Jail the messenger? The predicament of a military whistleblower

America should be embarrassed for not having the courage to "accept the truth that Manning revealed".

    Jail the messenger? The predicament of a military whistleblower
    Bradley Manning (right) pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges facing him [AP]

    It is interesting to observe how the US government and major media are staying silent on the case of Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old private first-class in the Army who leaked a vast collection of classified documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

    Those of us who consider him a true American hero for what he did can finally heave a sigh of relief now that the word "accused" need no longer be affixed to his whistleblower status.

    On February 28, before a military judge, Manning acknowledged responsibility for releasing the information and pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges facing him. This partial plea could mean a 20-year sentence, but the prosecution hopes to put him away for life for "aiding the enemy" - the most serious of the 12 charges to which he pleaded not guilty.

    In his statement at the pre-trial hearing, Manning stated:

    "I believe that the public release of these cables would not damage the United States, however, I did believe that the cables might be embarrassing, since they represented very honest opinions and statements behind the backs of other nations and organisations."

    I interpret the word "enemy" in his "aiding the enemy" charge to mean "truth". If you ask the hundreds of thousands of surviving Iraqis and Afghanis facing a volatile and uncertain future, they are likely to look you in the eye and tell you that Bradley did aid the truth, by revealing it to the world. A banner at a recent rally held in support of Manning in Afghanistan read:


    You see, truth has become a dirty word in the mainstream lexicon. Truth is the embarrassing enemy here. So, maybe it is no wonder that the government is being so secretive about one of the most, if not the most important criminal case in American military history, and is afraid of having anything said in that courtroom be made public. 

    The biggest irony is that the real act of aiding the enemy was America's decision to initiate wars in 2001 and 2003. Anyone paying attention to events in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is aware that - thanks to these wars - the US has created many more enemies.

    Now drone attacks are recruiting even more people to the fight against America. So who should be locked away for life for aiding the enemy? America, and especially President Obama, should be embarrassed for not having the guts to accept the truth that Manning revealed. He said that Bradley Manning broke the law by releasing classified information to WikiLeaks. 

     Inside Story America - Bradley Manning:
    a whistleblowing hero?

    But going to war with Iraq and Afghanistan was also illegal. Nobody has been harmed by Manning's actions, while hundreds of thousands of people have died, directly and indirectly, from these wars.

    Unlike most Americans, the rest of the world is watching the kangaroo prosecution of Manning closely. With electronic devices barred, we must rely on a few dedicated individuals and their perennial tools like the paper, pencil and the pen for meaningful coverage of the trial.

    We must rely on reporters like Kevin Gosztola and Alexa O'Brien; artist Clark Stoeckley, who has produced striking courtroom sketches; and surreptitious efforts by organisations like Freedom of the Press foundation, which recently published in full a previously unreleased audio recording of Manning's 10,000-word statement to the court this February, in which he detailed his motivations for leaking the documents.

    On this 10th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the rest of the world is also watching a documentary entitled James Steele: America's Mystery Man in Iraq. In the Arab world (including in a public square in Iraq), in Europe, almost everywhere else but in America, people are watching this film, put together by the Guardian and BBC Arabic, which reveals how the US armed and trained death squads in Iraq.

    A library in Samara was transformed into a torture chamber, and during the sectarian war of 2005-06, as many as 3,000 tortured bodies were being found on the streets of Iraq each month. This film could not have been made without WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning.

    Correction: Someone in America is actually paying attention. The US Central Command is closely monitoring the worldwide reaction to the James Steele documentary.

    The question we need to ask ourselves here in America is not whether we feel safer after the wars of the past 11-plus years, but whether the human, social, political, economic and environmental costs of war have all been weighed.

    The people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, US and coalition veterans, contractors and their families, are already paying a very heavy price now and will continue to do so for many more years to come. The rest of us will undoubtedly pay a heavy price too, if we do not stand up and take responsibility for our government's actions and hold it accountable.

    Bradley Manning's trial is scheduled to begin on June 3, by which time he will have already spent more than three years in prison. We must demand that a messenger of truth be set free.

    Priti Gulati Cox is an artist living in Salina, Kansas. She is an organiser for the peace and social justice organisation CODEPINK and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Her travelling work Unfinished Portrait is an anti-war memorial to those killed on all sides during the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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