Manning (Image by Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)
whistleblower Bradley Manning pled guilty to 10 offenses that will garner
him 20 years in custody, military prosecutors are pursuing further charges
- aiding the enemy and violation of the Espionage Act - that carry life
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court-martial of Bradley Manning, the most significant whistleblower case
since Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, has begun. Although Manning
pled guilty earlier this year to 10 offenses that will garner him 20 years
in custody, military prosecutors insist on pursuing charges of aiding the
enemy and violation of the Espionage Act, carrying life in prison. The Obama
administration, which has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage
Act than all prior presidencies combined, seeks to send a strong message
to would-be whistleblowers to keep their mouths shut.
legal duty to report war crimes
is charged with crimes for sending hundreds of thousands of classified files,
documents and videos, including the "Collateral Murder" video,
the "Iraq War Logs," the "Afghan War Logs" and State
Department cables to Wikileaks. Many of the things he transmitted contain
evidence of war crimes.
"Collateral Murder" video depicts a US Apache attack helicopter
killing 12 civilians and wounding two children on the ground in Baghdad
in 2007. The helicopter then fired on and killed the people trying to rescue
the wounded. Finally, a US tank drove over one of the bodies, cutting the
man in half. These acts constitute three separate war crimes.
fulfilled his legal duty to report war crimes. He complied with his legal
duty to obey lawful orders but also his legal duty to disobey unlawful orders.
499 of the Army Field Manual states, "Every violation of the law of
war is a war crime." The law of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions.
85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions describes making the
civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack as a grave
breach. The firing on and killing of civilians shown in the "Collateral
Murder" video violated this provision of Geneva.
Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that the wounded be collected
and cared for. Article 17 of the First Protocol states that the civilian
population "shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect
and care for the wounded." That article also says, "No one shall
be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts." The firing on rescuers
portrayed in the "Collateral Murder" video violates these provisions
Section 27-10 of the Army Field Manual states that "maltreatment of
dead bodies" is a war crime. When the Army jeep drove over the dead
body, it violated this provision.
in the US Army Subject Schedule No. 27-1 is "the obligation to report
all violations of the law of war." At his guilty plea hearing, Manning
explained that he had gone to his chain of command and asked them to investigate
the "Collateral Murder" video and other "war porn,"
but his superiors refused. "I was disturbed by the response to injured
children," Manning stated. He was also bothered by the soldiers depicted
in the video who "seemed to not value human life by referring to [their
targets] as 'dead bastards.' "
Uniform Code of Military Justice sets forth the duty of a service member
to obey lawful orders. But that duty includes the concomitant duty to disobey
unlawful orders. An order not to reveal classified information that contains
evidence of war crimes would be an unlawful order. Manning had a legal duty
to reveal the commission of war crimes.
reason to believe leak could harm US or aid foreign power
prove Manning violated the Espionage Act, prosecutors must prove beyond
a reasonable doubt that he had "reason to believe" the files could
be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign power. When he pled guilty,
Manning stated, "I believed if the public, particularly the American
public, could see this, it could spark a debate on the military and our
foreign policy in general as it applied to Iraq and Afghanistan." He
added, "It might cause society to reconsider the need to engage in
counterterrorism while ignoring the situation of the people we engaged with
every day." These are hardly the words of a man who thought his actions
could harm the United States or help a foreign power. To the contrary. Manning
will be permitted to introduce evidence about his belief that certain documents
would not cause harm to national security if publicly released. It was after
Wikileaks published evidence of the commission of war crimes against the
Iraqi people that Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil immunity to US
troops if their stay in Iraq was prolonged, causing Obama to withdraw them
from Iraq. This saved myriad American and Iraqi lives.
an example: cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment
was 22 years old when he courageously committed the acts for which he stands
criminally accused. For the first 11 months of his confinement, he was held
in solitary confinement and subjected to humiliating forced nudity during
inspection. In fact, Juan Mendez, UN special rapporteur on torture, characterized
the treatment of Manning as cruel, inhuman and degrading. He said, "I
conclude that the 11 months under conditions of solitary confinement (regardless
of the name given to his regime by the prison authorities) constitutes,
at a minimum, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in violation of article
16 of the Convention against Torture. If the effects in regards to pain
and suffering inflicted on Manning were more severe, they could constitute
torture." Mendez could not conclusively say Manning's treatment amounted
to torture because he was denied permission to visit Manning under acceptable
circumstances. Mendez also concluded that, "Imposing seriously punitive
conditions of detention on someone who has not been found guilty of any
crime is a violation of his right to physical and psychological integrity
as well as of his presumption of innocence."
himself has also violated Manning's presumption of innocence, saying two
years ago that Manning "broke the law." But although the Constitution
requires the President to enforce the laws, Obama refuses to allow the officials
and lawyers from the Bush administration who sanctioned and carried out
a regime of torture - which constitutes a war crime under Geneva - to be
held legally accountable. Apparently if Bradley Manning had committed war
crimes, instead of exposing them, he would be a free man, instead of facing
life in prison for his heroic deeds.