Monday, Jul 4, 2011 08
The motives of Bradley Manning
In New York Magazine, Steven Fishman has a lengthy profile of Bradley Manning that purports to shed new light on the accused WikiLeaks leaker. The only aspect of Fishman's article that's meaningfully new is a series of chat logs and other online communications Manning purportedly conducted with Zachary Antolak, a 19-year-old gay web designer whom Manning befriended. Though the article focuses on a variety of Manning's emotional struggles in a way that -- as is typical for whistleblowers or anyone who engages in acts of meaningful dissent -- is supposed to make you believe his alleged actions were the by-product of psychological afflictions, it actually achieves the opposite.
The emotional problems of loneliness and alienation Manning confronted are hardly atypical for a perceptive 20-year-old, particularly one with a long-estranged father dealing with issues of sexual orientation and gender identity who, after being raised in a tiny evangelical community in Oklahoma, finds himself deployed to Baghdad as part of the U.S. Army's brutal war in Iraq (the one who ends up looking truly psychologically unstable in this article -- and, as usual, deeply dishonest -- is government informant Adrian Lamo; see below). What Fishman's article actually does is bolster the previous view of Manning's alleged leaks as motivated by noble and understandable horror at what the U.S. was doing in Iraq specifically and that region generally, and a resulting desire to take action to shed light on what he was seeing and to do what he could to stop it.
The highly edited chat logs purportedly between Manning and Lamo and previously published by long-time Lamo associate Kevin Poulsen of Wired already made clear why Manning -- if the chat logs are to be believed -- leaked these videos and documents. In those chat logs, Manning described his growing realization of the evil of the the war in Iraq of which he was a part; he specifically recounted that his discovery that Iraqi "insurgents" rounded up and arrested by U.S. forces were actually guilty of nothing was explicitly ignored; and he explained that the documents he is alleged to have leaked revealed systematic deceit, illegality and exploitation on the part of the U.S. Government and its allied governments, and that only disclosure and transparency could trigger urgently needed reforms. As Manning put it in those purported chats with Lamo when asked what he hoped to achieve
hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms - if not, than [sic] we're doomed - as a species - i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens - the reaction to the [Collateral Murder] video gave me immense hope; CNN's iReport was overwhelmed; Twitter exploded - people who saw, knew there was something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the video… David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded out here. . . . - i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
The objectives Manning described there have, in a very short time, already been vindicated
For Manning, nothing was okay. In October 2009, he arrived at Forward Operating Base Hammer, a dusty backwater 40 miles from
An intel analyst sat at his work station and targeted the enemy, reducing a human being to a few salient points. Then he made a quick decision based on imperfect information
He told the counselor about a targeting mission gone bad in
About that time, Manning later explained, "everything started slipping." Manning, it turned out, wasn’t built for this kind of war. "i was a *part* of something … i was actively involved in something that i was completely against." The job wore down lots of soldiers. Some survived by becoming desensitized -- the blood and death goes right past them. Manning took it personally. According to the government, it was in November 2009, the same month that he reached out to the gender counselor, that Manning began to work with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, "a candidate for the most dangerous man in the world," as Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon papers, later put it.
The notion that these reactions to wholly unjustified, massive blood-spilling is psychologically warped is itself warped. The reactions described there are psychologically healthy; it's far more psychologically disturbed not to have the reactions Manning had. There are countless people who knew from the start, or who ultimately concluded, that the
The morality at play in the Manning persecution is mangled beyond belief. It's perfectly conventional wisdom that the war in Iraq was an act of profoundly unjust destruction, yet normal, psychologically healthy people are expected to passively accept that there should be no consequences for those responsible (a well-intentioned policy mistake), while one of the very few people to risk his life and liberty to stop it and similar acts is demonized as a mentally ill criminal. Similarly, the numerous acts of corruption, deceit and criminality Manning allegedly exposed are ignored or even sanctioned, while the only punished criminal is -- as usual -- the one who courageously brought those acts to light. Meanwhile, Americans love to cheer for the Arab Spring rebellions -- look at those inspiring people standing up to their evil dictators and demanding freedom -- yet the American government officials who propped up those dictators for decades and helped suppress those revolts, including the ones currently in power, are treated as dignified statesmen, while a person who actually exposed those tyrants and played at least some role in triggering those inspiring revolts (Manning) rots in a prison after enduring 10 months of deeply inhumane treatment.
There's no doubt that it's illegal for a member of the military to leak classified or secret documents -- just as there was no doubt about the illegality of Daniel Ellsberg's leaks, or a while slew of other acts of civil disobedience we consider noble. The fact that an act is legal does not mean it is just, and conversely, that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust. Many people enjoy hearing themselves condemn the acts of tyrants and imperial forces in the world. If the allegations against him are true, Bradley Manning knowingly risked his liberty to take action against those acts, in the hope of exposing those responsible and triggering worldwide reforms. It's hard to dispute that these leaks achieved exactly that, but even if they hadn't, his conduct is profoundly commendable, and the world needs far more, not fewer, Bradley Mannings.
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Adrian Lamo has no relevance either for the Manning case or anything else, but just to underscore how thoroughly unreliable and deranged he is -- that, as I've documented repeatedly before, what comes out of his mouth at any given moment is designed exclusively to generate attention for himself and bears almost no relationship to reality -- just contrast what he's quoted as saying about Manning in this New York article with what he told me in an interview last year
When Lamo was arrested, he’d been offended by the government prosecution-- “criminalizing curiosity," he called it. Now he was offended by Manning. "He's a traitor at best," Lamo said. . . . He was disgusted by the way in which Manning conflated his own precious moral awakening with the future of
Interview with me
There are many people in this case whose actions are disturbed, twisted, and unjust. Bradley Manning is most assuredly not one of them.
-- Glenn Greenwald
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs