•He is splendid in his dress uniform, beribboned and wearing a perky military beret. Every inch a soldier.
•He looks like the computer geek he is, bespectacled, brainy.
•Burly guards who lead him to and from the courtroom make him look puny, at five feet, two inches, too harmless to be an enemy of the people.
But the Pentagon and President Obama think otherwise. They have already convicted him of betraying the country. In so doing, they have declared war on the truth.
Bradley Manning is a hero, a man of conscience who is willing to sacrifice an Army career for the greater good of America. But he won’t get justice in a military court. Instead he will be judicially lynched.
The defense is muzzled. It is not allowed to point out that Manning had a moral and legal obligation under international law to expose war crimes. It is not allowed to challenge the government’s false assertion of harm to national security.
In the words of the Queen of Hearts in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”: “sentence first — verdict afterwards.”
Manning admits that he released 700,000 diplomatic cables and documents. He also released a 2007 video of U.S. helicopter pilots nonchalantly gunning down Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters.
“The most alarming aspect of the video was the delight in bloodlust,” Manning said in his statement of conscience. “They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging by referring to them as ‘dead bastards’ and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”
Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone called the trial “an incredible act of institutional vengeance.” It is that. It also reveals how U.S. leaders preach democracy but call democracy the enemy.
Media critic Norman Solomon asks: “Who is aiding the enemy, the whistleblower like Manning or the perpetrators?” The answer is obvious. Obama rails against whistleblowers and makes journalists targets of his wrath.
“What Manning did for his country was priceless,” Michael Ratner of the online Truthout says. Yet Manning has already paid a steep price.
He was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for five months. He was forced to sleep naked for two months. His sleep was deliberately broken three times a night. As a U.N. special investigator reported: “Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” In a word: torture.
“He made a profoundly important moral decision,” Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg said. “I believe history will honor him.” And vindicate him. Nevertheless, he will probably spend the rest of his life in prison.
Manning’s 35-page conscience statement is powerful and moving. He placed his ”conscience above personal safety and liberty for the public good and the moral imperative of carrying out acts of defiance.”
•He “had the temerity to report to the outside world the indiscriminate slaughter, war crimes, torture and abuse carried out by U.S. occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
•“It is a concerted effort by the security and surveillance state to extinguish what is left of a free press.” (Although that “free press” was found wanting in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, both papers refusing to print Manning’s WikiLeaks.)
Obama is unworthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. Manning is.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.