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Army intelligence analyst Private Bradley E. Manning, imprisoned in a Quantico, Virginia Marine brig since last summer for allegedly leaking to WikiLeaks tens of thousands of classified US documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, faces 22 new charges, one of which is “aiding the enemy” that could bring him the death penalty. (“Soldier Faces 22 New WikiLeaks Charges,” By Charlie Savage, The New York Times, Mar. 3, 2011) The real “enemy” Private Manning is actually aiding” are the American people.
Rather than being imprisoned, today under reportedly abusive conditions, for betraying his country, Private Manning should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for exposing the real betrayers of America. The Bush administration committed horrible crimes against humanity by knowingly lying about Saddam Hussein having “mushroom cloud”- threatening weapons of mass destruction and launching an unnecessary and illegal pre-emptive war against the people of Iraq. As a result, documented studies of the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq reveal that well over a million Iraqi civilians have been killed, a shockingly far greater number than the politically watered-down numbers infrequently appearing in America’s status quo-guardian mainstream media. (See “Iraq Death Toll Rivals Rwanda Genocide, Cambodian Killing Fields: A new study estimates that 1.2 million Iraqis have met violent deaths since Bush and Cheney chose to invade,” By Joshua Holland, AlterNet, Sept. 17, 2007; and “Iraqi Holocaust, Iraqi Genocide: 1.4 million violent deaths in US-occupied Iraq- eclipses Rwandan Genocide,” JUST FOREIGN POLICY )
The human toll in Iraq is staggering. An estimated one million women have been widowed, and five million children orphaned. (See “Breaking Barriers: Empowering Widows and Orphans in Iraq,” Feb. 25, 2011, CSW 2011, The National Council of Women of Canada) Some four million Iraqi families have been displaced. Deadly US-invasion-triggered sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis continues to rack the country. And, as reported in The New York Times, a violent “day of rage” demonstrations erupted in ten cities throughout Iraq, “with nearly 20 protesters killed in clashes with security forces. Dozens more were wounded, and several local government offices lay smoldering and ransacked.” The Times story continues, “The crowds in this young, war-torn democracy (italics added) did not call for an entirely new form of government, but for better jobs and improved services.” (Feb. 26, 2011)
Frightening is the glorification and thus normalization of war—which serves the endless conflict desired by America’s corporate war profiteers and their colluding political power seekers. The tip of the normalization of the permanent war iceberg is seen in that leading mainstream newspaper’s so-called objective news story’s description of Iraq as “this young, warn-torn democracy.” And in another “news” story, The New York Times camouflages America’s war crimes against Iraq by referring to “the fragile democracy struggling to take hold here.” (“Concerns Grow as Iraq Feels Its Premier Strengthen His Grip on Power,” By Michael S. Schmidt and Jack Healy, Mar. 5, 2011)
The normalization of unjust endless war is seen in the book contracts awarded to America’s top war criminals: former president George W. Bush, former vice present Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff to “Bush’s Brain.” These are a few of the enemies within who transformed the Office of President into “Commander-in-Chief” and militarized the country to accommodate the normalization of endless war. This normalization of our government’s war crimes in our name even has a monument, no less on a Christian denomination’s university campus: ‘SMU: HOME OF THE GEORGE W. BUSH PRESIDENTIAL CENTER.’ (www.smu.edu/bush/library)
The subtle normalization of America’s wars without end is echoed in CBS Evening News national security correspondent David Martin’s report, on whether the US should enact a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Col. Qaddafi’s air force from inflicting mass casualties on protesting rebels. Martin matter-of-factly said, “The U.S. military knows all about no-fly zones. It ran them over Iraq for more than a decade, but it took an invasion to get rid of that dictator.” (“Pentagon is wary of intervening in Libya,” By David Martin, CBS Evening News, Mar. 1, 2011)
“It took an” unncessary, falsely based, illegal “invasion” that has devastated the people of Iraq—and also left in its criminal wake the deaths of some 4,400 American sons and daughters and an estimated 100,000 more wounded in body, mind and spirit. In one sentence, national CBS correspondent David Martin justified and thus normalized a horrible US government-authorized crime against humanity and its endless war policies. It is as if the deaths and maiming of the lives of all of those Iraqi, American and Coalition forces were worth a falsely-based “invasion to get rid of that dictator.”
The insidious normalization of corporate-profiteering and political power-motivated American wars is seen in a new reality television show called “Coming Home.” Here a US soldier deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere may pay a surprise visit to a shocked wife at her work or their home with cameras rolling. Another soldier suddenly appears in the classroom or on the athletic field before his startled son. A third returning soldier may unexpectedly come through the door and be welcomed by his or her loved one’s screams and tears of joy.
Star Price, Executive Producer of “Coming Home,” expresses the show’s distraction-serving normalcy dynamic: “The show is a recognition of the incredible sacrifice men and women make but their families go through a lot of worry, stress, yet put up with it with a smile.” “Price added, “They are worthy of an emotional response.” (“Lifetime reality show, ‘Coming Home’ premieres Sunday,” By Tavia D. Green, TheLeafChronicle, Mar. 3, 2011) James Hibbard of Entertainment Weekly ends his review of the show with its normalizing diversionary dynamic: “For those who haven’t seen these sort of videos before [“Coming Home” and “Army Wives], get ready to cry your eyes out.” (“Surprise military reunions reality show coming to Lifetime — EXCLUSIVE,” Feb. 16, 2011) That is the point! People cry their eyes out so that they do not have to see the tears of grief of real Iraqi, Afghanistani, Pakastini and American people whose sons and daughters and mothers and fathers are never coming home again.
The normalcy of America’s endless wars is slickly displayed in a television commercial produced by USAA, a military-focused banking, investments and insurance organization whose website states, “For those who stood tall for this country and for their families, we stand ready to return the favor.” USAA’s TV commercial shows a returning Navy officer holding and kissing his three-or four-year-old daughter, who is holding a small American flag in each hand. The next clip is of American soldiers in combat gear patrolling a street in an Arab populated country. The scene then quickly flips back home to an army wife and mother reading a story to her young daughter. Then on again to another group of deployed American GIs walking off a cargo airship, and patrolling a rural roadway along the mountainside of another country. Then back again to another soldier’s wife and mother tucking their young daughter into bed. Next are American flag-holding greeters welcoming returning soldiers at an airport with congratulatory smiles and handshakes. The final scene is of a little boy, carrying a “I love daddy” sign, running to his returning widely grinning father’s outstretched arms, with the father then holding his, now flag-waving, little son and baby daughter and tendering hugging his wife. The commercial ends with, “Insurance Banking Investments Retirement Advice” Then, “USAA.com 1-888- 461- USAA” Followed by, “We know what it means to serve.”
“Daddy’s home!” What did you do in the war, daddy?”
Tragically, in Iraq and Afghanistan—and in America– it is not about “coming home” but about homes destroyed and lives ended and maimed. The trauma and tears of American mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are no more real than the trauma and tears of Iraqi and Afghanistan mothers and fathers and sons and daughters being demonized as “terrorists” and “Islamic extremists.”
It is not about the “radicalization” of Muslims in American and abroad, as Republican Representative Peter King of New York would have everyone believe with his racist anti-Muslim congressional hearings. It is about the normalization of the US government’s imperialistic, war-mongering, terror-producing foreign policy, which is the source of much of the so-called “extremism” of its victims.
War-profiteering and political power-maintaining imperialistic wars by any other name are still crimes against humanity. Whether it is the terrible destruction of Iraq. The continuing deaths of Afghan children and other civilians by US drones, which actually represent America’s immoral, apologies-riddled foreign policy in Afghanistan. Or the US’s immunity-demanding sociopathic foreign policy in Pakistan, symbolized now by a CIA operative who’s cowboy-like killing of two young Pakistani men has fueled even greater national outrage against America’s continuing violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. US foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is not about “democracy” but about demonocracy. It is not about protecting America’s “national security” but about creating enemies.
Private Bradley Manning has provided a great service to his country by exposing the fallacy of the normalcy of America’s imperialistic wars. He has given the light of day to the truth, upon which justice and restitution and normalcy for all depend. He has sought to protect, not endanger, America’s national security by informing the people that the greatest threat to their security is the treasonous behavior of war-instigating and –accommodating members of their own government. The real threat his behavior poses is to the normalcy of endless US wars and support of repressive regimes.
Private Manning’s patriotism is powerfully expressed by attorney and member of the National Lawyers Guild Chase Madar, who writes,
The records allegedly downloaded by Manning reveal clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture committed by Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S.military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the American invasions. (“Why Bradley Manning Is a Patriot, Not a Criminal,” TomDispatch.com, Feb. 10, 2011)
Who are “the enemy” Private Manning is charged with “aiding?” The international anti-war women’s group CODEPINK responds to that key question this way:
Who exactly is “the enemy” anyway? The cables that Bradley Manning is accused of leaking have helped spark democratic uprisings across the Arab world. They have brought us the truth about the brutality and atrocities of our continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have given us a critical look at the underpinnings of our own government. They have created transparency beyond any we had before, and allow us as citizens to make more educated decisions. Of all the beneficiaries of the leaked cables, Democracy itself is the greatest. . . .With the leaked video”Collateral Murder,” Bradley put us in the back of a helicopter gunship in Iraq to show us how our wars are really fought. In his own words, he did it because “I want people to see the truth regardless of who they are . . . because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” Now he is being charged with telling the truth, and it may cost him his life. (“Who’s the enemy?,” Mar. 4, 2011)
Today Private Manning is reportedly forced to periodically stand exposed naked in a bare prison cell. His exposure of the truth wraps him in dignity and in real humanistic patriotic caring for Americans and for people everywhere. What is being done to him by the Pentagon and Obama administration will not detract from what he has done to help us Americans regain a human understanding of normalcy.
Rev. WILLIAM E. ALBERTS, Ph.D. is a hospital chaplain and a diplomate in the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. Both a Unitarian Universalist and a United Methodist minister, he has written research reports, essays and articles on racism, war, politics and religion. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.