They Can’t Cage a Song
George Orwell wrote, "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
A true journalist’s job is to expose government wrongdoing and propaganda, skewer hypocrites and liars, and speak for those with no voice. And wage war against mankind’s two worst scourges: nationalism and religious bigotry.
I’ve always felt kinship for free thinkers, rebels, and heretics.
That’s why I am drawn to the plight of Private Bradley Manning who apparently believed Ernest Hemingway’s dictum: "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime."
The 22-year-old US Army intelligence analyst caused a worldwide furor by releasing to WikiLeaks secret military logs that exposed ugly truths about the brutal conflict in Afghanistan, including widespread killing of civilians.
To again quote Orwell, "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."
Manning also released a suppressed tape of a US Army helicopter gunship killing two Reuters journalists and a civilian.
A civilian hacker employed by some shadowy US government intelligence "contractor" spying on the Internet turned Manning in.
Revenge was swift. Manning was thrown into solitary confinement and faces a long prison term. His case recalls another courageous whistleblower, Israeli technician Mordechai Vanunu, who revealed Israel’s large nuclear arsenal, was kidnapped, served 17 years in solitary, and still remains a semi-prisoner.
WikiGate provoked a flood of bombastic pro-war propaganda from America’s mainstream (read: government guided) media, its rent-a-journalists, and Canada’s wannabe Republican neocons.
Manning’s revelations were blamed on his being gay, a loner, or maladjusted. The Soviets used to lock away such "anti-state elements" and dissenters in mental institutions.
Those with an interest in keeping the US military in Afghanistan tried to divert attention from WikiGate by trumpeting the plight of a wretched Afghan girl whose nose had been cut off by her backwards tribal in-laws. She was turned into a pro-war martyr.
This crime was immediately blamed without evidence on Taliban and served up as the reason why the Western powers had to garrison Afghanistan. No pictures of Afghans blown to bits or maimed by US bombs were published. No mentions of oil and gas.
A few months ago, in response to Europe’s growing opposition to the Afghan War, CIA reportedly advised NATO the best way to keep marketing the Afghan War to the public was claiming it was a crusade to protect women’s rights.
Inconveniently, the US and NATO’s Afghan allies — Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazara — mistreat their women as badly as Taliban’s Pashtun.
When I served in the US Army, we were taught that it was our duty to report up the chain of command all violations of the Geneva Conventions and war crimes. These included killing civilians, torture, reprisals, and executions.
Manning reportedly sought to report to his superiors just such crimes committed in Afghanistan by some US forces and their local allies and mercenaries.
He was ignored. Just as was the courageous Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin when he warned Ottawa that prisoners were being handed over to the brutal Afghan secret police for torture and execution.
Manning’s motivations for whistle-blowing matter not. What does matter is he revealed to the public the brutal nature of the colonial war in Afghanistan and the bodyguard of lies protecting it from public scrutiny. If Americans and Canadians really knew the truth of this resource-driven war, and its carefully concealed cost, they would end it very quickly.
I am reminded of the song from the great Harry Belafonte: "you can cage the bird, but not the song!"
August 18, 2010
Eric Margolis [send him mail] is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.