May 26, 2011

The REAL Hero - Bradley Manning

May 26 marks the anniversary of Bradley Manning’s arrest. Manning, 22, was a soldier suspected of leaking evidence of war crimes by his government. As a result, he was arrested and imprisoned without charges. For months he was held in solitary confinement and tormented by his captors.

But Manning is not a prisoner of Libya, Iran or North Korea. Manning was born in Crescent, just an hour from OU’s Norman campus, and his captor is the United States government.

In 2010, WikiLeaks, a journalistic organization devoted to “exposing oppressive regimes,” began publishing classified U.S. documents leaked by an unknown source. We learned many interesting things about our government from these documents, such as the fact that U.S. tax dollars have been spent on drugs and child prostitutes in Afghanistan and U.S. diplomats were ordered to steal the credit card numbers of UN officials.

The national media didn’t focus on the crimes documented in the leaks, preferring instead to repeat vague accusations that WikiLeaks endangered innocent lives.

Prominent among the leaked material was a video of a 2007 Baghdad airstrike, in which a U.S. helicopter fires into a crowd of men — some armed, some civilians — quickly decimating the crowd.

Two of the civilians were Reuters journalists.
“Oh yeah! Look at those dead bastards,” one U.S. soldier said. However, Reuters journalist Saeed Chmagh survived. He crawled along the pavement, trying to stand up.

A van arrived with two children in the front seat. Unarmed men got out of the van and attempted to rescue the journalist. The helicopter opened fire, killing Chmagh and others. Fortunately, both children survived their injuries.

The US government did all it could to obscure the true nature of the incident. One military spokesperson claimed “no innocent civilians were killed on our part deliberately. We took great pains to prevent that ... I don’t know how the children were hurt.”

Despite its claimed innocence, the Pentagon refused to release footage of the attack to Reuters, or to return the cameras taken from the bodies of its journalists. What really happened wasn’t apparent to the public until the video was leaked.

The Obama administration scrambled to deflect blame, claiming the video was taken out of context — as if any context could justify deliberately shooting defenseless adults and children. Obama and his cronies spoke repeatedly on the “treasonous” leak and how it supposedly endangered innocent lives.

With Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, out of its grasp, the government focused its rage on Bradley Manning, the young soldier suspected of being the leak’s original source.

Manning was arrested and held for months in solitary confinement in a windowless cell. He slept on a bed without sheets or a pillow, and was made to present himself naked each morning for “inspection.” In a letter to the public, Manning reported further abuse, including having his eyeglasses confiscated, forcing him to live in “essential blindness.”

Obama registered his approval of Manning’s torture in characteristically vague and noncommittal terms: “I’ve actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures … are appropriate. They assured me they are.”

Manning now faces life imprisonment. This is the price of revealing the crimes of the powerful.

Manning, assuming he is guilty, is surely one of the greatest Oklahoman heroes in recent history. He placed justice for murdered Iraqis above his own life. The hypocrisy of the Obama administration stands in contrast to Manning’s integrity and courage.

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