FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Chelsea Manning and the Criminals of American Empire

by KATE EPSTEIN

Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley, came out as a woman on Thursday, one day after she was sentenced to 35 years at a military detention center for men in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Her case highlights the hypocrisy of America’s criminal justice system, as well as the larger context in which it functions—a system that serves to repress the truth and punish the trivial, all the while perpetrating and abetting the greatest crimes of all.

In July, Manning was convicted of 20 (out of 22) counts, including several violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, originally used to prosecute peace activists during World War I. In the 96 years the law has been on the books, it has only been used to prosecute whistleblowers nine times. Eight of those cases have been brought by the Obama administration, Daniel Ellsberg being the only exception. What does it say about the state of our republic that one of the most outspoken presidents in history about the importance of transparency and government accountability has dramatically prosecuted eight whistleblowers as enemies of the state?

Manning was also charged with embezzlement of government property. He “stole” (or copied) information the government would have paid a pretty price to keep secret, given the atrocities exposed by the files. The diplomatic cables demonstrated the high-level corruption and bribery rampant in governments around the world, and helped ignite the spark of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. The Afghanistan and Iraq war logs painted a picture of a Vietnam-style quagmire in the Middle East, replete with waste, fraud, abuse, and violations of international law. A Pentagon memo Manning is also believed to have leaked details the administration’s strategy for delegitimizing Wikileaks long before any of the most devastating leaks surfaced. And the Collateral Murder video showed the intentional murder of civilians and Reuters journalists—a crime for which the U.S. government found no evidence of wrongdoing.

While Chelsea Manning serves 35 years for her attempt to wake the American people up to the reality of an empire gone mad (“I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity,” Manning told the court in her apology), those murderers and the army officials who allowed the whole affair to blow over will continue terrorizing the Arab world, and creating more terrorists every day—all of which raises the questions: who here is the enemy, and who is aiding it?

During Manning’s trial, navy forensic psychiatrist Captain David Moulton testified that he diagnosed Manning with narcissism, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and gender dysphoria, an outdated medical description of Manning’s gender identity. As Chelsea spends what could potentially be the bulk of her adult life in a military prison in which no one will acknowledge her as the woman she feels she is, for an act perceived as so honorable to so many that she has actually been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, we must ask ourselves who has committed the real atrocities.

Chelsea Manning, like Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden and so many other truth-tellers, exposed crimes committed by the American empire. No one responsible for those crimes will serve time in prison. Nor will any of the banking executives responsible for the 2008 stock market crash and the foreclosures of millions of American homes. Nor will any of the decision-makers at HSBC, who laundered money for Mexican drug cartels and other deadly criminal enterprises. The Department of Justice deemed HSBC too big to really punish, taking $1.9 billion (or about 5 weeks of profit) and dropping all criminal charges. The American people could surely use two billion dollars, perhaps to help save social security and welfare programs, but I think we can be pretty sure Lockheed Martin has dibs on the extra cash.

Other corporate entities (and their human stewards) who won’t be spending the next three decades behind bars include BP and Exxon-Mobil. Despite the fact that BP recklessly allowed the largest oil spill in the history of petroleum and then intentionally sprayed cancer-causing Corexit in unprecedented, untested, and illegal amounts to create the illusion of a clean-up, no one will serve time in prison as a result. And Exxon-Mobil, which has been illegally storing hazardous materials in a town near Mayflower, Arkansas, after its (extremely weak and cracked) tar sands pipeline spilled, forcing the evacuation of 22 homes, has thus far similarly escaped criminal liability.

Our prisons are filling up nonetheless, however, with a 500% increase in the incarceration rate over the last thirty years, despite a 25% decrease in the crime rate over the same time period. There is little, if anything, to be proud of about the American way of dealing with crime, from the definition of the crimes themselves, to the individuals chosen for punishment, to the length of their sentences and prison conditions. Many prisons are overcrowded, and many prisoners are raped, mistreated, and deprived of physical and mental healthcare.

“There may not be a soldier in the history of the Army who displayed such an extreme disregard” for his mission, Manning’s prosecutor told the judge in his closing sentencing arguments on Monday. That statement, perhaps more than any other in the trial, betrays the hypocrisy of the twenty-first century American empire. Manning disclosed classified information “out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.” According to what love, to what moral compass, does our government act?

Kate Epstein is a lawyer and activist who manages the blog The Lone Pamphleteer. She can be reached at katepstein@gmail.com.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
Stavros Mavroudeas
Blatant Hypocrisy: the Latest Late-Night Bailout of Greece
Arun Gupta
A War of All Against All
Dan Kovalik
NPR, Yemen & the Downplaying of U.S. War Crimes
Randy Blazak
Thugs, Bullies, and Donald J. Trump: The Perils of Wounded Masculinity
Murray Dobbin
Are We Witnessing the Beginning of the End of Globalization?
Daniel Falcone
Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen, an Interview with David Hilfiker
Gloria Jimenez
In Honduras, USAID Was in Bed with Berta Cáceres’ Accused Killers
Kent Paterson
The Old Braceros Fight On
Lawrence Reichard
The Seemingly Endless Indignities of Air Travel: Report from the Losing Side of Class Warfare
Peter Berllios
Bernie and Utopia
Stan Cox – Paul Cox
Indonesia’s Unnatural Mud Disaster Turns Ten
Linda Pentz Gunter
Obama in Hiroshima: Time to Say “Sorry” and “Ban the Bomb”
George Souvlis
How the West Came to Rule: an Interview with Alexander Anievas
Julian Vigo
The Government and Your i-Phone: the Latest Threat to Privacy
Stratos Ramoglou
Why the Greek Economic Crisis Won’t be Ending Anytime Soon
David Price
The 2016 Tour of California: Notes on a Big Pharma Bike Race
Dmitry Mickiewicz
Barbarous Deforestation in Western Ukraine
Rev. William Alberts
The United Methodist Church Up to Its Old Trick: Kicking the Can of Real Inclusion Down the Road
Patrick Bond
Imperialism’s Junior Partners
Mark Hand
The Trouble with Fracking Fiction
Priti Gulati Cox
Broken Green: Two Years of Modi
Marc Levy
Sitrep: Hometown Unwelcomes Vietnam Vets
Lorenzo Raymond
Why Nonviolent Civil Resistance Doesn’t Work (Unless You Have Lots of Bombs)
Ed Kemmick
New Book Full of Amazing Montana Women
Michael Dickinson
Bye Bye Legal High in Backwards Britain
Missy Comley Beattie
Wanted: Daddy or Mommy in Chief
Ed Meek
The Republic of Fear
Charles R. Larson
Russian Women, Then and Now
David Yearsley
Elgar’s Hegemony: the Pomp of Empire
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail