Welcome Chase Madar (TheNation, TomDispatch.com) and Host Kevin Gosztola (Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning)
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]
On Tuesday, I will return to Fort Meade, Maryland, where court martial proceedings against Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of releasing classified information to WikiLeaks, resume. The focus of those proceedings will involve an effort by David Coombs, Manning’s defense lawyer, to have an “aiding the enemy” charge dismissed. This is one of the more egregious charges Manning faces and is based on the contention by the government that Manning knowingly provided “intelligence” to al Qaeda and other related terrorist groups indirectly when he allegedly released information to WikiLeaks.
The government will continue to make it difficult for Manning’s lawyers to mount a robust defense. They will manipulate military rules for court martial proceedings because, fundamentally, the lawyers carrying out the prosecution of Manning believe, as Chase Madar addresses in his book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, that “rules are rules.” No matter what, Manning signed non-disclosure agreements and went through training that taught him not to violate his security clearance “wantonly” (how the government puts it).
Madar’s book is not the first book out on the American soldier, who is believed to be responsible for the largest security breach in US history, but it is the first to pointedly lay out in detail an argument for why Manning should be revered for what he is alleged to have done.
The first chapter outlines why Manning deserves a medal. He presents five reason why an award is deserved: for giving US foreign policy the public supervision it so badly needs, for exposing the pathological over-classification of America’s public documents, for doing more than any American alive to advance the cause of freedom abroad, for performing his duties in exemplary fashion, and for upholding an American tradition of transparency in statecraft.
Madar proceeds to outline the life of Bradley Manning and how he ended up in the military. He then outlines the major document releases from WikiLeaks, which Manning is allegedly responsible for providing to the media organization: the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan and Iraq War logs, and the US State Embassy cables.
Once Madar presents a background on Manning and the leaks, he then places what Manning allegedly did in a larger context and examines whether whistleblowing has historically led to public efforts for reform, how the inhumane treatment Manning experienced while confined at Quantico Marine brig is not an anomaly in American society, and how the rule of law is scarcely used against the powerful when they violate rules or the law in war or in day-to-day government operations.
The look at whistleblowing, torture, and the rule of law combine together to form an indictment of not just American government, but also the wider American society. It compels the reader to look inwardly and ask how one can find it acceptable for the United States to put Bradley Manning in prison for life, possibly, while gross injustice and inequity, along with bloodshed in wars of occupation that are illegal and immoral, are carried out by America.
Madar, like famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, casts aside concern for whether Manning violated the military code. Instead, the book’s central theme is: if he did it, he deserves credit.
He writes in the final paragraph of the first chapter:
If there’s one thing to learn from the last ten years, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money. And though information is powerless on its own, it is still a necessary precondition for any democratic state to function. Thanks to the whistleblowing revelations attributed to Bradley Manning, we have a clearer picture of what our own country is doing. If Manning is responsible for the price, he deserves no prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an apology from the government that has persecuted him and the heartfelt gratitude of the citizens of his country.
Madar makes the case for Manning so well that supporters of Manning may wish Manning’s defense would stand before the judge presiding over Manning’s case and enter the book’s entire contents into the record. They might wonder why this can’t be what the defense uses to argue Manning should not face punishment.
In comparison, Coombs did say of Manning in the closing argument of Manning’s Article 32 hearing:
“He was a young man with a strong moral compass. And obviously in your early twenties, you believe you can change the world…In your early twenties, you believe you can make a difference and that’s a good thing. In your early twenties, when your president says, ‘Yes We Can,’ you actually believe that.”
Coombs also said, the “hallmark of our democracy is the ability of our government to be open with its public….Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant.” And: “History will ultimately judge my client.”
This is something that comes through in Madar’s book, too—the fact that if one looks at recent American history, Manning should come off as a person of conscience and not a criminal.
It is an important book. As someone who is also an author of a book on Bradley Manning’s case, it is good because someone who is familiar with all the issues can read it and appreciate the craft that went into putting this together. (There’s some Passion of Chase Madar that really comes through.)
For those who don’t know the Manning case, it provides basic details; and for those who are aware but want a grand perspective on what Manning allegedly did, it deconstructs reactions to the leak and explores a number of appalling policies of the US government which should only amplify outrage at the injustice Manning has experienced so far.