December 23, 2011
Private Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing—for his role in leaking a treasure trove of U.S. Army information to whistleblowing website Wikileaks—has ended.
The Article 32 hearing’s outcome will decide whether the 24-year-old Manning will face court-martial with a possible death sentence hanging over his head.
But, if Manning is to face "justice" where are the trials and tribunals for those who’ve committed war crimes while causing death and destruction on a massive scale?
From last Friday to Thursday, U.S. military prosecutors, at Maryland’s Fort Meade military base, have been laying out their evidence against Pfc. Bradley Manning accusing him of supplying Wikileaks with thousands of sensitive army materials. Reportedly, 110,000 classified cables were found on Manning’s computer. Manning has been charged with 22 counts of distributing state secrets—charges which could lead to him receiving a death sentence. Prosecutors have said they’ll seek a life sentence instead.
Private Manning has been under arrest since May 2010, when he was fingered as the source who supplied U.S. Army documents, like the "Collateral Murder" video, to Wikileaks. The "Collateral Murder" video showed the July 12, 2007 killing of 12 people in Iraq—including two Reuter’s news personnel: 40-year-old Saeed Chmagh and 22-year-old Namir Noor-Eldeen. Wikileaks published the "Collateral Murder" video in April 2010, followed by the July 2010 release of the Afghan War Diaries, after Manning’s arrest.
The Afghan War Diaries are a collection of over 91,000 military logs that paints a contradictory picture to Washington’s glossy assessment of the Afghanistan campaign. The logs cover the period from 2004 to 2009—and contain accounts of war crimes, like the shooting, bombing and massacre of civilians.
Tuesday, Adrian Lamo, the California computer hacker who informed officials of Manning’s whistleblowing activities testified at Manning’s pre-trial hearing. Lamo testified to conversing via instant messages with someone using the handle Bradass87 who bragged he was responsible for the leak. Lamo stated he knew Manning was Bradass87—based on analysis of Manning’s Facebook page and the instant messages.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is also a possible prosecution target. Prosecutors claim they’ve direct evidence, including e-mails, linking Assange to Manning. Some have argued Assange should be tried under the Espionage Act of 1917, for publishing the documents. Assange maintains he is a journalist and should be exempt from any charge of illegally disseminating classified government documents.
On Wednesday, Jennifer Robinson, a legal advisor to Julian Assange, said the Article 32 hearing "has confirmed what we knew already, that the US is still very serious about pursuing Julian Assange and it only confirms our fears about extradition to the US are warranted."
Prosecutors allege one e-mail message to Wikileaks, from Manning, expressed hope the thousands of leaked classified documents would be "one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare." During the trial evidence was released showing that Private Manning suffer from psychological problems.
Truthfully, there’s no doubt Mr. Manning engaged in reckless conduct. For one thing, he seemed to never have learned the adage "loose lips sink ships." What possessed him to blab to someone he didn’t know, like Lamo, that he was Wikileaks’ source? There is an accusation that Lamo misrepresented himself as being either a priest or journalist—with the supposed assumption of conversational confidentiality. Be that as it may, it was dumb for Manning to make this admission.
However, Manning’s erratic conduct lies at the feet of the U.S. Army. During the hearing evidence surfaced showing several instances where Manning's bizarre behavior—like punching a female soldier and dressing up in women’s clothes—were ignored. This falls in line with those who say the military's psychological apparatus inadequately serve soldiers with mental problems.
Many in the State Department, and in Congress, are calling for Private Manning’s crucifixion. Yet, why isn’t Congress also calling for the prosecution of those who actually used fraudulent claims to take the nation into war that caused destruction and death on a mass scale? If Mr. Manning is to be court-martialed, shouldn’t President Bush and Dick Cheney face justice as well?
In Congress, those clamoring for the head of Manning and Assange argue the leaks have "endangered lives." If that’s the real rationale, why wasn’t Mr. Cheney prosecuted for vindictively leaking the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame? Why wasn’t Congress outraged her name was leaked to punish her husband, Joe Wilson, for exposing the Bush Administration’s bogus Niger yellowcake uranium fable?
The worst part of this duplicitous reasoning, about "endangering lives," is: those who’ve caused so much death are living lavish and free. Over 4000 Americans, and around one million Iraqis, have lost their lives because of the lies of the Bush White House. Instead of shooting quail—or some friend in the face—shouldn’t Cheney be in jail?
Worst of all, the Downing Street Memo implicated the Bush gang in seeking excuses to justify war. Among the memo’s insightful contents was a statement made by the head of England’s Secret Intelligence Service (M16): "George Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
The U.K.'s then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was quoted saying Bush’s "case was thin" and the U.K.'s then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith stated an invasion would be hard to justify legally.
Assuming Mr. Assange is extradited we would have an absurd reality where war criminals like Bush and Cheney escape prosecution—while those who helped uncover their crimes are penalized. Is that "justice"? Moreover, if America demands Assange’s extradition, will America’s government then honor the requests of German prosecutors who’ve wanted to indict former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld since 2006?
In 2008, California prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi—famous for prosecuting Charles Manson—wrote the book "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder" outlining how President Bush could be successfully prosecuted.
Bush, himself, admitted on national television to violating the Geneva Conventions by authorizing torture—a term euphemistically replaced by the phrase "enhanced interrogation." Yet, the American judicial system did nothing.
In the end, Mr. Bugliosi asked the question we should all ask: "Are there no consequences for committing a crime of colossal proportions?"