American Soldiers Should Be First in Line To Defend Bradley Manning
by Andrew Mason and Mark
One of the
most curious facets of the ongoing Wikileaks saga is the conspicuous
silence of the American military about the Bradley Manning case.
The military’s silence is absolutely deafening, for example, on
the pages of Stars and Stripes, where only two
articles in the turbulent month of December have even deigned
to mention Mr. Manning. One would expect that, in a case involving
the largest leak of classified documents in the history of the world,
the armed forces would be staking out a concrete position on this
case for the entire world, and especially the armed forces, to see.
After all, it was one of the armed forces’ own who allegedly released
the documents to Wikileaks, and other active-duty servicemen with
access to classified documents may be considering doing the very
same thing as Manning.
emanating from the armed forces regarding Manning raises a fascinating
and important question: What position should the armed forces
take with regard to the Manning case? We all know what stance
the Pentagon is likely to take, given that many of the embarrassing
documents actually refer to people in the Pentagon, but the question
that truly needs to be answered concerns the position the armed
forces should take – especially the position that average soldiers
should take on Bradley Manning.
it turns out, cannot be discovered by facilely pointing out that
it is illegal under military law for soldiers to release classified
information to the public. This is true, because the document classification
system has been manipulated by political and military elites in
a way that is extremely prejudicial to average soldiers. Ironically,
this fact has itself been revealed by the Wikileaks releases,
because it is clear that political and military elites are over-classifying
documents in order to protect their own asses. They have been classifying
documents "secret" even when they involve nothing more
than gossip about foreign diplomats and royalty, for example. Peruse
the Wikileaks files for two minutes and you will get a good sense
of just how absurd the document classification system in the United
States has become.
the document classification system in the U.S. has been absurdly
extended and abused, this has created a serious moral problem for
conscientious soldiers in the armed forces. For, by over-classifying
documents, political and military elites are able to hamstring their
subordinates and make the exposure of what they are doing virtually
impossible, unless it is leaked. Any unsavory, illegal, untruthful
or even just plain embarrassing information can be hidden from public
view simply by stamping the offensive document "secret."
It is also a way for political and military elites to avoid prosecution
for crimes in the United States by claiming that their defense involves
"sensitive" or "secret" documents that cannot
be revealed in open court. This strategy is so common in our corrupted
day and age that it even has a name: "greymail."
then, the document classification system in the United States has
warped into an instrument of intimidation against average, conscientious
soldiers who might be appalled by their superiors’ words or deeds.
Superior officers and civilian bureaucrats can preempt dissent by
simply stamping incriminating documents "secret," and
use that tiny word as a threat against conscientious soldiers that
they had better keep their mouths shut – or else. This threat
is all the more unconscionable while two wars are going on that
are killing average American soldiers, not political and military
elites, in droves. When lies are used to get American soldiers killed,
and soldiers are intimidated to preempt the exposure of those lies,
you have a recipe for tragedy on a massive scale.
It is important
to bear in mind, moreover, that we are not talking about documents
upon which the safety of the United States rests. No high-ranking
officers would be stupid or reckless enough to share such sensitive
documents with low-level officers and enlistees. If they were
that mind bogglingly idiotic, then the entire Pentagon and officer
corps ought to be forced to resign for incompetence immediately.
In addition, the fact that people in Washington routinely leak documents
to the press that are far more sensitive to national security than
those Manning released, like
the National Intelligence Estimate, testifies to the existence
of a revolting double standard being applied to political and military
elites as compared to the standard being applied to average soldiers
like Mr. Manning.
observations in mind, it ought to be obvious that average soldiers
should celebrate Bradley Manning as a hero who stood up to this
unconscionable intimidation from above. He didn’t just reveal to
the world that the upper echelons of the political and military
establishment are engaged in outright
crimes and deception;
he revealed and took a stand against conscientious soldiers being
silenced by asinine document over-classification. He is, in other
words, a defender of the honor and integrity of the average soldier
and the Army’s own core
values, which stands in stark contrast to the depravity of the
political and military elites that we meet in the Wikileaks documents,
and who are now trampling
on the constitution even in their detention of Mr. Manning.
soldiers ought to be the first in line to defend Bradley Manning.
They ought to insist that he only be punished if it can be proven
beyond a reasonable doubt that the documents he released were indeed
of vital importance to the security of the United States. If this
cannot be proven, then Mr. Manning ought to be immediately and unconditionally
released. (Proving this in Mr. Manning’s case will be extremely
difficult, however, given that Defense Secretary Gates has already
asserted that the
documents have harmed no one, and the fact that the Pentagon
didn’t even think it necessary to redact names from the documents).
The assumption going forward, now that we know for a fact that documents
are being over-classified in abundance by political and military
elites, is that any released document is not vital to national
security until conclusively proven otherwise. If average soldiers
were to operate under this assumption, moreover, political and
military elites would be forced to take the time to actually hide
any truly sensitive documents from the view of hundreds
of thousands of people, as they should have been doing
from day one.
It was long
overdue for someone to stand up against the practice of over-classifying
documents in order to intimidate average soldiers. Bradley Manning
has courageously done so, and all members of the armed forces should
rejoice for it.
is a former corporal in the U.S.M.C. Mark R. Crovelli [send
him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.
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