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War Against War: A Meditation on Bradley Manning’s Mind
Posted on Jun 2, 2011
“Bradley Manning’s Mind.” I took a deep breath when I read that title over this brief item recently posted on Truthdig:
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Without our defense, a prisoner such as Bradley Manning is defenseless against the media, the military and the government. We can at least spread the word about the Bradley Manning Support Network.
There has already been online discussion among gay folks and the queer left about the “Frontline” show that pathologized Manning, and now The Guardian video report features a soldier with blurred face saying Manning pissed in his pants and curled up on his bunk “in a fetal position.” Maybe he did, after being repeatedly insulted and assaulted by fellow soldiers, by the account of this same anonymous informant.
Why is Manning’s mind the only relevant site of weakness, disability and pathology in the big media stories so far? Why not the sorry condition of our corporate state passing as a democratic republic? And maybe the “Frontline” program, which was distributed through the Public Broadcasting Service, and The Guardian should have given us a fuller picture of the motivations that drove their own reporters to recycle the official military narrative about Bradley Manning.
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What is the “normal” psychology of soldiers entitled to beat up someone because he’s not much above 5 feet tall and gay? Why not question what the hell is in the minds of “progressives” who will vote by rote for Barack Obama in 2012, even though he just signed an extension of the Patriot Act? Obama was far away from Washington when he used a high-tech version of the autopen (invented by Thomas Jefferson) to ratchet up surveillance of potential traitors and terrorists. In this way the corporate state casts a dumbfounding spell over the Democratic Party, but Obama’s keenest partisans can always claim that the devil made him do it. Necessity is thus the mother of “pragmatism.” The Patriot Act truly makes patriotism the last refuge of scoundrels.
A shame, really, that only Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., held out so stubbornly against the bipartisan majority on the issue of individual rights. Above all, gun rights! As Corey Boles reported in Dow Jones Newswires on May 27, “Before they moved to a vote to finalize the legislation, lawmakers first had to deal with a Paul amendment that would have excluded gun sales from law enforcement officials’ ability to monitor business transactions. Paul said this was a violation of individual rights protected by the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”
Ultimately, 22 senators joined Paul in voting against the bill. (In the House of Representatives, 250 voted “yes” and 153 voted “no.”) Rand Paul is an Ayn Randian in the realm of economics, and he argued in Congress that demanding “the right to health care” means demanding the “slavery” of nurses and doctors. The “principled” opposition to the Patriot Act extension was thus spearheaded by a true believer in Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman. Yet the erosion of civil liberties is one ripe consequence of the very class system defended in Congress by Rand Paul, and by his “libertarian” father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas. This erosion has advanced under both Republican and Democratic presidents. If an officially Libertarian president was elected, the real cost of the “free market” would still be gated communities for the rich and a strip-mined planet for the poor.
What about the faction that passes for the left wing of the Democrats in Congress, and what about their loyal base of voters? Did they lose their wits when the blade of a guillotine dropped all at once? No, on the contrary, a whole generation of “progressive” frogs got boiled alive one degree at a time, so they just had the strength for a croaking chorus while they thought they were getting an uncomfortably hot bath. And then that Jeffersonian autopen was wielded by the candidate of “hope and change,” a fine finishing touch to the slow crash and burn of the American republic.
Already some “progressives” are claiming the next election will be a referendum on racism, and no doubt they will be right since every big election in this country is always about both race and class. But it does not follow that Obama’s loyalists are thinking clearly about the racial construction of class politics, or that the first black president has the nerve to command his generals or to challenge the corporate state. In this respect, Obama is not much different than any other Clintonista would have been in the Oval Office, including Hillary Clinton. The testy relations between Obama and the Clintons come down to party faction fights, and not to deep disagreements on domestic and foreign policy.
The refusal to think clearly about class politics will lead us instead to think that a shattered “glass ceiling” in a corporation or in Congress or in the White House is as good or better than an uprising of class-conscious workers from below. That is precisely the level of class consciousness among so many status-conscious cultural entrepreneurs, Ivy League political imbeciles and Democratic Party apparatchiks.
Once upon a time, Bill Clinton became “our first black president,” and white liberals had full permission to be the echo chamber of words that were launched in public by novelist Toni Morrison, an African-American, writing in The New Yorker in October 1998:
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