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Proletarian issue 53 (April 2013)
Bradley Manning: a working-class hero
US private’s defiant stand turns tables on an accuser dripping with blood from every paw. Let us learn from his example!
After more than ten months in solitary confinement and over 1,000 days total incarceration for exposing the war crimes of the United States government, Private Bradley Manning finally appeared before a military judge in late February.

Leaks: why all the fuss?

You would have to have been living under a rock these past few years to have missed all the furore over ‘whistleblowers’ and ‘leaks’ of one sort or another. Without doubt, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is now a household name in Britain, as he continues to evade the clutches of the British police who are hell-bent on extraditing him to Sweden.

But the name of Bradley Manning, although well known on the ‘left’, is far from having the notoriety of Assange, despite the pivotal role Manning played in propelling WikiLeaks to international fame.

Manning, by all accounts something of a self-confessed geek, entered the US military as an intelligence analyst in an attempt to get help in paying for a college education. This military-service-for-college-credits scheme, known as the GI Bill, is something of a ransom which is offered to working-class Americans. Their hope is that they will survive the horrors of working for the imperialist war machine, live to tell the tale and be handed back something resembling a life having spent several tours of duty ensuring that people from other countries live out their days in subjugation or else rot in a shallow grave for having also strived for an education, independence, sovereignty and a future fit for human beings.

Like so many of his kind, Private Manning was totally unprepared for the horrors that he witnessed on the part of a US military machine that had launched into genocidal action in Iraq back in 2003. Manning’s unwillingness to condone the crimes of his employers has led him to the dire situation in which he now finds himself – namely, languishing in a military jail; ‘in the hole’ because he dared to expose atrocities committed by US forces in several warzones.

It was whilst working as a military analyst that Manning uncovered incontrovertible truth about the scale of killing and the reality of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. After frustrated attempts to release his evidence through mainstream media channels, he eventually passed his evidence to Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks organisation, who made it the central exposé in their revealing of details about the murderous imperialist invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

For bravely exposing war crimes, murder, the killing and maiming of children and suchlike, one might imagine that Manning would be bestowed with some honour or medal. Perhaps a lucrative book deal, maybe a Nobel Peace Prize, or a ringside seat at a high-profile trial in the Hague?

Alas, poor Bradley made the mistake of exposing the wrong kind of ‘human-rights atrocities’. In his ignorance and youthful fervour he had gone and exposed the crimes of imperialism and forgotten the jungle law of capitalism, that imperialism strives for domination, not democracy!

For this error, Private Manning missed the celebrity handshakes and craven sycophancy which is habitually showered upon those who ‘expose’ the (usually fictional) ‘crimes’ of imperialism’s enemies. Instead, he has been treated to some of that good-old US hospitality – namely, a period of total isolation designed to break his spirit and destroy his mind, followed by a lengthy secret trial with justice denied at every turn.

It was in the course of this game that Manning was hauled up in front of a military judge in February, hidden from cameras and public view. Private Manning was read a number of charges, some of which he agrees to (as a plea bargain) and others of which he still denies. Had it not been for the Freedom of the Press Foundation who leaked a recording of his submission, we might never have heard his voice or his side of the story.

Marjorie Cohn, writing for Global Research,reported:

Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to 10 charges, including possessing and wilfully communicating to an unauthorised person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. The charges carry a total of 20 years in prison. For the first time, Bradley spoke publicly about what he did and why. His actions, now confirmed by his own words, reveal Bradley to be a very brave young man.

When he was 22 years old, Pfc Bradley Manning gave classified documents to WikiLeaks. They included the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which depicts US forces in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children.

The now famous images of the US air force gunning down civilians and then firing upon those who came to help would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Manning. In fact, when Reuters had attempted to get a copy so as to draw lessons from it to protect their other reporters out in the field, the US responded to the media outlet's Freedom of Information request by asserting that the video no longer existed. Such is the ‘freedom’ of information that might do harm to imperialism’s interests!

Whilst recommending to all our readers the entire text of Private Manning’s speech, which can now be found online, the following highlights give a summary of the kind of criminal acts that Manning uncovered:

“I am a 25-year-old Private First Class in the United States Army ... My primary military occupational specialty or PMOS is 35 foxtrot: intelligence analyst. I entered active duty status on 2 October 2007. I enlisted with the hope of obtaining both real-world experience and earning benefits under the GI Bill for college opportunities …”

Iraq and Afghanistan war logs

“As an analyst I viewed the SigActs [Significant Acts – reports of engagements with the ‘enemy’, often forming the basis of the propaganda reports passed to media outlets about ‘facts on the ground’] as historical data. I believed this view is shared by other all-source analysts as well.

“SigActs give a first-look impression of a specific or isolated event. This event can be an improvised explosive device attack or IED, small-arms-fire engagement (or SAF engagement) with a hostile force, or any other event a specific unit documented and recorded in real time.

“In my perspective, the information contained within a single SigAct or group of SigActs is not very sensitive. The events encapsulated within most SigActs involve either enemy engagements or casualties. Most of this information is publicly reported by the public affairs office (or PAO), embedded media pools, or host-nation (HN) media …

“For me, the SigActs represented the on-the-ground reality of the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I felt that we were risking so much for people that seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and anger on both sides.

“I began to become depressed with the situation we found ourselves increasingly mired in. The SigActs documented this in great detail and provided a context for what we were seeing on the ground. In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism (or CT) and counter-insurgency (COIN) operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and with being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our host-nation partners, ignoring the second and third-order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions.

“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables it could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general 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 re-evaluate the need, or even the desire, to even engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment everyday ...

“I attached a text file I drafted while preparing to provide the documents to the Washington Post. I provided rough guidelines saying, ‘It’s already been sanitised 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 21st-century asymmetric warfare. Have a good day.

“After sending this, I left the SD card in a camera case at my aunt’s house in the event I needed it again in the future. I returned from mid-tour leave on 11 February 2010. Although the information had not yet been published by the WLO, I 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 what I had read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan every day …”

Collateral murder

“The video depicted several individuals being engaged by an aerial weapons team. At first I did not consider the video very special, as I have viewed countless other ‘war porn’-type videos depicting combat.

“However, the recording and audio comments by the aerial weapons team and the second engagement in the video of an unarmed bongo truck troubled me. As Showman and a few other analysts and officers in the T-SCIF commented on the video and debated whether the crew violated the rules of engagement or ROE in the second engagement, I shied away from this debate, and decided to conduct some research on the event.

“I wanted to learn what happened and whether there was any background to the events of the day that the event occurred, 12 July 2007. Using Google I searched for the event by date by its general location. I found several new accounts involving two Reuters employees who were killed during the aerial weapon team engagement.

“Another story explained how Reuters had requested for a copy of the video under the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA. Reuters wanted to view the video in order to understand what had happened and to improve their safety practices in combat zones. A spokesperson for Reuters was quoted saying that the video might help avoid the reoccurrence of the tragedy and believed there was a compelling need for the immediate release of the video.

“Despite the submission of the FOIA request, the news account explained that Centcom replied to Reuters stating that they could not give a timeframe for considering a FOIA request and that the video might no longer exist. Another story I found written a year later said that even though Reuters was still pursuing the request, they still did not receive a formal response or written determination in accordance with FOIA.

“The fact that neither Centcom nor Multi-National Forces Iraq (MNF-I) would voluntarily release the video troubled me further. It was clear to me that the event happened because the aerial weapons team mistakenly identified Reuters employees as a potential threat and that the people in the bongo truck were merely attempting to assist the wounded. The people in the van were not a threat but merely ‘good Samaritans.’

“The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team seemed to have.

They dehumanised the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers.

“At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

“While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see a bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew assumes the individuals are a threat. They repeatedly request for authorisation to fire on the bongo truck and, once granted, they engage the vehicle at least six times.

“Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanised infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van. Despite the injuries, the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying ‘Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.’

“The aerial weapons team crew members sound like they lack sympathy for the children or the parents. Later, in a particularly disturbing manner, the aerial weapons team crew vocalises enjoyment at the sight of one of the ground vehicles driving over one of the bodies …

“After the release, I was concerned about the impact of the video and how it would be received by the general public. 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 were targets that needed to be neutralised, 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 – as me by what they saw …”

Fifteen Iraqi detainees

“On 27 February 2010, a report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an event in which the Federal Police (FP) detained 15 individuals for printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Tactical Operation Centre (TOC) to investigate the matter and figure out who the ‘bad guys’ were and how significant this event was for the Federal Police.

“Over the course of my research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups. A few hours later, I received several photos from the scene from the subordinate battalion. They were accidentally sent to an officer on a different team in the S2 section, and she forwarded them to me.

“These photos included pictures of the individuals, pallets of unprinted paper and seized copies of the final, printed document, and a high-resolution photo of the printed material itself. I printed out one copy of a high-resolution photo. I laminated it for ease of use and transfer. I then walked to the TOC and delivered the laminated copy to our Category 2 interpreter.

“She reviewed the information and about a half an hour later delivered a rough written transcript in English to the S2 section. I read the transcript and followed up with her, asking her for her take on the content.

“She said it was easy for her to transcribe verbatim since I blew up the photograph and laminated it. She said the general nature of the document was benign. The document, as I had assessed as well, was merely a scholarly critique of the then current Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

“It detailed corruption within the cabinet of al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people. After discovering this discrepancy between the Federal Police’s report and the interpreter’s transcript, I forwarded this discovery to the top OIC and the battle NCOIC.

“The top OIC and the [unavailable] battle captain informed me they didn’t want or need to know this information anymore. They told me to ‘drop it’ and to just assist them and the Federal Police in finding out where more of these print shops creating ‘anti-Iraqi literature’ might be.

“I couldn’t believe what I heard, and I returned to the T-SCIF and complained to the other analysts in my section NCOIC about what happened. Some were sympathetic, but no one wanted to do anything about it.

“I am the type of person who likes to know how things work, and, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie-cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could do to correct or mitigate the situation.

“I knew if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time – if ever.

“Instead of assisting the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to the WLO, before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, hoping they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down on political opponents of al-Maliki ...”

Garani massacre

“In late March 2010, I discovered a US Centcom directory on a 2009 air strike in Afghanistan. I was searching Centcom for information I could use as an analyst. This is something myself and other officers did on a frequent basis.

“As I reviewed the documents, I recalled the incident and what happened. The air strike occurred in the Garani village in the Farah Province, north-western Afghanistan. It received worldwide press coverage at the time as it was reported that up to 100-150 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were accidentally killed during the airstrike.

“After going through the report and annexes, I began to review the incident as being similar to the 12 July 2007 aerial weapons team engagements in Iraq. However, this event was noticeably different in that it involved a significantly higher number of individuals, larger aircraft and much heavier munitions.

“The conclusions of the report are more disturbing than those of the July 2007 incident. I did not see anything in the 15-6 report or its annexes that gave away sensitive information. Rather, the investigation and its conclusions help explain how the incident occurred and what those involved should have done to avoid an event like this occurring again.”

Imperialism the real criminal

It is clear that the real criminal that should be on trial here is imperialism, and all its lackeys and flunkeys – including those journalists and media pundits who, deliberately or otherwise, promote and propagate imperialism’s war propaganda from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria et al.

These people are the first to decry the so-called ‘show trials’ of Stalin’s Soviet Union, in which proven murderers, criminals, fascists and agents of fascism responsible for wrecking and sabotage were publicly tried in front of the world’s media and imperialism’s ambassadors. Such trials were possible because of the clear proof that the Soviet prosecutors offered in order to secure the convictions of the guilty.

On the other hand, the fact that imperialism and its lackeys are forced to hold secret trials, whether in Guantanamo or Baghdad, where the accused are prevented from getting across their stories, and where the bourgeois freedoms of yesteryear are trampled underfoot and journalism transformed into a submissive and spineless propaganda mechanism, demonstrates the total absence of anything approaching evidence or even a crime – and the weakness of the imperialist system itself.

That these are mere kangaroo courts, set up to deny justice and see to it that the accused parties are scuttled off to prison or lynched from a makeshift gallows, is surely clear to all. Bradley Manning’s voice will be heard, despite the deafening silence of British and US corporate media. Just as it was heard on the streets of Afghanistan when residents in Kabul declared in an international day of solidarity that Bradley is a hero of the Afghan people!
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