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No Lie


Plenty of thoughts were blasting my cranium the other evening—this limbo I’m in because I have a contract on my condo, a contract that may collapse. I decided to watch Netflix episodes of Lie to Me—a teaching tool or penance for months of stupid gullibility about which I’ve written too much.

But I remembered something significant, a video on C-Span—Bradley Manning’s defense attorney David Coombs among a roster of speakers. This would be Coombs’ first public presentation about the WikiLeaks case (US v. Bradley Manning).

I sat behind Manning and Coombs at one of the Ft. Meade hearings and wrote about Manning, the way I felt in his presence and his decision to reveal war crimes—a to-the-bone reality that happens not infrequently in a world dictated by greed.

So on Monday night, I watched Michael Ratner, President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, whom I’d met at Ft. Meade. He spoke passionately about Manning. And my brain cycled images of carnage—the drones, babies born with two heads, parents carrying a bloody child, the footage released by U.S. Army PFC Manning, a former intelligence specialist, demoted and imprisoned in an “animal cage.”

No surprise when Ratner spoke also to the horror of Guantanamo, a reminder of those held, detained without trial, and tortured. All who were seized, trapped. Those imprisoned, believed to be terrorists because somebody said they might be, could be, may have had a revenge fantasy or two, a violent thought, inspired by injustice. By American Exceptionalism’s ravaging of their countries, families, so many people.  The Children.

And then Coombs took the microphone. I listened to his words of admiration for and his commitment to Manning—the hope he feels from worldwide support. And finally to this: “We live in a country that is built on government accountability and informed citizens.”  Whoa. I actually said, “Whoa.” Not in reaction to “informed citizens.” But to government accountability. There is no government accountability. THERE. IS. NONE.

Why? Because Americans approve with tax dollars, with our votes, and through purchases from companies that benefit from torture and murder, ensuring the smooth operation of the capitalist death machine. If we shake our heads incredulously about accountability, we deceive ourselves. By law, the president answers to the people—the American people. We, the people, are at the top of the command chain. And we know this, just as we know in our hearts that what Bradley Manning revealed is not a secret. Just as we know that citizens are informed.

And we do so very little. In fact, as little as possible.  Something I’ll take care of as soon as I finish this piece—write a check, made payable to Courage to Resist.  A donation to Bradley Manning’s defense fund.  It really is the very least I can do.  No lie.

Missy Beattie is in Baltimore. Email:

Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail:

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