Andrew Jackson’s illegal and heavily censured actions during the First Seminole War in 1817 were cited recently during the military trial of a Guantanamo prisoner and was used as a precedent for the $690 billion defense authorization bill recently passed by Congress that would give the president unilateral authority to wage war at home or abroad and detain anyone suspected of terrorism or “providing material aid to terrorism” anywhere in the world, indefinitely and without trial. Although there is no direct connection between the Guantanamo case and that legislation, the right of free speech is threatened by both and raises fears that the legislation could be used to squelch any kind of dissension or resistance to government policies or actions. And coming on the heels of the government’s use of “Geronimo” as the code name for Osama bin Laden, the man who epitomized global terrorism, indigenous peoples fear that the legislation could be used against them for asserting their right to self determination, sovereignty and the protection of their lands and resources against exploitation by governments or corporations.
President Obama recently gave one of those medals to retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who managed the two bloody, disastrous wars about which the WikiLeaks-released documents revealed so much. Is he really more deserving than the young private who, after almost ten years of mayhem and catastrophe, gave Americans — and the world — a far fuller sense of what our government is actually doing abroad?
Bradley Manning, awaiting a court martial in December, faces the prospect of long years in prison. He is charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He has put his sanity and his freedom on the line so that Americans might know what our government has done — and is still doing — globally. He has blown the whistle on criminalviolations of American military law. He has exposed our secretive government’s pathological over-classification of important public documents.
Here are four compelling reasons why, if he did what the government accuses him of doing, he deserves that medal, not jail time.
The killing of Osama bin Laden should have provoked some healthy debate about the United States’ ongoing reaction to the 9/11 attacks. Was this manhunt worth the $3 trillion estimated by National Journal? Does our alliance structure guarantee the creation of more bin Laden-type threats? Has our military response to 9/11 hurt us and others more than it has helped?
Instead, the execution of bin Laden has launched a nostalgia craze for torture, whose great virtues, we are told, have been cruelly underappreciated. Torture, it is asserted, is what got us the intel that led to bin Laden, so killing him vindicates and redeems “enhanced interrogation.” And not only that: by limiting torture, Obama and his administration have made America much less safe, even if—and this part of the argument is mumbled quickly—they happen to be the ones who killed bin Laden. “Two Cheers for Enhanced Interrogation Techniques!” crows the neocon-Murdoch Weekly Standard, urging the president to thank CIA interrogators who helped “rid the world of evil.” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), a principled foe of non-Irish terrorists, was blunter still, laying it down that waterboarding prisoners in 2003 “directly led” to finding (and shooting) bin Laden in 2011.
“Funny. You would think that if the CIA’s interrogation of high-value detainees was all it took, the US government would have succeeded in locating bin Laden before 2006, which is when the CIA’s custody of so-called ‘high-value detainees’ ended,” says Jane Mayer of the New Yorker. But first, the facts.
There are two ways to make your war a Just War, with all the fringe benefits. Please read carefully.
First, convince the world that the war is just by invoking the UN Charter and getting Security Council authorization. The law involved is less straightforward than the Scholastic neo-Aristotelianism that used to justify Just Wars, so you’ll be wanting to hire some lawyers. Less intelligent presidents will put angry anti-diplomats like John Bolton on the task, but cannier ones will hire smoother jurists like Harold Koh and Samantha Power to make the case in the dulcet tones of humanitarian NGOese. This is the preferred way of making a war Just nowadays, most likely a matter of supply and demand, as there’s no shortage of secular casuists graduating from the top law schools, and the US Department of Defense has 15,000 lawyers on hand.
J Street, America’s premier liberal pro-Israel lobbying group, has just wrapped up its third annual conference in Washington. There have been sessions and panels on “building peace from the ground up,” on “expanding the tent” and even some passionate condemnations of the Occupation. Amid so much good feeling it’s almost possible to lose sight of one of J Street’s fundamental missions: to promote and guarantee America’s lavish and unconditional military aid to Israel.
This may seem like a harsh assessment of the lobbying group. After all, isn’t J Street routinely attacked by neocon ultras and praised by American liberals? But hack through J Street’s verbiage about “dialogue” and “conversation” and one bumps into this blandly phrased position statement: “American assistance to Israel, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, is an important anchor for a peace process based on providing Israel with the confidence and assurance to move forward on a solution based on land for peace. J Street consistently advocates for robust US foreign aid to Israel.” This last sentence is 99% of what one needs to know about J Street.
We Americans aren’t used to talking about the one thing we are most directly responsible for in the Israel-Palestine conflict: our $3bn annual military aid package that goes almost exclusively to one of the two sides. A bit weirdly, debate about Israel/Palestine among Americans tends to leap immediately to the issue of a one-state versus a two-state solution. Or we presume to give the Palestinians tips and pointers about what degree of violence is morally acceptable, and where’s that Palestinian Gandhi? Or we vow to redouble our efforts towards a “peace process” which doesn’t quite seem to exist.
PULSE is proud to present this excerpt from Brain-Dead or Alive, the new novel created by Tom Clancy’s Op-Center, written in collaboration with Gen. Tony Zinni (Ret.), Gen. Charles Horner (Ret.), Gen. Fred Franks (Ret.), and Chase Madar.
It was a dark and stormy night in McLean, Virginia.
Former CIA director and ex-president Vernon Manley Babbitt sat at his dining-room table flanked by his most trusted compadres, who in many adventures past had defended the American way of life against nuclear terrorists, Islamic fanatics, and unarmed folk singers. Their next mission might be the most dangerous yet.
V. Manley Babbitt and his secret team called themselves the BFD, and their existence was so classified no one knew what the initials stood for. The BFD was licensed to do anything, from waterboarding the president’s mother to parking in handicapped spots, and with the safety of millions at stake, they often did. Babbitt surveyed his companions, tried and true, around the table.
First there was X, a man without an identity. Nobody knew X’s real name. Was it maybe just X? That kind of head-fake would have been vintage X! No one even knew what X looked like, not even X’s wife, because he always wore a brown paper bag on his head. He had ex-Special Ops written all over him, but not on the paper bag, which usually bore the logo of the retail chain where his wife had done the previous day’s shopping.
For the past seven months, US Army Private First Class Manning has been held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Twenty-five thousand other Americans are also in prolonged solitary confinement, but the conditions of Manning’s pre-trial detention have been sufficiently brutal for the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to announce an investigation.
Pfc. Manning is alleged to have obtained documents, both classified and unclassified, from the Department of Defense and the State Department via the Internet and provided them to WikiLeaks. (That “alleged” is important because the federal informant who fingered Manning, Adrian Lamo, is a felon convicted of computer-hacking crimes. He was also involuntarily committed to a psychiatric institution in the month before he levelled his accusation. All of this makes him a less than reliable witness.) At any rate, the records allegedly downloaded by Manning revealed clear instances of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, widespread torture committed by the Iraqi authorities with the full knowledge of the U.S. military, previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints, and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll caused by the American invasion.
For bringing to light this critical but long-suppressed information, Pfc. Manning has been treated not as a whistleblower, but as a criminal and a spy. He is charged with violating not only Army regulations but also the Espionage Act of 1917, making him the fifth American to be charged under the act for leaking classified documents to the media. A court-martial will likely be convened in the spring or summer.