Friday, August 13, 2010

Our Hero . . . Whoops, Not So Fast

Have you ever heard of Representative Mike Rogers? Of course you haven't, unless you're reading me from the depths of the 3d district in the great state of Michigan. And even then, you may not have heard  of this guy. I just learned of him myself when I read that he has called for the execution of Private Bradley Manning. I'll refresh your memory of him, too, because alas, he's probably already had his alloted fifteen minutes of fame. He's the guy who leaked to Wikileaks all those documents about the war in Afghanistan, which tend to show, not to my surprise and probably not to yours, that the war there is not going all that swimmingly. Earlier Manning had also leaked a horrifying video tape of a trigger-happy U.S. Apache helicopter crew gunning down about a dozen Iraqis in the street. Although several of the killed were armed, it's not at all clear they were enemies, and clearly several of the dead, including two children and two employees of Reuters News Service, were not. Think about this for a minute: for the crime of exposing the wanton savagery of some of our military and bringing to light the none-to-encouraging everyday of the war in Afghanistan some yahoo in Michigan wants to execute a guy who is actually a hero, a person with the balls to do what is right, regardless of consequences. And the consequences for such action can be serious indeed. As one writer at Alternet observes:
Regardless of whether he is found guilty and sentenced to prison, Manning’s life will be irreparably destroyed. “If you are deemed a whistleblower in the Army, there is a very good chance of it ruining not only your career but your life,” says David Debatto, a U.S. Army counterintelligence special agent who saw several such instances while serving in Iraq in 2003. Manning was already "pending discharge" when he made the complaints, but now, even if he isn’t charged, he will most likely be dishonorably discharged. This will mean a loss of all benefits and difficulty getting a decent civilian job, a bank loan or a lease.
Manning is not the first such military whistleblower to face serious repercussions and retaliation; not just from the military, but from the government, fellow soldiers, friends back home and even the general public and the media. The military is infamous for trying to silence soldiers who speak out against the war. Each whistleblower who is publicly denounced and punished acts as a prohibitive warning silencing any other soldiers contemplating coming forward.
Blowing the whistle while overseas is particularly risky. You are completely under the control of the military. As of mid-2008, almost 3,000 soldiers have filed complaints with the Inspector General’s office for retaliation against them when they tried to expose information. That number does not include the multitudes who were too intimidated —or simply too despondent — to make reports.
Guys like Manning in the U.S. military are the ones I consider the real heroes. People who do what's morally right, even in the most uncongenial circumstances. There are far too few of them. And you can bet this poor guy is going to pay a heavy price for being a hero.

This is not the usual tack I take with the military. In many circles I would be considered "unpatriotic" because I don't fall all over myself in gratitude and worship for our military heroes. As I've said before, I consider the U.S. military to be principally an arm of the empire. As such it will be continually employed in wars against our enemies, which if you haven't noticed, never seem to be defeated because they just keep multiplying. This is the nature of empires. They must constantly be at war. First, to keep their gigantic, bloated military machines occupied; and second, because since they are so despised by the rest of the world, there will always be enemies on every side. For the individual soldier, airman, sailor, or marine--more than likely not by choice but by economic necessity--caught up into the froth of patriotism and the endless billows of smoke being blown up your butt about being a hero and a "professional," I have nothing but sympathy and pity for you. You're just a tool, an eminently disposable tool, of forces far beyond what any of us can control.
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