Transparency on Trial

bradley manning

Bradley Manning’s trial began yesterday. And our very future is at stake.

If you don’t know who Pfc. Manning is yet, now is the time to learn. After all, the embattled U.S. Army private’s future is directly linked to your own, wherever you may live. His struggle is our struggle. If he fails, our world will become considerably darker.

Bradley Manning is a U.S. Army private who is responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to transparency organization extraordinaire WikiLeaks. He now stands trial for numerous charges which may lead to a lifetime of imprisonment for the young soldier. Judging from that summary, it would appear that Manning’s case is nothing but an internal issue for the American military, and therefore of no consequence to the rest of the country, or the world at large. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. You absolutely should care, because:

Manning exposed genuine war crimes, the most egregious of which is a now-infamous instance of an American helicopter callously murdering a group of civilians later revealed to be journalists working for Reuters. This reality as to the occupation of Iraq, and the greater so-called War on Terror, casts into doubt the validity of those conflicts entirely. The American people would likely never have supported such a conflict if they knew the entire truth.

The leaks have been “avenged” with a fury of dubious legality. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, since immediately following the leaks, has spent nearly a year hunkering down in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to stand trial. The allegations facing Assange? Rape. At best, the charges, even if true, were too conveniently-timed to have had nothing to do with the WikiLeaks case. At worst, it’s what Assange claims he intercepted British intelligence saying it was: a set-up. Bradley Manning has had it even worse, languishing in detention for years leading up to his trial, suffering cruel and illegal treatment before even having been convicted of anything. Note that neither of these two men lied, and the government they exposed is not even trying to justify its actions. It is simply trying to silence those who would bring its unjustifiable actions to light.

This case threatens to criminalize investigative journalism regarding government actions. Bradley Manning is being charged with aiding the enemy, based on the assumption that al-Qaeda could end up having access to the leaked information and subsequently use it against its sworn enemy, the United States. The link between making known to the taxpayer the misdeeds of U.S. military and aiding the enemy is tenuous at best. Not to mention the fact that the U.S. government itself, according to Senator Rand Paul, seems hell-bent on aiding al-Qaeda to further its aims in Syria.

This is not about treason. This is not about operational military privacy. This is about transparency. The question that the trial of Bradley Manning seeks to address is simple: Is the government the servant of, and therefore accountable to, the people?

That’s why you should care about the Bradley Manning case. Your right to recourse against government abuse, whether you are an American citizen or a Pakistani tribesman hoping not to get drone bombed, hangs in the balance.

Photo credit: Thierry Ehrmann

Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela
Joël Valenzuela is the editor of The Desert Lynx. He is also the founder of the Rights Brigade, a mover for the Free State Project, and a martial art instructor.