[…] Thanks to Bradley Manning, our disaster-prone elites have gotten a dose of the adult supervision they so clearly require. Instead of charging him with aiding the enemy, the Obama administration ought to send him a get-out-of-jail-free card and a basket of fruit. If we’re going to stop the self-inflicted wars that continue to hemorrhage blood and money, we need to get a clue, fast. Should we ever bother to learn from the uncensored truth of our foreign policy failures, which have destroyed so many more lives than the late bin Laden could ever have hoped, we at least stand a chance of not repeating them.
I am not trying to soft-pedal or sanitize Manning’s magnificent act of civil disobedience. The young private humiliated the US Army by displaying for all to see their complete lack of real information security. Manning has revealed the diplomatic corps to be hard at work shilling for garment manufacturers in Haiti, for Big Pharma in Europe, and under signed orders from then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to collect biometric data and credit card numbers from their foreign counterparts. Most important, Manning brought us face to face with two disastrous wars, forcing Americans to share a burden of knowledge previously shouldered only by our soldiers, whom we love to call heroes from a very safe distance.
Did Manning violate provisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice? He certainly did, and a crushing sentence of possibly decades in military prison is surely on its way. Military law is marvelously elastic when it comes to rape and sexual assault and perfectly easygoing about the slaughter of foreign civilians, but it puts on a stern face for the unspeakable act of declassifying documents. But the young private’s act of civil defiance was in fact a first step in reversing the pathologies that have made our foreign policy a string of self-inflicted homicidal disasters. By letting us in on more than a half-million “secrets,” Bradley Manning has done far more for American national security than SEAL Team 6 ever did.
Kennard’s 2009 exposé for Salon on the increasing admission of such elements to the armed forces as a result of waning enlistment levels among less unsavory folks reveals that, “since the [white supremacist] movement’s inception, its leaders have encouraged members to enlist in the U.S. military as a way to receive state-of-the-art combat training, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer, in preparation for a domestic race war.”
Other sorts of persons who might not be defined as heroes in a nonmilitary context are hinted at in a 2010 Time magazine article that begins:
What does it tell us that female soldiers deployed overseas stop drinking water after 7 p.m. to reduce the odds of being raped if they have to use the bathroom at night? Or that a soldier who was assaulted when she went out for a cigarette was afraid to report it for fear she would be demoted — for having gone out without her weapon? Or that, as Representative Jane Harman puts it, ‘a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.’
There are, of course, non-Neo-Nazi-rapist-gang-member soldiers who believe they are furthering a just cause via military service. Some of them even engage in behavior that would qualify as noble and heroic were it not occurring within an institution that is hugely destructive to human life across the globe. But that, of course, is exactly the context in which it occurs.
[Derrick Bell realized] that existing civil rights practice was not sufficient to the task of liberation, since every advance gave rise to new forms of white resistance. This attitude has always made whites uncomfortable - even (sometimes especially) liberal ones, but virtually every black activist knows this all too well. After Brown v Board of Education, many saw the Montgomery Bus Boycott as an unnecessary distraction, but it turned out to be indispensable - as did the Freedom Rides and the Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins as well. King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” squares off directly against a similar status quo mentality which opposed them all. Did Bell’s break go further and deeper? Yes and no: “Yes” for those reluctant to follow, but “no” for those who joined him, and gained a previously unimaginable perspective in doing so.
Consider this fundamental fact of “evolving” civil rights law, described by David Kairys in “Unconscious Racism”: in the 1960s, discriminatory acts were commonly identified by having a “disparate impact” on people of different races. White attitudes and intentions were irrelevant: what mattered was the objectively observable impact on black lives, about which blacks were natural authorities. But things went dramatically backwards in the mid-1970s, when the standard became much more difficult to prove - one now had to prove an individual discriminatory intent. Not only was this far more difficult to prove, but it shifted focal attention away from minority subjects - their experience, suffering and injuries - and to the intent of the majority, which automatically privileged the individual suspected racist. At the same time, it also drew sympathetic attention to him from other whites, afraid that they could be in that position next.
This reactionary posture is how race relations have predominantly been framed since the late 1970s: after a brief hiatus, the central subjects are once again white males. Bell was one of the leading voices in shaping a creative legal theoretic response to this, a response that became known as Critical Race Theory (CRT), which is partially described at the UCLA School of Public Affairs:
“CRT recognises that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture.”
There’s no doubt that it’s illegal for a member of the military to leak classified or secret documents — just as there was no doubt about the illegality of Daniel Ellsberg’s leaks, or a whole slew of other acts of civil disobedience we consider noble. The fact that an act is legal does not mean it is just, and conversely, that an act is illegal does not mean it is unjust. Many people enjoy hearing themselves condemn the acts of tyrants and imperial forces in the world. If the allegations against him are true, Bradley Manning knowingly risked his liberty to take action against those acts, in the hope of exposing those responsible and triggering worldwide reforms. It’s hard to dispute that these leaks achieved exactly that, but even if they hadn’t, his conduct is profoundly commendable, and the world needs far more, not fewer, Bradley Mannings.Glenn Greenwald