Critics of war, along with those who expose its excesses, are subject to rougher hurdles than are the jingoistic proponents of empire.
Writing on the Bradley Manning case over a year ago, I sought to shine a bit of light on the hypocrisy of the charge by pointing to the end of the military trial of sergeant Frank Wuterich, leader of the squad responsible for the infamous 2005 massacre in Haditha, Iraq.
A brief recap is worthwhile:
The massacre began after an IED attack killed a member of Wuterich’s team. Minutes later, Wuterich summarily executed five unarmed, "military-aged" males in a nearby car (allegedly proceeding to fire bullets into their corpses). The bout of indiscriminate violence ended when 19 more civilian Iraqi men, women, and children were slain in their homes thanks to Wuterich’s brand of summary justice. Their crime: Being Iraqi in the wrong place, at the wrong time (i.e. Iraq, during the war).
Wuterich got away with what amounted to a slap on the wrist: a demotion, a pay cut, and an eventual discharge with full veteran benefits (no participant in the killings received any jail time). A year ago one may have referred to Wuterich as a brute who got away with a grave injustice. Today, it may be more suitable to call him George Zimmerman on steroids.
Wuterich was not insulted with a farcical “aiding the enemy” charge. But, if United States v. Bradley Manning prosecutor Captain Ashden Fein’s uninhibited interpretation of a clause in the Uniform Code of Military Justice is legitimate, perhaps he should have been.
After all, Wuterich must have known — must have been able to imagine — that gunning down innocent civilians could serve as a propaganda boon for our enemies. What better way to “knowingly,” albeit indirectly, “protect” our enemies in their recruitment efforts?
Hard to say.
While in this spirit (whether or not the following cases are technically within the reach of the “aiding the enemy” law as written) it’s worth noting that:
The guards who tortured and sexually assaulted Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib were not charged with aiding the enemy, in spite of the worldwide scandal generated — a scandal the guards clearly risked igniting by deliberately engaging in such barbaric behavior, and a scandal that was a predictable gain for our enemies.
Not one Blackwater employee was charged with aiding the enemy after the reckless killings of several Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007 — though the carnage was “obviously excessive … obviously wrong” and obviously beneficial for enemy propaganda.
Nor was Robert Bales charged with aiding the enemy after massacring 17 Afghan civilians in the middle of the night in March 2012.
Nor were the soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses in a clip uploaded for worldwide circulation on video sharing site LiveLeak last September.
Nor was whoever authorized Frago 242, an order that required members of the coalition to refrain from investigating Iraqi on Iraqi torture “unless directed by HQ” (and an order exposed by Manning’s whistleblowing efforts).
Dirty-war veteran, Colonel James Steele, was not charged with aiding the enemy when he prodded Iraq towards full-scale civil war by working hand in hand with vicious sectarian militias, like the Iran-friendly Badr Brigades, in his careless counterinsurgency schemes (also a story uncovered for us, in part, thanks to Manning’s whistleblowing).
Paul Bremer was not charged with aiding the enemy after he presided over a reckless de-Ba’athification process in the early days of the Iraq War crucial to the activation of the Iraqi insurgency as we came to know it.
Last, President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and their co-conspirators were not charged with aiding the enemy when they launched an unjustified invasion of Iraq, creating a power-vacuum filled, in part, by what would become one of the most vicious Al-Qaeda branches in the world — a branch that continues to terrorize Iraqis, along with pro and anti-Assad Syrians alike to this day.
All this was predictably and immensely destructive; all this was predictably beneficial to the enemies of the United States. Now, which laws and which angry prosecutors will be marshaled out to address these abuses with vigor equal to that exhibited during Manning trial?