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Blood on Whose Hands?
Posted on Jan 21, 2012
By Chase Madar, TomDispatch
It’s worth noting that, until the moment Goitein made this charge, not a single report or press release issued by the Brennan Center has ever so much as uttered a mention of civilian casualties caused by the U.S. military. The absence of civilian casualties is almost palpable in the work of the Brennan Center’s program in “Liberty and National Security.” For example, this program’s 2011 report “Rethinking Radicalization,” which explored effective, lawful ways to prevent American Muslims from turning terrorist, makes not a single reference to the tens of thousands of well-documented civilian casualties caused by American military force in the Muslim world, which according to many scholars is the prime mover of terrorist blowback. The report on how to combat the threat of Muslim terrorists, written by Pakistan-born Faiza Patel, does not, in fact, even contain the words “Iraq,” “Afghanistan,” “drone strike,” “Pakistan” or “civilian casualties.”
This is almost incredible, because terrorists themselves have freely confessed that what motivated their acts of wanton violence has been the damage done by foreign military occupation back home or simply in the Muslim world. Asked by a federal judge why he tried to blow up Times Square with a car bomb in May 2010, Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad answered that he was motivated by the civilian carnage the U.S. had caused in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. How could any report about “rethinking radicalization” fail to mention this? Although the Brennan Center does much valuable work, Goitein’s selective finger-pointing on civilian casualties is emblematic of a blindness to war’s consequences widespread among American institutions.
American Military Whistleblowers
Knowledge may indeed have its risks, but how many civilian deaths can actually be traced to the WikiLeaks revelations? How many military deaths? To the best of anyone’s knowledge, not a single one. After much huffing and puffing, the Pentagon has quietly denied—and then denied again—that there is any evidence at all of the Taliban targeting the Afghan civilians named in the leaked war logs.
In the end, the “grave risks” involved in the publication of the War Logs and of those State Department documents have been wildly exaggerated. Embarrassment, yes. A look inside two grim wars and the workings of imperial diplomacy, yes. Blood, no.
On the other hand, the grave risks that were hidden in those leaked documents, as well as in all the other government distortions, cover-ups, and lies of the past decade, have been graphically illustrated in aortal red. The civilian carnage caused by our rush to war in Iraq and by our deeply entrenched stalemate of a war in Afghanistan (and the Pakistani tribal borderlands) is not speculative or theoretical but all-too real.
And yet no one anywhere has been held to much account: not in the political class, not in the military, not in the think tanks, not among the scholars, nor the media. Only one individual, it seems, will pay, even if he actually spilled none of the blood. Our foreign policy elites seem to think Bradley Manning is well-cast for the role of fall guy and scapegoat. This is an injustice.
Someday, it will be clearer to Americans that Pfc. Manning has joined the ranks of great American military whistleblowers like Dan Ellsberg (who was first in his class at Marine officer training school); Vietnam War infantryman Ron Ridenhour, who blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre; and the sailors and marines who, in 1777, reported the torture of British captives by their politically connected commanding officer. These servicemen, too, were vilified in their times. Today, we honor them, as someday Pfc. Manning will be honored.
Chase Madar is the author of “The Passion of Bradley Manning,” to be published by OR Books in February. He is an attorney in New York, a TomDispatch regular, and a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, Le Monde Diplomatique, American Conservative Magazine, and CounterPunch. (To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Madar discusses the coming trial of Bradley Manning, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) He tweets @ChMadar.
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Copyright 2012 Chase Madar
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