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WikiLeaks’ New Release: The Kissinger Cables and Bradley Manning April 12, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, History, Wikileaks.
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WikiLeaks has released a new trove of documents, more than 1.7 million U.S. State Department cables dating from 1973-1976, which they have dubbed “The Kissinger Cables,” after Henry Kissinger, who in those years served as secretary of state and assistant to thepresident for national security affairs

.Henry Kissinger. (Flickr/Cliff CC-BY)

One cable includes a transcribed conversation where Kissinger displays remarkable candor: “Before the Freedom of Information Act, I used to say at meetings, ‘The illegal we do immediately; the unconstitutional takes a little longer.’ [laughter] But since the Freedom of Information Act, I’m afraid to say things like that.”

While the illegal and the unconstitutional may be a laughing matter for Kissinger, who turns 90 next month, it is deadly serious for Pvt. Bradley Manning. After close to three years in prison, at least eight months of which in conditions described by U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Ernesto Mendez as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” Manning recently addressed the court at Fort Meade: “I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general, as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

These words of Manning’s were released anonymously, in the form of an audio recording made clandestinely, that we broadcast on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. This was Bradley Manning, in his own voice, in his own words, explaining his actions.

He testified about the helicopter gunship video that he released to WikiLeaks, which was later made public under the title “Collateral Murder.” In stark, grainy black-and-white, it shows the gunship kill 12 men in Baghdad on July 12, 2007, with audio of the helicopter crew mocking the victims, celebrating the senseless murder of the people below, two of whom were employees of the Reuters news agency.

Manning said: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me, however, was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the aerial weapons team. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as ‘dead bastards,’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”

Reuters had sought the video through a Freedom of Information request, but had been denied. So Manning delivered the video, along with hundreds of thousands of other classified electronic documents, through the anonymous, secure online submission procedure developed by WikiLeaks. Manning made the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history, and changed the world.

The WikiLeaks team gathered at a rented house in Reykjavik, Iceland, to prepare the video for public release. Among those working was Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament. She told me: “When I saw the video in February 2010, I was profoundly moved. I was moved to tears, like many people that watch it. But at the same time, I understood its significance and how it might be able to change our world and make it better.”

Jonsdottir co-founded the Icelandic Pirate Party, a genuine political party springing up in many, mostly European countries. A lifelong activist, she calls herself a “pixel pirate.”

The “Collateral Murder” video created a firestorm of press attention when it was first released. One of the soldiers on the ground was Ethan McCord, who rushed to the scene of the slaughter and helped save two children who had been injured in the attack. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He recently penned a letter of support for Bradley Manning, writing: “The video released by WikiLeaks belongs in the public record. Covering up this incident is a matter deserving of criminal inquiry. Whoever revealed it is an American hero in my book.”

In the three years since “Collateral Murder” was released in April 2010, WikiLeaks has come under tremendous pressure. Manning faces life in prison or possibly even the death penalty. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spent a year and a half under house arrest in Britain, until he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has remained since June 2012, fighting extradition to Sweden. He fears Sweden could then extradite him to the United States, where a secret grand jury may have already issued a sealed indictment against him. Private details from Jonsdottir’s Twitter and four other online accounts have been handed over to U.S. authorities.

WikiLeaks’ latest release, which includes documents already declassified but very difficult to search and obtain, is a testament to the ongoing need for WikiLeaks and similar groups. The revealed documents have sparked controversies around the world, even though they relate to the 1970s. If we had a uniform standard of justice, Nobel laureate Henry Kissinger would be the one on trial, and Bradley Manning would win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 1,100 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

The Crime of Truth: Obama’s Persecution of the Peacemaker March 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, War.
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(about the author)

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If any one person can be said to have ended the direct involvement of the United States military in Iraq, it is not the man whose champions  claim this deed as one of his glorious accomplishments: Barack Obama. As we all know (and 99 percent of us have forgotten), Obama fought  doggedly to extend the murderous occupation of Iraq into the indefinite  future.
No, if you had to choose one person whose actions were  the most instrumental in ending the overt phase of the war, it would not the commander-in-chief of the most powerful war machine in world  history, but a lowly foot-soldier — mocked, shackled, tortured,  defenseless — Bradley Manning

William Blum points this out in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” as he recaps the impact of the revelations made by Manning and  Wikileaks. He begins by noting a painful irony: Manning’s own defense  team is playing down the heroic nature of this act and instead insisting that such a “sexually troubled” young man should never have been sent  to the homophobic environment of the American occupation force in the  first place. He was under too much stress, acting irrationally, they  say, and thus should not be held accountable for his actions.

 

As Blum  notes, this defense — though doubtless well-intentioned, a desperate  bid to keep Obama’s massive war machine from crushing Manning completely under its wheels — partakes of the same deceitful twisting of reality  that has characterized the entire war crime from the beginning. Blum:

“It’s unfortunate and disturbing that  Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal  defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are  what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of  classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting  him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or  traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the  lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate  that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.

“Here are Manning’s own words from an  online chat: ‘If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the  public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in  Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people  to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make  informed decisions as a public.’
Is the world to believe that  these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the  Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty  than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes  of that government?”

Every scrap of evidence presented about Manning’s alleged crimes  makes it clear that he was acting from rational, well-considered  motives, based on the highest ideals. Indeed, wasn’t Manning simply  following the words of Jesus Christ — words carved in stone, with the  most bitter irony, in the entranceway of the original headquarters of  the CIA: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you  free.”
In any case, as Blum points out, the effects of Manning’s actions were far-reaching:

“It was after seeing American war crimes  such as those depicted in the video ‘Collateral Murder’ and documented  in the ‘Iraq War Logs,’ made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the  Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering  several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the  wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the  attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in  Philadelphia.
“The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal  jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law —  something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many  countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama  administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
“If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today …”

But he is not a free man, of course. It is very likely that he will  never be free again. He will spend the rest of his life in a federal  prison for the unforgivable crime of telling the truth to people who  don’t want to hear it.

 
NOTE: A tribute to Bradley and his fellow truth-tellers can be found here: The Good Corporal: To the Exposers of Power and the Troublers of Dreams.

 

This one goes out to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds, and “all those who speak the hard truth to the state.”

 

The Good Corporal

Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

 You’ve opened the door where the dark deeds go on,

Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.

Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime

Done in the name of your country and mine.

Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,

In a land where no echo will carry the cries.

Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame

For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?

Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,

Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?
Good corporal, good corporal, don’t you know the fate

Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State

And all who trouble the people’s sweet dreams?

They’re mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.

Good corporal, good corporal, what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

  © 2010 by Chris Floyd

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more…)

The Anti-Empire Report

March 5th, 2012   by William Blum www.killinghope.org

The Saga of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks, to be put to ballad and film

“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)

It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks.  They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor.  He should be hailed as a national hero.  Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind.  May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there.  Bradley also wears a military uniform.

Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person?  Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?

Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos.  For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”.  Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange.  Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination.  Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated.  What century are we living in?  What world?

It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.

If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.

Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.

When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.

Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:

      • In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects.  A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency.  Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
      • Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
      • The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
      • A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.  “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
      • The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
      • State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords,  personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data.  US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.  US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”.  The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
      • A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.  An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
      • The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”.  US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
      • The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth.  [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
      • The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted.  The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
      • President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore.  He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
      • Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.  The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”.  The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
      • Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing.  The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
      • Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba,  which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
      • Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
      • Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
      • The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
      • US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
      • Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
      • Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
      • The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
      • The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there.  It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
      • The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five.  Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
      • The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”.  “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency.  Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further.  There is no USG action required.”
      • UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
      • A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference.  He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”.  [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
      • Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
      • DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits.  (Yes, it’s what you think.)
      • Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
      • Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
      • The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people.  A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process.  In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.  And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
      • The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
      • Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
      • The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
      • A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
      • The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
      • A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
      • US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen.  [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003.  He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized.  The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
      • 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.”  Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago.  What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it?  American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
      • The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
      • Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.

William Blum is the author of:

      • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
      • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
      • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
      • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

Bradley Manning’s Quest for Justice February 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Democracy.
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Roger’s note: there is nothing new in this article that I haven’t already posted, but I believe it is important to keep Bradley Manning before the public eye.  Of all of the Orwellian machinations we have witnessed in the Bush/Obama era, the President of the United States (Obama) pronouncing Manning guilty before he has had a trial is one of the most outrageous and unbelievable.  I say this because, one, Obama is a lawyer and a constitutional scholar; and, two, because I learned in school that we are a nation of laws.  Naive of me, I know.

Published on Saturday, February 25, 2012 by the Guardian/UK

Whatever the outcome of the WikiLeaks suspect’s trial, many of us believe he holds to a higher standard of truth than this court’s

  by  Logan Price

In a small military court room at Fort Meade, two weeks after he was nominated for a Nobel Peace prize, I watched Bradley Manning appear before a judge – for the second time in his 635-day stint of pre-trial detainment. He sat silently while the prosecution read his 22 charges.

We won’t hear his plea until the hearing is continued in March. Manning will likely be tried in early August. If all goes to plan for the prosecution, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Bradley Manning escorted from a military vehicle to the court facility at Fort Meade, Maryland. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Before the charges were read, Manning’s attorney asked the judge about her prior knowledge of the case, the issues surrounding it, and any previous opinions she may have had about it. She stated that she had known nothing of the case besides Manning’s name “and that it involved classified material”. When asked if she had spoken to friends or colleagues about the case, she said she hadn’t. She held no prior opinion, we were told.

For what must be the biggest controversy of the decade, I found this hard to believe. It reaffirmed my skepticism and brought to mind what many have already said: this trial is a sham.

President Obama, ultimately the judge’s commander, does have an opinion about the matter – as he told me when I asked for his view at a fundraiser in San Francisco last April, at the end of Manning’s extended solitary confinement at Quantico Marine Base.

In his mind, Bradley Manning was already guilty. The conversation was caught on tape, and legal experts have argued that the president’s statement should be grounds for dismissal.

“We’re a nation of laws,” Obama told me. “He broke the law.”

Some people are held to the law and others are not. Recalling the killing of journalists working for Reuters in the “Collateral Murder” video allegedly released by Manning, this is exactly this kind of selective enforcement that motivated WikiLeaks’ revelations – and which brought me and my peers to Zuccotti Park last fall to use the only means we have to hold accountable those whose criminal acts brought us to economic crisis.

A generation before Bradley Manning, Daniel Ellsberg understood that some laws were worth breaking to expose and bring accountability to far greater crimes. Ellsberg tried to voice his grievances within his chain of command, as Manning did, before being ignored.

I have heard many people justify the government’s treatment of Manning simply because of the risks he allegedly took. “He should have known better,” they say, missing the point. Asked in 1971 if he was prepared to go to prison for releasing the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg’s reply was simple: “Wouldn’t you go to jail to end this war?”

Ellsberg’s stand came back to me, sitting at Manning’s arraignment. “I want people to see the truth,” Bradley is alleged to have typed to the hacker who turned him in.

As the judge announced the recess and prepared to leave the room, someone stood up and shouted: “Your honor! Isn’t it a soldier’s responsibility to report war crimes?”

The judge silently looked away. It’s an argument that the court will have to contend with, before the trial ends. When that happens, I hope the world is watching.

© 2012 Logan Price

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Logan Price

Logan Price is a grassroots environmental activist and nonviolence trainer who has worked with a variety of organizations, including Occupy Wall Street and the Bradley Manning Support Network.

War Crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan April 13, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Uncategorized, War.
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(Roger’s note: we have to always keep in mind that the real war criminals are those in power — from Bush to Obama, the Congress, etc. — who are responsible for the illegal and murderous invasions and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.  From the security of their comfortable mansions, they send in American soldiers to do their dirty work, soldiers who are dehumanized in their training and mission.)
Published on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by The Nationby Robert Dreyfuss

War crimes, massacres, and, as Al Jazeera properly calls it, “collateral murder,” are all part of the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

The release last week of the Wikileaks video, thirty-eight grisly minutes long, of US airmen casually slaughtering a dozen Iraqis in 2007 — including two Reuters newsmen — puts it into focus not because it shows us something we didn’t know, but because we can watch it unfold in real time. Real people, flesh and blood, gunned down from above in a hellish rain of fire.

The events in Iraq, nearly three years old, were repeated this week in Afghanistan, when trigger-happy US soldiers slaughtered five Afghans cruising along on a huge, comfortable civilian bus near Kandahar.

As the New York Times reports:

“American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing and wounding civilians, and igniting angry anti-American demonstrations in a city where winning over Afghan support is pivotal to the war effort.”

The Kandahar incident is only one of many, of course. Over the past year, dozens of Afghans have similarly died in checkpoint and roadside killings. Not one, not a single one, of these murders involved hostile forces. In other words, when the smoke and dust cleared, in all of the cases over the past year the bodies recovered were those of innocents.

As General McChrystal himself recently said:

“We really ask a lot of our young service people out on checkpoints because there’s danger, they’re asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I’ve been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it.”

My question is: if so, then why aren’t the rules of engagement altered? Why is it that US forces can fire wildly at an approaching vehicle, if in none of the cases that have happened thus far were there hostile forces involved?

In the Iraq case, as revealed in the stunning Wikileaks video, a group of eight men on a Baghdad street, in plain sunlight, is shot to pieces under withering fire from above. Then, when a van carrying four or five other men arrives to pick up a wounded man who is crawling painfully along the gutter, the van too is blasted to smithereens when the airmen request permission to “engage.”

An analysis by Politifact takes apart Secretary of Defense Gates’ callous assertion that the murders were “unfortunate” and “should not have any lasting consequences.” We’ve already investigated this, he said, so what’s the big deal?

The military’s rationale for the slaughter is that US forces a few hundred yards away had taken small arms fire, and so the airmen in the copters circling above concluded that the men they’d seen carrying what they thought were weapons and RPGs — although the “RPG” turned out to be a cameraman’s telephoto lens — were bad guys who could be shot to pieces at will. There was, of course, no evidence at all that the dozen or so Iraqis butchered were involved in what may or may not have been a shooting incident nearby. But, you know — war is hell.

Politifact, to its discredit, defends Gates on these grounds, quoting David Finkel, a Washington Post reporter and author of The Good Soldiers, who writes in blase defense of the slaughter:

“What’s helpful to understand is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where U.S. soldiers had been getting shot at, injured, and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles.”More context. You’re seeing an edited version of the video. The full video runs much longer. And it doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight, in this case zooming in on the van and seeing those two children. The helicopters were perhaps a mile away. And as all of this unfolded, it was unclear to the soldiers involved whether the van was a van of good Samaritans or of insurgents showing up to rescue a wounded comrade. I bring these things up not to excuse the soldiers but to emphasize some of the real-time blurriness of those moments.

“If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group. Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD — the Hurt Locker guys, I guess — had to come in and secure the site. And again, I’m not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video.”

Finkel, who apparently is not going to write a sequel to his book called The Bad Soldiers, cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqis as something that happens in the “real-time blurriness of those moments.”

In Afghanistan, the repeated killings of innocent civilians has angered an embittered President Karzai, who has strongly and repeatedly condemned the killings of Afghan citizens by American troops. In a Washington Post story today, “Shooting by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan fuels Karzai’s anger,” the paper reports:

“Twelve days before President Hamid Karzai denounced the behavior of Western countries in Afghanistan, he met a 4-year-old boy at the Tarin Kowt civilian hospital in the south.”The boy had lost his legs in a February airstrike by U.S. Special Operations forces helicopters that killed more than 20 civilians. Karzai scooped him up from his mattress and walked out to the hospital courtyard, according to three witnesses. ‘Who injured you?’ the president asked as helicopters passed overhead. The boy, crying alongside his relatives, pointed at the sky.

“The tears and rage Karzai encountered in that hospital in Uruzgan province lingered with him, according to several aides. It was one provocation amid a string of recent political disappointments that they said has helped fuel the president’s emotional outpouring against the West and prompted a brief crisis in his relations with the United States. It was also a reminder that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have political reverberations far beyond the sites of the killings.”

But I suppose Finkel can justify that one, too.

© 2010 The Nation

Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor, is an investigative journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, specializing in politics and national security. He is the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam and is a frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.

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