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Bradley Manning and the Rule of Law

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 The case of Private Bradley Manning raises legal issues about his pre-trial detention, freedom of speech and the press, as well as proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Putting aside Manning's guilt or innocence, if Bradley Manning saw the Afghan and Iraq war diaries as well as the diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks what should he have done? And, what should be the proper response of government to their publication?

 
Stand With Brad by Kevin Zeese

A high point in the application of the rule of law to war came in the Nuremberg trials where leaders in Germany were held accountable for World War II atrocities. Justice Robert Jackson, who served as the chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials while on leave from the U.S. Supreme Court, said "If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."  

One of the key outcomes of the Nuremberg trials was that people who commit war crimes or crimes against humanity will be held accountable even if they were following orders.   This is known as Nuremberg Principle IV which states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." The Nuremberg principles were enshrined in a series of treaties.

How do the Nuremberg Principles and other laws of war apply to Bradley Manning?

What is a person who does not want to participate in war crimes or hiding war crimes supposed to do when he sees evidence of them? If Manning hid the evidence would he not be complicit in the crimes he was covering up and potentially liable as a co-conspirator? These were questions that Bradley Manning allegedly wrestled with.   According to unverified chat logs Manning, talking with Adrian Lamo on email, asks: "Hypothetical question, if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time" say, 8-9 months" and you saw incredible things, awful things" things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC" what would you do?"

In Iraq, Manning was ordered "to round up and hand over Iraqi civilians to America's new Iraqi allies, who he could see were then torturing them with electrical drills and other implements." Manning questioned the orders he was being given to help round up Iraqis and brought his concerns to the chain of command.   He pointed to a specific instance where 15 detainees were arrested and tortured for printing "anti-Iraqi literature" he found that the paper in question was merely a scholarly critique of corruption in the government asking "Where did the money go?" He brought this to his commander, who told him to "shut up" and keep working to find more detainees. Manning realized he "was actively involved in something that i was completely against""

He wrestled with the question of what to do.   According to the unverified chat logs with Lamo Manning told Lamo that he hoped the publication of the documents and videos would spur "worldwide discussion, debates, and reform."   He went on to say, "I want people to see the truth" regardless of who they are" because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."   The command structure would not listen, so Manning went beyond them to the people who are supposed to control the military in our democratic republic. He wanted Americans to know the truth.

In the chat logs, Lamo asked Manning why he did not sell the documents to a foreign power.   Manning realized he could have made a lot of money doing so, but he did not take that path. He explained: "it belongs in the public domain - information should be free - it belongs in the public domain - because another state would just take advantage of the information" try and get some edge - if its out in the open" it should be a public good."   These are not the words of a traitor, of someone out to hurt the United States, these are the words of someone trying to improve the United States, trying to get the country to live up to its highest ideals.

Manning is charged so far with three counts of unlawfully transferring confidential material to a non-secure computer, i.e. leaking state secrets.   Manning faces up to 52 years if convicted of these crimes and it is likely that he will be charged with additional offenses.   The charges against Manning end stating that Manning's "conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces."  

Well, what exactly did the materials Manning allegedly leak show?  

The video that is the focus of these initial charges is known as the Collateral Murder video. The video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter gunning down a group of innocent men, including two Reuters employees, a photojournalist and his driver, killing 16 and sending two children to the hospital. The video, which has been viewed by millions, shows initial blasts at the group killing and wounding people. U.S. forces watch as a van pulls up to evacuate the wounded. The soldiers again open fire from the helicopter, killing more people. A crew member is heard saying, "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards." But, that was not the end, journalist Rick Rowley reported that the man who they drove over had crawled out of the van and was still alive when the tank drove over him, cutting him in half.

Marjorie Cohn , who teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, and international human rights law at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, describes multiple war crimes from this single video.   First, targeting and killing civilians who do not pose a threat violated the Geneva Conventions. Second, when soldiers attacked the van attempting to rescue the wounded they violate the Geneva Conventions which allows the rescue of wounded.   Third, the tank rolling over the wounded man, splitting him in two, is a war crime and even if he were already dead disrespecting a body violates the Geneva Conventions.  

The Collateral Murder video documents war crimes according to this legal expert on human rights law.   When Manning saw these war crimes, what should he have done?   Should he have covered up the evidence of potential war crimes?   Should he try to go up the chain of command -" a strategy that he had already unsuccessfully tried?   If Manning did what he is accused of, he did the only thing that could stop these crimes from continuing.

Other documents Manning allegedly provided to WikiLeaks showed the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan, in which as many as 140 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a U.S. attack. The Australian reported that the airstrike resulted in "one of the highest civilian death tolls from Western military action since foreign forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001."   The Afghan government has said that around 140 civilians were killed, of which 93 were children -" the youngest 8 days old -" 25 were women and 22 were adult males.   The U.S. military had said that 20-30 civilians were killed along with 60-65 insurgents.

Allegedly, Manning released hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks who, working with traditional media outlets has released a small percentage of them.   He left it to journalists to decide what was appropriate for release. The small percentage of documents released show widespread and systemic abuses in U.S. foreign policy and in the conduct of wars.   WikiLeaks documents including the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs and the diplomatic cables show:

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http://www.ItsOurEconomy.us and http://www.ComeHomeAmerica.U

Kevin Zeese is co-chair of Come Home America, www.ComeHomeAmerica.US which seeks to end U.S. militarism and empire. He is also co-director of Its Our Economy, www.ItsOurEconomy.US which seeks to democratize the economy and give people greater (more...)
 
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is no longer a democratic republic and that it no ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 12:13:01 PM
This is my first read of your work; and, I must sa... by steveswimmer on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 7:54:07 AM
I agree, but too many people are asleep, and think... by Debbie S on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 12:57:19 PM
brad manning should be free. All the presidents cr... by robert braunstein on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 6:54:55 PM
Manning did discover in his unauthorized searche... by Doc McCoy on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 9:02:54 PM
Doc -- there is a lot to reply to in your post, bu... by Kevin Zeese on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 10:00:03 PM
In your first point you are extolling the virtues ... by Doc McCoy on Monday, Jan 10, 2011 at 11:37:12 PM
.........Mr Manning didn't play by all of "the rul... by Robert P. Philipps on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:56:35 PM
you have found Manning to be innocent.You may not ... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 9:06:41 PM
...........have painted me with a very broad brush... by Robert P. Philipps on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 12:14:44 AM
those who validate your views about war, and every... by Doc McCoy on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 1:49:19 AM
........just as I'm sure that's the same case with... by Robert P. Philipps on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 5:04:35 AM
seeking validation. Pure and simple. He was on h... by Laura Roberts on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 2:32:08 AM
LauraIf anyone had been harmed by Manning or WikiL... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:23:14 PM
The Pentagon is not the final authority on whether... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:40:25 PM
amended to allow the government to abridge the fre... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:14:15 AM
Manning is not being prosecuted for disclosing any... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:30:04 AM
If that's acceptable behavior from our military, t... by Taylor on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 3:44:42 AM
1. What is the difference between the procedures u... by Sherwin Steffin on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 10:27:45 AM
While this article is not about Manning's conditio... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 10:31:42 AM
Put him in the general population ... I give him l... by Sherwin Steffin on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 11:44:38 AM
..........with your purported concerns for Manning... by Robert P. Philipps on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 5:51:08 PM
Mr. Seffin, clearly you have never been a prisoner... by steveswimmer on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 8:37:13 AM
Which amendments should we ignore? It seems that ... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:01:39 PM
Manning is in the brig - a place that is not exact... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 8:10:21 PM
freedoms of speech and the press. There is no ame... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 11:57:15 AM
There is a basic rule of psychology which says we ... by Sherwin Steffin on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:21:47 PM
the amendment to the First Amendment which says th... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 12:34:48 PM
Sherwin:The Supremes did not rule on whether Ellsb... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:11:15 PM
Ellsberg attempted to get members of Congress to d... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:29:17 PM
During the Vietnam War Ellsberg was also viewed as... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:54:52 PM
There is substantial proof that the "system" does ... by Doc McCoy on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 8:15:11 PM
the prohibitions against abridging the freedoms of... by Mark Adams JD/MBA on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 10:39:27 AM
A traitor would have given the documents to China,... by Kevin Zeese on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:21:10 PM
I am not sure I understand the distinctioins being... by robert braunstein on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 7:49:14 PM
................... Thank you for a fine and enlig... by Robert P. Philipps on Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011 at 8:28:18 PM
From a former Y.I.P. Southeastern Minister of Com... by steveswimmer on Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011 at 8:11:06 AM
We should be giving Bradley Manning a medal for hi... by Ross Henry on Saturday, Jan 15, 2011 at 11:25:14 PM