Today begins the trial of Bradley Manning. It is illuminating that our nation has developed a habit of silencing whistle blowers, yet ignoring the alleged crime they report. The information Bradley Manning released may not have caused the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street movements, but it certainly informed them. In some quarters the leaks confirmed what people already knew, if we do not rise in solidarity we will all become victims of a system run amok.
I know it isn’t a popular position, but I myself would be in favor of releasing Bradley Manning. I think what he did was in the spirit of Daniel Ellsberg, who is now remember as a hero for revealing the lies behind the Vietnam War. Ellsberg said, “If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero of mine and I think he did a great service to this country.”
Justice Hugo Black wrote of the Pentagon Papers in 1971, “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.” I would go a step further. We have every reason to suspect that our nation has committed crimes against humanity on a routine basis since WW2. Whatever one thinks of Bradley Manning or what his punishment should be, we have a duty as citizens of this nation to find out if crimes have been committed in our name.
Gary Younge of the UK Guardian wrote of the Manning case, “In this world, murder is not the crime; unmasking and distributing evidence of it is. To insist that Manning’s disclosure put his military colleagues in harm’s way is a bit like a cheating husband claiming that his partner reading his diary, not the infidelity, is what is truly imperilling their marriage. Avoiding responsibility for action, one instead blames the information and informant who makes that action known.” John Pilger further contends: “Private Manning is the world’s pre-eminent prisoner of conscience, having remained true to the Nuremberg principle that every soldier has the right to ‘a moral choice.’ His suffering mocks the notion of the land of the free.”
According to a friend from school, Bradley Manning was always a person who lived by principle and confronted wrong when he saw it. Now he faces life in prison. It has been reported that he has been subject to cruel and degrading treatment bordering on torture. He almost certainly faces a dismal future. The information he thought would call America to conscience has driven us further into denial. Alan Moore does not accept willed ignorance as an excuse: “When the persecution of an individual who has exposed an evil is pursued so ruthlessly and yet the evil itself is studiedly ignored, all of us know that there is something very wrong with the way that our society is conducting itself. And if we do not protest in the strongest terms about what is being done in our name, then we become complicit.”
Some are calling Manning a hero, others a traitor. Neither label gets to the issue that he held a mirror up to our nation to reveal what looks like a monstrous image. We would rather destroy the one holding the mirror than confront what we have become. Perhaps we now understand why, in legend, vampires always hate mirrors.