by Zafar Bangash (Editorials, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 7, Shawwal, 1434)
Instead of going after the torturers and mass murderers, President Barack Obama has targeted the whistleblowers. Bradley Manning has become its latest victim. He is not the first and will not be the last. Obama has exposed himself as a hypocrite-in-chief.
The 35-year prison sentence handed down to Bradley Manning on August 21 for leaking more than 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks reveals the true nature of the US political system. Those that expose US wrongdoing — in this case criminal behavior — are given harsh punishment. The perpetrators of such crimes — mass murderers, mad bombers and torturers at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay — are not touched. America has not lost its moral compass; it never had one.
In sentencing Manning to a long prison term, Army colonel Denise Lind also announced that he would be dishonorably discharged from the US military. Apart from the 700,000 pages of documents that exposed US war crimes, Manning had also provided the 2007 video clip of the US helicopter attack in Baghdad, in which more than 18 Iraqi civilians were slaughtered. How many soldiers, pilots or officers that gave the order for this war crime have been arrested and questioned, much less punished?
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mairhead MaGuire, nominated Bradley Manning for this year’s peace prize. In an op-ed piece in the British daily, The Guardian (June 30), she wrote, “Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the active creation of something better… Nobel’s foresight is a reminder to us all that peace must be created, maintained, and advanced, and it is indeed possible for one individual to have an extraordinary impact.” She said Manning’s “disclosure of secret documents to WikiLeaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.”
MaGuire has gathered more than 100,000 signatures for her campaign but Manning is unlikely to get the peace prize. This is usually reserved for war criminals. Here is proof. Nobel Peace Prize recipients include such well known war criminals as Menachem Begin, Henry Kissinger, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and most recently, Barack Obama. Under his presidency, killings of innocent people have escalated alarmingly. Drone strikes against civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are routine. Obama refuses to close the torture chamber at Guantanamo Bay even after promising in January 2009 to shut it down in a year’s time.
Despite his toothy smile, Obama has gone after whistleblowers (Edward Snowden and eight others in addition to Manning), targeted people’s personal phone and email records as well as targeted journalists. Also on Obama’s watch, people critical of US policies — domestic as well as foreign — are being mercilessly targeted and persecuted. Ha-rassment of law-abiding citizens has become routine. When he first declared that water-boarding was torture and said he was ending it, he refused to prosecute those who had indulged in such practice. “I want to look forward, not back,” was how Obama put it. This is a cop out. Unless torturers and their enablers are brought to justice, such egregious crimes will continue. Obama is complicit in these crimes because he refuses to put on trial those who tortured or authorized the torture of people.
Increasing numbers of Americans believe their country has become a police state. Professors at universities have openly stated they are afraid to speak out lest they are put on a watch-list and punished. America’s addiction to war abroad and the violation of people’s basic rights has now come home as well. Drones fly over many US cities spying on citizens.
Manning’s sentence is the latest blow to basic freedoms in the US. Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released the following statement in response to Manning’s sentence, “When a soldier who shared information with the press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our justice system. A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”