Remember Iraq? The Anti-War Committee reminds us not to repeat our mistakes.
Posted on December 24, 2011 by Salon.com
By Glenn Greenwald
After imprisoning Private First Class Bradley Manning for eighteen months, the U.S. Army last week finally began the preliminary stage of his court-martial proceeding, and that initial process ended on Thursday. Manning faces over 30 charges; the most serious — “aiding the enemy” — carries a death sentence (though prosecutors are requesting “only” life in prison for the 24-year-old soldier). The technical purpose of this week’s hearing was to determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a full court-martial proceeding; the finding (that there is such evidence) is a virtual inevitability. Manning’s counsel, Lt. Col. David Coombs, spent the week challenging the Army’s evidence, suggesting that his client may have suffered “diminished capacity” by virtue of his gender struggles and emotional instability, and finally, forcefully arguing that the leaks were an act of political conscience and that the Army has severely “overcharged” Manning in an attempt to coerce incriminating statements against WikiLeaks (Kevin Gosztola and The Guardian were at the hearing and have recaps of what happened over the last week; my general view of Manning was set forth in an Op-Ed in The Guardian last week, and my specific view of the gender defense is here).
For the moment, I want to make one narrow point about Bradley Manning. I’ve made it before but it was really underscored for me by a debate I had on an Al Jazeera program Thursday night regarding Manning with Daniel Ellsberg and the neocon activist Cliff May, who vigorously defended the Obama administration’s treatment of Manning (the video of our segment is embedded below; it was preceded by a short interview of P.J. Crowley):
Ever since Manning was accused of being the source for the WikiLeaks disclosures, those condemning these leaks have sought to distinguish them from Ellsberg’s leak of the Pentagon Papers. With virtual unanimity, Manning’s harshest critics have contended that while Ellsberg’s leak was justifiable and noble, Manning’s alleged leaks were not; that’s because, they claim, Ellsberg’s leak was narrowly focused and devoted to exposing specific government lies, while Manning’s was indiscriminate and a far more serious breach of secrecy. When President Obama declared Manning guilty, he made the same claim: “No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.”
One problem for those wishing to make this claim is that Ellsberg himself has been one of Manning’s most vocal defenders, repeatedly insisting that the two leaks are largely indistinguishable. But the bigger problem for this claim is how blatantly irrational it is. As Ellsberg clearly details in this Al Jazeera debate, he — Ellsberg — dumped 7,000 pages of Top Secret documents: the highest known level of classification; by contrast, not a single page of what Manning is alleged to have leaked was Top Secret, but rather all bore a much lower-level secrecy designation. In that sense, Obama was right: “Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way” — the secrets Ellsberg leaked were classified as being far more sensitive.
To the extent one wants to distinguish the two leaks, Ellsberg’s was the far more serious breach of secrecy. The U.S. Government’s own pre-leak assessment of the sensitivities of these documents proves that. How can someone — in the name of government secrecy and national security — praise the release of thousands of pages of Top Secret documents while vehemently condemning the release of documents bearing a much lower secrecy classification?
Nor is there any way to distinguish the substance of the two leaks. While the Pentagon Papers exposed the lies from American leaders regarding the Vietnam War, the WikiLeaks disclosures have done exactly the same with regard to the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, and a whole litany of other critical events. Here is what Ellen Knickmeyer, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for The Washington Post during the Iraq War, documented about the Iraq War logs Manning is accused of releasing:
Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world, as the Iraq mission exploded.
Is that not exactly what makes so many people view the Pentagon Papers leak as noble and just? Even some of Manning’s fellow soldiers in Iraq have hailed the WikiLeaks leaker as a hero. Beyond that, the diplomatic cables and war logs released by WikiLeaks revealed falsehoods and improprieties from the U.S. government (and other governments around the world) in a wide range of areas: its involvement in the covert war in Yemen; lies told by the U.S. Government regarding horrific, civilian-slaughtering incidents in Iraq; and, in general, numerous acts of abuses, deceit and illegality regarding much of what was done under the War on Terror rubric: exactly as the Pentagon Papers did.
Nor, if the U.S. Government’s evidence is to be believed, can there be any doubt about the similarity in motives between the two leakers. Just as Ellsberg repeatedly explained that he could not in good conscience stand by and have the world remain ignorant of the government lies he discovered about the Vietnam War (a war he once supported and helped plan), so, too, did Manning repeatedly state that these leaks were vital for informing the world about the depths of brutality, corruption and deceit driving these wars (including one war to which he was deployed as a soldier) — all with the goal of triggering what he called “worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms.” In the purported chats he had, Manning described how the intense worldwide reaction to the video of an Apache helicopter shooting unarmed civilians and a Reuters journalist in Baghdad “gave me immense hope”; that’s because: “i want people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” That is as pure an expression as possible of exactly what motivated Ellsberg as well.
Just as Ellsberg came to realize the evil of the war of which he was a part and felt compelled to act to expose it even at the risk of his own liberty, so, too, did Manning (in the chat logs Manning purportedly said: “im not so much scared of getting caught and facing consequences at this point… as i am of being misunderstood”). The Army Private also explained in the chat logs that he began to realize how heinous the Iraq War was when he discovered that “insurgents” being rounded up and imprisoned by the U.S. Army were doing nothing more than issuing “scholarly critiques” of the Malaki government’s corruption — only to find that his Army superiors ignored his discovery when he brought it to their attention. Both Ellsberg and (allegedly) Manning then did the same thing: turned over the information they discovered to a third party to select the parts that should be published to the world (The New York Times for Ellsberg and WikiLeaks for Manning).
What’s really going on here in this Manning v. Ellsberg comparison is pure intellectual cowardice. At this point — four decades after it happened — most people are unwilling to stand up and publicly condemn the Pentagon Papers leak. In progressive circles, it has long been entrenched dogma that Ellsberg’s leak was just and noble and that the Nixon administration’s efforts to prosecute Ellsberg were ignoble. Ellsberg has hero status, and deservedly so: he risked his life, literally, to expose to the world just how systematic and deliberate was the U.S. Government’s deceit about the Vietnam War and how heinous was the war itself.
As a result, very few people are willing to condemn what he did (even the neocon May, in this Al Jazeera debate, was afraid to say that what Ellsberg did was wrong). So in order to condemn Manning — and, as importantly, if not more so, to defend the Obama administration — it’s necessary for Manning’s critics to contrive distinctions between the Pentagon Papers leak and the WikiLeaks disclosure: of course I approve of what Ellsberg did — all Decent People do — but what Manning is accused of doing is radically different and just awful: he must be punished.
The clear reality, though, is that those who condemn Manning now and want to see him imprisoned for decades are the direct heirs of those who, in the early 1970s, wanted to see Dan Ellsberg imprisoned for life. Those who now condemn both Ellsberg and Manning — like those who support the executive power abuses and secrecy of both the Bush and Obama administrations — are authoritarians to be sure, but at least they’re sincere and consistent in their views; it’s those who support one but condemn the other who are incoherent at best.
As Ellsberg himself makes clear, everything that is being said now to condemn Manning — everything – was widely said about Ellsberg at the time of his leak. Back then, Ellsberg was repeatedly accused of being a traitor, of violating his oath, of endangering America’s national security, of aiding its enemies, of taking the law into his own hands; he was smeared and had his sanity continuously called into question. Had it not been for the Nixon administration’s overzealous attempts to destroy him by breaking into the office of his psychiatrist — the primary act that caused the charges against Ellsberg to be dismissed on the grounds of government misconduct — there is a real possibility that Ellsberg would still be in a federal prison today. He’s viewed as a hero now only because the passage of time has proven the nobility of his act: it’s much easier to defend those who challenge and subvert political power retrospectively than it is to do so at the time.
As the Walkely Foundation recognized last month when awarding WikiLeaks and Julian Assange Australia’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize: “the secret cables  create[d] more scoops in a year than most journalists could imagine in a lifetime.” Those who want to see Manning punished and imprisoned for decades are driven by exactly the same mentality as those who wanted to see Ellsberg in prison back then: a belief that the U.S. Government has the right to use secrecy to hide its acts of deceit and illegality, and that those who expose such acts to the world are the real criminals. Just as the Obama administration’s obsessive persecution of whistleblowers has its roots in the secrecy-worshipping mentality of the Nixon administration — in her New Yorker article on the war on whistleblowers, Jane Mayer quotes Gabriel Schoenfeld as saying: “Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history—even more so than Nixon” — those demanding Manning’s punishment are, in every sense, the Nixonians of today. Manning’s critics are made from the same authoritarian cloth as those demanding Dan Ellsberg’s scalp in 1971. They should at least be honest enough to admit that, and stop contriving blatantly false distinctions between the two cases.
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One unanswered question surrounding the charges against Manning has long been this: who, exactly, is “the enemy” Manning is accused of aiding? On Thursday, military prosecutors supplied the answer: Al Qaeda. Apparently, by disclosing to the world the U.S. Government’s bad acts undertaken in secrecy, one is legally “aiding Al Qaeda.” Gosztola, in his recap of the proceedings, details how dangerous that theory is to basic journalism, as did Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller back in March.
* * * * *
The New Yorker‘s George Packer emailed an objection to an item I wrote on Thursday, and I posted Packer’s objection as an update along with my own response; there is now additional information about the objection voiced by Packer, and this morning I posted it as a final update to that column.
* * * * *
The Al Jazeera segment is here:
UPDATE: There is one other glaring irony that should be noted here. If Manning is indeed the WikiLeaks leaker, then he did not only reveal critical truths to the world, but also achieved enormous good: exactly the results the purported chat logs reflect that Manning sought. Even the harshly anti-WikiLeaks former NYT Executive Editor, Bill Keller, credits the release of the diplomatic cables with helping to spark the Arab Spring by exposing the true depths of the region’s dictators, including in Tunisia. By highlighting atrocities committed by U.S. troops in Iraq, the diplomatic cables prevented the Malaki government from granting the legal immunity Obama officials were demanding in exchange for keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline and thushelped end the Iraq War. Ironically, it’s often the very same people who most vocally celebrate the Arab Spring and the end of the Iraq War who simultaneously support the imprisonment of an individual who helped bring those events about (the WikiLeaks leaker), while cheering for a government (the Obama administration) that propped up many of those Arab dictators andtried desperately to extend the Iraq war.
If he is the WikiLeaks leaker, history will judge Manning as kindly as it has Ellsberg — and will view his persecutors just as unkindly as Nixon officials are viewed today for what they tried to do in the face of the Pentagon Papers leak.
UPDATE II: In deciding which problem is larger — excessive secrecy or excessive disclosure — consider this year-end list from Electronic Frontier Foundation entitled: “2011: The Year Secrecy Jumped the Shark,” which details just some of the most extreme secrecy abuses of The Most Transparent Administration Ever™. Jay Rosen once said: “The watchdog press died; we have [WikiLeaks] instead”; one could just as accurately say: meaningful transparency died; we have Bradley Manning instead.
UPDATE III: Here is a good report from Al Jazeera’s Listening Post from this week on U.S. media coverage of the Manning story, featuring interviews with Amy Goodman, FAIR’s Peter Hart, former CIA agent Roy McGovern and myself:
Mark International Human Rights day with a discussion of the criminalization of human rights work and other activism. The community has rallied around the AWC as our members are investigated for charges of “material support to terrorism.” These charges are an attempt to silence voices against US policies of war and militarism, while also making it illegal to extend the hand of friendship to people in countries of conflict.
This same strategy is evident in the recent conviction of two Somali women, for the crime of sending $8600 in humanitarian aid to Somalia, where they are from. We also see it in the government’s threats to bring charges against participants in last summer’s Gaza Flotilla, which was carrying letters – messages of solidarity and friendship – to deliver to Palestinians living in Gaza.
Our discussion will include several other legal cases attacking human rights: The death penalty – Troy Davis, and Mumia Abu Jamal (now incarcerated for 30 years); Private Bradley Manning – imprisoned while awaiting charges related to the WikiLeaks release of classified documents exposing war crimes in Iraq, among others. Come hear about the important work being done to fight these legal attacks on our rights and our movements!
Children welcome. The library has a wonderful children’s book selection. Let us know if you would like an AWC volunteer to accompany your child there while you enjoy the program. Lunch will be provided – featuring soups home-made by our fantastic AWC chefs! Donations requested, no one turned away.
Organized by the Anti-War Committee | www.antiwarcommittee.org | 612-379-3899
A short video from our friends in Seattle. Check it out!
FBI raids on the homes of human rights activists, labor organizers and socialists around the country began on September 24, 2010 in Illinois and Minnesota. Of the original 14 activists who have been issued subpoenas to appear before a Grand Jury or face possible imprisonment 9 are trade unionists. Eight are parents of young children ranging in age from 18 months to 6 years of age. In December, 2010, 9 Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago were also subpoenaed. The FBI confiscated computers, cell phones, children’s artwork, documents, personal papers and photographs. These violations of citizen privacy have been justified by FBI claims that it is investigating “material links to terrorism.” Most of the targeted activists have been involved in anti-war or international solidarity work, particularly with Colombia and Palestine.
On May 17, 2011 in Los Angeles, sheriffs, working with the FBI, broke down Carlos Montes’ door, arrested him, and ransacked his home. Montes is a veteran Chicano activist known for his decade of leadership of the Chicano movement, including the recent immigrants’ rights mega-marches of 2006. Carlos Montes said outside court, on July 6 where he pled “Not Guilty” to six felony charges “This attack on me is a pretext. They are using it to attack me because of my political activity – denouncing U.S. intervention in Colombia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Palestine.” The FBI attempted to question Carlos Montes about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization when his home was raided.
Please take action to defend our Constitutional rights and support Carlos Montes and the Midwest 23 facing FBI repression.
Sign the national petition supporting Carlos Montes – stopfbi.net/?petition/?national
Sign the Pledge to Resist FBI and Grand Jury Repression – stopfbi.net/?solidarity-statements
Donate to the legal defense fund – stopfbi.net/?donate
If you are in the Northwest, email Seattle United Against FBI Repression at SeattlestopFBI@gmail.com or phone at 206 713-8056 and we’ll keep you informed of upcoming actions. To get involved in the local support committee nearest you, click here: stopfbi.net/?supporting-organizations/?local-committees You can also stay informed through the National Committee to Stop FBI Repression website: stopFBI.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on September 16, 2011 by RT
On September 24 of 2010, the FBI raided the homes of anti-war activists across the country. According to the FBI, the warrants they had were seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism. To date, 24 activists have been targeted and most are still waiting to see what will happen to them, while their personal belongings that were taken in the raids, including passports, have not been returned. Jess Sundin, anti-war activist whose home was raided joins the show.
The following video recaps some of the speeches by organizers at the NATO/G8 Working Group Meeting in Chicago, IL on August 28, 2011.
Marilyn Levin, United National Antiwar Committee co-coordinator, speaks about plans to organize peaceful and permitted marches during the NATO/G8 meeting in Chicago in May 2012.
Additional coverage of the first planning/organizing meeting can be found at http://www.radio4all.net/index.php/program/54145
Posted on August 30, 2011 by The Uptake
Most of the people in the crowd had been Obama voters in the 2008 election and they had gathered many times to support his campaign. This time it was a mixture of sadness and outright anger about recent actions of the Obama administration including the expansion of wars, ignoring Bush-Cheney era war criminals, environmental losses and now seeming to balance the budget with cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
The morning serenity created by thousands of Minnesota Somali residents gathering to celebrate the end of Ramadan was soon broken with chants and shouting.
MN350.org is part of an international effort to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million to ensure global population viability. (It’s currently 392.)
Many veteran’s groups joined in protesting the current wars including: Veterans for Peace.
Iraq Veterans Against The War.
Military Families Speak Out.
Adding their voices were The Committee to Stop FBI Repression,
Women Against Military Madness plus a number of other groups.
The protestors walked to the rear of the convention center where the Presidential motorcade was to depart. At first they were allowed to gather across 12th Street from the exit, then as departure time approached mounted police moved the crowd further west so they could not be visible from the departing vehicles.
Published on July 29, 2011 by Our World in Depth
A first-hand report from former Georgia congresswoman and “Dignity Delegation” member Cynthia McKinney back from a recent investigative fact-finding mission to Libya. Greatly differing from the corporate media narrative, the former US Rep and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee shares relevant stories surrounding her time time in Congress and the current war on Libya.
International Action Center Co-Director Sara Flounders puts the NATO attack on Libya in the context of European financial interests and US imperialism. (July, 2011)
Part 2: includes q & a and highlights from 2010-2011 Palestine Day celebrations in Robbinsdale
Published on June 27, 2011 by The Electronic Intifada
By Maureen Clare Murphy
In an op-ed published by Al Jazeera English today, I write about the US government’s attempts to criminalize the Palestine solidarity activists — including the State Department’s threats to prosecute activists involved with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. I also appeared on Al Jazeera English’s The Stream today to discuss FBI raids and subpoenas targeting activists.
As I write in the op-ed, “I am a Palestine solidarity activist in the US, and one of 23 UScitizens who have been issued with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury as part of what the government has said is an investigation into violations of the laws banning material support to foreign ‘terrorist organisations.’”
This investigation takes place in the context of a new Supreme Court decision that greatly expanded what constitutes material support and has been widely criticized. It also takes place in a situation of even more relaxed restrictions on the FBI’s investigative powers — the FBI is planning to issue a revised edition of its operations manual that will give agents “significant new powers” to go through people’s trash and infiltrate groups even if they are not suspected of any wrongdoing.
The New York Times recently commented in an editorial entitled “Backward at the FBI” that “Instead of tightening the relaxed rules for FBI investigations — not just of terrorism suspects but of pretty much anyone — that were put in place in the Bush years, President Obama’s Justice Department is getting ready to push the proper bounds of privacy even further.”
The use of counterterrorism tools against social justice acts is nothing new. But it poses a special threat to the growing Palestine solidarity movement in the US, which is increasingly challenging the US government’s military aid to Israel and its diplomatic cover for Israeli war crimes and apartheid.
In my op-ed for Al Jazeera English, I write that what happens to me and the two dozen other activists who have been targeted in this bogus investigation of prominent activists will have a significant impact and set a precedent for Palestine activists in theUS. The US State Department is already hinting at the prosecution of activists involved with the Gaza Freedom Flotilla for violating the material support laws:
The State Department also issued a statement on the second flotilla- which will include approximately fifty Americans – in which it warned that “delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to, or for the benefit of, a designated foreign terrorist organisation, such as Hamas, could violate US civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration”.
Hamas, which is the ruling party in the Gaza Strip and which won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006, is on the US State Department’s unilateral foreign terrorist organisation list – along with every other major Palestinian political party besides Fatah (though its armed wing is on the list). This means that the US has essentially criminalized the entire Palestinian people and the parties which represent them – except for those that collude with the Israeli occupation.
And as I have reported on previously for The Electronic Intifada, with my colleague Nora Barrows-Friedman, the US government has long attempted to criminalize Palestinians in the country raising money for humanitarian aid to Palestinian charities and for advocating for a change in US policy towards Israel and the Palestinians. There are people serving out long prison sentences in the US for doing just that, such as the Holy Land 5 and Abdelhaleem Ashqar. Or they have been subjected to house arrest and are facing deportation, like Dr. Sami al-Arian.
And as the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement gains more and more ground in the US, the repression against it will sharpen. It is important that solidarity activists be aware of this but it should not stop us from doing our necessary work. It should compel us to get organized and and push back against political repression today.
As Al Jazeera’s The Stream reported today during their feature on FBI repression of activists, longtime Chicano and immigrant rights activist Carlos Montes’ home was raided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department and he faces up to 18 years in prison for trumped-up charges related to firearms code violations for firearms he holds legal permits for. During the raid, political documents related to his decades of activism were seized and FBI agents questioned him about his political associations. Montes was named in the search warrant used to raid the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis last September.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression has announced a call-in day to Attorney General Eric Holder for July 6, which is when Montes is called to court to enter a plea.
The committee’s announcement states:
Carlos is a longtime Chicano activist known for his leadership during the 1968L.A. high school reform walkouts (see HBO film “Walkout!”) and the immigrants’ rights mega-marches of 2006. More recently in September 2010, Carlos Montes’ name appeared on the FBI search warrant left in the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis, where the protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention were centered. The attack on Carlos Montes is part of a sweeping campaign tied to 23 Midwest activists whose homes the FBI raided or who were subpoenaed to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury in Chicago, as the Washington Post reported.
In addition, when the LA Sheriffs broke down Carlos’ door and ransacked his home, they took political documents, a computer, cell phones and meeting notes having nothing to do with the legal charges. Later, the FBI approached Carlos to ask him questions about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, the target of this new McCarthyism. Those who know the history of Martin Luther King Jr. and the American civil rights movement understand the repression Montes now faces.
When Carlos went to court on June 16, he demanded police and court documents. Not surprisingly, the District Attorney grew angry, at first refusing, and eventually relenting. There is the not-so-hidden hand of the FBI at work here and its goal is to disrupt and criminalize activists and movements for social justice.
Make no mistake: The US government trial of Carlos Montes is an attack on the immigrants’ rights and anti-war movements. So please call July 6 and let Attorney General Holder know we are building a movement that will not bow down to dirty tricks and political repression.
The committee adds:
Please call U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at (202) 514-2001
Suggested text: “My name is __________, I am from _______(city), in ______(state). I am calling to tell Attorney General Holder:
Drop the charges! Hands off Carlos Montes! Stop the FBI raids and Grand Jury repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists. Return all property to Carlos Montes and the other activists raided by