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Bradley Manning - A Case of Whistleblower Reprisal

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"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act" George Orwell.

Since 9/11, the US has instigated a number of conflicts in the Middle East in the war against terror. The civilian body count is high but the actual number is unknown. Some may argue that loss of life is acceptable during war.

David Sirota wrote

"One form of privilege is the privilege of not having to care about the killing of others who live far away and look different than you"

What is the price of a civilian life?

Those of us who remain powerless to prevent such losses are simply observers by the wayside. Bradley Manning was in a different position. He was in a position to raise the alarm and do something about it. This US Army soldier was arrested in May 2010 for an alleged leak of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks . Hedges summarised the contents of the documents here

"Manning provided to the public the most important window into the inner workings of imperial power since the release of the Pentagon Papers. The routine use of torture, the detention of Iraqis who were innocent, the inhuman conditions within our secret detention facilities, the use of State Department officials as spies in the United Nations, the collusion with corporations to keep wages low in developing countries such as Haiti, and specific war crimes such as the missile strike on a house that killed seven children in Afghanistan would have remained hidden without Manning."

Glenn Greenwald describes the shroud of secrecy that has surrounded the court martial proceedings of this 25-year-old. The Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF) writes :-

"Manning explains his motives, noting how he believed the documents showed deep wrongdoing by the government and how he hoped that the release would 'spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan'"

Having viewed short film, Providence and the alleged misconduct of the aerial weapons team, I asked a question on Twitter that was accompanied by a reality check. Mr John Cusack, actor, board member of FPF and tireless activist wrote

"Yet it's Manning facing life "@dr_rita39: If the aerial weapons team conducting in an unlawful manner, surely, they should be tried".

So we ask the question - why is Manning facing life and why has there been no investigation into those who may have committed alleged war crimes? Despite searching for evidence of an investigation into Manning's concerns, there appears to be little written about it.

Human Rights Investigations writes:

"The extract below, from Manning's statement, deals with the 'collateral damage' video which Manning courageously leaked to Wikileaks, and which shows civilians, including two cameramen, being attacked and killed by a US helicopter gunship. The Pentagon repeatedly denied the existence of this video and refused to release it when requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Those responsible for this war crime have faced no justice."

Notably while there are endless petitions to free Manning, the US media and public have not demanded an investigation into the concerns raised by him. Instead, the attention of the US government has focussed - not on saving life but on character assassinating Manning. It is abundantly clear that part of the process is to put this 25-year-old through so much that he breaks. Manning has not broken.

The message the US government is sending out is that breaking protocol is more important than the protection of civilian life. It appears that civilian life during war is not given much importance.

Manning is young enough to have the idealism and innocence of wishing to 'make a difference to the world'. As we become older, our world view becomes rather more cynical and self obsessed. We care less and less about the world around us and most of us may even give up on trying to make a difference. Manning's reward for trying to make a difference may be a potential life sentence. This phenomena is essentially known as whistleblowing reprisal , demonstrating that no good deed goes unpunished.

Manning is a victim of the long poor track record of the Pentagon's mistreatment of whistleblowers. A report described here demonstrates that raising concerns may well get you punished if you serve in the US military. If you complain about unlawful reprisals, there is no protection. Time magazine went onto further outline the Pentagon's habit of prematurely closing whistleblower reprisal cases.

This is the 21st Century; witch hunting the whistleblower should be an outdated pastime. The Obama administration should develop the insight that the justified concerns raised by a whistleblower have to be investigated and those allegedly responsible for war crimes bought to justice. Manning provides us with a snapshot of potential violations. We do not even know the true extent of alleged crimes committed in the name of war.

"In 2008, candidate Obama hailed whistleblowing as "acts of courage and patriotism", which "should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration". It is time Obama stood by his word and accepted that on occasion it is impossible to follow protocol in the face of known internal failures in whistleblower protection.

The plight of the innocent has to be protected and respected. If Obama values civilian life, he will instigate a full blown investigation into the serious concerns raised by Manning.

For his role in raising the alarm, Manning should be congratulated and honoured - not character assassinated and hauled up as an example.

One man in the US Army had the courage to stand by what is right. Everyone should stand by him in solidarity.

With thanks to Mr John Cusack for his tireless work in raising awareness in this case.