As I write this article, a man is sitting in a cell in Fort Leavanworth, Kansas. This man is facing the possibility of life in prison or even death. His crime? Helping release classified information that documented amongst many other things, the US Army's role in heinous war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. A common quip amongst those in the legal profession is that 'it is a crime to witness a crime and not report it'. Well Bradley Manning witnessed countless crimes during his time in Iraq and in the cables that he had access to and subsequently leaked to Wikileaks. This man had a moral conscience and felt an overbearing obligation to show the world the hypocrisy and terror which his own country and the army he was serving in propagates. For these actions, he was locked up for 10 months and held in conditions so bad, so inhumane that UN rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez is launching an investigation into them and only after a petition signed by 295 scholars was he moved to a medium-protection facility. All this while the people who perpetrated the acts of violence and murder which Private Manning revealed are anonymous and free.
I've been a little vague on the details so far so let's delve right into some of the information that Private Manning helped leak. The first thing that was leaked by Wikileaks was a video of an apache helicopter in Iraq gunning down 13 people they believed to be insurgents and killing two international journalists who were unarmed and in civilian clothing when they were gunned down by laughing US soldiers who seemed jovial and flippant. Next came the Afghanistan War Logs which included tens of thousands of military field reports. Next came the Iraq War Logs with 400,000 military records of the US operation of Iraq, These logs included the accounts of the deaths of 66,000 of the 109,000 recorded civilian deaths in Iraq. Cablegate came next which released 250,000 US military cables that stretched as far back as 1966. Some of these leaks provide absolutely shocking reading.
Take the Ishaqi incident for instance. Thanks to Bradley Manning and Wikileaks we now know that in 2006, US soldiers handcuffed 11 people, 5 of them children and 4 of them women and killed them with a bullet to the head execution style. The soldiers then proceeded to bomb the house that these people had occupied to cover up their disgusting crimes. It was the Iraqi police who at the time made these claims. The US government launched an investigation into the incident in 2006 but, unsurprisingly, cleared the soldiers of any wrongdoing claiming that they had been fired on and had cleared a safehouse. The Iraqi government rejected this verdict. The cable leak which Manning provided told of a UN report 2 weeks after the raid which explained how the Iraqi police and government's view on the Ishaqi Incident is accurate. These are war crimes which Private Manning has helped reveal. War crimes which the US army perpetrated and then attempted to cover up.
To do what Manning did, to help send thousands and thousands of US military cables to a person or an organisation that is going to leak them is an example of incredible bravery. People have been polarised over Bradley Manning however, especially in the US. Many, like me, see him as a man with a moral conscience, a man who was objective enough to see that what his government and army was doing was wrong and a man who helped shed light on the deaths of countless individuals. Many others see him as a traitor to his country. A man who, with the help of Wikileaks, helped put the lives of not only his fellow soldiers but of the 350 million American citizens at risk. He is seen as a an ally of the enemy, a treasonous individual. Indeed, one of the 30 charges he faces is 'aiding the enemy'. But he did not betray his country. He betrayed his government. He betrayed them when he saw what they were doing and subsequently covered up was wrong. His aim, as he put it, was 'removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare'. He didn't aid the enemy but instead he aided humanity.
We live in a generation where the word 'hero' is thrown around quite too often but Bradley Manning is a true American hero, one of the few genuine ones out there. While the troops abroad are praised no end for their work in extending American imperialism worldwide, one of the few ones who actually helped the world is locked up and facing a lifetime wasted. This man should be given the medal of freedom. This man should be given the Nobel Peace Prize. But first, and most pertinently, this man should be given freedom.