The Virtue of Chelsea Manning

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Mr. Manning’s treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the U.S. government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light.”

— Julian Assange, ABC News, Aug 21, 2013

Wikileaks chief editor Julian Assange, and leader of the WikiLeaks Party, deemed it a “tactical victory” though still revolting to western concepts of justice. The 35 year sentence of Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning immediately brings to mind a sense of disproportion, an enormous swatter taken to the hapless fly. True, it was not the Sisyphean rock he would have to push up the hill for the rest of his life. 35 seems better in terms of carceral brutality than 60. But the premise remains grotesque.

For one thing, the documents Manning disclosed, for the vast part, would not have qualified for a sentence beyond their classification date – 25 years. That was the position of the defence, which was rejected by Col. Denise Lind. In another, the material, as pointed out by Chase Madar in The Passion of Bradley Manning (2012) was qualified under the label of “top secret”. From the trove of 250 thousand documents, a mere 15-16 thousand, in Madar’s reading, were “secret”.

The final absurdity here is that no harm came of what effectively was, by any serious analysis, a patriotic affirmation. Not a slither of proof has been adduced to the contrary, despite the numb assertions by an unimaginative prosecution to the contrary. Indeed, as Assange himself pointed out on numerous occasions, the WikiLeaks organisation itself prides itself on having harmed no individual while publishing authentic documents.

No matter for such individuals as Dianne Feinstein of the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee of Intelligence, who persists in the fantasy that harm need not have any form at all, be empirically examined, or even tested. The harm for such individuals as Feinstein lies in the disclosure, not the detail. The latter is irrelevant to the former.

Tactical victories are costly, but the Manning conviction remains the most stunningly violent in terms of its attack on whistleblowers by a western state. The history of WikiLeaks, which is intimately bound to Manning’s activities, is one that revealed the criminal, the unacceptable, and the violent. Furthermore, it operated on the key premise that to expose abuses was not merely a flippant assertion but a discharge of duty. The responsible citizen is democracy’s indispensable sentinel.

A man who, in all good conscience, revealed the appalling infractions of the U.S. military, who effectively poured cold water on a smug, brutal establishment, is now paying the price that virtue brings.

The police mentality, the surveillance disease, produces terrible symptoms. It institutionalises the collaboration with its truth even as it buttresses the “necessary” lies. It generates its own hideous bureaucratic rationality that the sociologist Max Weber was only too keen to forewarn us about.

For Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, the Manning conviction sees the traces of a police state appearing on the U.S. security landscape. On Wednesday, a worried Ellsberg told HuffPost Live how, “We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now.” Ellsberg is hardly a howling Cassandra, harbinger of dystopian times to come. He is, rather, the realist of his age: to not own up to the condition is to accept an addiction. U.S.A. Inc., via its octopi functions through the NSA and private security firms such as Stratfor, is addicted and is proving to be a violent drunk. Many citizens, without realising it, continue to provide the liquor.

This does not prevent Ellsberg from issuing a call to arms, the message of challenging reform. “And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It’s worth a person’s life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile – it’s worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country.”

In a peculiar quirk of history, the reformers of democracy, those who have enabled citizens to see its flowing blood again, in fact, to find its veins, are doing so in remote style. They do so in exile; they labour in sanctuary. They do so in the Ecuadorean compound, which has become a centre of magnetic repulsion for the U.S. security state with Assange himself. They do so from a basis of Russian exile, where Edward Snowden remains a threatening voice to the secrecy fiends. (What will be spilling next from his whistling mouth?)

Manning himself has written history, but the writing style has been tormented. He has done what a placard held by a French woman outside the Ecuadorean embassy in Hans Crescent, London described as telling a history of the vanquished (London Review of Books, Jul 19, 2012). While she was speaking about Assange, Manning had provided the valuable ink. The pen will have to continue even as his broken body and being cope with the detention.

It is incumbent for any state-based morality to assume the worst of those who challenge it. That is the fundamental tenet of any police state. According to Ellsberg, we are seeing the start, not so much a creeping as a roar into the sinister spotlight. More to the point, it is incumbent on us to ensure the end of that beginning.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne and is on the Victorian ticket for the Senate, running with Julian Assange and Dr. Leslie Cannold.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 03, 2015
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Atomic Era Turns 70, as Nuclear Hazards Endure
Nelson Valdes
An Internet Legend: the Pope, Fidel and the Black President
Robert Hunziker
The Perfectly Nasty Ocean Storm
Jack Dresser
The Case of Alison Weir: Two Palestinian Solidarity Organizations Borrow from Joe McCarthy’s Playbook
Ahmad Moussa
Incinerating Palestinian Children
Greg Felton
Greece Succumbs to Imperialist Banksterism
Binoy Kampmark
Stalling the Trans-Pacific Partnership: the Failure of the Hawai’i Talks
Ted Rall
My Letter to Nick Goldberg of the LA Times
Mark Weisbrot
New Greek Bailout Increases the Possibility of Grexit
Jose Martinez
Black/Hispanic/Women: a Leadership Crisis
Victor Grossman
German Know-Nothings Today
Patrick Walker
We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon
Norman Pollack
Moral Consequences of War: America’s Hegemonic Thirst
Ralph Nader
Republicans Support Massive Tax Evasion by Starving IRS Budget
Alexander Reid Ross
Colonial Pride and the Killing of Cecil the Lion
Suhayb Ahmed
What’s Happening in Britain: Jeremy Corbyn and the Future of the Labour Party
Weekend Edition
July 31-33, 2015
Jeffrey St. Clair
Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void
John Pilger
Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice
Roberto J. González – David Price
Remaking the Human Terrain: The US Military’s Continuing Quest to Commandeer Culture
Lawrence Ware
Bernie Sanders’ Race Problem
Andrew Levine
The Logic of Illlogic: Narrow Self-Interest Keeps Israel’s “Existential Threats” Alive
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Kos, Bodrum, Desperate Refugees and a Dying Child
Paul Street
“That’s Politics”: the Sandernistas on the Master’s Schedule
Ted Rall
How the LAPD Conspired to Get Me Fired from the LA Times
Mike Whitney
Power-Mad Erdogan Launches War in Attempt to Become Turkey’s Supreme Leader
Ellen Brown
The Greek Coup: Liquidity as a Weapon of Coercion
Stephen Lendman
Russia Challenges America’s Orwellian NED
Will Parrish
The Politics of California’s Water System
John Wight
The Murder of Ali Saad Dawabsha, a Palestinian Infant Burned Alive by Israeli Terrorists
Jeffrey Blankfort
Leading Bibi’s Army in the War for Washington
Mary Lou Singleton
Gender, Patriarchy, and All That Jazz
Robert Fantina
Israeli Missteps Take a Toll
Pete Dolack
Speculators Circling Puerto Rico Latest Mode of Colonialism
Ron Jacobs
Spying on Black Writers: the FB Eye Blues
Paul Buhle
The Leftwing Seventies?
Binoy Kampmark
The TPP Trade Deal: of Sovereignty and Secrecy
David Swanson
Vietnam, Fifty Years After Defeating the US
Robert Hunziker
Human-Made Evolution
Shamus Cooke
Why Obama’s “Safe Zone” in Syria Will Inflame the War Zone
David Rosen
Hillary Clinton: Learn From Your Sisters
Sam Husseini
How #AllLivesMatter and #BlackLivesMatter Can Devalue Life
Shepherd Bliss
Why I Support Bernie Sanders for President
Louis Proyect
Manufacturing Denial
Howard Lisnoff
The Wrong Argument
Tracey Harris
Living Tiny: a Richer and More Sustainable Future