Bradley Manning’s pretrial has finally commenced at Fort Meade, Md. after more than 1,000 days of indefinite detention in direct violation of the 120 day trial requirement stipulated in Court Martial 707, which ensures that the military must ensure a speedy trial for any serviceman or servicewoman it prosecutes. Manning is facing trial for leaking military war logs and state department cables to Wikileaks, which he has confessed to.
By far the most telling revelation from his trial is the fact that Manning says he tried to leak the war logs and cables to the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which did not return his calls. Mainstream media complicity justified by national security concerns is nothing new. More recently, the Times was aware of a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia used to launch drone strikes into Yemen, and declined to report it for two years because the U.S. government requested that it not do so.
Had the Times or the Post mustered the courage to report on the wide array of war crimes and military abuses detailed within the war logs, the saga would have played out very differently for both Manning and the U.S. government.
During his long detention, Manning also faced abhorrent conditions, such as psychological torture in the form of harassment, forced nudity, and sleep deprivation. These claims were corroborated by a military judge who found his pretrial treatment “unacceptable.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s spokesman, P.J. Crowley, went so far as to criticize the Pentagon’s mistreatment of Manning as “ridiculous, stupid, and counterproductive.” Very shortly thereafter, Crowley resigned.
Manning’s treatment clearly indicates that the Department of Defense wants to make an example of him for the further damage the war logs have caused to its reputation and perceived integrity. Most infamously, he submitted a video showing a U.S. helicopter firing on a journalist and two cameramen and, after realizing the mistake, proceeded to fire on a van that had stopped to help the victims, even though children were inside. Further abhorrent, yet unsurprising, revelations include: the continuation of Iraqi prisoner abuse after Abu Ghraib alongside an official military policy ignoring it, unreported civilian casualties and the true extent of Iraq’s and Afghanistan’s civilian death toll, as well as the cover up of defense contractors who hired child prostitutes.
These are all things that the mainstream media should be reporting on but the New York Times and the Washington Post did not want to cover these stories as it would put their inside connections with the Washington establishment at risk. After Manning turned to Wikileaks, the New York Times covered the story, allowing them to profit from the controversy without giving Washington cause to question their commitment to the military industrial complex and national security state.
One of the chief criticisms of Wikileaks and Manning is that only a portion of the vast quantity of documents released are relevant to military abuses, cover ups, and human rights violations but instead expose innocent people. In one instance, the cables forced a journalist to flee Ethiopia, his home country. In another, reactionary nationalist groups targeted fellow Chinese citizens targeted for corresponding with the Department of State.
While these were instances of clearly irresponsible releases, they are far from the absurd, treasonous charge of “aiding the enemy” that the prosecution is trying to slap on Manning for his whistle-blowing on military abuses. If an established media outlet had agreed to cover the salient stories detailing illegal actions on the part of the U.S. government, they would have had greater incentive and resources to do a more thorough inspection to highlight the pertinent material than Wikileaks did.
Aside from the Pentagon’s trumped up charges and regardless of how one feels about the ethics of Manning’s document dumps, two things are clear. Firstly, Manning’s treatment by the U.S. government was an illegal and atrocious form of retribution for airing the military’s dirty laundry. Secondly, much of the unpleasantness and controversy surrounding the reveals could have been avoided if journalists had agreed to cover Mannings’ relevant stories, forcing the public to focus on the human rights abuses themselves rather than on the ethics and legality of the reveals.