Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bradley Manning: Hero, or Traitor?

Bradley Manning: Hero, or Traitor?


By Marjorie Cohn

published by Portside

December 23, 2011


The end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq coincided

with Bradley Manning's military hearing to determine

whether he will face court-martial for exposing U.S. war

crimes by leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of

classified documents to Wikileaks. In fact, there is a

connection between the leaks and U.S. military

withdrawal from Iraq.


When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave

Iraq by year's end, President Barack Obama declared the

nine-year war a "success" and "an extraordinary

achievement." He failed to mention why he opposed the

Iraq war from the beginning. He didn't say that it was

built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent

ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Obama didn't

cite the Bush administration's "Plan for Post-Saddam

Iraq," drawn up months before 9/11, about which Former

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported that actual

plans "were already being discussed to take over Iraq

and occupy it - complete with disposition of oil fields,

peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals - carrying

forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war."


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in

Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, "As difficult

as [the Iraq war] was," including the loss of American

and Iraqi lives, "I think the price has been worth it,

to establish a stable government in a very important

region of the world."


The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the

deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of

thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded

- with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress

Disorder - and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion

that could have prevented the economic disaster at home.


The price of the Iraq war also includes thousands of men

who have been subjected to torture and abuse in places

like Abu Ghraib prison. It includes the 2005 Haditha

Massacre, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 unarmed

civilians execution-style. It includes the Fallujah

Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at

least 60% of them women and children. It includes other

war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al

Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra,

Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.


The price of that war includes two men killed by the

Army's Lethal Warriors in Al Doura, Iraq, with no

evidence that they were insurgents or posed a threat.

One man's brains were removed from his head and another

man's face was skinned after he was killed by Lethal

Warriors. U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded

two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to

military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that

he witnessed being committed by his own command and

fellow Lethal Warriors in Al Doura. His charges were

supported by atrocity photos which have been released by

Pulse TV and Maverick Media in the new video by Cindy

Piester, "On the Dark Side in Al Doura - A Soldier in

the Shadows." []. CBS reported

obtaining an Army document from the Criminal

Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation

into these war crimes allegations. The Army's conclusion

was that the "offense of War Crimes did not occur."


One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is

the "Collateral Murder" video which depicts U.S. forces

in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians,

including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two

children. People trying to rescue the wounded were also

fired upon and killed. A U.S. tank drove over one body,

cutting the man in half.


The actions of American soldiers shown in that video

amount to war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, which

prohibit targeting civilians, preventing the rescue of

the wounded, and defacing dead bodies.


Obama proudly took credit for ending U.S. military

involvement in Iraq. But he had tried for months to

extend it beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline his

predecessor negotiated with the Iraqi government.

Negotiations between Obama and the Iraqi government

broke down when Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil

immunity to U.S. troops.


It was after seeing evidence of war crimes such as those

depicted in "Collateral Murder" and the "Iraq War Logs,"

also allegedly leaked by Manning, that the Iraqis

refused to immunize U.S. forces from prosecution for

their future crimes. When I spoke with Tariq Aqrawi,

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, at a recent

international human rights film festival in Vienna, he

told me that if they granted immunity to Americans, they

would have to do the same for other countries as well.


Manning faces more than 30 charges, including "aiding

the enemy" and violations of the Espionage Act, which

carry the death penalty. After a seven day hearing,

during which the prosecution presented evidence that

Manning leaked cables and documents, there was no

evidence that leaked information imperiled national

security or that Manning intended to aid the enemy with

his actions.


On the contrary, in an online chat attributed to

Manning, he wrote, "If you had free reign over

classified networks. and you saw incredible things,

awful things. things that belonged in the public domain,

and not on some server stored in a dark room in

Washington DC. what would you do?"


He went on to say, "God knows what happens now.

Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. I

want people to see the truth. because without

information, you cannot make informed decisions as a



Manning has been held for 19 months in military custody.

During the first nine months, he was kept in solitary

confinement, which is considered torture as it can lead

to hallucinations, catatonia and suicide. He was

humiliated by being stripped naked and paraded before

other inmates.


The U.S. government considers Manning one of America's

most dangerous traitors. Months ago, Obama spoke of

Manning as if he had been proved guilty, saying, "he

broke the law." But Manning has not been tried, and is

presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. If Manning had

committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would

be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and

skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death



Besides helping to end the Iraq war, the leaked cables

helped spark the Arab Spring. When people in Tunisia

read cables revealing corruption by the ruling family

there, they took to the streets.


If Manning did what he is accused of doing, he should

not be tried as a criminal. He should be hailed as a

national hero, much like Daniel Ellsberg, whose release

of the Pentagon Papers helped to expose the government's

lies and end the Vietnam War.


Marjorie Cohn is a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson

School of Law and past president of the National Lawyers

Guild. Her books include "Rules of Disengagement: The

Politics and Honor of Military Dissent" and "The United

States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and

Abuse." See



Portside aims to provide material of interest to people

on the left that will help them to interpret the world

and to change it.


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