Hands off WikiLeaks!
Defend PFC Bradley Manning!
On July 6, the U.S. military announced that charges have been filed against Private First Class Bradley Manning for allegedly leaking classified material – in particular providing the (in)famous “Collateral Murder” video to the investigative website WikiLeaks. PFC Manning, a military intelligence analyst, has been held since some time toward the end of May by the U.S. Central Command at a military base in Kuwait. The video shows U.S. helicopter gunships cold-bloodedly gunning down two reporters and other civilians, first aid responders and children in Baghdad in 2007. Its release provoked a storm of outrage worldwide, and it has by now been seen by millions of viewers on the Internet. The “hacker” who fingered Private Manning to the Army brass, Adrian Lamo, also alleges that Manning claimed to have passed on video of a massacre of some 125 civilians by U.S. forces near Garani, Afghanistan in May 2009.
The Pentagon claims that in addition, Manning released some 150,000 State Department cables. WikiLeaks denies that it has the diplomatic cables, but says it is preparing to release the video of the Garani massacre (for background on this case of mass murder, see our article, “Defeat U.S. War on Afghanistan and Iraq,” The Internationalist No. 30, November-December 2009). While refusing on principle to name its sources or confirm whether Manning is one, WikiLeaks has retained U.S. civilian lawyers for him. However, the military has not allowed them to contact their client. Manning’s friends and the government informant Lamo say that he was suffering a crisis of conscience over the conduct of the U.S. war, read “horrifying” contents of secret U.S. diplomatic correspondence, and wanted to spark “debate” and “reform.”
If Bradley Manning did indeed help to uncover evidence of U.S. imperialism’s war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and if he did try to bring to light the secret dealings of U.S. diplomats and spies, these were justified acts evidencing rare moral courage. Class-conscious workers and all defenders of democratic rights should hail Manning as a hero. Exposing U.S. imperialism’s crimes and tearing the curtain of secrecy from its plots can save the lives of innocent people by helping to put an end the Pentagon’s reign of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and around the world. That’s why the U.S. government under the liberal Democrat Barack Obama is pursuing “whistle blowers” with a vengeance. Under the charges brought against him, a court-martial could sentence Manning to up to 52 years behind bars. We demand: Free Bradley Manning now!
In the wake of the revelations of Manning’s arrest, government officials told the Daily Beast news website (10 June) that they were seeking Julian Assange, an Australian who is the main figure of WikiLeaks. Assange dropped from sight for several weeks, rightly worried that he is in danger, but surfaced in Brussels on June 21 to speak at a seminar on freedom of information at the European parliament. A lengthy article on Assange in the New Yorker (7 June) magazine pooh-poohed such concerns, referring to “A low-grade fever of paranoia [that] runs through the WikiLeaks community.” But Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1972 revealed the “Pentagon Papers,” a top-secret “Defense” Department study of the Vietnam war, commented in a Daily Beast interview (11 June) that “on May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to ‘incapacitate me totally.’”
Only in the past? Hardly. Despite post-Watergate laws banning assassinations, U.S. leaders today openly proclaim their supposed authority, under war powers voted by Congress following the 11 September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and their intention to have government hit squads murder or kidnap “enemies,” foreign citizens and Americans alike, without the pretense of a judicial procedure. In testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on February 3, the then Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declared that American citizens could be assassinated by their “own” government overseas. Make no mistake, Julian Assange is in real danger from the same imperialist war criminals that have Bradley Manning in a military jail. Hands off Julian Assange and WikiLeaks!
In the Daily Beast interview, Ellsberg congratulates Assange for “doing good work for our democracy” and says that if Manning did what he is alleged to have done, he “upheld his oath of office to support the Constitution.” Ellsberg asserted that “our national security” would benefit from the release of diplomatic cables allegedly intercepted by Manning, but counsels Assange to withhold “dangerous” government secrets from the public. Wikileaks has indeed done very good work, not only in decoding the encrypted videos revealing the U.S. war crimes, but also in verifying the authenticity of documents and establishing contact with the families of the victims. But talk of “our democracy” is delusional. Today, a Pentagon Papers case would never win in a Supreme Court that just ruled that even political speech in support of anyone deemed a “terrorist” by the U.S. government can be outlawed. And the Democrats in the White House are worse than the Republicans in going after whistle blowers.
“In 17 months in office, President Obama has already outdone every previous president in pursuing leak prosecutions. His administration has taken actions that might have provoked sharp political criticism for his predecessor, George W. Bush....”
–New York Times 11 June
The imperialist “democracy” that the liberals believe in and the Democratic administration they elected operate torture camps from the Guantánamo Bay naval base stolen from Cuba to the Bagram air force base in Afghanistan. Over two million, mostly black and Latino men railroaded on non-violent drug “crimes,” are imprisoned within U.S. borders. Tens of thousands of working-class immigrants are being held in private jails and concentration camps, while some 400,000 are deported every year. U.S. military power and billions of dollars in subsidies prop up theocracies and dictatorships throughout the Near East from Israel to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the “oildoms” of the Persian/Arab Gulf, while the U.S. plans an endless occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq (where combat missions are soon to be rebranded “stability operations”). The generals, diplomats and spies who conspire to maintain U.S. dominance over the world will go to great lengths to silence those who would expose their machinations and crimes.
What’s behind all this is that U.S. imperialism is bogged down in losing wars. The caste of military and political specialists who manage these wars for Wall Street is rife with internecine rivalries. This was highlighted recently when high-flying General Stanley McChrystal, who president Obama had installed as commander of the Afghanistan/Pakistan war in May 2009, “resigned” after being hastily summoned to the Oval Office when a profile of this martinet in Rolling Stone quoted him and his staff disparaging the president and his political and diplomatic staff. As the editors’ lead to that article succinctly put the mindset of the “Runaway General,” McChrystal “seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House.” So Obama seized the chance to play Harry Truman vs. General McArthur in the name of civilian supremacy, but while firing the general arguably most likely to carry out a coup d’état, he replaced him with the one most likely to order it (Gen. David Petraeus).
As the situation on the ground continues to elude the Pentagon’s grasp, the generals and diplomats are especially in need of the services of their colleagues in the “free but responsible” imperialist media. And the media oblige. According to Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com (18 June), Manning offered the “Collateral Murder” video to David Finkel of the Washington Post, but the Post stayed silent. As Greenwald writes,
“When the NYT learned in 2004 that the Bush administration was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants, George Bush summoned the paper’s Publisher and Executive Editor to the Oval Office, demanded that the story not be published, and the paper complied by sitting on it for a full year until after Bush was safely re-elected. When The Washington Post’s Dana Priest learned that the CIA was maintaining a network of secret prisons – black sites – she honored the request of ‘senior U.S. officials’ not to identify the countries where those prisons were located so as to not disrupt the U.S.’s ability to continue to use those countries for such projects.”
Nor, it should be noted, has the press (or any civil liberties group) so far come to the defense of Manning and Assange. The New Yorker article even argued that, after all, the wanton killing shown in the “Collateral Murder” video didn’t violate the military’s rules of engagement. But that, after all, is the point: this carnage is all legal according to the bloodthirsty imperialist rulers.
And that includes Obama just as much as George W. Bush. As we have insisted over and over against those leftists who called Iraq “Bush’s war,” this is a bipartisan imperialist war. The Obama administration has continued the policy of warrantless wiretapping, spying on political dissidents, and CIA kidnappings and assassination. From “Che” Guevara to Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, this “democracy” has always resorted to murdering its perceived enemies. While exposure of the imperialist war makers’ crimes will hardly convince them to “reform,” revelations such as the “Collateral Murder” video perform a valuable service in exposing the crimes of a vicious ruling class that can only be – and must be – defeated and swept away by a revolutionary mobilization of working-class power. ■