Thursday 19 May 2011

Bradley Manning: Hero or Traitor?

What are the big names that come to mind? WikiLeaks. Julian Assange. As I think back over the headlines in the newspapers, the opening "big stories" in the nightly news, and the opt-ed pieces, the blogs, and the rehashing of the pros and cons of leaking classified information, the focus has continually been on the famous - or infamous to some - organisation which periodically traipses out secrets much to the embarrassment of the United States. It's all very well and good and we will argue from here to tomorrow about how placing these materials in the clear light of day will lead to better and more honest world. It is odd though, that the world has forgotten about where the materials originally came from.

Bradley Manning (b.1987), a now 24 year old soldier, was arrested in May 2010 and charged with transferring classified data to WikiLeaks. He now faces an additional 22 charges including "aiding the enemy," a capital offense, although prosecutors are supposedly not seeking the death penalty. He has been incarcerated at several prisons and there has been much controversy over his treatment. At one point, he was put under a "suicide watch" that entailed taking away his clothing, requiring him to remain naked on call in front of the guards and other inmates, and taking away his prescription glasses leaving him effectively blind. Who is this man? What was his role in the WikiLeaks affair? What's really going on?

Al Jazeera: War crimes good, exposing them bad
On March 10, 2011, Al Jazeera published an opinion piece entitled "War crimes good, exposing them bad" written by Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis in which the authors state their premise as: While military and political leaders accused of war crimes sleep soundly, one alleged whistleblower languishes in jail. They go on to compare Bradley Manning and the results of his actions to the authors of several high-profile incidents which could be interpreted as murder.

The July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike
The expression "July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike" refers to three separate helicopter air-to-ground attacks which apparently shot and killed unarmed civilians including two journalists working for Reuters. Manning passed to WikiLeaks 39 minutes of classified cockpit gunsight footage in 2010 which includes both video of the three incidents and radio chatter between the aircrews and the ground units involved. The video and audio were later confirmed by an anonymous U.S. defense official.

On April 5/2010, Reuters reported on the leaked video and commented on the killing of the two news staff:

The helicopter opened fire on the small group, killing several people and wounding others. Minutes later, when a van approached and began trying to assist the wounded, the fliers became concerned the vehicle was occupied by militants trying to collect weapons and help wounded comrades escape. The Apache helicopters requested permission to attack the van and waited impatiently. "Come on, let us shoot," said one voice.
Assange said he disagreed with a U.S. military assessment that the attack was justified. "I believe that if those killings were lawful under the rules of engagement, then the rules of engagement are wrong, deeply wrong," he said. The fliers in the video act "like they are playing a computer game and their desire is they want to get high scores" by killing opponents, he said.

The Haditha Killings
On November 19, 2005 in the city of Haditha, an improvised explosive device (I.E.D.) exploded under a Humvee carrying four Marines. The driver was killed and the three passengers were wounded. In the immediate aftermath, five Iraqis were killed in the street and nineteen others killed in the adjacent houses by the Marines. While the motivations of the Marines were and continue to be debatable, it was subsequently alleged that the killings were retribution for the bombing.

Eman Waleed, a nine-year-old child who witnessed the incident, described the U.S. Marines entering their house. She said, "I couldn't see their faces very well - only their guns sticking in to the doorway. I watched them shoot my grandfather, first in the chest and then in the head. Then they killed my granny." (Wikipedia: Killings and immediate aftermath)

On December 21, 2006, the U.S. military charged eight Marines but since then, seven of the eight have been acquitted. Media has compared this to the famous or infamous My Mai massacre of the Viet Name War.

Daily Mail - Apr 7/2010
'Ha ha, I hit 'em': Top secret video showing U.S. helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad attack leaked online
By David Gardner
A secret video leaked on to the internet shows American soldiers laughing as a helicopter strike kills around a dozen civilians in Baghdad. In the 17-minute black-and-white footage from an Apache helicopter gunsight, the crew can be heard discussing the carnage as if they were playing a video war game. One soldier can even be heard shouting: 'Ha, ha, I hit 'em.' Another says: 'Look at those dead b******s.'

Uploaded by Wiskyl on Dec 24, 2010
Collateral Murder - Wikileaks - Iraq
On July 6, 2010, Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United States Army in Baghdad, was charged with disclosing this video (after allegedly speaking to an unfaithful journalist). The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr. Manning a 'hero'. He is currently imprisoned in Kuwait. The Apache crew and those behind the cover up depicted in the video have yet to be charged. 5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff.

Uploaded by Wiskyl on Dec 27, 2010
WikiLeaks' Collateral Murder: U.S. Soldier Ethan McCord's Eyewitness Story
This video features U.S. soldier Ethan McCord speaking about a 2007 civilian massacre in New Baghdad, documented with Apache helicopter footage of the attack allegedly disclosed by PFC Brad Manning via WikiLeaks in April 2010. McCord's story was delivered to attendees of the United National Peace Conference, which took place in Albany NY the weekend of July 23-25, 2010. Produced by the United National Peace Conference Media Project, powered by The Sanctuary for Independent Media and the Hudson Mohawk Independent Media Center.

Ethan McCord had just returned from dropping his children at school earlier this month, when he turned on the TV news to see grainy black-and-white video footage of a soldier running from a bombed-out van with a child in his arms. It was a scene that had played repeatedly in his mind the last three years, and he knew exactly who the soldier was.

In July 2007, McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage -- the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.

McCord was captured in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care. That classified video created its own firestorm when the whistleblower site Wikileaks posted it April 5 on a website titled "Collateral Murder" and asserted that the attack was unprovoked. More than a dozen people were killed in three attacks captured in the video, including two Reuters journalists, one carrying a camera that was apparently mistaken for a weapon.

McCord, who served seven years in the military before leaving in the summer of 2009 due to injuries, recently posted an apologetic letter online with fellow soldier Josh Steiber supporting the release of the video and asking the family's forgiveness. McCord is the father of three children.

Adrian Lamo
I have to make note of this part of Bradley Manning being arrested. He started an online dialogue with Adrian Lamo, a American hacker who seems to have something of a questionable past. Manning tells or confesses to Lamo that he has turned over documents to WikiLeaks and it is Lamo who turns Manning in. One could speculate that if Manning had not told anybody, he would not have been caught and conceivably could have continued to pass of secret document to WikiLeaks for quite some time.

Al Jazeera: War crimes good, exposing them bad
The authors of this article write: None of the soldiers who carried out that war crime [Baghdad airstrikes] have been punished, nor have any of the high-ranking officials who authorised it. And that's par for the course. Indeed, committing war crimes is more likely to get a soldier a medal than a prison term. And authorising them? Well, that'll get you a book deal and a six-digit speaking fee. Just ask George W Bush. Or Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice. Or the inexplicably "respectable" Colin Powell.

Final Word
It was the Al Jazeera article which originally caught my eye about the Manning story. It raises some interesting questions about how Manning is being vilified from here to tomorrow for his "traitorous" actions while those who were personally involved in committing crimes ranging from conducting a supposed illegal war to actually murdering innocent civilians remain unpunished and "at large".

In previous postings, I wrote about the book by George W. Bush called "Memoirs of the Decider" and the movie Fair Game about Valerie Plame incident, both of which are connected to the War in Iraq.

One thing can be said though; when you're big you don't necessarily have to be right. When the elephant moves, we try to stay out of its way. The United States is without a doubt the last superpower. It has the biggest economy in the world, almost 3 times bigger than the number 2 position. It has the biggest military in the world. With size comes "it just is". After all is said and done, after all the debates have exhausted every possible analysis of right, wrong and alternative scenarios, we must contend with what happened and what is.

In war, bad things happen. It's war. In the 2003 American documentary film "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara", the film maker shows lesson number nine to be: In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil. Is this a rationalization or is this true? The ends do justify the means?

Then again, the expression "fog of war" refers to the confusion which exists in war itself. In the 17-minute black-and-white footage from an Apache helicopter gunsight, the crew can be heard discussing the carnage as if they were playing a video war game. (Daily Mail) Like the movie Apocalypse Now, does the real become surreal and nobody truly appreciates what just what the heck is going on? As bizarre as this sounds, one could argue that the Baghdad Airstrikes and the Haditha Killings are incidental in the grand scheme of things. After all, it is war.

An article in Reuters of November 9, 2010 pegs the current cost of the Iraq war at nearly 5,800 soldiers killed, close to 40,000 wounded and over $1 trillion. An article in The Washington Post dated March 9, 2008 puts an estimate for the final tally of the Iraq war at 3 trillion dollars. That's trillion. I still remember watching a press conference before the war started where Donald Rumsfeld said that this would cost $1 billion and be over in less than a year.

Was Manning right to have leaked those documents to WikiLeaks? Will those leaked documents change anything? Whatever the case, for the rest of us, the little people who are for the most part on the sidelines watching world events unfold, we must contend with what is. We can debate what's right and wrong; we can come up with alternative choices that could have been made, but at the end of day, we have to deal with the world the way it is.


Wikipedia: Bradley Manning
Bradley E. Manning (born December 17, 1987) is a United States Army soldier who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed restricted material to the website WikiLeaks. He was charged in July that year with transferring classified data onto his personal computer, and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source. An additional 22 charges were preferred in March 2011, including "aiding the enemy," a capital offense, though prosecutors said they would not seek the death penalty. He currently awaits a hearing to decide whether he will face a court martial.

Wikipedia: Adrian Lamo
Adrian Lamo is a threat analyst and "grey hat" hacker. He first gained media attention for breaking into several high-profile computer networks, including those of The New York Times, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, culminating in his 2004 arrest. In 2010, Lamo became embroiled in the WikiLeaks scandal involving Bradley Manning, who was arrested after Lamo reported to federal authorities that Manning had leaked hundreds of thousands of sensitive U.S. government documents.

Al Jazeera - Mar 10/2011
War crimes good, exposing them bad
While military and political leaders accused of war crimes sleep soundly, one alleged whistleblower languishes in jail.
Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis
Bradley Manning is accused of humiliating the political establishment by revealing the complicity of top US officials in carrying out and covering up war crimes. In return for his act of conscience, the US government is torturing him, humiliating him and trying to keep him behind bars for life.

The lesson is clear, and soldiers take note: You're better off committing a war crime than exposing one.

Wikipedia: Medea Benjamin
Medea Benjamin (born Susan Benjamin on September 10, 1952) is an American political activist, best known for co-founding Code Pink and, along with her husband, activist and author Kevin Danaher, "fair trade" advocacy group Global Exchange. Benjamin also was a Green Party candidate in 2000 for the United States Senate.

Charles Davis: independent journalist
his blog: false dichotomy
An independent journalist working from an undisclosed location whose work has appeared across the United States on NPR and Pacifica stations and across the world through outlets including Inter Press Service, AlterNet, Common Dreams, Counterpunch and

Wikipedia: July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike
The July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrikes were a series of air-to-ground attacks conducted by a team of two United States Army AH-64 Apache helicopters in Al-Amin al-Thaniyah, in the district of New Baghdad in Baghdad, during the Iraq War.

In the first strike "Crazyhorse 1/8" directed 30mm cannon fire at a group of nine men, one had an AK 47 and another an RPG-7; most were unarmed; two were war correspondents for Reuters; Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen, whose cameras were mistaken for weapons. Eight men were killed, including Noor-Eldeen. Chmagh was wounded.

The second airstrike using 30 mm fire was directed at Chmagh and two other unarmed men and their unmarked van as they were attempting to help Chamgh into the van. Two children inside the van were wounded, three more men were killed, including Chmagh.

In a third airstrike the "Bush" helicopter team fired three AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to destroy a building after they had observed men enter, some of whom appeared to be armed.

The attacks received worldwide coverage following the release of 39 minutes of classified cockpit gunsight footage in 2010. Reuters had unsuccessfully requested the footage under the Freedom of Information Act in 2007. The footage was acquired from an undisclosed source in 2009 by the Internet leak website WikiLeaks, which released a shorter, edited version on April 5, 2010, under the name Collateral Murder. Recorded from the gunsight Target Acquisition and Designation System of one of the attacking helicopters, the video shows the three incidents and the radio chatter between the aircrews and ground units involved. An anonymous US military official confirmed the authenticity of the footage.

Wikipedia: Haditha killings
The Haditha killings (also called the Haditha incident or the Haditha massacre) refers to the incident where 24 Iraqi men, women and children were killed by a group of United States Marines on November 19, 2005 in Haditha, a city in the western Iraq province of Al Anbar. At least 15 of those killed were civilians. It has been alleged that the killings were retribution for the attack on a convoy of Marines with an improvised explosive device that killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas.

Wikipedia: Fog of War
The fog of war is a term used to describe the uncertainty in situation awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign. The term is ascribed to the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz, who wrote: "The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently — like the effect of a fog or moonshine — gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance."

Wikipedia: The Fog of War
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare.

Using archival footage, United States Cabinet conversation recordings, and an interview of the eighty-five-year-old Robert McNamara, as a former Secretary of Defense, The Fog of War depicts his life, from his birth during the First World War remembering the time American troops returned from Europe, to working as a WWII Whiz Kid military officer, to being the Ford Motor Company's president, to his being employed as Secretary of Defense and the Cuban Missile Crisis, to managing the American Vietnam War, as defense secretary for presidents Kennedy and Johnson — emphasizing the war's brutality under their regimes, and how he was hired as secretary of defense, despite limited military experience.

Collateral Murder
[This appears to be a web site set up by Wikileaks for the express purpose of showing the videos and still pictures to the public. The user can optionally download the materials.]
On July 6, 2010, Private Bradley Manning, a 22 year old intelligence analyst with the United States Army in Baghdad, was charged with disclosing this video (after allegedly speaking to an unfaithful journalist). The whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, has called Mr. Manning a 'hero'. He is currently imprisoned in Kuwait. The Apache crew and those behind the cover up depicted in the video have yet to be charged.

Wikipedia: Casualties of the Iraq War
[Numbers from different sources vary greatly, from 100,000 killed to 650,000 killed.]


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