"The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong. . . that we have been detrimental to . . .life . . . . The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways," said Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. when speaking of the Vietnam War.
The documents that Bradley Manning has been accused of leaking sharpen the demands of the world upon America and upon ourselves. The classified documents describe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as diplomatic cables that show how United States conducts foreign policy. They show a nation that bullies, threatens, blackmails, spies, wantonly kills civilians and commits wars of aggression -" if the U.S. were not the world's lone superpower it would be considered a rogue state.
Even in the era of Martin Luther King he described the United States as "a society gone mad on war" and "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." As then, the responsibility is that of the American people to correct. As King said of Vietnam "The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."
So, on Martin Luther King Day I joined 200 people at the Quantico Marine Base where Bradley Manning, an American citizen not convicted of anything, is being held in solitary confinement, not allowed to exercise in his 6 by 12 foot cell, not given a real pillow or blanket, with no contact with others except guards who make sure he does not sleep during the day after they wake him up at 5 in the morning.
Manning is a patriot. He is not accused of giving documents demonstrating criminal and unethical actions by the U.S. to Iran, China or Russia, instead, if the allegations against him are true, he gave them to the media so the American people could learn what its government was doing. He could have sold the documents to the highest bidder, but instead, he allegedly gave them for free to the media. He could have published them verbatim and put Americans at risk, but instead by allegedly gave them to the media he ensured professional journalists would review them, verify them and weigh their release with national security concerns.
Some argue that Manning should have gone through the chain of command. In fact, he tried. When he first saw 15 Iraqis being tortured by the Iraqi government the U.S. put in power and protects he examined the case and discovered they were being tortured for publishing a scholarly article asking where the money in Iraq went. He brought this to his commander who told him to shut up and round up more Iraqis. Then he saw on the computer screen widespread war crimes. He saw that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton turned the State Department into a nest of spies that violated the law by spying on UN diplomats. If the criminality goes to the Secretary of State, what is the use of going up the chain of command?
And, look what the Obama administration has done in response to war crimes. When it came to torture, President Obama and his Justice Department said they did not want to look back, but only wanted to look forward, and decided not to prosecute those who committed torture. When the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility recommended recommending disbarring lawyers who produced legal memoranda to provide false cover for torture, they decided to ignore that recommendation and take no action against the torture lawyers. When a judge held that CIA officers who destroyed evidence, video tapes of torture, we in contempt of court the administration decided not to prosecute.
Now, just as in the time of Dr. King, we must conclude as he did, "my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents." Americans of today bear the responsibility for the actions of our government. In a representative democracy the people are responsible for the actions of the government. Now that WikiLeaks has published official reports documenting war crimes, other crimes, unethical behavior and deception of Americans and others, we now know what our government is doing and bear the responsibility to end it.