FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail