The great British thinker George Orwell wrote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
These days, however, North America’s media has been doing just the opposite, promoting the current government party line supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I’ve always felt special kinship for free thinkers, rebels and heretics. That’s why I am drawn to the plight of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning.
The 22-year old U.S. Army intelligence analyst, who was based in Afghanistan, caused a worldwide furor by releasing to the Internet site WikiLeaks secret U.S. military logs that exposed ugly truths about the brutal conflict in Afghanistan, including widespread killing of civilians and corruption.
To again quote Orwell, “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”
Manning also released a suppressed tape of a U.S. Army helicopter gunship killing two Reuters journalists and a civilian. The Pentagon had denied the attack took place.
A civilian hacker employed by a shadowy U.S. government intelligence “contractor” spying on the Internet turned Manning in to the U.S. Army.
Revenge was swift. Manning was thrown into solitary confinement and faces a long prison term. His case recalls another courageous whistleblower, Israeli technician Mordechai Vanunu, who revealed Israel’s large nuclear arsenal, was kidnapped by the Mossad, served 17 years in solitary confinement and still remains a semi-prisoner today in Israel.
Manning’s revelations produce fury on America’s pro-war right. One Republican Congressman called for the young private to face the death penalty for treason. The media blamed Manning’s being homosexual, a loner or maladjusted for his actions. The Soviets used to lock away dissidents and critics in mental institutions as “anti-state elements.”
American neoconservatives and the pro-war media tried to divert attention by trumpeting the plight of a wretched Afghan girl whose nose had been cut off by her backward tribal in-laws.
This crime was immediately blamed without evidence on the Taliban and served up as the reason why the Western powers had to garrison Afghanistan. She was turned into a pro-war martyr.
No pictures of Afghans blown to bits or maimed by U.S. bombs were published. There was no mention of the paramount role of Caspian oil or Afghan gas in this war.
Interestingly, last spring, in response to Europe’s growing opposition to the Afghan War, the CIA reportedly advised NATO the best way to keep marketing the Afghan War to the public was to claim it was a crusade to protect women’s rights.
Inconveniently, the West’s allies in the Afghan War – Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara – often mistreat their women just as harshly as the mostly Pashtun Taliban.
When I served in the U.S. Army, we were taught it was our duty to report up the chain of command all violations of the Geneva Conventions and war crimes. These offenses included killing civilians, torture, reprisals, and executions.
Pvt. Manning reportedly warned his superiors of just such crimes committed in Afghanistan by some U.S. forces and their local allies and mercenaries.
The Barack Obama administration, which has adopted the Afghan War as its own, has been sharply embarrassed by the “WikiLeak” affair. The once anti-war candidate Obama is now increasingly seen as a pro-war president who may indefinitely keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan and probably Iraq.
Manning’s motivations for whistle-blowing matter not. What matters is that he revealed to the public the brutal nature of the war in Afghanistan and the bodyguard of lies protecting it from public scrutiny. If Americans and Europeans really knew the truth of this resource-driven war and its carefully concealed cost, they would end it very quickly.
*Eric Margolis is a U.S. journalist who reported from the Middle East and Asia for nearly two decades. This column originally appeared on the Khaleej Times website.
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