Perhaps not since the French Dreyfus Affair in 1894 has any “treason” trial so captivated the imagination of the world as the Pentagon’s prosecution of PFC Bradley Manning.
Where Jewish artillery Captain Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly convicted of passing French military secrets to the Germans, and was, in fact, a passive, innocent victim of anti-Semitism, intelligence specialist Manning, age 24, appears to be a conscientious whistle-blower who, apparently, deliberately sent information to WikiLeaks that included the infamous 2007 video of U.S. helicopter gunship soldiers massacring a dozen unarmed civilians in Baghdad, including a reporter for Reuters news service and his driver, and wounding two children.
It is Manning’s exposure of the Pentagon’s criminal conduct that the Pentagon cannot forgive. It never punished the perpetrators of the Baghdad massacre but has instead come down like a Hellfire missile on Manning who, under any just system, would be honored for exposing the Pentagon’s crimes. Had Manning seen the Baghdad video and elected to remain silent, he very likely would be a free man today.
Captain Dreyfus was framed on trumped-up charges and sent to the infamous penal colony on Devil’s Island, French Guiana, where he was locked away in solitary confinement for nearly five years until the real traitor, Ferdinand Esterhazy, a French army officer, was unmasked. The prosecutors who framed Dreyfus knew he was innocent but at least went through the motions of a trial before hustling him off to prison, during which he stoically endured every humiliation.
The prosecutors of Manning, like the French High Command, also live with the knowledge of their guilt. They know that they are the ones responsible for the Baghdad massacre and much, much more. And that Manning’s alleged passing of secret documents to WikiLeaks, documents that cry out for publication, does not begin to compare with the Pentagon’s heinous crimes of torture and murder across the Middle East that have so revolted the sensible world.
Compare Manning’s act of conscience to expose criminality with President Obama’s regular authorization of murder warrants for terrorist “suspects,” who are hunted down and butchered by drone warships without ever seeing the inside of a court of law, a lawyer, or hearing any charges read against them. As for the president’s declaration that his kill orders are carefully drawn so that only the guilty are assassinated----given the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians murdered, including more than a hundred children---that has to be a flat-out lie.
A Pentagon that disgraces the American name by systemic acts of torture and murder also has zero respect for the canons of justice. In the Manning case, it dragged its legal feet for more than two and a half years before bringing Manning to trial, despite a law that mandates bringing the accused to trial in a maximum of 120 days.
All this time Manning was punished even though an accused man denied trial must be presumed innocent. So what good are laws if the Pentagon flouts them? Like some Mafia syndicate, the Pentagon wanted revenge---and they got it, forcing this prisoner of conscience to stand naked at roll call; hectoring him with needless questions every five minutes of the day, not allowing him to exercise in his cell, denying him the society of other human beings; confining him to a six-by-eight-foot cage like a zoo animal, ad nauseum.
Again, the Pentagon disregarded the recommendations of its own psychiatrist for less harsh treatment of Manning, and instead inflicted harsher treatment that was tantamount to torture. So why have Army psychiatrists at all if their recommendations are going to be stuffed down a rathole? Why have any legal procedures? Obviously, this reigning authority is lawless.
If the Pentagon hoped that, by confining him to solitary for long months, it could wear Manning down mentally so that he could not assist in his own defense, it failed. If the Pentagon hoped Manning, under unimaginable pressure, could be manipulated to say that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange conspired with him to reveal the government’s secret documents that told of its war crimes and so build a criminal case against Assange, it failed as well. Dreyfus was pardoned in 1899 by the president of France, something President Obama, now deeply involved in Pentagon criminality, is not likely to do for Manning.
The Dreyfus Affair should have warned the world that anti-Semitism was rampant in Europe at the turn of the 20th Century and that it would lead to unimagined horrors in the future that would claim millions of lives of Jews and Gentiles alike on battlefields and in extermination camps. While Dreyfus languished in prison, the prominent European writer Constantine Mille, described the anti-Dreyfus camp as a “military dictatorship,” Wikipedia notes.
Similarly, the Manning Affair should serve notice to the world that a new and sinister form of lawless fascism akin to military dictatorship has taken hold in the United States of America, one that has already led to the murder of millions of innocent victims from Vietnam to Afghanistan to Iraq to Pakistan, etc., and that now threatens all humanity from its thousand military overseas bases and trillion dollar warfare budget with the chains of global tyranny of the sort applied to Bradley Manning’s legs.
So far, however, the Pentagon has failed to reduce Manning's conscience to the level of its own. In this sense, Bradley Manning’s resistance to the war machine, without bending or breaking, without taking his own life, and retaining his sanity in the face of all provocation, is the living proof of a greater strength than the barbarism of the Pentagon warmongers and is an example of hope to his country and the world.