Bradley Manning: Hero or Villain?

Private Bradley Manning: Sentenced to 35 years imprisonment

Private Bradley Manning: Sentenced to 35 years imprisonment

The man accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified U.S documents, Private Bradley Manning was sentenced yesterday under the Espionage Act of 1917, to thirty five years imprisonment, with the possibility of parole after seven years.  The prosecution against Manning had called for a sentence of sixty years imprisonment, while Manning’s defence team had felt a twenty five year imprisonment, was justified.

The majority of the significant files that were released could be categorized into The Afghan War Logs, & The Iraq War Logs and the Gitmo Files.

On July the 25th 2010, some 92,000 files were released to the New York Times, Der Spiegel and the Guardian.  The Afghan War Files most notably revealed one hundred and forty four incidents in which coalition forces killed civilians, including twenty one instances of British Troops attacking civilians.

On October the 22nd, 2010, Manning via the mediums of the New-York Times, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Le-Monde and Der Spiegel released the Iraq War Logs.  The most notable of these documents was the Collateral Murder Video, accessible to all users of YouTube, the video has received world wide publicity.  The footage shows a gun sight view of U.S Apache Helicopters opening fire on a small group of Iraqi’s, most of them unarmed, with two of them Reuters News Agency employees.  After initial opening fire, a van containing an innocent driver with children on board, pulls up to help some of the severely wounded innocent.  Seconds later, U.S soldiers repeat their fire on the van containing the children, who somehow miraculously managed to remain relatively unharmed.

Documentation of a house raid by U.S Forces on an innocent Iraqi household, in which the murder of one man, four women, two children and three infants took place.  The house had originally been targeted for an airstrike but it was later revealed that autopsies carried out by the Tikrit Hospital’s Morgue revealed that all corpses were handcuffed and shot in the head.

The Gitmo Files released to The Washington Post, and The British Daily Mail highlight some frightening revelations.  Previously stated by George W Bush as being the ‘worst of the worst’, by the end of 2008 some 600 inmates were released for lack of any evidence that they were a threat to the America.  The files highlighted that local Afghan militias, enticed with the generous bounties offered by the U.S military had loosely rounded up anyone they liked, to be handed over to the U.S Military.  Startlingly the cost of housing each of the remaining 171 prisoners is now at $800,000 per year, eighty nine prisoners that are still being held have already been cleared for release.

Some other notable files show how the US government exerted heavy pressure to suppress a German Criminal Investigation of the CIA’s kidnapping of Khaled El- Masri;, an innocent German civilian, mistaken as a terrorist, who was rendered and tortured in an Afghan prison camp.

Pre-Trail torture:

From July of 2010, Private Manning was held at the <strong>Quantico Confinement Facility under the Prevention of Injury Watch</strong> (POI), despite being cleared by psychiatrists who had indicated that their tests on Manning, had revealed no threat of personal injury.  His cell was approximately six feet wide by twelve feet in length.  PFC Manning had to spend approximately 23 hours per day in solitary confinement.  The guards were required to check on Manning every five minutes by asking him, was he ok?  To which Manning had to respond in an affirmative manner.  Personal exercise was not permitted in his cell, if an attempt to do push-ups was made, he was immediately stopped.  The only exercise Manning was allowed to undertake was the one hour he receives outside of his cell.  Daily he was taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk, normally walking figures of eight for the entire hour.

Opposition to Manning:

Mike Huckabee, Baptist Pastor and former Republican Presidential Candidate, taking time out from signing his new Christmas themed children’s books, called for the execution of Bradley Manning.  Indeed some Republicans and Democrats are united in their disgust, according to them, at Manning’s Betrayal of the nation.  Democrat Politician Consultant believed that the only way to deal with the likes of Jullian Assange and Bradley Manning were to ‘illegally shoot the son’s of bitches’.

Support For Manning:

Ex Democrat Senator praised the efforts of both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, citing that they had fulfilled their moral obligation to reveal anything unlawful that the government or military was doing.  He emphasized the importance of a transparent government and likened Snowden and Manning to Daniel Elsberg, a former whistle-blower that had previously leaked documents, shedding light on the fabrications of truth that led the U.S to war in Vietnam.

Ben Griffin a former Paratrooper of the British Army, member of the SAS, founder of Veteran’s For Peace, served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has indicated that the picture portrayed by the media of what goes on in the conflict zones are very much different from reality.  Griffin believes Manning to be a ‘Hero’ for his bravery in releasing the files which show the war crimes that take place when countries such as the U.S continue to spread their brand of democracy.

Manning’s Actions put the country in Danger?

According to Hilary Clinton, the leakage of such highly sensitive material, ‘Was an assault on the international community’.  This statement was then followed with confidential written state reports that no damage had been done to national interest. Former Secretary of Defence went from accusing Wikileaks of ‘having blood on their hands’ to later dismissing his initial comment.  In addition, The Department of Defence confessed to a McClatchy reporter in December of 2010 that there was no evidence of a single Afghan informant having been harmed with the release of the Afghan War Files.

It is true that Manning broke U.S law and his military oath with the release of classified documents.  So it’s arguable that some form of reprisal would seem justified.  Worryingly however, the fact that the war crimes committed by soldiers in the Collateral Damage footage, have not been called into question, is befuddling.  Much has been made in the media of Manning’s sexual orientation, and his confusion of gender as traits which would discredit the validity of his intentions in releasing these private documents.  Since the ‘War On Terrorism’ has begun there seems to be a lack in accountability of the Western Governments actions.  History has shown us that absolute power corrupts and that the responsibility of the people to keep their government to account, with military and economic actions, is now greater than ever.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin, ‘Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety’.

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Iran: A Nuclear threat to Israel?

 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's  'RED LINE' speech to the Nations General Assembly

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘RED LINE’ speech to the UN  General Assembly in Sept 2012

I’m sure you can recall a time when a politician had been asked a very simple, straight forward question that demanded a very simple, straight forward answer.  The reply from the politician would usually be, ‘It’s not as simple as a yes or no answer’.  Read more of this post

U.S. Foreign Policy Part II: Afghanistan

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Out of the tens of thousands of Afghans that have been killed, none were linked with 9/11.  Afghanistan itself is not responsible for 9/11.  That’s a quite shocking realization.  When we fathom that The U.S. government is spending billions of tax payers dollars a year, killing ten of thousands of people, some who are innocent civilians, and we weren’t quite sure if the people responsible were even staying there.  Yea, not to worry it’s just some peasant Afghan family that we unintentionally killed, surely our rights to national security have priority over their lives.

If one had to struggle to consider that there may be other reasons the U.S sent troops to Afghanistan, here is some interesting information that may explain why.   

Afghanistan is next door to the Caspian Sea a central region of Asia which reportedly has the 2nd largest proven resources of petroleum and natural gas.  It is well situated to supply much of south Asia, pipelines that can by-pass those not-yet clients Iran & Russia.

TAPI- (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) was an oil deal that was drafted when a Californian based company called Unocal Corporation held talks with the Taliban Government.  The Clinton Administration was totally aware of the brutality of the Taliban Regime but was only too willing to talk business.  Taliban officials even made trips to Washington for discussions, testifying before the House Sub-Committee.   When Talks stalled in July 2001, the Bush administration threatened the Taliban with military reprisals , if the government did not go with US demands.  The talks finally broke down the following month, a  month before 9/11.

From a European Governmental perspective.  The former German President at the time Horst Koehler resigned after stating Germany was fighting in Afghanistan for Economic reasons.  Speaking to German troops in Afghanistan he said,

‘Germany depends on exports and free trade and must be prepared to use Military force’.  The country he said ‘ had to act to protect its own personal interests.’

The U.S. argue that enemy insurgents know when American troops are going to attack using innocent people as shields.  Perhaps they rush innocent civilians to the spot before the bomb is dropped. Or its a place where they live and the enemy rushes its own people to a building so they can die with them.  If one was to think logically,  maybe members of Al-Queada live there, who have children and a wife and the bombs are being casually dropped there.  The US has stated that there have been unintended deaths, however if you continue to drop large explosives in populated areas over and over again from Vietnam to Iraq, at what point does the statement Unintended, still hold weight.

Criticism also exists of the U.S. Army building military establishments near civilian areas putting innocent life’s at risk.

The LIBERATION OF WOMEN ARGUEMENT has no creditability, because in the 1980s the US government played an indispensable role in overthrowing a secular progressive government.

Under the governance of the secular government in Afghanistan, women had complete freedom of who the chose to marry, fixed minimum age of marriage was 16 for women 18 for men.  In addition there were extensive literacy programs especially for women- putting girls and boys in the same classroom- giving women a more active role in politics.

The overthrow of the Government brought to power the Islamic Fundamentalist Regime soon in the hands of the awful Taliban.  These strategic movements were ones that were in favour of the U.S. government as for them, replacing the secular government with the Taliban aided the U.S’s values, in the cold war against the Soviet Union.

US Foreign Policy Part 1: IRAQ

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Some overweight, ignorant, Big Mac loving, sympathizers of the Bush Administration will come out with lines like, ‘The world’s a better place without Saddam Hussein’.  Sure they aren’t worried about the legality or validity of the intelligence surrounding ‘Weapons Of Mass Destruction’,  this is America, God’s on our side, remember!  It was seen by some as a noble decision to invade, a great act of liberation for a people at the hands of such a brutal dictator.  A dictator which Donald Rumsfeld was only too happy to meet in 1983.  Rumsfeld’s meeting with Saddam Hussein was significant in that he was meeting with the President of a Country who was at war with Iran (1983-1988) and using chemical weapons on Iranian Soldiers.  Ironically these chemical weapons of ‘MASS DESTRUCTION’ which were destroyed in 1991, were supposedly  the major threat that warranted the US led invasion in 2003.  Where did Saddam get the materials for weapons like these? Wait for it… AMERICA!

It’s funny how American foreign policy can shift so dramatically in the space of two decades.  The US went from supporting the Iraqi Government financially, resourcefully, and on an intelligence basis in 1983, to alerting the ‘free world’ that this rouge government had the capability of using chemical and biological weapons in a way that would gravely threaten the safety of innocent American people. US 5000+ Nuclear Weapons/ Iraq 0 Nuclear weapons, surely you could see their concern, No?

In the months before the invasion, a peace agreement was proposed by Iraqi officials, including the Chief Of The Iraqi Intelligence Service who wanted Washington to know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search; they also offered full support for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and to hand over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993.  If this is about oil, they added, they would also talk about US oil concessions.  Washington’s reply was ‘Shock and Awe’ bombing.

UN Chief Inspector at the time Hans Blix who led the hunt for WMD’s said the following later in 2003.

‘Those who are 100 percent certain there are weapons of mass destruction turned out to have less than zero percent knowledge of where the purported hidden caches might be.’  In Feb 2003, Blix is reported to have warned both then British PM Tony Blair and then US Secretary of Defence Condoleezza Rice about the dangers of entering Iraq with a substantial lack of evidence of the presence of WMD’s.

Indeed Hans Blix was not alone in his opposition to such pre-emptive action.  Benjamin B. Ferencz, who served as the U.S.’s Chief Prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at the Nuremberg Trials following World War II, had denounced the Iraq War as an aggressive war (named at Nuremberg as “the supreme international crime”) and stated his belief that George W. Bush as the war’s “initiator”, who should be tried for war crimes.

In a 2002 book, Scott Ritter a Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998,

he argued against an invasion and expressed doubts about the Bush Administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein had a WMD capability.”

Brent Scowcroft, who served as National Security Adviser to President to George Bush was an early critic. He wrote an August 15, 2002 editorial in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Don’t attack Saddam,” arguing that the war would distract from the broader fight against terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which should be the U.S.’s highest priority in the Middle East.  The next month, Gen. Hugh Selton, former Chairman of the Joint Chief’s of Staff, agreed that war in Iraq would distract from the War on Terrorism.

‘Were supposed to believe that the US would’ve invaded Iraq, if it was an island in the Indian Ocean and its main exports were pickles and lettuce.’ Noam Chomsky

Fifty four countries most notably France, Germany, Russia and China, had all protested formally and officially the prosecution of this war. They opposed the Iraq War in principle, citing in some cases that they believe it is illegal, and in others that it required a United Nations mandate.

Today in 2013, Iraq’s infrastructure is a complete mess.  A 2005 study conducted by the UN stated that 84% of the country’s higher education establishments had been either ‘destroyed, damaged or robbed.’  A health care system once admired by the middle-east has been majorly destroyed and looted.

Hundreds of thousands of professional Iraqis and especially the educated middle class have been displaced in countries including Jordan, Syria and Egypt, many after receiving death threats.  Since 2003, the UN’s World Food Program reported 400,000 children are suffering from Malnutrition, specifically in the deficiency of vital protein.  Thousands of Iraqi’s have lost arms and legs, many of which are because of unexploded US cluster bombs , which become like landmines only to be picked up by unsuspecting children.  I’m sure these children don’t mind their legs being blown off in the name of freedom and democracy, do they?

Kofi Annan was in agreement when it was suggested that some Iraqi’s now view the US occupation of their country as leading to poorer living standards than when it was under the rule of Saddam Hussein.

‘I think they are right in the sense of the average Iraqi’s life.  If I were an average Iraqi, obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, am I going to see my child again?

Depleted uranium particles that today still remain in the Iraqi skyline, are breathed into human bodies and passed into the water, soil, the blood and the genes, producing malformed babies.  Research by the BBC in 2004 startlingly revealed the level of birth defects among new born babies was said to be 13 times higher than that in Europe.  A BBC correspondent reported seeing children with severe unexplained brain damage and one newly born child with 3 heads.  Must just be a coincidence, which doesn’t explain officials in the city of Fallujah (Iraq), warning mothers against having children due to the dangers of birth defects.

So to sum it up, there were no weapons of Mass Destruction.  Fifty four countries officially opposed the war as well as the Head of the UN.  Millions of Iraqi’s are displaced throughout the Arab world.  The countries infrastructure is a complete mess, if you are a new born in  Iraq today, you are 13 times more likely to have a heart defect than if you were born anywhere in Europe.  The estimated cost of new oil contracts to foreign companies is going to cost Iraq economy between $74-$194 billion, as opposed to keeping Iraq’s oil revenue within state hands.  America’s Deadliest export so far aside from all the weapons they sell to allies today, enemies tomorrow?  Going to have to go with Democracy on that one.  God Bless you America…

IRAQ: A Country In Ruin.

Iraq war victim

As former president George Bush sheds a tear at the opening of the Presidential Library earlier in the week,  Real News 365 examines the consequences of the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003.  Below are some of the devastating side effects of a war that was based on the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which to this day have not been found.

DEATH TOLL:

The precise death figure toll is unclear.  According to The British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB) the estimated death count is believed to be a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063.  The Iraq Body Count IBC, believes that the number of civilians who have lost their lives in the war is estimated to be in excess of 114,000.  More shockingly, 3,951 have been children under the age of 18.  Of the 4,040 civilian victims killed by the US led collation force, 1,201 were also children.  A worryingly high statistic that would give creditability to the criticism of the US-collation forces as being trigger happy.

REFUGEE DISPLACEMENT:

Since the beginning the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003,  it is estimated that the number of Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) has risen to 2.8 million.  The majority had fled to neighbouring countries such as Syria and Jordon.  With the current conflict in Syria, Iraqi refuges, have been hurled from one battleground to another.  January 2011 saw the announcement of the Iraqi government, to address internal displacement issues, since then however, little has been done in relation to the tens of thousands living in temporary shelter.  Limited access to clean water and food is especially testing for the children affected in the war.  Post tramatic stress is high, espically in kids. According to the BBC, there are only 3 child psychologists in the entire country of Iraq.  Statistics like that makes one question the carelessness of response by the newly formed Iraq government. There seems to be a clear lack of investment in the development of the health sector in Iraq.

THREAT TO US CO-OPERATERS.

According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).Ten of thousands of Iraqi nationals that risked their lives in collaboration with the US forces have seen the promise of protection and emigration disappear since the US backed out of Iraq in 2011.

In 2008 the US government set up the Special Immigrant Visa Program, which every year was due to provide a number of 5000 visas to nationals that had served the US government.  By the end of 2012 that would mean the number of collaborating Iraqi’s eligible for a visa, would be a total of 25,000.  According to IRC, the number of visas processed has reached 5,550.  The remaining number have been a target for militants in the country, which has seen a rise in the kidnappings and torture of these people.  The Immigrant Visa Program is due to expire in September of 2013, and will undoubtedly leave the lifes of just under 20,000 Iraqi’s in severe doubt.
The decision by the Bush administration is a clear sign that the philosophy of neo-liberalism is clearly alive and well in the western world.  With Iraq being the 3rd largest producer of oil, just behind Saudi Arabia and Russia.  Sanctions that had been initially forced on Saddam Hussein that were due to expire before 2003, left Bush and his allies needing a regime change.  The threat of Saddam changing payment methods from US dollars to Euros, would have cost the US economy trillions of dollars.  The resilience and determination of Iraqi militancy and the lack of support for Western Occupation both in Iraq and in the US, saw the withdrawal of troops in 2011. Unfortunately however new sanctions have been implemented by the US government that have bound the puppet Iraqi government to provide the US with the majority of its oil produce.

10 Shocking Facts and Quotes on Guantanamo Bay

A photo revealing the lawlessness of Guantanamo Bay

A photo revealing the lawlessness of Guantanamo Bay

It is time that there are no more stories coming out of there about people being abused,”
Bill Clinton. (Former US president)

Guantanamo Bay is a Maximum security prison, based in Cuba.  It was set up by the Bush administration in January of 2002,  apparently in response to the attacks of 9/11.  In his own words President Bush has previously stated, “These aren’t common criminals, or bystanders accidently swept up on the battlefield, we have in place a rigorous process to insure the people held there, belong in Guantanamo.”

Criticism of the secret Prison is growing, and below are 10 shocking facts that have developed since the prisons opening.

  1. According to the US authorities, 779 detainees have been held in Guantanamo, the vast majority without charge or criminal trial.
  2. In total 8 detainees have died, 6 have committed suicide and 2 have reportedly died due to natural causes.
  3. At least 12 children under the age of 18, are being held at Guantanamo
  4. Of the 779 detainees, roughly 600 innocent detainees were released without charge, after having spent years undergoing traumatic mental abuse.
  5. Officially a total of 84 detainees are currently on Hunger Strike, according to some Detainee Lawyers, all 166 inmates are refusing food
  6. In 2005 Amnesty International compared Guantamo with that of Soviet forced labor camp systems during the Stalin era, calling it ‘ The Gualg of our times’.
  7. Former Senator and Democrat nominee Ron Paul is against the operation.  Paul criticised how the detainees are being captured without an explanation, and without legitimate trail. 

“I think that’s the key to it. And so far, they don’t have an answer, because they’re not allowing them to be tried in a legitimate court of law.

      8.  Only 1 Iraqi Detainee is being held at the prison.  A country that held an apparent huge threat to Americas national security interests, with the infamous Weapons of Mass Destruction campaign.

      9.  Former Guantanamo Bay Guard Brandon Neely, “Detaining innocent people and depriving them of their due process is a significant black eye on the Unites States,” .  

    10. President Obama had voiced concerns.  He had previously declared his intentions to shut the prison.  His actions have spoken differently to his words, with the signing of the intelligence authorization bill which according to Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union has made it more difficult to shut it down.  Romero stated, Obama had “jeopardized his ability to close Guantanamo during his presidency.”</p>

Keeping imprisoned, un trialled men, without access to the judicial system is illegal.  It seems the Law doesn’t currently apply to the US government.  In the words of former Senator Ron Paul, ” Detaining prisoners in secret prisons without lawful fair process, is not a characteristic of a Republic that believes in freedom, more a characteristic of an authoritarian government.