Here is something other than The Sequester to think about at the beginning of March:Crikey reports that after 1000 days of harsh treatment, Bradley Manning has admitted to leaking vast swathes of data to Wikileaks - Bradley Manning, succumbing to human frailty, pleads guilty.
This month marks ten years since the U.S. launched its invasion of Iraq. In my view this was the biggest strategic error by the United States since at least the end of World War II and perhaps over a much longer period. Vietnam was costlier and more damaging, but also more understandable. As many people have chronicled, the decision to fight in Vietnam was a years-long accretion of step-by-step choices, each of which could be rationalized at the time. Invading Iraq was an unforced, unnecessary decision to risk everything on a "war of choice" whose costs we are still paying.
My reasons for bringing this up:
1) Reckoning. Anyone now age 30 or above should probably reflect on what he or she got right and wrong ten years ago.
I feel I was right in arguing, six months before the war in "The Fifty-First State," that invading Iraq would bring on a slew of complications and ramifications that would take at least a decade to unwind.
I feel not "wrong" but regretful for having resigned myself even by that point to the certainty that war was coming. We know, now, that within a few days of the 9/11 attacks many members of the Bush Administration had resolved to "go to the source," in Iraq. Here at the magazine, it was because of our resigned certainty about the war that Cullen Murphy, then serving as editor, encouraged me in early 2002 to begin an examination of what invading and occupying Iraq would mean. The resulting article was in our November, 2002 issue; we put it on line in late August in hopes of influencing the debate.
My article didn't come out and say as bluntly as it could have: we are about to make a terrible mistake we will regret and should avoid. Instead I couched the argument as cautionary advice. We know this is coming, and when it does, the results are going to be costly, damaging, and self-defeating. So we should prepare and try to diminish the worst effects (for Iraq and for us). This form of argument reflected my conclusion that the wheels were turning and that there was no way to stop them. Analytically, that was correct: Tony Blair or Colin Powell might conceivably have slowed the momentum, if either of them had turned anti-war in time, but few other people could have. Still, I'd feel better now if I had pushed the argument even harder at the time.
Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to the illegal possession and communication of government documents, and he is facing a sentence of 20 years. New revelations paint a sadder picture.
Bradley Manning, the US soldier long supposed to be the source of Wikileaks “collateral murder’ video and massive document drops, has pleaded guilty in a military court to the illegal possession and communication of government documents — some of the lesser charges against him.
The charges were a series of “sample” charges relating to documents within each of the main WikiLeaks releases — the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, the Guantanamo prisoner files, the “collateral murder” video itself and other isolated documents. That added up to 10 counts, at two years per count, for a maximum sentence of 20 years. But that’s only on the charges Manning has pleaded guilty to.
There’s also a range of more serious charges of espionage and aiding the enemy, which potentially carry life in military prison without parole. Manning has pleaded not guilty to these, and the full court martial for that will begin in early June. Originally slated to run for several months, the trial could be somewhat shorter now that Manning has admitted handling the documents in question. Despite that, the government has lined up more than 140 potential witnesses for the prosecution.
Manning and his team have elected not to go with a military jury, presenting their case to a judge only and placing a great deal of emphasis on the draconian treatment that Manning has suffered during three years of incarceration, including four months of “suicide watch”, when he was stripped naked and subject to sleep deprivation.
Making a guilty plea gave Manning a chance to make an extended statement to the court, and it was this 35-page document that really set things on their ear. Acknowledging that he had leaked the documents — an admission of an open secret, since his confession of such to fellow hacker Adrian Lamo is what had got him arrested in the first place — Manning made a bold defense of his won autonomy, saying that he did not believe himself to be communicating with the enemy, simply presenting the American people with the things that were being done in their name.
He noted his horror at the obvious dehumanisation of the US soldiers responsible for the massacre of Iraqi civilians in the “collateral murder” video and of the various massacres featured in the Afghanistan documents. He said that he had leaked the documents of his own volition after logging onto the WikiLeaks chat site and communicating with someone who presented himself as “XO” — someone he assumed was Julian Assange (Assange has neither confirmed nor denied).
Manning says there was no enticement, coercion or gaming of him by “XO” — he uploaded the files of his own volition. Most spectacularly, he revealed that WikiLeaks had not been his first port of call — he had previously tried The New York Times, The Washington Post and the website Politico. Manning says he called the tips line at the NYT and got a recorded message. More indicatively, he spoke to a Washington Post junior reporter, who gave him the brush off (and lost a Pulitzer in the process). ...
Some have tried to turn this moment of personal crisis into a purely psychological explanation of his actions; others have tried to ignore it altogether. The truth, most likely, is that such personal crises will sometimes compel us to higher ethical action, and that what Manning did was, in the final analysis, an act of love: love of truth, love of the people he had been asked to defend through the transmission of lies, and an ultimate finding of self-respect in rising out of the ruins and the loss. His statement today confirms that he is, and was, lucid and purposeful.
He was the originator of a process whose ultimate result, I believe, was the decisive and final discrediting of the decade of war and projected imperial power that began in the wake of 9/11. He is that most overapplied of adjectives, heroic. We are in his debt, and we must hope that he lands as gently as possible on the hard earth in the days and years to come.