America’s Debt to Bradley Manning

Exclusive: The cables and videos allegedly leaked by Pvt. Bradley Manning offer the American people gritty “ground truth” about what the U.S. government has done in their names, such as the slaughter in Iraq, but the information also sheds light on a possible future war with Iran, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

One criticism about the value of the information that Pvt. Bradley Manning allegedly gave to WikiLeaks is that most of it was known in some form and thus didn’t justify the risks to sources who might be identified from the diplomatic and military cables. However, that complaint misses the importance of detailed “ground truth” in assessing issues of war and peace.

For instance, the prospects of war with Iran escalated last month because of a toughly worded report by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, which compiled some old and new evidence to argue that Iran continues to make progress toward a nuclear bomb. Immediately, the U.S. news media accepted the IAEA’s report as the unquestioned truth – and as further repudiation of the 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate that Iran had ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

One might note the irony in this flip on Iran. In the run-up to war with Iraq, the U.S. media embraced CIA reports of secret Iraqi WMD programs while mocking the IAEA’s doubts. Regarding Iran, the CIA and IAEA have traded places, with U.S. intelligence analysts – chagrined over swallowing the bogus Iraq-WMD evidence – being more skeptical of the Iran-nuke allegations, while the IAEA has taken the role as chief WMD exaggerator.

Yukiya Amano, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency

So, it was useful to examine the WikiLeaks documents regarding the election of the new IAEA leader in 2009 to understand why this flip may have occurred. What those classified State Department cables show is that the IAEA’s new director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, credited his victory largely to U.S. government support and promptly stuck his hand out for U.S. money.

Further, Amano left little doubt that he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran and that he would even meet secretly with Israeli officials regarding their purported evidence on Iran’s nuclear program, despite the fact that Israel is arguably the world’s preeminent rogue nuclear state and rejects IAEA inspections of its own nuclear sites.

According to U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn’t.

Cable Revelations

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council]/Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. “We wholly agree with Amano’s assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs,” Pyatt commented.

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial support, stating that “the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. … Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli “immediately after his appointment” and that Michaeli “was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.”

Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano’s public remarks about there being “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” as just words that Amano felt he had to say “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’”

In private, Amano agreed to “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, which has yet to yield a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] 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.

“More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009.

In other words, the emerging picture of Amano is of a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel, especially regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Amano’s behavior surely contrasts with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush’s key claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons program, denouncing some documents as forgeries.

Today, with some Republican presidential contenders falling over themselves to bond with Israel over its desire to attack Iran, this sort of detail puts the IAEA report into a fuller context that can help American voters judge whether another war is necessary or whether they’re being misled again by hyped allegations.

These cables, which Manning allegedly gave to WikiLeaks, were first  spotlighted by the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. in 2010. However, because the full cables were posted on the Internet, I could dig through them to find additional details, such as Amano asking for more U.S. money.

Without this level of “ground truth,” Americans would be at the mercy of the major U.S. news media, which seems as much on board for a war with Iran as it was for war with Iraq. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Déjà vu Over Iran Nuke Charges” and “Big Media’s Double Standards on Iran.”]

Slaughtering Iraqis

Another example of how the material allegedly leaked by Manning helped educate the American people was the infamous gun-barrel video of U.S. attack helicopters mowing down seemingly defenseless Iraqi men, including two Reuters journalists, as they walked down a Baghdad street.

Not only did a U.S. military helicopter gunship slaughter the men amid macho jokes and chuckling – apparently after mistaking a couple of cameras for weapons – but the American attackers then blew away several Iraqis who arrived in a van and tried to take one of the wounded newsmen to a hospital. Two children in the van were badly wounded.

“Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle,” one American remarked.

The videotaped incident – entitled “Collateral Murder” by Wikileaks – occurred on July 12, 2007, in the midst of President George W. Bush’s much-heralded troop “surge,” which the U.S. news media has widely credited for reducing violence in Iraq and bringing something close to victory for the United States.

But the U.S. press corps rarely mentions that the “surge” represented one of the bloodiest periods of the war. Beyond the horrific – and untallied – death toll of Iraqis, about 1,000 U.S. soldiers died during Bush’s “surge” of an additional 30,000 troops into Iraq.

It’s also unclear that the “surge” deserves much if any credit for the gradual decline in Iraqi violence, which had already reached turning points in 2006 – before the “surge” – with the death of al-Qaeda leader Musab al-Zarqawi, the U.S.-funded Sunni Awakening against al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Iraqi cities with Sunnis and Shiites moving into separate neighborhoods.

Further putting the sectarian killing on a downward path was the Iran-brokered agreement with militant Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr to have his militia stand down in exchange for an Iraqi government commitment to insist on a firm timetable for total U.S. military withdrawal, a process that has just been completed.

However, the U.S. news media continues to repeat the conventional wisdom about how U.S. troops protected Iraqis from violence through the “successful surge.” The “Collateral Murder” video puts the lie to that smug consensus, showing the “ground truth” of how the “surge” – and indeed the entire Iraq War – truly operated.

Many Americans may want to put the unpleasant memories of the Iraq War behind them – from “shock and awe” and the illegal invasion, to the leveling of Fallujah and the Abu Ghraib atrocities, to the incompetent U.S. occupation, the Haditha murders and the sectarian slaughters – but a failure to face the reality honestly will only encourage future war crimes of similar or even greater magnitude.

Already, Republicans – such as Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney – are speaking as casually about going to war with Iran as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did about war with Iraq.

As Bradley Manning wrote as he struggled over his decision to leak evidence of war crimes and other machinations by the U.S. government, “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.”

The 24-year-old Manning now faces the prospect of a court martial that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. But his gift to America may be that he provided the nation the “ground truth” that could give meaning to debates about past – and possibly future – wars.

[For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s Lost History, Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at neckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

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14 comments on “America’s Debt to Bradley Manning

  1. This is the opportunity for Obama to issue a pardon, unconditionally.

    • William Fuller on said:

      Don’t hold your breath waiting for Obama to issue a pardon to Manning. That will never happen. Obama is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the same group that led an intellectually challenged George Bush to launch a war of aggression against Iraq. Bush, Cheney, Obama, et al, have been responsible for shedding enough blood to satisfy any Eichman or Himmler.

      • Taylor, W. Yarmouth MA, USA on said:

        Pres. Obama was recorded, at a San Francisco fundraiser, as saying Bradley Manning was guilty. Mind you, this was months ago. Manning had not gone to trial. So, to say that he’s guilty before trial…..just…damn, Obama!

        Yeah…Sure as hell not going to vote for him again.

  2. the president of the united states can not pardon manning now,it is a hot political issue now, not with all those powerful republican congressmen and senators still calling the shots. pvt manning has done a very brave thing, he knew the risks and he still took it. this is something most people do not have, Bravery. i just hope the president obama can learn from Private MANNING.

  3. The lion on said:

    This is the time for a very brave President Obama to bring War Crime prosecutions to the Senior Republican Players of the time. What better way to take out the opposition, than with something totally unexpected. THE TRUTH!

  4. Obama is another thug. You need to read his ‘Audicity of Hope’ to reach this conclusion where he compassionately complains about the Founders’ omission to include Blacks’ rights in the Constitution, but when it comes to plight of Palestinian people in the Israel-Palestinian conflict he could not gather courage to write more than one sentence; and I was thinking what hope he is trying to instill his audience with???

  5. herb davis on said:

    PROPAGANDA is dealt a blow by the knowledge that this website and Bradley Manning bring to the world. Don’t count on Obama…educate the masses.

  6. Rich Beecher on said:

    As President, Dr Ron Paul will pardon Bradley Manning and end the wars.

    • Frances in California on said:

      Ron Paul will pardon Bradley Manning; then deport every American with a Latino surname.

  7. I 100% agree Ron Paul would pardon him and be the person that saved America from collapes,and will be the model people will demad for future Presidents.Last hope I belive without real bad times and much death.

  8. M Bergman on said:

    Ron Paul would pardon Pvt Manning? Dream on. Ron Paul is no different from any other candidate. They are all in the pockets of the same corporate money people. Unless we reform how campaigns are financed we will never have honest representation–by any political party.

  9. Frances in California on said:

    And don’t forget that Ron Paul will end American Women’s Right to Choose, all Social Program spending and avidly support extortion by Big Pharma. Paul is NOT a sufficient replacement for Obama. Feingold is but a good President can’t be elected until the Electoral College is abolished and good luck with that. . .

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