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21 Dec

Events of Interest and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News

News

Iraq’s Maliki urges Kurds to hand over VP

Iraqi prime minister calls on Kurdish authorities to hand over Tariq al-Hashimi, the country’s fugitive vice president.
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2011 12:37 GMT

Middle East

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Egyptians protest against beating of women

 Thousands rally in Cairo to denounce military’s attacks, as foreign ministry denounces criticism from United States.
Last Modified: 21 Dec 2011 16:37 GMT

People & Power

 A groundbreaking investigative programme, which looks at the use and abuse of power.

US troops in Afghanistan

Eight US troops charged over soldier’s apparent suicide in Afghanistan

Soldiers face charges including negligent homicide after Private Danny Chen is found dead with a gunshot wound

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning hearing – live updates

Day 6 of pre-trial hearing at Fort Meade, Maryland
• Defence will present arguments for first time
• Decision on court martial expected to take a month
• At Fort Meade: Dominic Rushe (DR) and Matt Williams (MW)
• At the Guardian in New York: Adam Gabbatt

 Matthew Norman: Bradley Manning – the prisoner who exposes American  hypocrisy

If we had no right to see US helicopter pilots gunning down
civilians, what right do we have to know anything?

By Matthew Norman

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

After a year of unrivalled newsiness, Time’s list of 2011’s 100 most
influential people looks, at first glance, a little odd. If not demented. For
reasons which evade me, the magazine’s readers have voted Rain, a South Korean
singer and actor, at No.1. Susan Boyle is at No.3, just the 43 places above
Barack Obama.

All lists of the kind are diverting gibberish, and this one more than most.
Yet it does have a saving grace in the form of a cute juxtaposition. At No.8 is
Bradley Manning, the US Army’s whistleblower supreme whose pre-trial hearing to
determine whether he must face a court martial is currently being held in
Maryland. Posthumously ranked at No.9, meanwhile, is Christopher Hitchens.

Clearly the Hitch would have been higher had he had the wit to die a week
earlier. But from his heavenly berth, he may look down with pleasure on the
symmetry, and asymmetry, of being bracketed with the man whose leaking of
military and diplomatic confidences gave WikiLeaks its most lustrous scoop.

Although Hitchens was a fervent advocate of America’s imperialist adventurism
where Manning may be its most effective critic, much conjoined them. Both sons
of strict and remote fathers, they developed a potent antipathy towards
authority figures up to and including the Creator. Long before Hitchens wrote
God Is Not Great, the clever, opinionated and atheistic Manning was refusing to
do any Bible-related homework.

Both were often described as contrarian, and driven to do their finest work
by hatred of injustice. And both were intimately acquainted with torture. Where
Hitchens chose to undergo water-boarding, Manning’s exposure to less blatant but
barely less repellent forms of torture was involuntary.

Before public pressure won him removal to a less muscular prison, he was
housed at Quantico, a Marine base in Virginia, where he was marooned in solitary
confinement for 23 hours each day, deprived of sleep, forced to stand naked
during inspections, and denied his glasses so that he was in effect blind.
Barring being dragged along by a dog collar, he might as well have been a victim
of his colleague Lindie England in Abu Ghraib.

You need never have been a constitutional law professor, as Time’s No. 46 was
before his pledge to end the maltreatment of Iraq war-related detainees helped
send him to the Oval Office, to know that such elegances fall under the “cruel
and unusual punishment” passage in the Eighth Amendment. Agreeing that is the
easy bit.

The harder bit is deciding whether, in revealing some of the unlovelier
aspects of US military endeavours, Manning is a hero, a traitor, or a confused,
lonely, nomadic superhacker with father issues and a dash of
save-the-world-from-itself Narcissism in the Julian Assange mould.

Evidently, Manning had psychiatric problems, as his superiors knew before he
committed what the inevitable court martial will inevitably conclude were crimes
demanding a long spell inside (the fact that no one in the White House, Pentagon
or State Department can cite a scintilla of actual damage to US interests
resulting from the leaks will not trump the charms of deterrence). Before the
intelligence officer copied the documents, he emailed his immediate supervisor
in Iraq warning that his gender problems and resultant emotional distress were
impairing his ability to analyse Shia militant attacks. He even enclosed a snap
of himself in women’s clothing.

M*A*S*H fans will be reminded of Corporal Klinger, who cross-dressed in the
futile hope of a discharge from the Korean war. No officer would have let
Klinger near classified material. That Manning was permitted free access seems
extraordinary, if not almost a type of entrapment.

Then again, there is no overstating the abject incompetence of the US
military, which, after decades of insanely counter-productive wars, one has come
to take on trust. Manning’s most conspicuous act of heroism, along with
publicising the corruption that helped to wash away the Tunisian regime, was
exposing the insouciant brutality to which, in a less dramatic form, he has
since been subjected himself. If the world had no right to see footage of US
helicopter pilots gunning down Baghdad civilians with the giggly whoopings of
teenage video gamers, what right does it have to know anything at all?

American hypocrisy in committing atrocious crimes in freedom’s name is, like
that of any empire, too deeply embedded to be abandoned by any one person. Years
after the Hitch exposed Henry Kissinger’s vileness in Vietnam, the US was still
slaughtering the innocent for kicks. What Manning exposed will not prevent it
happening again, possibly before too long in Iran should a Republican become the
US’s 45th President.

So it is no shock that what the 43rd President did in Iraq, his successor has
been unable magically to undo. But it is a grief to anyone clinging gamely to
residual admiration that Obama, with arguably more influence on such affairs
than even Susan Boyle, was content to sit idly by while a fragile young man of
5ft 2in was kept in Jacob Marley chains on rare outings from his cell, and kept
in darkness without his specs, for casting light on a war whose poisonous spirit
will survive its official conclusion last week so long as Bradley Manning
remains a political prisoner.

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