‘You Failed to Break the Spirit of Bradley Manning': An Open Letter to President Obama

Norman Solomon, August 22, 2013

As commander in chief, you’ve been responsible for the treatment of the most
high-profile whistleblower in the history of the U.S. armed forces. Under your
command, the United States military tried – and failed – to crush the spirit
of Bradley Manning.

Your failure became evident after the sentencing on Wednesday, when a statement
from Bradley Manning was read aloud to the world. The statement began: "The
decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and
the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has
been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on
any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods
of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life. I initially agreed with
these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country."

From the outset, your administration set out to destroy Bradley Manning. As
his biographer Chase Madar wrote
in The Nation, "Upon his arrest in May 2010, he was locked up in
punitive isolation for two months in Iraq and Kuwait, then nine more months
at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia. Prohibited from lying down during
the day or exercising, he was forced to respond every five of his waking minutes
to a guard’s question: ‘Are you OK?’ In his final weeks of isolation, Manning
was deprived of all clothing beyond a tear-proof smock and forced to stand at
attention every night in the nude."

More than nine months after Manning’s arrest, at a news conference you defended
this treatment – which the State Department’s chief spokesman, P.J. Crowley,
had just lambasted as "ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid."
(Crowley swiftly lost his job.) Later, the UN special rapporteur on torture
issued a report on the treatment of Manning: "at a minimum cruel, inhuman
and degrading."

At a fundraiser on April 21, 2011, when asked about Manning, you flatly said:
"He broke the law." His trial would not begin for two more years.

Bradley Manning’s statement after sentencing on Wednesday said: "It
was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis
that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this
time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy,
we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life
both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the
enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians,
instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind
the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any
public accountability."

Public accountability is essential to democracy. We can’t have meaningful "consent
of the governed" without informed consent. We can’t have moral responsibility
without challenging official hypocrisies and atrocities.

Bradley Manning clearly understood that. He didn’t just follow orders or turn
his head at the sight of unconscionable policies of the U.S. government. Finding
himself in a situation where he could shatter the numbed complacency that is
the foundation of war, he cared – and he took action as a whistleblower.

After being sentenced to many years in prison, Manning conveyed to the American
public an acute understanding of our present historic moment: "In our
zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We
held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably
turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we
stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

"Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts
are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any
logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given
the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission."

Clearly, Mr. President, you have sought to make an example of Bradley Manning
with categorical condemnation and harsh punishment. You seem not to grasp that
he has indeed become an example – an inspiring example of stellar courage and
idealism, which millions of Americans now want to emulate.

From the White House, we continue to get puffed-up sugar-coated versions of
history, past and present. In sharp contrast, Bradley Manning offers profound
insights in his post-sentencing statement: "Our nation has had similar
dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott
decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention
a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed
in a similar light. As the late Howard Zinn once said, ‘There is not a flag
large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.’"

Imagine. After more than three years in prison, undergoing methodical abuse
and then the ordeal of a long military trial followed by the pronouncement of
a 35-year prison sentence, Bradley Manning has emerged with his solid humanistic
voice not only intact, but actually stronger than ever!

He acknowledged, "I understand that my actions violated the law; I
regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my
intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose
classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of
duty to others."

And then Bradley Manning concluded his statement
by addressing you directly as president of the United States: "If you
deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you
have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that
price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty
and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal."

You failed to break the spirit of Bradley Manning. And that spirit will continue
to inspire.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of
the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include
Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

30 Responses to “‘You Failed to Break the Spirit of Bradley Manning': An Open Letter to President Obama”

  1. […] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum […]

  2. yet Normon Solomon supported the election of Borat

    chelsea manning is a product of decades of military personnel failures, the utter inability to maintain organizational discipline, the abject disregard for the well being of enlisted soldiers with special needs. Often emanating from an institutional climate of rampant warcrimes.

    we should be so blessed that despite so much lifelong deprivation, manning stirred our conscience with his leaks

  3. We can’t have “true consent of the governed” if we don’t have the right to politically secede.

  4. Obama now openly condones torture of American citizens.

  5. "If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal."

    I'm unable to decipher what this means. Confinement does not equal freedom. If Manning has to pay the price of imprisonment, it means that we don't have a country that is truly conceived in liberty. This type of rhetoric has Orwellian overtones much as his previous statement regarding the decisions of those with the "proper authority."

    I don't know if Manning's spirit is unbroken or not, and I'm guessing Norman Solomon doesn't know either. It all seems rather sad to me. As for the possibility that Obama would grant Manning clemency, I find it remarkable that anyone believes that will happen in light of all that Obama has said and done so far.

    I don't know the answers to fix all that is wrong in this world, but somehow fighting raw tyranny with positive attitudes and wishful thinking seems a bit unrealistic in view of all that has transpired.

  6. These statement by Manning is so remarkable true that one day they will be in our colleges and universities.As for Manning, there is a place in history waiting for you.

  7. Few understand what Manning was trying to impart. That meaning was summed up when he referred to the US Military as being like kids with a magnifying glass burning ants.

    Since the Korean war this country has directly or by installed dictators caused over 10,000,000 people to be murdered. This is why we as a people are hated and not for any alleged freedoms that have like the others will be taken away too.

    After Obama's election the voice of the Anti War movement went silent. This shroud of patriotism is a mask that hides all evils when you see your own elected official's calling for the deaths of those who expose their crimes. Crimes I might add that allowed firms like Monsanto, DOW, Halliburton and others to scalp billions of US tax paying dollars while listening to these same elected officials parrot that these wars were not against the peoples of those countries.

    Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan all resemble what the US did to both Japan and Germany during WWII. Dams, bridges, roads, schools, hospital's, universities, TV & Radio stations and food processing businesses all bombed to dust. As well as naval and rail services. Thus massive starvation set in.

    In the case of Japan. Japan for 2 weeks had been trying to surrender. The US not only dropped 2 Atomic bombs killing hundreds of thousands but after that flew an additional 1000 Sorties that burned to death 12 square miles of Tokyo's civilian populations.

    Money once used as ear-marked for Nation Building was Stolen. The first one is was the IMF posing as the Red Cross (sic) to issue massive loans at interest to make those pay to rebuild the country that the US and Allied forces had destroyed. American's pass off this flutter of guilt by giving names to degrade fellow humans such as Hage, Gooks, Jap's, Bosh, Sand-Niggers, Rag heads, Camel Jockeys and so on.

    Asking a relevant question such as, "If a AK47's range is 250 yards+/- of what threat is someone to America that is over 2,000 – 9,000 miles away? Before answering that, remember that these same weapons were sold to these from US Allies like Germany, UK, Israel, US and others. So it is with high probability that a US soldier killed was killed by Arms from US and or Allies.

    If you doubt the above I give you a challenge.
    Go to GOOGLE: type in, US SENDS ARMS TO
    Then look at the date, country and see that after this, the US through CIA and USAID causes a reason to invade that same country.

    So yes Manning was right in all cases. I don't care about his sexual issues, I as a father who raised 3 daughters would have been proud to had a son like Manning.

    12 years of wars, 12 years of Al Qaeda. Where daily we see our own government supporting and arming those who the claimed these wars were all about. That and the Police State. American's love to be lied to. They don't care how many people died just so Americans can fill up their gas tanks or buy other products made from oil.

    When speaking of the US backed genocide in Guatemala the CIA is quoted as saying, "We didn't do enough." This as union leaders and thousands were killed who were sold Israeli arms and soldiers who trained at the School of Americas. This country was built on the blood of Millions of lives. Remember that when walking through a mall and you watch people walking and texting on their phones of how addicted people are to these products.

    This is why we are hated. America is starting to look like the many Reservations in this country as well as the conditions in Gaza that this country also turned a blind eye to.

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  9. I am not sure if it has been frozen, but certainly there is an element in the party that has been there prior to [World War II], the isolationist, America-Firsters. Prior to World War I, it was Western senators, and then Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh

  10. I, it was Western senators, and then Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh …

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