2011-05-28 This Week in WikiLeaks - One Year Since Bradley Manning's Arrest

This week the program marks the one year anniversary of Bradley Manning's arrest. Joining the weekly podcast is Kevin Zeese, who is a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network Steering Committee.

In the past week, there were two documentaries (or films) that went public, which portrayed Bradley Manning. One was the PBS FRONTLINE documentary (which I had much to say about and even went on RT's "The Alyona Show" to discuss). Another was an investigative short film put together by The Guardian. Zeese addresses both of those.

We also discuss how the Bradley Manning case fits into the general war on whistleblowing that the Obama Administration appears to be waging.

This is Part 1. A Part 2 will be posted soon and features more discussion from Pakistan blogger Raza Rumi on the Pakistan Papers.

To listen to the show, click play on the embedded player below. Or, go to CMN News and click "download" or "listen." It will appear at the top of the page or in the list.


KEVIN GOSZTOLA, host: We’ve had this WikiSecrets documentary that PBS FRONTLINE put together and it opens with Bradley Manning. It portrays Bradley Manning. It presents these mental health issues that he was experiencing. And, I just would like your reaction to how they were presenting his story in this documentary and perhaps even what it says about his connection to WikiLeaks.

KEVIN ZEESE, Manning Support Network Steering Committee member: I’m not sure what it says about his connection to WikiLeaks. I think that’s a big unknown that the government is trying to figure out. I think that’s what a lot of the solitary confinement was about to try to pressure Manning into implicating Julian Assange but we’ll see how that plays out.

My reaction to the various documentaries, the FRONTLINE one and the Guardian one—the Guardian one was actually better but the FRONTLINE in particular—was that this was the work of the government. This was essentially character assassination in preparation for trial. They almost never use the word alleged or accused but just assumed he was guilty. So, throughout the show, there’s only I think one person near the end who says alleged and that’s David House. So I think there’s a real effort on behalf of the government—and PBS is totally funded by the government and corporate interests. That’s there they get their money from. Small donations don’t make it works. So I think there’s an effort by the government and corporations to convict Manning in the media and make him out to be a nut.

What I find interesting, and this starts to come out in the Guardian version, is that some of his colleagues who allegedly bullied him to the point of break down almost. But, a lot of these guys that were in the military just sat around and watched videos of Americans killing civilians. And they’re the ones making him out to be crazy. To me, there is something seriously wrong with the American military if you have people who are holding up mutilated bodies, showing trophies from mutilated bodies and you have people taking pleasure on Abu Ghraib, torturing other humans. There’s something seriously sick in the military that is being shown by these kinds of actions and Manning’s colleagues just sitting around and watching videos of death and destruction, US military killing civilians, very weird. And, they point to Manning being the sick one.

The accuser in this case—the people who are doing the accusing of Manning—of course are in an environment where Manning is hated by the military because he’s accused of exposing war crimes, misbehavior, other kinds of criminal behavior by military officials and State Department officials. So, he’s hated where he is. So, there’s no retribution for speaking negatively about Bradley Manning. I’m sure there would be retribution for speaking positively about him. If anyone said, thanks to him now the country knows what we’re doing and maybe something will change. If someone said that, there would be problems in the military.

And on the other hand Manning can’t speak for himself and so it’s really shameful for the media to be beating up on Manning the way they are doing, sometimes with anonymous military people, making accusation he can’t respond to. And the real sad thing is they’re not focusing on what the documents show. The documents really show not just a few bad apples but a totally bad crate of apples. The whol thing is a mess. That’s what’s good about WikiLeaks publishing so many of the documents, to give a full context so people can see the good, the bad, the ugly and the illegal. So we have the full context.

How widespread is the problem in the US military? And frankly as we see more of these stories coming out about Manning and hear what his colleagues are doing, it’s even more widespread than what the documents show. It’d be great if the media get beyond their desire to figure out why Manning did what he did. And I think there’s an understandable desire there. People are curious as to why someone would do this. But, I think if you look at the documents themselves, look at the videos themselves, the reason why someone would do this is pretty evident.

GOSZTOLA: In the documentary they pretty much omit any examination of whether he would have been motivated by like social justice or moral values. They don’t really talk about what he would have seen in Iraq even though I note that Micah Sifry—he wrote this whole book called “The Age of Transparency”—and he was writing about how Bradley Manning saw detainees being mistreated and there was something he was being asked to do and I was just wondering if you could speak to how this plays into the whole case and the story, how they are just ignoring that there would have been any chance that he would have been compelled by social justice.

ZEESE: That’s exactly right. The social justice aspect of this is the dominant aspect. And even the way he was treated as a gay man in the military is part of that social justice question to me. That makes some sensible connection to me. But, the war crimes that were going on in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of this release and prior to this release were really widespread. We only got the tip of the iceberg with Abu Ghraib. There were multiple black prison sites. There were kill teams going out assassinating and targeting people. The Afghanistan—Thousands of pictures. Der Spiegel has 4,000 photos of Americans posing with dead bodies. So, we’re dealing with a widespread situation of war crimes that’s not being reported.

I thought it was interesting in the FRONTLINE story how near the end they did a nice job of talking about Egypt and the Arab Spring and the role that the WikiLeaks documents played in that and even had a New York Times reporter saying on balance it’s probably a good thing that the documents were released just for the change it’s creating. But, they never discuss US behavior. Okay, talk about Mubarak and Tunisia. But how about US behavior? How about Hillary Clinton ordering all US diplomats to spy illegally on UN officials when they are in New York City? How about the civilian deaths that have been unreported and the various massacres of civilians where the locals said one thing and the US said another thing and now the documents show that the US knew they were lying? I mean, so many examples of misbehavior and war crimes that were ignored.

And I think that’s the real story out of these documents. I think that will be the real story in history. I think when people look back on this 50 years from now they will look back with a historian’s perspective. Books will be written that will go through these documents and show the types of war crimes that were being committed by the United States. And in history, Bradley Manning will be probably more heroic than Daniel Ellsberg because he’s facing a much more serious situation in a military court that already has the commander-in-chief labeling him guilty. And Obama will look very bad in history because of this.