As a peace prize winner myself, I am nominating Manning for this honor for his work to help end the Iraq War and other conflicts
Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the active creation of something better. Alfred Nobel recognized this when he created alongside those for chemistry, literature, medicine and physics, an annual prize for outstanding contributions in peace. Nobel’s foresight is a reminder to us all that peace must be created, maintained, and advanced, and it is indeed possible for one individual to have an extraordinary impact. For this year’s prize, I have chosen to nominate US Army Pfc Bradley Manning, for I can think of no one more deserving. His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.
I recently visited Syria, where I met a few of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people whose lives have been torn apart by the ongoing conflict in that country. I learned from those I spoke to, both within the government and in opposition groups, that while there is a legitimate and long-overdue movement for peace and non-violent reform in Syria, the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups. Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning this conflict into one of ideological hatred.
In recent years this would have spelled an undeniable formula for United States intervention. However, the world has changed in the years since Manning’s whistleblowing — the Middle East especially. In Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Turkey, advocates of democracy have joined together to fight against their own governments’ control of information, and used the free-flowing data of social media to help build enormously successful non-violent movements. Some activists of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring have even directly credited Bradley Manning, and the information he disclosed, as an inspiration for their struggles.
In a Middle East newly dedicated to democratic flow of information, those who would commit human rights violations can more easily be held accountable. If not for whistleblower Bradley Manning, the world still might not know of how US forces committed covert crimes in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq, killing innocent civilians in incidents such as the one depicted in the “Collateral Murder” video, and supporting Iraqi prisoner torture. Now, those who would support foreign intervention in the Middle East know that every action would be scrutinized under international human rights law. Clearly, this is for the best. International peacekeepers, as well as experts and civilians inside Syria, are nearly unanimous in their view that United States involvement would only worsen this conflict.
Around the world, Manning is hailed as a peacemaker and a hero. His nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a reflection of this. Yet at his home in America, Manning stands trial for charges of espionage and “aiding the enemy.” This should not be considered a refutation of his candidacy — rather, he is in good company. Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo were each awarded the prize in recent years while imprisoned by their home countries.
Last week at Manning’s trial, the public learned that at the time Manning released his information, WikiLeaks stated they wanted to publish “the concealed documents or recordings most sought after by a country’s journalists, activists, historians, lawyers, police or human rights investigators.” Manning’s disclosures to Wikileaks only “aided the enemy,” as his prosecutors charge, if the enemy is international cooperation and peace itself.
Manning is the only one on trial, yet what of those who committed the atrocities he revealed? The United States, the most militarized country on earth, should stand for something better than war. Its government must be open to “debates, discussions and reforms” concerning its foreign policy, to use Manning’s own words. By heeding Pfc Bradley Manning’s message on the importance of transparency, America’s government can once again rebuild its image in the eyes of the world, and spread democracy not through foreign invasions, but through setting a strong example.
I hope American leaders will embrace the U.S. constitution, and base their national and foreign policies on ethical values, human rights and international law.
Mairead Corrigan-Maguire was awarded the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her extraordinary actions to help end the deep ethnic/political conflict in her native Northern Ireland. She shares the award (more…)
Opponents have a field day at country meeting of the rich and powerful – The Irish Times – Sat, Jun 08, 2013
In the eyes of its most extreme enemies, the illuminati are not a creation of the author Dan Brown but, rather, a group of powerful people meeting this weekend in a luxury hotel in the English countryside. Now nearly 60 years old, the Bilderberg Group has been accused of being a secret, shadowy society controlled by the ultra-rich, intent on world domination.
Since Thursday, 130 senior business, political and legal figures have been enjoying the pleasures of the Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire, behind tight security. There, they are debating the need for more growth, “jobs [and] entitlement”, “nationalism and populism”, medical research trends and “the politics of the EU”. The topics also include “cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats”, online education and “Africa’s challenges”.
No minutes are kept and no decisions will be made, they insist. Because of the privacy that surrounds it, “the participants are not bound by the conventions of office or by pre-agreed positions. As such, they can take time to listen, reflect and gather insights.”
Such declarations are exactly the problem for its opponents, who see the Bilderberg Group as a body free of democratic restraint, responsible for the Iraq War, airborne chemicals, cancer and privatisation.
Not all of its critics, however, delve into conspiracy-filled language, although, the Labour MP Michael Meacher argues, “These are 130 of the world’s most powerful people. This is not just intended to be a chat. This is intended to reach some decisions and we are not being told what they are.”
Meacher, a former minister under Tony Blair’s Labour government, criticised the presence of politicians such as the European Commission’s Manuel Barroso, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Labour’s Ed Balls, and, before them, his former leader, Tony Blair.
The list includes two Irish names: Peter Sutherland, chairman of Goldman Sachs International, a long-time attender, and a former attorney general, Paul Gallagher, who has come every year since 2010. The head of Google, Eric Schmidt, is present, along with two directors of Facebook, Christine Lagarde of the IMF, and a string of bankers, including HSBC’s chief executive, Stuart Gallagher.
Jake Bexx, who says he is making a documentary on Bilderberg, became interested in it after he listened to “the conspiracy theories told to me by my tattoo artist. I used to believe in world government, the illuminati and all of that. I don’t any more; but they don’t tell us what goes on,” he says.
Two years ago, Bexx began a battle with the treasury to get information about the past attendance of George Osborne at Bilderberg meetings. “They eventually threw me a bone about his expenses,” says Bexx, “£350 for a flight to Switzerland. “I didn’t care about his expenses. I wanted information about what he was doing there.”
The treasury refused, citing a series of exemptions allowed for under freedom-of-information legislation, and on the grounds that it was “information relating to the formulation or development of government policy”.
The first Bilderberg meeting was held in 1954 following concerns about the “growing distrust of America which was making itself manifest in western Europe and which was paralleled by a similar distrust of western Europe in America”.
Propaganda was not needed, said one of its creators, Dr JH Retinger. “It was of far greater consequence to us to have mutual understanding and goodwill among men occupying the highest positions in the life of each country than to try to influence the man in the street directly,” he wrote in a 1956 note.
The choice of men, for it was then all men, was key: “The first essential is undoubtedly to have men of absolute personal and political integrity; the second, to have men of real international standing, or whose position in their own countries is such as to give them considerable influence.”
For years, conspiracy-filled accusations were of little import to the Bilderberg organisers, the rantings of a few without a platform since it was rarely reported on.
Things have changed a little: globalisation is increasingly under question, charges about the influences on politicians have become more common-place following scandals in the US and the UK. Fuelled by websites such as infowars.com and wearechange.net, Bilderberg has begun to enter a wider stream, even if it is still far from widespread public consciousness.
A PR company was appointed, though it says little. The attendance list has been published for some years, while a partial agenda for the gathering in the Grove hotel has been given out.
On a hill half a mile from the hotel there is a press encampment, where speakers rail against the group’s existence. Opponents include anti-austerity campaigners, old hippies and conservative libertarians such as Alex Jones of infowars.com. Jones is the star of the press camp, with his acolytes hanging on his every word. “We can’t let the ants stand up, that what’s they fear. Because if one does they might all stand up. And there are more of them,” he declaims through a bullhorn.
The campaigners are not united, however. One writer for an alternative media publication mocks a Guardian journalist for “your trivial little stories”.
In the now-defunct Starz series Boss, there’s a reporter character named “Sam Miller” played by actor Troy Garity who complains about lazy reporters who just blindly eat whatever storylines are fed to them by people in power. He called those sorts of stories Chumpbait. If the story is too easy, if you’re doing a piece on a sensitive topic and factoids are not only reaching you freely, but publishing them is somehow not meeting much opposition from people up on high, then you’re probably eating Chumpbait.
There’s an obvious Chumpbait angle in the Bradley Manning story, and most of the mainstream press reports went with it. You can usually tell if you’re running a Chumpbait piece if you find yourself writing the same article as 10,000 other hacks.
The Trials of Bradley Manning
The CNN headline read as follows: “Hero or Traitor? Bradley Manning’s Trial to Start Monday.” NBC went with “Contrasting Portraits of Bradley Manning as Court-Martial Opens.” Time magazine’s Denver Nicks took this original approach in their “think” piece on Manning, “Bradley Manning and our Real Secrecy Problem”:
Is he a traitor or a hero? This is the question surrounding Bradley Manning, the army private currently being court-martialed at Fort Meade for aiding the enemy by wrongfully causing defense information to published on the Internet.
The Nicks thesis turned out to be one chosen by a lot of editorialists at the Manning trial, who have decided that the “real story” in the Manning case is what this incident showed about our lax security procedures, our lax of good due diligence vetting the folks we put in charge of our vital information.
“With so many poorly protected secrets accessible to so many people, it was only a matter of time,” Nicks wrote. “We can be grateful that Bradley Manning rather than someone less charitably inclined perpetrated this leak.”
Dr. Tim Johnson of the Telegraph took a similar approach, only he was even less generous than Nicks, calling Manning the “weirdo [who] tried to bring down the government,” a man who was “guilty as hell” and “deserves to do time.”
“Private Manning was a self-absorbed geek who should never have enjoyed the level of access that he did,” Johnson wrote. He went on to argue that Manning’s obvious personality defects should have disqualified him for sensitive duty, and the fact that he was even hired in the first place is the real scandal of this trial:
His personality breakdown was there for all to see – criticising US policy on Facebook, telling friends, “Bradley Manning is not a piece of equipment”, and even entertaining “a very internal private struggle with his gender”. He told hacker Adrian Lamo that he “listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history.” You go, girl.
All of this shit is disgraceful. It’s Chumpbait.
If I was working for the Pentagon’s PR department as a hired press Svengali, with my salary eating up some of the nearly five billion dollars the armed services spends annually on advertising and public relations, I would be telling my team to pump reporters over and over again with the same angle.
I would beat it into the head of every hack on this beat that the court-martial is about a troubled young man with gender identity problems, that the key issue of law here rests inside the mind of young PFC Manning, that the only important issue of fact for both a jury and the American people to decide is exactly the question in these headlines.
Is Manning a hero, or a traitor? Did he give thousands of files to Wikileaks out of a sense of justice and moral horror, or did he do it because he had interpersonal problems, because he couldn’t keep his job, because he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, because he was a fame-seeker, because he was lonely?
You get the press and the rest of America following that bouncing ball, and the game’s over. Almost no matter what the outcome of the trial is, if you can convince the American people that this case is about mental state of a single troubled kid from Crescent, Oklahoma, then the propaganda war has been won already.
Because in reality, this case does not have anything to do with who Bradley Manning is, or even, really, what his motives were. This case is entirely about the “classified” materials Manning had access to, and whether or not they contained widespread evidence of war crimes.
This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.
Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names.
Slate was one of the few outlets to approach the Manning trial in a way that made sense. Their story took the opportunity of the court-martial to remind all of us of the list of horrors Manning discovered, including (just to name a very few):
During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports…
There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers…
In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff…
This last incident was the notorious video in which our helicopter pilots lit up a group of civilians, among other things wounding two children in a van, to which the pilots blithely commented, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle.”
Except that there had been no battle, none of the people on the street were armed, it was an attack from space for all these people knew – and oh, by the way, we were in their country, thanks to a war that history has revealed to have been a grotesque policy error.
It’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle. It’s lines like this, truly horrific stuff that’s evidence of a kind of sociopathic breakdown of our society, that this trial should be about. Not Manning’s personal life.
Unfortunately, the American people would rather make it about Manning, because they know they were complicit in those and other murders, because they loudly brayed for war in Iraq for years, no matter how often and how loudly it was explained to them that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were not the same person.
Hacks like Johnson reassure the public that they have the right to have the results of their own moral decisions kept well hidden from them. His kind of propaganda soothes people into believing that Manning was just a freak and a weirdo, a one-off kink in the machinery, who hopefully will be thrown in the hole forever or at least for a very long time, so that we don’t have to hear about any of this awful stuff again. At the very least, according to Johnson, we shouldn’t have to listen to anyone call Manning a hero:
At the centre of the storm is a person who one suspects should never have been in uniform, let along enjoying access to military intelligence, who has blundered into the history books by way of a personality crisis. Incredibly, some people actually want to celebrate him as a gay icon. Who next, the Kray twins?
Wow. We’re the ones machine-gunning children, and yet Manning is the one being compared to the murdering Kray twins? And Jesus, isn’t being charged with the Espionage Act enough? Is Manning also being accused of not representing gay America skillfully enough on the dock?
Here’s my question to Johnson: What would be the correct kind of person to have access to videos of civilian massacres? Who’s the right kind of person to be let in the know about the fact that we systematically turned academics and other “suspects” over to the Iraqi military to be tortured? We want people who will, what, sit on this stuff? Apparently the idea is to hire the kind of person who will cheerfully help us keep this sort of thing hidden from ourselves.
The thing is, when it comes to things like the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, whether it’s Bradley Manning or anyone else, any decent human being would have had an obligation to come forward. Presented with that material, you either become part of a campaign of torture and murder by saying nothing, or you have to make it public. Morally, there’s no option.
Yes, Manning went beyond even that. One can definitely quibble about the volume of the material he released and the manner in which he released it. And I get that military secrets should, in a properly functioning society, be kept secret.
But when military secrets cross the line into atrocities, the act of keeping these secrets secret ceases to have much meaning.
The issues to be debated at this trial are massive in scope. They’re about the character of the society we’ve all created, not the state of mind of one troubled Army private. If anyone tries to tell you anything else, he’s selling you something.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor — Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, 1984
On June 3, court martial is scheduled to begin for PFC Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of being the primary Wikileaks source, responsible for the largest leak of classified documents in U.S. history. While the main timeline of the events has received international media coverage, and while the inhuman conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detainment have garnered high-profile condemnations, worldwide protests and fiery debates, the true farce lays in the U.S. government putting a man on trial for acting in accordance with the very same democratic principles, on which the United States of America were founded:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The famous words of the Declaration of Independence resounded in later democratic revolutions all over the world. Abraham Lincoln considered the Declaration the prism through which the Constitution should be viewed. The principles of the Declaration became the foundation of the U.S. political philosophy and American democracy.
This democracy had become so influential that it decided to share its “model of success” with other countries. The U.S. got engaged in “democracy-building” to help “failing states” in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, resorting to military intervention whenever it deemed necessary.
A young soldier ends up getting involved in the Iraq War and, as the prosecution rightly points out, voluntarily agrees to serve the interests of the U.S. He discovers, however, ample documentary evidence of systemic abuse of human rights by the U.S. armed forces, including killings of civilians, torture and false accusations and imprisonment of individuals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now he has a moral dilemma: to expose the crimes against humanity or to remain loyal to his country. After an apparently emotionally heavy inner struggle, he chooses the former, fully understanding the consequences he is likely to face.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which the U.S. was a co-author and co-signatory, states in Article 3, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” It is presumed by all modern democracies that this right is inalienable and the U.S. itself insists that the universal legitimacy of human rights prevails over individual national sovereignty in case of conflict of laws. Indeed, abuse of human rights has been persistently used in U.S.’s rhetoric as justification of military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining the states’ sovereignty for what the U.S. views as fundamental universal rights. And yet, when U.S. soldiers were clearly implicated in murders, instead of investigating the crimes exposed and prosecuting the perpetrators amongst its own ranks, the government decided to punish the soldier who uncovered the crimes.
Not only does the U.S. give a chilling warning signal to any would-be whistle-blowers to remain silent, not only does the U.S. seem to believe that “all men are created equal” only as long as they are not Afghans, Iraqis or whatever other nation “potentially harboring terrorists,” not only has the U.S. violated national pre-trial procedures and international detainment conventions by keeping Bradley Manning in what the UN torture chief described as “cruel, inhumane and degrading” conditions — it has clearly shown its belief that the international law only matters for the U.S. so long as it is convenient and beneficial for its foreign policy. On other instances, such as the case of Bradley Manning, the USA, the self-appointed leader of the democratic world clearly tells the world:
There is a democracy the U.S. advertises, and there is a democracy the U.S. practices.
As Noam Chomsky put it, “perhaps the most dramatic revelation [of Manning’s case] is the profound hatred of democracy by the U.S. government.” Transparency, accountability and legitimacy – along with the well-informed citizenry – is what constitutes a strong, healthy democracy. By choosing to expose the ugly meaning of the USA’s beloved euphemism “collateral damage,” by letting the public know what is being done “in the interests of their security,” by risking his freedom in doing so, Bradley Manning acted as a dutiful citizen and an empathic human being.
Let justice prevail at this trial. Although following President Obama’s remark that “he [Manning] broke the law,” there is no reason to be overly optimistic. The U.S. government does not have to recognize Bradley Manning as a hero. The world can do so without its partaking. However, the U.S. government has to end this farce immediately, if it indeed still believes in the principles on which the United States of America were founded.
Picture Credit: United States Army
Over the last several years I have watched the rise of an important new intellect on the American scene. Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, has demonstrated time and again the extraordinary ability to reexamine settled issues and show that the accepted conclusion was incorrect.
One of his early achievements was to dispose of the myth of immigrant crime by demonstrating that “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age and gender.” You can imagine the uproar, but Unz won the debate.
Unz provoked and prevailed in another controversy when he concluded that Mexican-Americans have approximately the same innate intelligence as whites, with their lower IQs being due to transitory socio-economic deprivation.
He next surprised by showing the connection between the declining real value of the minimum wage (about one-third less than in the 1960s) and immigration. Americans cannot survive on one-third less minimum income than four decades ago, and the unfilled jobs are taken by Hispanics who live many to the room. A higher minimum wage, Unz pointed out, would cure the illegal immigration problem as American citizens would fill the jobs.
I wrote about some of Unz’s remarkable findings. One of my favorites is his comparison of the responsiveness of the Chinese and US governments to their publics. I found his conclusion convincing that the authoritarian one-party Chinese government was more responsive to the Chinese people than democratic two-party Washington is to the American people.
The person is rare who can take on such controversial issues in such a professional way that he wins the admiration even of his critics. In my opinion, Ron Unz is a national resource. He has established online libraries of important periodicals and magazines from the pre-Internet era, information that otherwise essentially would be lost.
Unz’s latest article, “Our American Pravda,” is a striking account of the failure of media, regulatory, and national security organizations and subsequent coverups that leave the public deceived. Unz uses the Iraq war as one example:
The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the ‘yellowcake’ documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
“True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly–almost uniformly–backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.
“The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the ‘greatest strategic disaster in United States history.’ American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy [and a police state]. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.
“But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.”
Unz covers a number of cases of criminality, treason, and coverups at high levels of government and points out that “these dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media.” One reason for “this wall of uninterest” is that both parties are complicit and thus equally eager to bury the facts.
Unz is raising the question of the efficacy of democracy. Does the way democracy works in America provide any more self-rule than in undemocratic regimes? He offers this example:
“Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections –Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve — were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.”
In an article not long ago, I raised the issue whether Americans live in The Matrix with their perceptions and thoughts controlled by disinformation as in George Orwell’s 1984. Unz adds to this perspective. He tells the story of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky‘s plan to transform Russia into a make-believe two-party state complete with heated battles fought on divisive and symbolic issues. Behind the scenes the political elites would orchestrate the political battles between the parties with the purpose of keeping the population divided and funneling popular dissatisfaction into meaningless dead-end issues. In such a system, self-serving power prevails. After describing Berezovsky’s plot, Unz asks if Berezovsky got his idea from observing the American political scene.
Thinking further about the propagandistic nature of the US media, Unz writes:
“Individuals from less trusting societies are often surprised at the extent to which so many educated Americans tend to believe whatever the media tells them and ignore whatever it does not, placing few constraints on even the most ridiculous propaganda. For example, a commentator on my article described the East German media propaganda he had experienced prior to Reunification as being in many respects more factual and less totally ridiculous than what he now saw on American cable news shows. One obvious difference was that Western media was so globally dominant during that era that the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic inevitably had reasonable access to a contrasting second source of information, forcing their media to be much more cautious in its dishonesty, while today almost any nonsense uniformly supported by the MSNBC-to-FoxNews spectrum of acceptable opinion remains almost totally unquestioned by most Americans.”
Unz’s view of the US media as propagandists for power is consistent with that of John Pilger, one of the last remaining real journalists who refuses to serve power, and with Gerald Celente, who sums up the sordid American media in one word–“presstitutes.” I know from my own media experience that an independent print and TV media no longer exists in the West. The American media is a tightly controlled disinformation ministry.
Those few Americans who are free of the constraints imposed by dogmas on their ability to think and to process information have a huge responsibility for their small number. The assault on the rule of law began in the last years of the Clinton regime, but the real destruction of the US Constitution, the basis for the United States, was achieved by the neoconservative George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Wars without declarations by Congress, torture in violation of both US and international law, war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg standard, indefinite detention and assassination of US citizens without due process of law, universal spying on US citizens without warrants, federalization of state and local police now armed with military weapons and uniforms, detention centers, “your papers, please” (without the Gestapo “please”) not only at airports but also on highways, streets, bus terminals, train stations, and at sporting events.
On May 5 Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. No doubt that the graduates thought that they were being honored by being addressed by the world’s greatest tyrant.
Obama told the graduating class, to applause, that their obligation as citizens is to trust the government. Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: “You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as … some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Listen to my propaganda, not to those constitutional experts, legal authorities, and critics of me, the First Black President, who tell you to beware of unaccountable government. Due process is decided by the demands of the war on terror. If there is a war on terror, do you want a fair trial or do you want to be safe? I am going to make you safe by not giving defendants accused of terrorism, who some liberal-pinko-commie judge would set free, a fair trial.
Making you safe by enveloping you in a police state is a nonpartisan undertaking. Just listen to Lindsay Graham and Peter King and John McCain. These Republican leaders are demanding the police state that I am providing.
As my own legal department, The US Department Of Justice, decided, the Dictator, I mean, elected president, has the power to save the country from domestic and foreign terrorists by abrogating the US Constitution, an out-of-date document that binds our hands and prevents us from keeping you, our serfs and minions, I mean our cherished citizens, safe.
Trust me. That is your obligation as a US citizen. Trust me and I will make you free, happy, employed sometime later in this century when the Amerikan Empire controls the world.
The US Constitution was written by people who opposed Empire. These people were misguided, just like the Roman Republicans who did not understand the need for a Caesar. The American Empire, as the neoconservatives have made clear, is what keeps you free from terrorism. We have to kill them over there before they come over here. And those who are over here will be killed too. We tolerate no dissent. That part of the Constitution is gone, along with the rest of it.
Now give me my honorary doctorate, another sign of approval of my usurpation.
The case of a military whistleblower highlights the US’s changing attitude to secrecy.
Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.” The opening of Chase Madar’s book leaves us in no doubt as to the author’s view on his subject: whistleblower Bradley Manning, the man said to have supplied half a million classified documents to WikiLeaks.
For Madar, a New York lawyer, the line is more than a rhetorical flourish. The US awarded the Presidential Medal, the country’s highest civilian honour, to most of the principal players behind the Iraq War, including Tony Blair and John Howard. In other words, those who misled the public into a disastrous invasion were decorated – but Manning faces life in jail for revealing the truth about what the conflict entailed.
‘I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy.’ Bradley Manning
In part, The Passion of Bradley Manning can be read as a biography. Manning, a talented but troubled computer geek, enlisted in the army (perhaps because of an unhappy relationship with his father) and, despite struggling as a recruit, somehow ended up an intelligence analyst in Iraq.
In that capacity, he investigated 15 men detained by the Iraqi federal police for printing ”anti-Iraqi literature”. But the material that brought them into Iraq’s notorious jails proved, on further inspection, to be merely an expose of Iraqi government corruption, entitled Where did the money go?.
Yet when Manning reported the injustice to his superiors, he was told to ”shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs [police] in finding more detainees”.
Though he was bullied for his slight stature and his homosexuality, Manning’s disenchantment with the war stemmed from politics, not personality or psychology. He had access to evidence of atrocities, such as the footage later released as ”Collateral Murder” – a clip of a helicopter gunship killing civilians. As he asked during an online chat with a hacker named Adrian Lamo: ”[If 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, D.C. … what would you do?”
Lamo supplied his answer by turning Manning in to the authorities.
Alongside its biographical details, The Passion of Bradley Manning tells another story, a history of secrecy’s spread. For the American founders, democracy necessarily meant that the people knew what their government did. The former US president James Madison put it like this: ”A popular government, without popular information, is but a prelude to a tragedy or a farce, or perhaps both.”
Today, however, secrecy seems an end in itself – so much so that documents pertaining to Madison’s own administration (he left office in 1817) still remain under wraps.
The officials responsible for US information security classified almost 77 million documents in 2010 and 92 million in 2011, while President Obama, who campaigned as an ally of whistleblowers, has actually prosecuted more leakers under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all his predecessors combined.
Naturally, with the security state so large, leaks happen all the time – about 3 million Americans have access to classified documents. But the reaction to breaches depends largely on who’s responsible.
For instance, material classified as top secret – a higher rating than anything Manning allegedly released – frequently finds its way into books by insider journalists of the Bob Woodward variety. Stories in The New York Times and elsewhere quote ”unnamed officials” on sensitive military matters. Such leaks are often sanctioned at the highest levels. Obama’s chief of staff William Daley has, for instance, casually discussed how he and his predecessors give secret material to the press when that information makes the administration look good.
”I’m all for leaking when it’s organised,” he said.
Forty years ago, Daniel Ellsberg released details about the US war in Vietnam in the so-called ”Pentagon Papers”, all of it more highly classified than anything WikiLeaks has published. Yet Ellsberg is a free man while Manning is quite likely to stay in prison for the rest of his life. What’s the difference?
Madar suggests Manning’s case reflects a changing political climate. The Pentagon Papers came out at the high-water mark of US liberalism. Today, tolerance for dissent has become much lower.
US officials have acknowledged on several occasions that WikiLeaks has not cost a single American life. Yet, since his arrest, Manning has been held in solitary confinement under extraordinarily degrading conditions (he is kept naked at night and, because he is classified as a danger to himself, he must respond every five minutes to the guard’s inquiry: ”Are you OK?”).
On the one hand, Madar says, this cruelty reflects a degradation of judicial norms during the war on terror, a period in which assassinations, coercive interrogations and the like have been normalised.
More worryingly, it also mirrors deeper problems within the conventional US justice system, where the vast penal apparatus keeps prisoners in appalling conditions for years on end. One human rights lawyer discusses how prisoners in Guantanamo might be well advised to accept 10 years in the communal wing of that facility rather than three years in solitary at an American supermax prison.
For Madar, that’s why Manning is so important. His disclosures matter because Americans remain ignorant about what’s done in their name, whether in the bowels of high-security prisons or in the streets of Baghdad.
”I prefer a painful truth over any blissful fantasy,” Manning said during his web chat with Lamo.
His fate now depends on how many others feel the same way.
Jeff Sparrow is the editor of Overland and author of Money Shot: A Journey into Porn and Censorship.
THE PASSION OF BRADLEY MANNING
via The good soldier.
via The good soldier.
Tomorrow, the bankers and corporate chiefs are planning an historic victory party. With the election of Mitt Romney, their takeover of American democracy would be complete.
They thought they had accomplished that four years ago when they backed Barack Obama (he received more money from Wall Street than McCain; Goldman Sachs was his No. 1 private contributor). And even though he never put a single one of them of any consequence in jail and never signed any bill that would truly stop their out-of-control greed; and even though he placed two of Wall Street’s favorite operatives — Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers — in charge of the Treasury and economic policy; and even though he let them use bailout money — our money — to give themselves lavish bonuses after they wrecked our economy; and even though he didn’t go for a single-payer health care system and made sure that under “Obamacare” no insurance company would be fined more than $100 a day for denying a person with a pre-existing condition (thus removing many of the teeth the new law had); and even though he let them keep their Bush tax cut for another four years — yes, even after doing all of that for the wealthiest 1 percent, it still wasn’t enough for them, so they decided to turn on him in a vicious way. They decided that they could literally buy an election and toss him to the curb. Why? Because he enacted a little “reform.” Because he wants them to pay just a tiny bit more in taxes. Because, deep down, they know what we know deep down — that Barack Obama, if given a second term, is going to put the brakes on them. They know that Barack Obama will appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Citizens United. And they know that next time they crash our economy, some of them will, hopefully, be going to jail.
And they believe they can stop him tomorrow by having bamboozled enough of those “47 percent,” those moochers, to vote for one of their own — Mitt Romney. A man who, like them, believes big business should have no restraints. A man who pays next to nothing in taxes. A man who has destroyed the livings of thousands of working Americans. A man who hides his money in Switzerland and the Cayman Islands and won’t show us what’s on his tax returns for the past decade.
This is who they want elected president tomorrow — and if this happens, their goal of complete corporate control of the three branches of government will be complete.
Trust me, if they succeed, we may never get it back.
There were two things in the news these past couple of weeks that unfortunately got little attention. But these two stories say it all about the America we will have unless these people are stopped.
One was a story in The Nation that exposed how Romney, while publicly opposing the auto company bailout, secretly got in on the action with his Wall Street donors — and made more than $15 million, a 4,000 percent return on his investment (which he hid in a blind trust in his wife’s name) by buying up the Delphi auto parts company, the former Delco/AC Spark Plug division of GM where my dad worked. He then — get this — grabbed billions in bailout cash to “transform” it from bankrupt to a “viable business.” Except what he really did was slash retiree pensions, shut down 24 U.S. factories, and ship all 25,200 union jobs to China. You’d think he’d keep quiet about Delphi — but no, he’s got his supporters running ads in Ohio blaming Barack Obama for terminating the Delphi pensions. I kid you not. (When I opposed the Iraq War, Romneyites and the like called me a “traitor”; when Romney does this traitorous act destroying jobs and sending them to China, his reward, in addition to the millions he pocketed, may be the presidency tomorrow.) The other story was a bill passed by the Pennsylvania legislature that would allow businesses to take the state income taxes they withhold from their employees’ paychecks and keep the money for themselves! That’s right. Your taxes that you pay to the state won’t go to the state anymore — they’ll just go right into the pockets of your bosses. I was stunned to find out that other states are already doing this as an “incentive” to lure or keep businesses in their states. Let’s be clear what this is about: the final merging that’s taking place between the corporate and political power structures, coming together as one, and making the workers (serfs) pay tribute to their employer (the overlord). Welcome to the New Feudalism.
So tomorrow it’s High Noon in the USA, a literal showdown on the Main Streets of America between the rich and everyone else. The 1 percenters truly believe they can defeat the 99 percent. As the conservative commentator Stephen Moore (who sits on the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal) said, “Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy. I’m not even a big believer in democracy.” Citigroup, in an internal memo, said that the only thing that stands in the way of the plutocrats is, well, elections: “[T]he rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash… Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfrachisement remains as was – one person, one vote…[W]e are keeping a close eye on developments.”
We have the chance tomorrow to defeat them. They’re counting on us not even showing up. The line in the sand has been drawn. Please do whatever you can today and tomorrow to get everyone you know to the polls — especially any relatives or friends in swing states. Even if you don’t live in a swing state, you need to make a loud statement that you won’t let this happen. And you need to take the House away from the Republicans so some work in Washington can get done.
To volunteer to walk precincts and get out the vote near where you live, go here. Or make calls to swing state voters. And don’t forget that I need each of you to convince just one nonvoter to vote tomorrow so that we can deliver the million-vote margin that could make all the difference.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. Now go act as if your democracy depended on it – because it does.Michael Moore: Tomorrow.