Which soldier is the hero?

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Bradley Manning with his escort

Heroic Americans — citizens of the land of the free, home of the brave

Journalist Eyal Press, during his report on dissent, whistleblowing and elite opposition to both in Obama’s America, makes this remarkable but unsurprising claim:

Despite the lore of the whistleblower that pervades popular culture, Americans turn out to be less sympathetic to such dissenters than Europeans. Drawing on data from the World Value Surveys and other sources over multiple years, the sociologist Claude Fischer has found that U.S. citizens are “much more likely than Europeans to say that employees should follow a boss’s orders even if the boss is wrong.” They are also more likely “to defer to church leaders and to insist on abiding by the law,” and more prone “to believe that individuals should go along and get along.”whistleblower

Whistleblowers may often be praised in the abstract and from a distance, but Americans have a tendency to ignore or even vilify them when they dare to stir up trouble in their own workplaces or communities.

Stirring up trouble. Right here in River City. We can’t have that. Nosiree. We can’t have any of that.

Whistleblowers have walked hard road during Obama’s tenure (see, for instance, this, this and this), the ever-hopeful, sunshine President. They often lack a sympathetic ear in government, a lack which enables grifters on Wall Street and security apparatchiks in Washington to work their black magic on the weak. Crimes undetected are not really crimes! They’re smart business deals or realistic acts of sober G-men. And the powerful are always innocent until proven guilty.

Since Americans do not like to listen to discouraging words about important things, things on which they depend, it so happens that the fate of these whistleblowers obliquely mirrors the fate of the Occupy Movement: Like the Occupiers, whistleblowers are ignored when they are not harassed and denigrated. They, like their Occupy cousins, sometimes face prison terms for their efforts. They lose their jobs and their homes for exposing the powerful to critical scrutiny. It is fortunate that America’s whistleblowers in an out of government are not beaten or assaulted with caustic chemicals, although I would be negligent if I were to fail to point out that whistleblower Bradley Manning has had to endure mental and physical torture inflicted on him by the Pentagon. He stands before the world as an object lesson for anyone tempted to blow the whistle on America’s empire. The Occupiers have felt the baton and the pepper spray. The whistleblowers have been spared those methods. Yet, the powerful seek the same goal when confronting a whistleblower or an Occupation. They want to quash dissent.

It is sad that Americans typically advocate following the path of the witless and craven servant. For one thing, it is sad because the powerful are to remain unmolested even when they deserve close judicial scrutiny. It seems as though Americans prefer their authority figures to remain inscrutable and free. This condition creates a moral hazard problem for the country. For another, the beliefs which inform this advocacy comprise the social cement which binds together the elements that compose America’s security-surveillance government and its financial plutocracy. These institutional complexes could not operate as they have and want to without the passive and active consent of most Americans. Common Americans collude in the domination exercised by the elite. We might have a functioning democracy if it were not for these beliefs and the collusion they sponsor. We have instead what Sheldon Wolin called an inverted totalitarian system (see this and this). America’s politics are as vacuous as its plutocrats are rich and its war-makers are violent.

The antidote for minimal democracy remains strong democracy.

Bradley Manning: Before, After

A nation of laws tortures anyone? (Updates)

Update (4.24.2011)

Glenn Greenwald’s gloss on Obama’s Manning statement contained in the video above has Greenwald taking Obama to task for his legally dubious behavior:

It may be that Obama spoke extemporaneously and without sufficient forethought, but it is — at best — reckless in the extreme for him to go around decreeing people guilty who have not been tried: especially members of the military who are under his command and who will be adjudged by other members of the military under his command. Moreover, as a self-proclaimed Constitutional Law professor, he ought to have an instinctive aversion when speaking as a public official to assuming someone’s guilt who has been convicted of nothing. It’s little wonder that he’s so comfortable with Manning’s punitive detention since he already perceives Manning as a convicted criminal. “Sentence first – verdict afterward,” said the Queen of Hearts to Alice in Wonderland.

POLITICO suggests that Obama had what can be characterized as a Reagan Moment, that is, an instance in which the President of the United States utters nonsense or makes claims contrary to law and fact.

Update II (4.25.2011)

Kevin Zeese has provided an elaborate discussion of the problem with Obama’s Reagan Moment:

The credibility of the military justice system is being undermined by the prosecution of Bradley Manning. His abusive punishment without trial violates his due process rights; his harsh treatment in solitary confinement-torture conditions violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and now the commander-in-chief has announced his guilt before trial making a fair trial impossible. A Bradley Manning exception to the Bill of Rights is developing as the Obama administration seeks Manning’s punished no matter what constitutional protections they violate.

Zeese continues:

President Obama’s pronouncement about Manning, “He broke the law,” amounts to unlawful command influence – something prohibited in military trials because it is devastating to the military justice system.  Manning will be judged by a jury of military officers in a military court where everyone involved follows the orders of the commander-in-chief.  How are these officers going to rule against their commander-in-chief, especially after Manning has been tortured in solitary confinement for almost a year?  Any officer who finds Manning “not guilty” will have no chance of advancing his career after doing so.

Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice makes undo command influence unlawful. Unlawful Command Influence has been called “the carcinoma of the military justice system” and is often described as “the mortal enemy of military justice.” The importance of the command structure in the military makes command influence a threat to fair trails, i.e. “because the inherent power and influence of command are necessary and omnipresent facets of military life, everyone involved in both unit command and in military justice must exercise constant vigilance to protect against command influence becoming unlawful.”

Accordingly, “Unlawful Command Influence occurs when senior personnel, wittingly or unwittingly, have acted to influence court members, witnesses, or others participating in military justice cases. Such unlawful influence not only jeopardizes the validity of the judicial process, it undermines the morale of military members, their respect for the chain of command, and public confidence in the military.”  Further, even: “The ‘appearance of unlawful command influence is as devastating to the military justice system as the actual manipulation of any given trial.’”  The commander-in-chief announcing guilt before trial is an unprecedented case of unlawful command influence.

So, what effect will these legal rules have on the disposition of Manning’s case? They are likely to have no effect at all.

Bradley Manning to be moved

According to an Associated Press report, the Pentagon will move Bradley Manning from the brig at the Quantico, VA Marine Corps Base to the infamous United States Disciplinary Barracks at Leavenworth, KS. The transfer might provide Pvt. Manning with some relief from his ordeal, which has included measures deemed to be inhumane and even forms of torture. Manning is the accused source of the famous United States Diplomatic Cables given to WikiLeaks.

A few comments:

I find it very ironic that the Pentagon made the news of Manning’s transfer public through an anonymous leak.

It is also ironic that Manning’s confinement and treatment are likely the kind of crimes a whistleblower like Bradley Manning might expose if they were unknown by the general public.

Finally, while Manning’s transfer from the Quantico brig to the Leavenworth military prison might produce improvements in Manning’s treatment, his transfer may also be little more than a one-step back, two-steps forward trick played by his jailers. After all, Manning remains an unconvicted prisoner of an entity that sits well beyond legal accountability; his detention is currently interminable; his fate will be determined by his jailers. Moreover, Leavenworth, KS is a bit off the path used by most of those who would criticize, publicize and protest Manning’s treatment.