In May 2010, Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division, was arrested on suspicion of leaking nearly half a million government documents, including the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ gunsight video and 260,000 State Department cables.
After nine months in solitary confinement, he awaits court-martial in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is 24 and from Crescent, Oklahoma. Bradley Manning’s mother, Susan, is from Wales and Bradley attended secondary school in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire.
You could say that his mistreatment was made easier for a society that barely tolerates homosexuality and certainly not atheism to point to Bradley’s alleged ‘character faults’ as reason for his decision to act on his conscience and disclose thousands of documents – many of which, lest we forget, weren’t even classified.
Easier for the US authorities to scapegoat Bradley Manning than to stare into the abyss of their own foreign policy. In the past 12 years that policy has allowed for the invasion of foreign countries, the extra-judicial kidnap and torture of non-nationals, and the ignoring and cover-up of the torture, rape and murder engaged in by service personnel in foreign lands.
US author visits Cardiff
Chase Madar, the New York-based lawyer and writer whose feature writing in defence of the incarcerated whistleblower has since grown into a book, The Passion of Bradley Manning, sees his case very much as an opportunity to explore these wider moral and legal issues which have haunted the US since 9/11 and the inception of the ‘war on terror’.
Madar arrived in Cardiff in early May to speak to an audience in the national assembly for Wales about those very issues. He has analysed the culture around classifying documents and found it obsessive, with Washington classifying some 92 million documents in 2011 alone.
Madar has noted the failure of the early promise of the Obama administration, the way the legal system is skewed to suit those in authority, and the shaping of public opinion to avoid the tricky fundamentals of foreign policy that Manning’s case highlights.
Madar convinces because, unlike many accounts around the ‘war on terror’ and, particularly, the invasion of Iraq, he does not look for a link to the big business interests that are alleged to have pushed for the conflict, or as an oil security requirement.
He takes the outcomes of US foreign policy – the old mantra of giving meaning through actions – to inform us as to its purpose, and critiques it solely within those parameters.
As such, this book should prove to be enormously helpful to those supporters of Bradley Manning who, rather like the man himself, have been dismissed as cranks, appeasers and, in some cases, traitors. Madar never loses sight of the point that America professes to always act in the interests of the cause of freedom, yet that is rarely the result.
His talk in Cardiff was little short of a revelation – appropriate, given the title of his book. Madar is an articulate sceptic, and his argument does not betray any hidden axes to grind. This must make him extremely difficult to argue against – particularly given the library of facts he has amassed in defence of his claims – while giving heart to all those extremely uncomfortable with both Bradley Manning’s terrible treatment since his arrest, and the efforts to close down what he was trying to achieve.
Madar quotes Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the late senator and US ambassador, who once said: ‘Secrecy is for losers’. Let us hope that those who want Bradley Manning silenced ultimately turn out to be on the losing side.
Some assembly members are considering how they might help Bradley Manning.