It's a long piece, and I suggest you read it all, but here's the heart of Matt Taibbi's latest Rolling Stone piece on the Bradley Manning trial:
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.