Dec 232011

In a DemocracyNow! interview with Daniel Ellsberg (whistleblower of the Pentagon Papers), of Bradley Manning he said, "He’s been effectively punished now, ten-and-a-half months in Quantico in isolation, a kind of torture, according to the U.N. standards and to our own domestic law, that he couldn’t be sentenced to under our amendment to the Bill of Rights against cruel and unusual punishment. He couldn’t be assigned to that, but he has already. That, in itself, makes a travesty of this continued trial."

If you are under the illusion that Manning will get a fair trial in a military court, you will almost certainly be disappointed. Of the 48 witnesses indicated by the defense team, they have all been denied, except 12. Of the 12, only 2 did not appear on the prosecution's wish list for witnesses. In other words, of the 38 individuals not appearing on the prosecutor's list that the defense contends are critical to properly represent PFC Manning, only 2 have been allowed. 2 out of 38.

Day 1: Furthermore, after the opening of the hearing, the civilian attorney for Manning, David E. Coombs, contended that the career military, investigating officer, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, who will act as judge in this Article 32 hearing could not be impartial. He proposed that the judge should recuse himself based on several issues including that Almanza is a Department of Justice employee. This may seem like simple courtroom theatrics until you realize that DOJ is involved in related cases (wikileaks & Asange). His judgment is further impaired because his commanding officer is on record for publicly stating unequivocally that Manning broke the law. Should Almanza find that a full court martial is not appropriate for Manning, thereby disappointing his boss the Attorney General, Eric Holder, he will also be ruling in opposition to his military commander in chief, the President of the United States. Wow, sort of a double whammy and insuring at least the fear of unpleasant career path course corrections.

There are rules against this sort of pressure on the investigating officer for good reason. The fact that his commanding officer is THE Commander in Chief of the entire military should be all the more reason for a recusal. But who then could be found in the military who might resist the pressure, knowing that the President's opinion is not only of guilt but of the seriousness of the alleged crimes. Lt. Col. Paul Almanza decided not to recuse himself and stated that "a reasonable person" would agree that he is able to decide Bradley's fate fairly. You can read a blow by blow of the Day 1 proceedings HERE. And day 2 proceedings HERE.

And what of the seriousness of the alleged crime? If you believe the various people speaking on behalf of the government, you could easily come to the conclusion that major damage was done to our national security. Even life threatening damage which brought the additional charge of "aiding the enemy," which carries the potential of the death penalty. Prosecutors have said that they will only seek life in prison. However, the various assessments by the same government paint a very different picture. They have indicated that the information leaked was comprised of old info and of something less than Top Secret Classification resulting in not a single incident of someone being harmed. Those assessments will likely not see the light of day. Unfortunately, the several discovery requests made by the defense have been ignored.

But what of the crimes the leaks exposed? The one I'm talking about, which I found the most disturbing is the killing of a dozen Iraqi civilians by the crew of an Apache attack helicopter. Here's what Daniel Ellsberg went on to say: "First of all, on that video, which I’ve seen a number of times, let me speak as a former Marine company commander, and I was a battalion training officer who trained the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines on rules of war. No question in my mind, as I looked at that, that the specific leaked pictures in there of helicopter gunners hunting down and shooting an unarmed man in civilian clothes, clearly wounded, in an area where a squad of American soldiers was about to appear, as the helicopter gunners knew, to take custody of anyone remaining living, that shooting was murder. It was a war crime. Not all killing in war is murder, but a lot of it is. And this was."

The thing is, America can no longer claim to be the beacon of freedom and democracy that US citizens and people of other nations had once believed, had risked their lives to come to. No one would say that perfection is attainable, but America has certainly been much closer to that ideal than we find ourselves today. At one time we were legitimately able to say: It's flawed but there's nothing better in the world.

My heart is breaking for Bradley and for my country.