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Try Robert Gates for Treason, Not Bradley Manning

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Bradley Manning has not been tried yet, although presumably his charges and the arguments against him will center around his disclosure of "classified information" in war time which in turn provides "'aid and comfort" to the enemy," the standard language for treason.  How interesting, then, that Pentagon generals will not be standing right next to him on the docket, for knowingly, repeatedly, and at this very moment allowing Department of Defense dollars to become a main source of funding for the Taliban, according to the Tierney report.   We must assume every penny of this money goes toward roadside bombs, supplies, and more and better ways of killing American troops. 

Ironically Manning's strange journey began with uncovering just this kind of corruption in Iraq, when he was assigned to evaluate the arrest of 15 Iraqis rounded up by the Iraqi Federal Police for printing "anti Iraq" literature. He told Adrian Lamos in an email:

"The Iraqi federal police wouldn't cooperate with U.S. forces, so I was instructed to investigate the matter, find out who the "bad guys' were, and how significant this was for the Federal Police."

But when he had the literature translated, he discovered it was a scholarly critique of Iraq Prime Minister Al-Maliki titled "Where Did the Money Go?"  The document was nothing more than a "benign political critique" following the corruption trail within the PM's cabinet.  Manning wrote:

"I immediately took that information and ran to the [U.S. Army] officer to explain what was going on. He didn't want to hear any of it. He told me to shut up and explain how we could assist the FPs in finding MORE detainees."

In other words, they told him to go find more Iraqi whistleblowers who were attempting to clean up their government and find out where money was going which was supposed to be helping their people.  Manning wrote:

"Everything started slipping after that. I saw things differently. I had always questioned the [way] things worked, and investigated to find the truth. But that was a point where I was a part of something. I was actively involved in something that I was completely against."

A congressional subcommittee has reached the conclusion that the Pentagon is knowingly providing major support for the Taliban, ignoring hundreds of complaints from Afghan trucking contractors, who are being forced to pay massive "protection payments" to insurgents in order to avoid attacks on convoys carrying US military supplies to American bases.  The Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, chaired by Rep. John Tierney, interviewed dozens of witnesses in Dubai, including contracting officers of the 484th Joint Movement Control Battalion, and Afghan truck contractors who "self-reported."   The truck contractors who self-reported had already complained to the US military about the protection payments to insurgents. The committee gathered over 25,000 pages of documents.  The report is entitled "Warlord Inc."

The amount estimated as income to the Taliban using figures given in the report is as much as $400 million per year. For comparison purposes, the Taliban's opium profits are estimated at $300 million per year.  

Knowledge of the practice has run all the way up the chain of command, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telling Congress in testimony last June:

   "You offload a ship in Karachi [Pakistan] and by the time whatever it is you know, muffins for our soldiers' breakfasts or anti-IED equipment gets to where we're headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."

Any true breach of national security should be prosecutable.  But these facts on the ground indicate that is not what Manning's trial is about, just as the Nixon administration held that Daniel Ellsberg was committing treason when what he was really doing was embarrassing the government.

It's not about national security.  It's not even about winning a war.  It's about keeping it going, for the juicy contracts, steady profits, and rising stock prices (InvestingDaily: "How to Profit from the War in Afghanistan".)

At this moment Manning is being held in isolation (no matter what the military calls it) under conditions designed to break his mind.  He has been in a 6ft by 12ft cell for 23 hours a day for eight months now, forbidden to exercise in his cell, with no sight of daylight or natural rhythms, no clock, constant silence except for 1 hour of "approved" television per day, no personal items (such as photos of loved ones,) constant light.  If he begins to nap between the hours of 5a.m. and 8p.m., will is made to sit up or stand.  If he begins to do push-ups or any kind of exercise he is forced to stop.  His one hour of "exercise" outside of his cell consists of walking figure eights in shackles, in a dog cage.  He can receive no mail that is not on an "approved" list, and if he does he must sign a rejection form.  The letter is then either returned or destroyed.  His reading is limited to what a Marine "literary board" approves.  

Under a bogus "prevention of injury" watch a guard must ask him every 5 minutes "are you ok?" to which he must answer affirmatively.  At night when he tries to sleep, if his face is not clearly visible, he must be awakened and his face turned clearly in the proper direction.  His friend David House who visits him reports that Manning's physical appearance and behavior have changed, and that he has trouble "focusing" on some subjects.

Bradley Manning, like any of us, is supposed to be presumed innocent until found guilty, and has not been convicted of a solitary thing.  

If guarding our national security is the reason he is on trial, and it may be so, then only one conclusion is possible.  For aiding and assisting the enemy, to the tune of up to $400 million per year every penny of which is devoted to paying for roadside bombs and more and better ways of killing American troops in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates must be sitting right next to him.

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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