Jerry Jackson

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Gates’

Bradley Manning: American hero – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

In Activism, Human Rights, Police State, Society, Wikileaks on July 10, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Moe turned down the medal during his lifetime;...

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Bradley Manning: American hero – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.


Bradley Manning: American hero
Four reasons why Pfc Bradley Mannning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not a prison cell.

We still don’t know if he did it or not, but if Bradley Manning, the 24-year-old Army private from Oklahoma, actually supplied WikiLeaks with its choicest material – the Iraq War logs, the Afghan War logs, and the State Department cables – which startled and riveted the world, then he deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom instead of a jail cell at Fort Leavenworth.
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President Obama recently gave one of those medals to retiring Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who managed the two bloody, disastrous wars about which the WikiLeaks-released documents revealed so much. Is he really more deserving than the young private who, after almost ten years of mayhem and catastrophe, gave Americans – and the world – a far fuller sense of what the US government is actually doing abroad?

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Bradley Manning, awaiting a court martial in December, faces the prospect of long years in prison. He is chargedwith violating the Espionage Act of 1917. He has put his sanity and his freedom on the line so that Americans might know what their government has done – and is still doing – globally. He has blown the whistle on criminal violationsof US military law. He has exposed the secretive government’s pathological over-classification of important public documents.

Here are four compelling reasons why, if he did what the government accuses him of doing, he deserves that medal, not jail time.

1: At great personal cost, Bradley Manning has given the foreign policy elite the public supervision it so badly needs.

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In the past ten years, US statecraft has moved from calamity to catastrophe, laying waste to other nations while never failing to damage our own national interests. Do we even need to be reminded that our self-defeating response to 9/11 in Iraq and Afghanistan (and PakistanYemen, and Somalia) has killed roughly 225,000 civilians and 6,000 US soldiers, while costing our country more than $3.2 trillion? We are hemorrhaging blood and money. Few outsideWashington would argue that any of this is making the US safer.

An employee who screwed up this badly would either be fired on the spot or put under heavy supervision.  Downsizing our entire foreign policy establishment is not an option. However, the website WikiLeaks has at least tried to make public scrutiny of our self-destructive statesmen and women a reality by exposing their work to ordinary citizens.

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Consider our invasion of Iraq, a war based on distortions, government secrecy, and the complaisant failure of our major media to ask the important questions. But what if someone like Bradley Manning had provided the press with the necessary government documents, which would have made so much self-evident in the months before the war began? Might this not have prevented disaster? We’ll never know, of course, but could additional public scrutiny have been salutary under the circumstances?

Thanks to Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures, we do have a sense of what did happen afterwards in Iraq and Afghanistan, and just how the US operates in the world. Thanks to those disclosures, we now know just how Washington leaned on the Vatican to quell opposition to the Iraq War and just how it pressured the Germans to prevent them from prosecuting CIA agents who kidnapped an innocent man and shipped him off to be tortured abroad.

As our foreign policy threatens to careen into yet more disasters in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, we can only hope that more whistleblowers will follow the alleged example of Bradley Manning and release vital public documents before it’s too late. A foreign policy based on secrets and spin has manifestly failed us.

In a democracy, the workings of our government should not be shrouded in an opaque cloud of secrecy. For bringing us the truth, for breaking the seal on that self-protective policy of secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

2: Knowledge is powerful. The WikiLeaks disclosures have helped spark democratic revolutions and reforms across the Middle East, accomplishing what Operation Iraqi Freedom never could.

Wasn’t it US policy to spread democracy in the Middle East, to extend our freedom to others, as both recent American presidents have insisted?

No single American has done more to help further this goal than Pfc Bradley Manning. The chain reaction of democratic protests and uprisings that has swept Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, and even in a modest way Iraq, all began in Tunisia, where leaked US State Department cables about the staggering corruption of the ruling Ben Ali dynasty helped trigger the rebellion.


In all cases, these societies were smouldering with longstanding grievances against oppressive, incompetent governments and economies stifled by cronyism. The revelations from the WikiLeaks State Department documents played a widely acknowledged role in sparking these pro-democracy uprisings.

In Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen, the people’s revolts under way have occurred despite US support for their autocratic rulers. In each of these nations, in fact, we bankrolled the dictators, while helping to arm and train their militaries. The alliance with Mubarak’s autocratic state cost the US more than $60 billion and did nothing for American security – other than inspire terrorist blowback from radicalised Egyptians such as Mohammed Atta and Ayman al Zawahiri.

Even if US policy was firmly on the wrong side of things, we should be proud that at least one American – Bradley Manning – was on the right side. If indeed he gave those documents to WikiLeaks, then he played a catalytic role in bringing about the Arab Spring, something neither Barack Obama nor former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (that recent surprise recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom) could claim.

Perhaps once the Egyptians consolidate their democracy, they, too, will award Manning their equivalent of such a medal.

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3: Bradley Manning has exposed the pathological over-classification of America’s public documents.

“Secrecy is for losers”, as the late Senator and United Nations Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say. If this is indeed the case, it would be hard to find a bigger loser than the US government.

How pathological is the government’s addiction to secrecy?

In June, the National Security Agency declassified documents from 1809, while the Department of Defense only last month declassified the Pentagon Papers, publicly available in book form these past four decades. Our government is only just now finishing its declassification of documents relating to World War I.

This would be ridiculous if it weren’t tragic. Ask the historians. Barton J Bernstein, professor emeritus of history at Stanford University and a founder of its international relations program, describes the government’s classification of foreign-policy documents as “bizarre, arbitrary, and nonsensical”.

George Herring, professor emeritus at the University of Kentucky and author of the encyclopedic From Colony to Superpower: A History of US Foreign Policy, has chronicled how his delight at being appointed to a CIA advisory panel on declassification turned to disgust once he realised that he was being used as window dressing by an agency with no intention of opening its records, no matter how important or how old, to public scrutiny.

Any historian worth his salt would warn us that such over-classification is a leading cause of national amnesia and repetitive war disorder. If a society like ours doesn’t know its own history, it becomes the great power equivalent of a itinerant amnesiac, not knowing what it did yesterday or where it will end up tomorrow. Right now, classification is the disease of Washington, secrecy its mania, and dementia its end point. As an ostensibly democratic nation, we, its citizens, risk such ignorance at our national peril.

President Obama came into office promising a “sunshine” policy for his administration while singing the praises of whistleblowers. He has since launched the fiercest campaign against whistleblowers the republic has ever seen, and further plunged our foreign policy into the shadows.

Challenging the classification of each tightly guarded document is, however, impossible. No organisation has the resources to fight this fight, nor would they be likely to win right now. Absent a radical change in our government’s diplomatic and military bureaucracies, massive over-classification will only continue.

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If we hope to know what our government is actually doing in our name globally, we need massive leaks from insider whistleblowers to journalists who can then sort out what we need to know, given that the government won’t. This, in fact, has been the modus operandi of WikiLeaks.

Our whistleblower protection laws urgently need to catch up with this state of affairs, and though we are hardly there yet, Bradley Manning helped take us part of the way. He did what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office. For striking a blow against our government’s fanatical insistence on covering its mistakes and errors with blanket secrecy, Bradley Manning deserves not punishment, but the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

4. At immense personal cost, Bradley Manning has upheld a great American tradition of transparency in statecraft and for that he should be an American hero, not an American felon.

Bradley Manning is only the latest in a long line of whistleblowers in and out of uniform who have risked everything to put our country back on the right path.

Take Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon Papers, a Pentagon-commissioned secret history of the Vietnam War and the official lies and distortions that the government used to sell it. Many of the documents it included were classed at a much higher security clearance than anything Bradley Manning is accused of releasing – and yet Ellsberg was not convicted of a single crime and became a national hero.

Given the era when all this went down, it’s forgivable to assume that Ellsberg must have been a hippie who somehow sneaked into the Pentagon archives, beads and patchouli trailing behind him. What many no longer realise is that Ellsberg had been a model US Marine. First in his class at officer training school at Quantico, he deferred graduate school at Harvard to remain on active duty in the Marine Corps. Ellsberg saw his high-risk exposure of the disastrous and deceitful nature of the Vietnam War as fully consonant with his long career of patriotic service in and out of uniform.

And Ellsberg is hardly alone. Ask Lieutenant Colonel (ret) Darrel Vandeveld. Or Tom Drake, formerly of the National Security Agency.

Transparency in statecraft was not invented last week by WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange. It is a longstanding American tradition. James Madison put the matter succinctly: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or, perhaps both.”

A 1960 Congressional Committee on Government Operations report caught the same spirit: “Secrecy – the first refuge of incompetents – must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society … Those elected or appointed to positions of executive authority must recognise that government, in a democracy, cannot be wiser than the people.”

John F Kennedy made the same point in 1961: “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society.” Hugo Black, great Alabaman justice of the twentieth-century Supreme Court had this to say: “The guarding of military and diplomatic secrets at the expense of informed representative government provides no real security for our Republic.”

And the first of World-War-I-era president Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points couldn’t have been more explicit: “Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in the public view.”

We need to know what our government’s commitments are, as our foreign policy elites have clearly demonstrated they cannot be left to their own devices. Based on the past decade of carnage and folly, without public debate – and aggressive media investigations – we have every reason to expect more of the same.

If there’s anything to learn from that decade, it’s that government secrecy and lies come at a very high price in blood and money. Thanks to the whistleblowing revelations attributed to Bradley Manning, we at least have a far clearer picture of the problems we face in trying to supervise our own government.

If he was the one responsible for the WikiLeaks revelations, then, for his gift to the republic, purchased at great price, he deserves not prison, but a Presidential Medal of Freedom and the heartfelt gratitude of his country.

Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, theAmerican Conservative magazine, CounterPunch.org, and Le Monde Diplomatique. His next book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, will be published by O/R Books this fall.  He is covering the Bradley Manning case and trial for TomDispatch.com. To listen to Timothy MacBains latest TomCast audio interview in which Madar discusses the Manning case, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

A version of this article was previously published on TomDispatch.

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Saudis ask U.S. for price quotes for warships with air and missile defenses

In Activism, Economics, Human Rights, Military, Society, World Government, World News on April 9, 2011 at 5:07 am


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Last month a Saudi Web site reported that a popular cleric has issued a fatwa urging Muslims to target Israeli interests everywhere, to avenge the attacks on the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia has asked the United States for prices for surface warships with integrated air and missile defenses, helicopters, patrol craft and shore infrastructure, the U.S. Navy said on Friday.

The Navy is preparing a rough cost estimate that would be delivered possibly as soon as May, Navy spokeswoman Captain Cate Mueller told Reuters.

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Saudi Arabia is the biggest U.S. arms buyer and is expected to remain so despite political upheaval in the Middle East.

The request for medium surface combat ships and the rest of the hardware was received by the Navy in July through the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, Mueller said.

Earlier on Friday, Lockheed Martin Corp executives said the first phase of the so-called Saudi Naval Expansion Program-II could be worth e20 billion, attributing the estimate to U.S. Navy officials. The company would likely vie for any such orders.

Other likely competitors would be Australia’s Austal Ltd and General Dynamics Corp, which teamed up to build a Littoral Combat Ship for the U.S. Navy, as is Lockheed.

Paul Lemmo, a Lockheed vice president for business development, said the company would pitch a multi-mission version of its fast new coastal combat ship, perhaps fitted with Lockheed’s Aegis weapon system.

In October, the Obama administration notified Congress of a proposed arms sale to Saudi Arabia potentially worth as much as e60 billion over 15 to 20 years. It would be the largest arms deal on record if all purchases are made, including 84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have.

Last month a Saudi Web site reported that a popular cleric has issued a fatwa urging Muslims to target Israeli interests everywhere, to avenge the attacks on the Gaza Strip.

The site, Rasid, posts news about Saudi Arabia’s Shiite community and on Sunday said that Sheik Awadh al-Garni has issued a religious edict urging Muslims to strike anything that has a link to Israel, calling it a legitimate target for Muslims everywhere.

Al-Garni, whose is popular in the kingdom, is not a member of the official religious establishment.

Fatwas are not legally binding, and it is up to the individual Muslim to follow them.

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