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Bradley Manning: traitor or hero?

By Marjorie Cohn - posted Thursday, 29 December 2011


The end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq coincided with Pvt. Bradley Manning's military hearing to determine whether he will face court-martial for exposing U.S. war crimes by leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents to WikiLeaks. In fact, there is a connection between the leaks and U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

When he announced that the last U.S. troops would leave Iraq by year's end, President Barack Obama declared the nine-year war a "success" and "an extraordinary achievement." He failed to mention why he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. He didn't say that it was built on lies about mushroom clouds and non-existent ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda.

Pvt. Bradley Manning

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Obama didn't cite the Bush administration's "Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq," drawn up months before 9/11, about which former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported that actual plans "were already being discussed to take over Iraq and occupy it – complete with disposition of oil fields, peacekeeping forces, and war crimes tribunals – carrying forward an unspoken doctrine of preemptive war."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also defended the war in Iraq, making the preposterous claim that, "As difficult as [the Iraq war] was," including the loss of American and Iraqi lives, "I think the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world."

The price that Panetta claims is worth it includes the deaths of nearly 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. It includes untold numbers wounded – with Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and suicides, as well as nearly $1 trillion that could have prevented the economic disaster at home.

The price of the Iraq war also includes thousands of men who have been subjected to torture and abuse in places like Abu Ghraib prison. It includes the 2005 Haditha Massacre, in which U.S. Marines killed 24 unarmed civilians execution-style.

It includes the Fallujah Massacre, in which U.S. forces killed 736 people, at least 60 percent of them women and children. It includes other war crimes committed by American troops in Qaim, Taal Al Jal, Mukaradeeb, Mahmudiya, Hamdaniyah, Samarra, Salahuddin, and Ishaqi.

The price of that war includes two men killed by the Army's Lethal Warriors in Al Doura, Iraq, with no evidence that they were insurgents or posed a threat. One man's brains were removed from his head and another man's face was skinned after he was killed by Lethal Warriors.

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U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow Lethal Warriors in Al Doura. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which have been released by Pulse TV and Maverick Media in the new video by Cindy Piester, "On the Dark Side in Al Doura – A Soldier in the Shadows." [http://vimeo.com/33755968].

CBS reported obtaining an Army document from the Criminal Investigation Command suggestive of an investigation into these war crimes allegations. The Army's conclusion was that the "offense of War Crimes did not occur."

One of the things Manning is alleged to have leaked is the "Collateral Murder" video which depicts U.S. forces in an Apache helicopter killing 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and wounding two children. People trying to rescue the wounded were fired upon and killed. A U.S. tank drove over one body, cutting the man in half.

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About the Author


Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, past president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her latest book is "The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse." See www.marjoriecohn.com

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