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 unforgiveable 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.