Yesterday, I was on Al Jazeera's "Inside Story" discussing the Bradley Manning plea:
A number of commentators have written about the naked plea. However, despite Manning's powerful statement last Thursday, I fear that most people will primarily remember the government's continued inflammatory, prejudicial, conclusory and erroneous statements, like that made on the show (above) by former Defense Department spokesman Jeffrey Gordon:
I think there was some pressure brought on the government about why aren't you doing enough about Bradley Manning? If you look at the context at what he has done, and the enormous damage he did to national security and our prestige around the world, throughout most of history somebody like that would be executed.It's hard to know where to start deconstructing those two sentences. But it's important not only to get Manning's moving explanation out there, but also to call bullshyte on the government's continued lies.
First, who is this disembodied force bringing this "pressure on the government" to be tougher on Manning, and since when do courts-martial base their decision-making on non-governmental opinion? Moreover, from the moment Adrian Lamo first fingered Manning in 2010, the government reaction was swift and furious, with even President Obama pronouncing Manning guilty before ever being tried.
If Mr. Gordon had truly "examined the context of what Manning has done"--if he had bothered to attend a single Manning hearing, or if he had at least read the entire 35-page statement--he would know that Manning, in his own words,
believe[d] that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information...this could spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.Mr. Gordon recites the government meme about "the enormous damage [Manning] did to our national security," apparently not realizing that the prosecutor has argued that none of the charges against Manning require "actual damage to be proven." Tellingly, the government has fought strenuously not to provide the damage assessments, suggesting that the reports would show there was no, or very little, harm. Reality is Exhibit #1 here. WikiLeaks published the documents at issue more than two years ago and there has been no harm of which the public is aware; in fact, quite the opposite: the documents are widely credited with helping spark the Arab Spring.
Mr. Gordon's most incredulous line was about how the WikiLeaks documents at issue damaged "our prestige around the world," a statement that speaks for itself. Our military invasions and occupations, our use of torture, the blackhold known as Guantanamo, and our droning of innocent civilians has depreciated whatever standing we had in the world, not Manning's release of documents that, at most, were embarrassing to the U.S.
Finally, Mr. Gordon's repeated comments about execution, even after the government has said it is not going to seek the death penalty, belie the way the government is using this case to send the most chilling of messages: if you embarrass the government, and especially if you expose its crimes, you will go to jail.