children on the scene, once again the US “crew exhibits no remorse” and blames the Good Samaritans for “bringing their kid's into a battle.”
The Collateral Murder video also provided an opportunity to see how badly the corporate media reports on these situations. His research brought him to Washington Post writer, David Finkle’s book “The Good Soldier.” As Manning read Finkel’s account it was quickly evident to Manning that Finkle had the video as he quoted verbatim the communications of the aerial crew. Manning “was aghast at Mr. Finkel's portrayal of the incident.” Finkel concluded the attack was “justified as 'payback.'”
“He saw the soldiers treating humans as ‘similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.’”
Manning was particularly disturbed by the final portion of Finkel’s writing where he describes an injured Iraqi lifting two fingers toward a soldier in a common Iraqi sign of friendship, but “instead of assisting him, the soldier makes an obscene gesture extending his middle finger.” The individual goes on to die and Manning puts himself in the Iraqi’s shoes thinking his final act was an act of friendship only to be returned by a crude sign of unfriendliness. Manning says this “burdens me emotionally.”
Manning hoped the release of the video would cause concern and discussion:
“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public, who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled-- if not more troubled that me by what they saw.”
Guantanamo Bay Prison Documents: Holding People That Should Be Released
Manning also shared documents on the people being held in the Guantanamo Bay prison. Once again, as Manning learned more his assumptions about the good intent of the United States was brought into question:
“I have always understood the need to detain and interrogate individuals who might wish to harm the United States and our allies, however, I felt that what we were trying to do at Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
“However, the more I became educated on the topic, it seemed that we found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely that we believed or knew to be innocent, low level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligence and would be released if they were still held in theater.”
He decided to upload the documents to WikiLeaks so the public could understand what was going on at this facility.
State Department Cables: Open Diplomacy Would Avoid Conflicts
The final large group of documents Manning released was the State Department Cables, day to day reports from the field by diplomats to the State Department. He began when he read about how Iceland was being treated over the banking crisis and how the US refused to come to their aid. He had an “insatiable” desire to learn more about US foreign policy. And as he learned from diplomatic cables, Manning:
“was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn't seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world. . . The more I read the cables, the more I came to the conclusion that this was the type of information that should become public.”
Manning had read about open diplomacy in a book written after the First World War which described how the world would be a better place if governments avoided making secret pacts and deals with and against each other. Manning thought these “cables were a prime example of a need for a more open diplomacy.” He recognized the publication of the unclassified cables might prove embarrassing to the State Department but a greater good would be served by their publication.
Wikileaks: Manning Makes Conspiracy Charges Impossible
In his testimony Manning did not throw Julian Assange or WikiLeaks under the bus, indeed he made an espionage conspiracy between Manning and Assange almost impossible. Manning described chats he had online with someone from WikiLeaks, but says he did not know who the person was. And, he concludes his discussion of WikiLeaks role saying: “The decisions that I made to send documents and information to the WLO and the website were my own decisions, and I take full responsibility for my actions.” With this testimony the espionage conspiracy that the United States would like to make between Assange and Manning for an Espionage Act prosecution becomes hard to imagine. Further, Manning’s testimony shows that the WikiLeaks Organization behaved more responsibly than either the New York Times or Washington Post.
Bradley Manning joined the military in the hopes of getting real world experience and enough money to go to college. When Manning has testified, he demonstrated the depth of his intellectual grasp of US foreign policy and unshakable poise in the face of a powerful foe.
Manning’s assumptions about how and why the wars and US foreign policy were conducted changed as reality slapped him in the face. No doubt his experience being brutally incarcerated and prosecuted over-zealously have also been a difficult education. Manning is a sensitive young man who wants the world to know the truth, and for us to look at what is being done in our name, debate it and change it. He has provided us with a wealth of information about a critical period in US foreign policy. Let us hope he gets his wish and that his legacy serves as a spark for transformative change away from war and secrecy, toward cooperation and transparency among nations.
Kevin Zeese is an attorney who serves on the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He also serves a co-director of It’s Our Economy. His twitter is @KBZeese.
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is a n EPA whistleblower and the author of “No Fear: A Whitleblower’s Triumph Over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA.” She is the chairwoman of the No FEAR Coalition. Check out Marsha's recent interview at MIT by Laura Flanders at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXlYzewg9Y4