This trial is not simply the prosecution of a 25-year-old soldier who had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse that are carried out by our government and our occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press, one that has the constitutional right to expose crimes by those in power. The lonely individuals who take personal risks so that the public can know the truth—the Daniel Ellsbergs, the Ron Ridenhours, the Deep Throats and the Bradley Mannings—are from now on to be charged with “aiding the enemy.” All those within the system who publicly reveal facts that challenge the official narrative will be imprisoned, as was John Kiriakou, the former CIA analyst who for exposing the U.S. government’s use of torture began serving a 30-month prison term the day Manning read his statement. There is a word for states that create these kinds of information vacuums: totalitarian.
The cowardice of The New York Times, El Pais, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, all of which used masses of the material Manning passed on to WikiLeaks and then callously turned their backs on him, is one of journalism’s greatest shames. These publications made little effort to cover Manning’s pretrial hearings, a failure that shows how bankrupt and anemic the commercial press has become . . .
Manning has done what anyone with a conscience should have done. In the courtroom he exhibited—especially given the prolonged abuse he suffered during his thousand days inside the military prison system—poise, intelligence and dignity. He appealed to the best within us. And this is why the government fears him. America still produces heroes, some in uniform. But now we lock them up.
I know a lot of people are uneasy about calling Manning a hero because they consider him a criminal because he apparently broke laws. I wonder whether they would agree that by exposing lawless American warmongering and exposing huge numbers of civilian casualties covered up by the U.S. Manning has saved many lives by shortening, curtailing and discouraging the reckless use of the U.S. military. Can’t a thing declared to be criminal be the right thing to do? Was Martin Luther King merely a “criminal,” or was he doing the right thing? The case against Bradley Manning is a battle over whether the People of the United States, supposedly the ones running this country, have the right to know what their own government is doing. Or, on the other hand, the U.S. Government has the right to frighten off the relatively few remaining quality journalists out there by threatening a bizarre use of the federal Espionage Act. It’s that simple.