Webs of blinding irony reminiscent of the superspider’s in The Lord of the Rings are being spun around Private First Class Manning, obscuring the military’s methodical denial of Manning’s constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial.
The first was woven by the Commander in Chief himself, with a public declaration that Manning was guilty of committing a crime, when PFC Manning was still in prison awaiting legal proceedings. Allowing that declaration to appear in the media unchallenged. Barack Obama prejudiced all subsequent works of the legal machinery with regard to the whistleblower’s case, and forecasted their outcome.
Obama is the Chief Justice, as it were, of the military. Had he any concern for authentic justice in the case of PFC Manning, the charges against Manning would be dismissed forthwith on that basis alone. Instead, his comment is gone but not forgotten, subliminal, a musty cobweb.
Tangled with that is the irony of Obama’s promise to the people of the United States that, when he succeeded to the office of president, he would do precisely what PFC Manning has had the courage to do: Manning increased government and military transparency; highlighted the destructive potential of what Eisenhower termed the military industrial government complex; and proved the crucial and constructive role of whistleblowers in society. Meanwhile Obama’s administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any of his predecessors, using the mothballed Espionage Act of 1917 … a tool of J. Edgar Hoover, a master spider.
Overlay that sickening irony with the employment of various psychologists and pundits to “assassinate” Manning’s character by bringing the complexity of Manning’s gender identity to the attention of the public in an effort to push the transphobia button. (In a chat log published by Wired, Manning came out as transgender to former hacker Adrian Lamo, indicating a preference for the name Breanna rather than Bradley, and a desire to transition to a female identity.)
One of the pundits using transphobia to smear Manning is Joy Reid, who labels Manning “a guy seeking anarchy as a salve for his own personal, psychological torment.” Perhaps Reid can’t handle PFC Manning’s honest and refreshingly youthful, ingenuous questionings of identity. Maybe she’s got herself wrapped up so tight, anything that might undo her ideas has to be tagged “anarchy.”
How else could Reid miss Manning’s guilelessness, care for the world and its people, and conscious desire to come to the rescue in a dark hour?
Manning hoped that “explaining how the First world exploits the Third world, in detail from the inside … might actually change something (Manning’s chatlogs).” Note the irony of the word “change” … evoking something we longed for, and have been denied. Manning believed in deep, systemic change and sought to embody it.
The rest is spun and tightened to strangle the remaining outrage and protest in the body politic. The show trial wherein most of the defense’s witnesses have not been permitted to testify. The secrecy of the trial proceedings themselves. Michael Ratner, attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, has described them:
As a …. legal advisor to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, I continue to attend Manning’s hearings and can only describe them as theater of the absurd: the trial involves numerous and lengthy off-the-record conferences, out of sight of press and the public, after which the judge provides an in-court summary that hardly satisfies standards of “open and public.” Perhaps more remarkable is the refusal even to provide the defense with a pre-trial publicity order signed by the judge—an order that details what lawyers can and cannot reveal about the case. Yes, even the degree to which proceedings should be kept in secret is a secret, leaving the public and media in a Plato’s Cave, able only to glimpse the shadows of reality.
Manning was familiar with a very stark reality. That was another of the reasons Manning cited in the chatlogs as a reason for becoming a whistleblower, writing “I think I’ve been traumatized too much by reality, to care about consequences of shattering the fantasy.”
And even while feeling that trauma, PFC Manning had the discernment to allow only secret or unclassified materials into the release of the 260,000 State Department cables … whereas Daniel Ellsberg of the infamous Pentagon Papers released top secret information and is now respected as a patriot.
We the body politic, sensing our government and our military preying not only on PFC Manning but on us, on our freedom of thought, on our rights to information and to justice, can resist the venom, even in the face of this juggernaught of stifling irony and injustice.
We are alive, and so is PFC Manning, who has offered us the gift of consciousness and truth and thus drawn a connection between us. “I feel connected to everyone … like they were distant family,” Manning wrote in the chatlogs. “We’re killing ourselves … and no one seems to see that … and it bothers me.”
We see it, PFC Manning. We are still breathing, still thinking, and we want you to know that you really did “change something,” as you wished to do. The life in your truth, in your gift to us, is still quite vital. You are keeping us all alive.
May we obtain your freedom.