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Bradley Manning--A Case of Class-based Justice System

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Follow Me on Twitter     Message Mark Biskeborn

While U.S. leaders claim that the American military fights for American freedoms, Army Colonel Denise Lind, the judge in this case, nevertheless, allows military prosecutors to litigate secretly from public view. This is not surprising especially since U.S. citizens do not own and operate their own government like citizens do in real democracies.

Judge Lind would normally be a public servant in any free country; instead she functions as a tooth in the big bad gears of the military-industrial machinery. The prosecution's documents and other evidence filed in the case are not open to public view.

Judge Lind also keeps her trial orders "top secret." Somehow Judge Lind operates by an alternative set of laws since she obviously marches to the tune of her dictating chain of command. (1) She operates in a class-based judicial system and Bradley Manning lives in the lower class. So, Judge Lind follows procedures accordingly. She follows the rules of the powerful, not the rule of laws. She is a spoke in the powerful wheels of the big green machine that rolls over the First Amendment right of public access to criminal proceedings which applies both to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions and to courts-martials. (2)

On April 25, 2012, Judge Lind denied the defense motion to dismiss all 22 charges during a pretrial hearing in Bradley Manning's court martial. Defense Attorney Coombs, whose fees are paid by supporters, argued that the prosecution failed to follow discovery procedures for evidence. The Army still sniffs through the thousands of so-called "top secret" documents for a proof that Manning "willfully intended' that the leaks damaged U.S. interests. (3) Judge Lind has scheduled the trial from September to October this year, allotting the Army time to sift out a reason to throw away the key to Manning's cell.

Private First Class Bradley Manning, 24, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, was arrested at a U.S. base in Iraq on charges of leaking classified material to Wikileaks, a whistleblower website.(4) Manning sits in a cell since May 2010 without a trial. To date that's more than 700 days, including fourteen months of mind-bending solitary confinement from May 2010 until July 2011. That was solitary confinement with suicide prevention, meaning mostly without his clothes, making for a humiliating torture in the same ilk as at Guantanamo. According to most treatises--Geneva Convention, the UN, etc.--this is torture, war crimes, and grounds to throw out the case.
After protests from constitutional law groups, the Army moved Manning to a medium-security prison, allowing interaction with other "detainees," a term the government uses these days for people held indefinitely for "suspicions"--a perversion of fundamental American rights reflected in the totalitarian Patriot Act and the fascist NDAA of which the Taliban would be proud. (5) Several powerful people, including Pres. Obama, have already condemned Manning publicly. This is a grounds for dismissal.(6)

The Army got around to arraigning Manning in February 2012 with the most serious charges: communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source, and aiding the enemy, a capital offense. Military Prosecutors argue that the leaks helped al Qaeda. (7) So far the prosecutors say that they would not seek the death penalty.

Judge Lind knows how to play the political games. Like many others, she crawled her way up the military ladder to make colonel, inching her way now toward more power. She must have become one tough cookie, pursuing a career in an organization founded on testosterone-ladled machismo.

As an organization, the military is paradoxically the farthest thing from any whiff of democracy with its dictatorial and draconian chain of command that demands soldiers get the dirty work done--and even while it claims to protect American freedoms. And while many soldiers, like Manning, (8) increasingly see the U.S. invasions of the Middle East as a perversion of truth and of American values by dint of its secrecy, its use of torture, its murder of thousands of civilians of all ages.

The U.S. military along with its justice seems to enjoy taking exceptions to the law when it needs its top security in the politically darkened court room as well as out on battle fields made soggy by the blood for oil exchange. Some of the documents that Manning allegedly leaked include videos of Apache helicopters pilots killing unarmed Iraqis and Reuters journalists as if they were mere targets in a video game. (9) The secrecy of information in Manning's case and about everything else in these endless wars delivers an indictment against the U.S. systems of justice and governance by its massive volumes of secrets.

It was secrecy that enabled powerful people to demand that the U.S. military bomb more than 2 million Vietnamese and Cambodians, mostly rice farmers. Even big fancy U.S. aircraft that drop bombs from the sky can also commit terrorist actions. We cannot forget the Bay of Tonkin incident, a false-flag justification to initiate war in Vietnam. Likewise, the invasion of Iraq was planned in 1998, four years before 9/11, as part of the NPAC. (10) 

It just so happened that the 9/11/2001 disaster created the much needed false-flag justification to invade Iraq and Afghanistan in order to secure the oil reserves--even though applying the same money and effort to develop a clean energy industry would be a much more beneficial solution, not to mention moral. At the detriment of the world, the powerful people who own the status-quo oil industry have vested interests in acquiring and selling more oil even if it means killing for it.

Retaliation plays a part into this farcical prosecution of Manning because the classified documents, whoever leaked them, reveal the incompetence and bad faith of many powerful people as was the case in the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War. (11)  And since Daniel Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers leak, the military now stamps even its toilet paper as "top secret" to the point that the American public doesn't have the slightest clue about its country's history or what they pay in lives and taxes for wars.

The U.S. military has drifted away from its moorings to any accountability and far from the civilian world. (12) "A foreign policy based on secrets and spin has manifestly failed us. In a democracy, statecraft cannot function if it is shrouded in secrecy." (13) Perhaps the only way to regain a glimmer of democracy is to require a general election for all U.S. invasions, especially since the U.S. "elite" are totally incapable of foreign policy or domestic policy as well considering the financial terrorism on Wall Street.

With so much use of dark secrecy and manipulation of the laws and the media, powerful people crush the checks and balances like ugly road kill. Without proper oversight, regulations and investigations, America has become an empire in which we live not by rules of law, but by rules of powerful people.

In Glenn Greenwald's recent book, "With Liberty and Justice for Some," we find case after case revealing how powerful people apply the justice system differently for two social classes, the regular citizen, like Bradley Manning, and the powerful people, like G.W. Bush--the latter blatantly broke the law by colluding with telecommunication corporations to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens' emails and telephones in 2005--a serious crime--without the slightest legal action: (14) the problem extends well beyond such inequalities. The issue isn't just that those with political influence and financial power have some advantages in our judicial system. It is much worse than that. Those with political and financial clout are routinely allowed to break the law with no legal repercussions whatsoever." (15)

The case of Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame resembles the mirror inverse of Manning's case in several ways. (16) G. W. Bush and his cabinet had contracted Wilson, Plame's husband, to investigate the Nigerian government as a seller of (yellow cake) plutonium for Saddam Hussein's alleged WMD developments. When Wilson reported the truth that no such link between Niger and Iraq existed, the Bush cabinet retaliated by leaking Plame's cover as a secret CIA agent specialized in WMDs. Plame and Wilson called for an investigation, claiming that this leak put Plame and her informants and colleagues in a perilous situation.

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Mark Biskeborn is a novelist: Mojave Winds, A Sufi's Ghost, Mexican Trade. Short Stories: California & Beyond. Poetry & Essays. For more details: See Mark's stories on or wherever books are (more...)
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