Manning: Guilty of Aiding Democracy

Because democracy is dependent on an informed electorate, political control in advanced societies like the United States has focused on selective dissemination of information and ideological spin. A whistleblower like Pvt. Bradley Manning disrupts that process, says Norman Solomon.

By Norman Solomon

Of all the charges against Bradley Manning, the most pernicious — and revealing — is “aiding the enemy.” A blogger at The New Yorker, Amy Davidson, raised a pair of big questions that now loom over the courtroom at Fort Meade and over the entire country:

–“Would it aid the enemy, for example, to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government?”

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.

–“In that case, who is aiding the enemy — the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”

When the deceptive operation of the warfare state can’t stand the light of day, truth-tellers are a constant hazard. And culpability must stay turned on its head. That’s why accountability was upside-down when the U.S. Army prosecutor laid out the government’s case against Bradley Manning in an opening statement:

“This is a case about a soldier who systematically harvested hundreds of thousands of classified documents and dumped them onto the Internet, into the hands of the enemy – material he knew, based on his training, would put the lives of fellow soldiers at risk.”

If so, those fellow soldiers have all been notably lucky; the Pentagon has admitted that none died as a result of Manning’s leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing.

In the real world, as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, prosecution for leaks is extremely slanted. “Let’s apply the government’s theory in the Manning case to one of the most revered journalists in Washington: Bob Woodward, who has become one of America’s richest reporters, if not the richest, by obtaining and publishing classified information far more sensitive than anything WikiLeaks has ever published,” Greenwald wrote in January.

He noted that “one of Woodward’s most enthusiastic readers was Osama bin Laden,” as a 2011 video from al-Qaeda made clear. And Greenwald added that “the same Bob Woodward book [Obama’s Wars] that Osama bin Laden obviously read and urged everyone else to read disclosed numerous vital national security secrets far more sensitive than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.

Doesn’t that necessarily mean that top-level government officials who served as Woodward’s sources, and the author himself, aided and abetted al-Qaida?”

But the prosecution of Manning is about carefully limiting the information that reaches the governed. Officials who run U.S. foreign policy choose exactly what classified info to dole out to the public. They leak like self-serving sieves to mainline journalists such as Woodward, who has divulged plenty of “Top Secret” information – a category of classification higher than anything Bradley Manning is accused of leaking.

While pick-and-choose secrecy is serving Washington’s top war-makers, the treatment of U.S. citizens is akin to the classic description of how to propagate mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them bullshit.

In effect, for top managers of the warfare state, “the enemy” is democracy.

Let’s pursue the inquiry put forward by columnist Amy Davidson early this year. If it is aiding the enemy “to expose war crimes committed by American forces or lies told by the American government,” then in reality “who is aiding the enemy – the whistleblower or the perpetrators themselves?”

Candid answers to such questions are not only inadmissible in the military courtroom where Bradley Manning is on trial. Candor is also excluded from the national venues where the warfare state preens itself as virtue’s paragon.

Yet ongoing actions of the U.S. government have hugely boosted the propaganda impact and recruiting momentum of forces that Washington publicly describes as “the enemy.” Policies under the Bush and Obama administrations – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and beyond, with hovering drones, missile strikes and night raids, at prisons such as Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo and secret rendition torture sites – have “aided the enemy” on a scale so enormous that it makes the alleged (and fictitious) aid to named enemies from Manning’s leaks infinitesimal in comparison.

Blaming the humanist PFC messenger for “aiding the enemy” is an exercise in self-exculpation by an administration that cannot face up to its own vast war crimes.

While prosecuting Bradley Manning, the prosecution may name al-Qaeda, indigenous Iraqi forces, the Taliban or whoever. But the unnamed “enemy” — the real adversary that the Pentagon and the Obama White House are so eager to quash – is the incessant striving for democracy that requires informed consent of the governed.

The forces that top U.S. officials routinely denounce as “the enemy” will never threaten the power of the USA’s dominant corporate-military elites. But the unnamed “enemy” aided by Bradley Manning’s courageous actions – the people at the grassroots who can bring democracy to life beyond rhetoric – are a real potential threat to that power.

Accusations of aid and comfort to the enemy were profuse after Martin Luther King Jr. moved forward to expose the Johnson administration’s deceptions and the U.S. military’s atrocities. Most profoundly, with his courageous stand against the war in Vietnam, King earned his Nobel Peace Prize during the years after he won it in 1964.

Bradley Manning may never win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he surely deserves it. Close to 60,000 people have already signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the prize to Manning. To become a signer, click here.

Also, you can preview a kindred project on the “I Am Bradley Manning” site, where a just-released short video – the first stage of a longer film due out soon – features Daniel Ellsberg, Oliver Stone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Phil Donahue, Alice Walker, Peter Sarsgaard, Wallace Shawn, Russell Brand, Moby, Tom Morello, Michael Ratner, Molly Crabapple, Davey D, Tim DeChristopher, Josh Stieber, Lt. Dan Choi, Hakim Green, Matt Taibbi, Chris Hedges, Allan Nairn, Leslie Cagan, Ahdaf Soueif and Jeff Madrick.

From many walks of life, our messages will become louder and clearer as Bradley Manning’s trial continues. He is guilty of “aiding the enemy” only if the enemy is democracy.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

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8 comments on “Manning: Guilty of Aiding Democracy

  1. BillB on said:

    What is so bizarre about this whole episode, including the persecution of all whistleblowers, is the obviousness of Manning and other whistleblowers telling the truth and exposing the crimes committed in our name while the perpetrators go free and in some cases run the country. And our “good Americans” like the “good Germans” of another era remain mute.

    • EthanAllen1 on said:

      Not only “bizarre” BillB, but WRONG by any reasoned standard. Our citizens, the “good Americans” amongst us, are not only intentionally kept out of the loop by the implementation of politically motivated secrecy policies, those citizens that do rise above complacent indifference are bombarded with an endless flow of government propaganda by career “information management” specialists task with the job of preventing the democratic checks and balances mandated in the very Constitution that every official and employee have sworn an oath to uphold. As Norman Solomon has so emphatically espressed it:

      “But the unnamed “enemy” — the real adversary that the Pentagon and the Obama White House are so eager to quash – is the incessant striving for democracy that requires informed consent of the governed.”

      Cudos to Norman Solomon for writing this cogent and erudite article, and to Robert Parry for publishing it here.
      For those here at ConsortiumNews that are interested in folowing the Bradley Manning inquisition, daily transcripts of the proceeding can be read here:
      https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/bradley-manning-transcripts

      As Usual,
      EA

  2. rosemerry on said:

    Thanks Norman for this clear article. How the USA can pretend that “the enemy” of a superpower is some nebulous group of “islamists” when the globe is in such peril from real dangers is quite remarkable.
    Even the nasty start to the process, using “harvested” and “dumped” and assuming bad faith (like the new film that ignores Manning’s poignant and clear explanation of his reasons) is ominous for any pretence of fairness or democracy.

  3. bobzz on said:

    Ironically, Manning said nothing about the country. All I heard was that he wanted to let AMERICANS know what was going on. He made the documents public and they spoke speak for themselves. The criminals are in the named in the documents, and Manning’s is not there.

    • F. G. Sanford on said:

      It crosses my mind that by using the documents against Manning, they have also validated them as materially admissible in future proceedings. Ah, the sweet smell of bigger fish frying! Here’s hoping we get a war-crimes trial before the big fish are all dead!

  4. Andrew on said:

    Obama believes in looking forward and not backward, except in the case of Manning.

    • charles sereno on said:

      Obama has excellent backsight, that is, if it happened almost 100 years ago, for example The Espionage Act of 1917 that he hooked Bradley Manning with.

  5. Speed on said:

    If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a national hero.