The only "enemy" Bradley Manning was aiding by leaking what he did was the American people -- that is, in the logic of the court martial judge.
We now have clarity from a full-bird colonel in judicial robes that Bradley Manning is to be charged with "aiding the enemy." OK, not much of a surprise here. Colonel Denise Lind's ruling seems pretty predictable.
Her ruling may make things simple for all the right-leaning pod-people who salute everything a field grade military officer says, but for the rest of us, it raises a profound and rather perplexing question: Exactly who is the "enemy" in this case?
Court martial brass and Colonel Denise Lind, lower right, and Pvt. Manning by Clark Stroekley drawings
The military and intelligence agency brass and their enablers will tell you it's some nefarious and nebulous network called al Qaeda, which we should all know is by now a substitute for our old Cold War enemies and fictional entities like Spectre in the original Ian Fleming spy pulps. That is, al Qaeda has become The Boogie Man.
American patriots on the right will get no argument from me that there are, indeed, people and affiliations that mean real harm to Americans (including me) and that we need to protect ourselves from them. But that doesn't address the question whether al Qaeda and other "terrorist" groups are being exploited as the boogie man for the convenience of the Pentagon, the CIA, NSA and demagogues like New York Congressman Peter King.
I fear a lot of "the hunt for al Qaeda" narrative is standard militarist fear-mongering employed to justify embarrassing and often illegal secret behavior that would shrivel up if it were really exposed to the light of day. Boogie men like al Qaeda are also useful to advance the careers and interests of the usual gang of capitalists and oppressive wealthy dominators that made this nation what it is today -- the nation that Bill O'Reilly was wondering the other night might be going down the tubes like Old Rome.
To understand exactly who "the enemy" is in this case, it seems logical to, first, ask who it was Bradley Manning intended to benefit by leaking all that information to WikiLeaks. I'm not sure whether Colonel Lind asked young Manning this, but I doubt it. From his statements and from all that I can glean from following the case in the press -- I and other journalists have not had the opportunity to interview Manning -- the key reason he leaked all that information, including a damning video of US Apache helicopters gunning down a Reuters cameraman and another Reuters employee and embarrassing leaks of back-channel State Department cables, was to share it with the American people.
If any credence is given to the accused man's own admissions, which seem absolutely plausible to me, it would seem logical that, from the military's point of view, the American people are the enemy in this syllogism.
I realize for anyone to conceive of this as a serious analysis as to who the enemy is in this case, one has to be skeptical of our US military and intelligence apparatus circa 2013. Those captivated by the military and its mystique will obviously sputter and groan and see such an analysis as the ravings of a lunatic left-wing journalist. They will also imply, without, of course, openly saying it, that such an analysis is pointless because they -- the military and intelligence complex -- have young Manning by the you-know-whats. If I'm allowed to put words in their mouth, they might put it this way:
"Eat your hearts out, you left-wing, pinko fags. We have him totally under our control. And we're gonna do with him as we wish. And, right now, we wish to try him as if he was a raghead in a cave in the tribal areas of Pakistan. So demonstrate all you want. There's nothing you can do about it."
The US military/intelligence apparatus realizes in post-9/11 political America they trump pretty much everything. They're the Big Dog. If it involves lethal weapons or snooping into your private life, it's OK with them. You can't be too safe when those al Qaeda characters are out there and Sharia Law threatens our precious bodily fluids.
Thanks to all the revelations of Edward Snowden, who no doubt Colonel Lind would rule was also aiding al Qaeda, we now know our military/intelligence apparatus was chumping the American people. Just recall the NSA boss who stood up in Congress with stars all over his epaulets and swore on a Bible. I think this sums up his testimony: "Spying on you? Us? Are you kidding? We work for you."
It was thanks to the devil-incarnate Snowden that the American people and the world learned they've actually been recording and storing the "meta-data" of our phone calls for some time -- just in case, so later when the racing technological capacity catches up to their huge, unprecedented ocean of data on you and me they will be able to analyze and fiddle with all that data. Why isn't that very comforting?
As a journalist who writes opinion pieces like the one you are now reading, all this is getting pretty worrisome. When you link it with the fact a Fox News commentator -- Ralph Peters -- is actually pushing the idea that in the future journalists and reporters will have to be seen as "lethal combatants" in our wars, you realize all this is no longer a fever dream on the left and that we're really on a slippery slope. Unless someone can turn it around, it could easily lead to a very unhealthy and dangerous place of no return. The fever dream is now on the right, which in conjunction with a super-secret military and intelligence apparatus clearly has the power to run roughshod in the future.
To any reasonable journalist, Bradley Manning is nothing more than a whistleblower with an axe to grind willing to leak information. This is how things evolve and change. In this view, the widest possible sharing of information is good. The idea that Manning was "aiding the enemy" and, thus, was being subversive in a treasonous and criminal fashion is a case of slipping farther down that dangerous slippery slope.
In a world of super-secret military and intelligence capabilities, on one hand, and a public pacified by marketing, public relations, entertainment and special effects, on the other, the notion of democracy begins to seem a bit quaint and nostalgic.
It's thanks to courageous people like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden that we, the American people, know a little more than we would if they had not done what they did. What they did makes us all just a little better informed in the arena of democracy. What they did has nothing to do with what Colonel Lind was thinking when she charged Manning with "aiding the enemy" -- ie. al Qaeda, Hezbollah or the Earth Liberation Front.
It's clear who, in this case, the government, the military, the CIA and the NSA see as "the enemy."
I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and political activist. I have been a member of Veterans For Peace for 30 years. I think America and Americans are living through a complex cultural and economic reckoning we do not fully understand. I'm convinced we, as Americans, need to re-evaluate who we are and, in the process, ratchet down the imperial world policeman role we too often take for granted. A nation of our size must stay engaged diplomatically in the world and protect ourselves from attack. But for our own good and the good of the world, we need to better look after our own nation's problems. I like good writing, good film, good music and good times. I drink alcohol and, yes, smoke a doobie now and then quite responsibly. I say this publicly because I think the Drug War is an abject and hypocritical failure. I taught writing in a Philly prison for 12 years and met too many poor, African American kids stuck in there for some stupid drug crime. I'm a committed pragmatist who actually subscribes to the old right-wing formula: My Country Right Or Wrong. When our government is wrong, which it is a lot of the time, I'm happy to say it. And I plan to stick around.