A group of Icelandic parliamentarians have moved to nominate the soldier alleged to have released classified information to WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning, for the Nobel Peace Prize.
He is being nominated because the parliamentarians do not think blowing the whistle on war crimes should be criminalized. They also doubt Manning will receive a fair trial during his court-martial later this year.
This likely stupefies a number of people in America, who see what Manning did as a traitorous act against America. And some establishment media pundits are incapable of understanding the positive impact that Manning’s alleged leaks have had.
One such pundit or commentator is Ron Capps, who today asks if the Icelandic parliamentarians seriously want Manning to be given a Nobel Peace Prize for “betrayal.” Capps, who has a military background and served as a soldier for twenty-five years, is a freelance writer. He provides writing seminars and workshops for veterans typically at no cost and a number of his writings have appeared on the TIME blog “Battleland”—”where military intelligence is not a contradiction in terms.”
Capps believes the Icelandic parliamentarians show a “deep ignorance” by nominating him. To Capps, their nomination negates the “fact” that “what Manning did was put the lives of American service members, diplomats, and citizens at greater risk.”
The fear of what might happen may have been acceptable then, but, at some point, Capps and others should be obligated to give a sober statement on what damage Manning actually caused to American national security if they are going to condemn people who celebrate him. There is little to no evidence that Bradley Manning—or WikiLeaks for that matter—have blood on their hands, as people like Capps are quick to argue.
No original classification authorities (OCAs) were willing to testify under oath at Manning’s pre-trial hearing, which further calls into question any notion that people were targeted or killed as a result of Manning’s alleged leaks.
Capps, however, finds this to be the key issue:
The Prize is awarded annually to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” My initial thinking is that, no, betraying an oath and putting the lives of your countrymen and their sources in grave danger does not meet the standard. But we’ll wait and see what the Committee has to say. [emphasis added]
Again, people like Capps should not be permitted to make arguments that suggest blowback from Manning’s leaks happened that led to injuries or deaths. They should be challenged and asked to prove that there ever was any danger. They should have to react to the actual impact of the leaks.
Here is why Icelandic parliamentarians celebrate Manning: if he released the information he is charged with leaking, it means we learned a great deal:
- Victims of torture in Iraq were able to learn that it was official US policy to ignore torture
- US officials were urged to cover up the fact that defense contractors were abusing children in Afghanistan
- Innocent people and low-level operatives were primarily who were imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay prison
- Despite US claims, there really was an official count of how many civilians had died in Iraq/Afghanistan
- The US government had tried to cover up the killing of a Reuters journalist
- The State Department opposed a minimum wage law in Haiti
- The US government pretended to support Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and knew his government was very corrupt
- Egyptian torturers were trained by the FBI
- Hillary Clinton ordered diplomats to spy on UN officials
- Both the Japanese and US governments were aware of the seismic threat to nuclear power facilities in Japan
- The Obama Administration had Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh cover up a drone strike
Not to mention, the “Arab Spring,” which the US government now officially celebrates (though some countries are more celebrated than others), was greatly influenced by the leaks, especially in Tunisia. The people had always suspected their government was corrupt, but WikiLeaks made it possible for them to see it in writing.
But, commentators like Capps, especially ones with ties to the US military, could never accept that Manning did anything other than betray his country. They could never look at Manning’s alleged violation of non-disclosure agreements he had to sign so he could possess a security clearance as anything other than something tantamount to treason. They do not care whether the information deserved to see sunlight.
Nor does it cross their minds that they could be on the wrong side of history—that Pfc. Bradley Manning may be a person who broke the law because his conscience led him to believe what the US military was doing was unjust. Or, that Manning was willing to accept the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of a community and had respect for the law because he was willing to suffer the consequences of his action.
The impunity, which Bush Administration and now Obama Administration officials have enjoyed, makes it highly likely that in retrospect Americans, decades from now, will regard the action of Manning as a positive. When the images of smoke billowing out of two towers fades, when the fear of a “far-reaching network of violence and hatred” is no longer intense, he will be judged alongside other individuals in history, who went up against the grain of society.
And, whether he fits the mold of a typical whistleblower or not, whether his defense is going to make a legal argument that he is in fact a whistleblower who deserves protection or not, the reality is that the world is more informed about the true nature of American super power than ever before. That may be hard for someone with a military background to praise, because they see military veterans on a regular basis and don’t want to offend them by calling into question what they did over in Iraq or Afghanistan. But, for people who have no allegiance to the US military, it is not hard to see: if Manning had not allegedly leaked information, so much corruption would be secret right now.