Bradley Manning: One Soldier Who Really Did “Defend Our Freedom”, by Kevin Carson

Kevin Carson

When I hear someone say that soldiers “defend our freedom,” my immediate response is to gag. I think the last time American soldiers actually fought for the freedom of Americans was probably the Revolutionary War — or maybe the War of 1812, if you want to be generous. Every war since then has been for nothing but to uphold a system of power, and to make the rich folks even richer.

But I can think of one exception. If there’s a soldier anywhere in the world who’s fought and suffered for my freedom, it’s Pfc. Bradley Manning.

Manning is frequently portrayed, among the knuckle-draggers on right-wing message boards, as some sort of spoiled brat or ingrate, acting on an adolescent whim. But that’s not quite what happened, according to Johann Hari (“The under-appreciated heroes of 2010,” The Independent, Dec. 24).

Manning, like many young soldiers, joined up in the naive belief that he was defending the freedom of his fellow Americans. When he got to Iraq, he found himself working under orders “to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America’s new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements.” The people he arrested, and handed over for torture, were guilty of such “crimes” as writing “scholarly critiques” of the U.S. occupation forces and its puppet government. When he expressed his moral reservations to his supervisor, Manning “was told to shut up and get back to herding up Iraqis.”

The people Manning saw tortured, by the way, were frequently the very same people who had been tortured by Saddam: trade unionists, members of the Iraqi Freedom Congress, and other freedom-loving people who had no more use for Halliburton and Blackwater than they had for the Baath Party.

For exposing his government’s crimes against humanity, Manning has spent seven months in solitary confinement – a torture deliberately calculated to break the human mind.

We see a lot of “serious thinkers” on the op-ed pages and talking head shows, people like David Gergen, Chris Matthews and Michael Kinsley, going on about all the stuff that Manning’s leaks have impaired the ability of “our government” to do.

He’s impaired the ability of the U.S. government to conduct diplomacy in pursuit of some fabled “national interest” that I supposedly have in common with Microsoft, Wal-Mart and Disney. He’s risked untold numbers of innocent lives, according to the very same people who have ordered the deaths of untold thousands of innocent people. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, Manning’s exposure of secret U.S. collusion with authoritarian governments in the Middle East, to promote policies that their peoples would find abhorrent, undermines America’s ability to promote “democracy, open government, and free and open societies.”

But I’ll tell you what Manning’s really impaired government’s ability to do.

He’s impaired the U.S. government’s ability to lie us into wars where thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of foreigners are murdered.

He’s impaired its ability to use such wars — under the guise of promoting “democracy” — to install puppet governments like the Coalition Provisional Authority, that will rubber stamp neoliberal “free trade” agreements (including harsh “intellectual property” provisions written by the proprietary content industries) and cut special deals with American crony capitalists.

He’s impaired its ability to seize good, decent people who — unlike most soldiers — really are fighting for freedom, and hand them over to thuggish governments for torture with power tools.

Let’s get something straight. Bradley Manning may be a criminal by the standards of the American state. But by all human standards of morality, the government and its functionaries that Manning exposed to the light of day are criminals. And Manning is a hero of freedom for doing it.

So if you’re one of the authoritarian state-worshippers, one of the grovelling sycophants of power, who are cheering on Manning’s punishment and calling for even harsher treatment, all I can say is that you’d probably have been there at the crucifixion urging Pontius Pilate to lay the lashes on a little harder. You’d have told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding. You’re unworthy of the freedoms which so many heroes and martyrs throughout history — heroes like Bradley Manning — have fought to give you.



  • Saying that disapproving of Mannings actions means that someone would ‘have told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding’ or have ‘been there at the crucifixion urging Pontius Pilate to lay the lashes on a little harder’ is so ridiculously, self evidently stupid that you negate your argument.

    Manning choose to betray a position of trust. You can argue about whether he was right ot do so, but to caricature anyone who thinks it was wrong as being like a Nazi sympathiser just makes you look like a hysterical moron.

  • I would say Manning was correct in his decision for two reasons:
    one; Trust works both ways.The U.S. state betrayed Manning with its hypocracy, and once he uncovered it and realised he had been drawn into his pledge to defend his nation under false pretences, he owed them nothing.
    two; If people cannot, in the last instance be guided by their own conscience then we are not autonomous human beings any more but merely mutants who can be used like slaves.There should be a lesson here for all people who are part of any state machinery thinking they have everything and everyone under control. It only takes one individual to put a spoke in that wheel. Well done that man!

  • Bradley Manning’s Oath of Allegiance was sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The only possible justification for a soldier (or a spy) is the moral worth of the cause he represents.


  • Pingback: Creative-i : Bradley Manning Daily News Roundup 31 December, 2010

  • What Manning did was against his oath and duty as a soldier. His motivations, as a practicing homosexual, was to get even with a system that he felt betrayed his own personal interests and convictions. His motivations included revenge against a policy that barred open homosexuality in the military.

  • There is an implied contract between soldiers and the State. The soldier agrees to obey orders at the risk of his own life, and even to do things that he might personally think immoral. The State promises, among much else, that the orders given are reasonably defensive and that they really do serve the legitimate interests of the country as a whole. When if appears, beyond reasonable doubt, that the purpose of his orders is to serve different and mostly evil ends, the contract is voided, and the soldier is justified in following his own conscience.

    I dislike the basic principle of the Nuremberg Trials. But the secondary principle – that lawfully-given orders do not legitimise wrongful actions – is a sound one. It is a reciprocal of the above.

  • Where in the Constitution does it say that the State shall have classified information? Whereas freedom of speech and publication are expressly protected.


  • The main practical problem with Mr Manning’s actions in my view is that, like al Quaeda, it gives those who want to impose control the excuses and rationalisations they need to do so.
    Where would body scanners be without the underpant bomber?

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