April 21, 2015
War Against War: A Meditation on Bradley Manning’s Mind
Posted on Jun 2, 2011
By Scott Tucker
Obama told the whole nation, “He broke the law.” Well, say no more. Obama was once a teacher of constitutional law, but now he has become the Public Prosecutor in Chief against a prisoner, Bradley Manning, who had already been stripped naked under “suicide watch” in a military prison. Under increasing international protest and pressure, the authorities later transferred Manning from Quantico, Va., to Leavenworth, Kan.—by all accounts, a milder regime.
Under such conditions, Manning’s mind may truly fracture. If they keep him in jail for 10, 20 or 30 years—or for life under the charge of treason—yes, he may truly lose his mind. Or else he must cultivate patience and fierce clarity, even to survive day by day. Predictably, some folks on the far right (including that preacher of capitalism and Christian love, Mike Huckabee) have demanded Manning’s execution.
Concluding that Manning “was probably not fit for overseas duty” is breathtaking! Yes, this oracular wisdom comes from “progressive” venues such as “Frontline” and The Guardian, and was then paraphrased on Truthdig. As Susie Day, a lesbian writer who is no friend of empire, wrote to me, “The whole fakakta-osity of this b’cast wasn’t only showing Manning as infantilized and unstable; look at the ‘friends’ they got to talk about him—and his father’s the one who belongs in prison; he obviously has such contempt for a kid who, surrounded by such dolts, did well to survive.” Manning has indeed done more practical good in the fight against war and empire than the great majority of “pragmatic” bleeding hearts will ever do by voting as instructed by MSNBC, The Nation and deadbeat Democrats in Washington.
On May 27 I wrote back to Susie Day about the “Frontline” show, “If there were hours enough, I might write a short Truthdig piece pointing out that plenty of queer viewers (and smart straight folks) will NOT have seen Manning through that lens.” Little did I know then that the “Frontline” view of Manning would then become the basic story for a video reporter at The Guardian! When I got that piece of news through Truthdig, then I was obliged to make time to write this article—longer than I first had in mind, but I am now moved by further evidence and by indignation. And by real concern that Manning is being reduced to a figure viewed through the keyhole of the mass media. Indeed, The Guardian video opens with a s-l-o-o-o-w pan of Bradley Manning at a party full of hipsters and computer hackers, where he looks like a clean-cut choirboy.
Square, Site wide
That bit of film was lifted from a video taken by someone at the party, and became one of the most telling moments in the “Frontline” story. An editorial decision was made at “Frontline” to slow down the moment when Manning looks at the camera and flirtatiously passes his hand over his hair. Given the slow-motion treatment and the voice-over commentary, Manning’s gender-bending bit of fun was then reframed as another piece in the puzzle of his troubled mind. Indeed, this becomes another piece of evidence that Manning was “unfit” to serve in the military. The Guardian simply could not resist opening its own story with the same slow-motion panning of Manning.
But is Manning truly “guilty as charged”? We do not really know for sure. After all, he has not yet had his “day in court,” though he has already done hard time in prison. If Bradley Manning broke ranks with war and empire, then thank God (and all the fairies in Bradley’s bonnet) that he was truly fit to tear down the public veil of illusions concerning Alpha Male high-tech killers and the commander in chief.
What makes any person “fit” to win the White House nowadays? From now till kingdom come—if we, the people, are too jaded or too distracted to care—the job description should be spelled out in bold legal print: “Only social climbers willing to rise on a mountain of corpses need apply.”
The first political group I ever joined was the War Resisters League. When I later became a socialist (after my anarchist years as a teenager), this call to action worked its way under my skin as I pondered the real implications of a class-conscious fight against imperial adventures of all kinds: “War against war!” What does war against war really mean? Not one bloody vote and not one bloody cent for the parties of war and empire! That is, for starters, the negative program.
War against war does not mean we volunteer to be shot down by offering the government the provocation of taking up weapons. Violence is an abyss, and we do not show courage by jumping into an open grave. Resistance, however, can take a thousand forms that do not depend on brute force. The war against war must therefore be grounded in ethics, and guided by daily enlightenment. War against war means this government can no longer depend—smugly and brutally—on the uncontested consent of the governed.
A class-conscious struggle against the corporate state is also a struggle against war and empire. If this government makes the free election of real democrats and of socialists impossible, then we, the people, have the right and duty to elect ourselves as public citizens; and to begin creating a new republic founded upon peace, social wealth, ethical obligation, ecological sanity, and the solidarity of labor across all borders. Every workplace is potentially a free council of workers; every street and neighborhood is potentially a public space of freedom.
In Europe, many thousands of working people have already taken to the streets against the austerity programs imposed by parties of the earnest right and the bogus left. What we may call the political warm spring in Europe may yet become a hot summer. In Greece, workers and students waged a general strike, and in Spain they still occupy public squares—recently braving an assault by riot police swinging shields and truncheons against citizens who peacefully linked arms in a mass sit-down protest in Barcelona. We, too, have a history of urban general strikes in this country, and of class-conscious struggles against war and corporate rule. This government depends on our obedience, but our lives depend on open rebellion. Start small and start now.
Footnote: When I speculate about possible detention at an airport, that may suggest paranoia even to some readers who consider themselves civil libertarians. Anyone with a political arrest record (mine is pretty long) has to consider the possibility. And in fact reality is way ahead of my speculation, as a report from Courage to Resist will confirm (click here). That story goes back to November 2010 and concerns an associate of Bradley Manning, David House, who hopes Manning gets a fair trial. House, who is also associated with the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained at O’Hare Airport, and his laptop computer and other electronic gear were confiscated. The ACLU argued that House’s First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
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