Who still remembers Bradley Manning, Wikileaks and the secret computer data from the Iraq War? Manning is not the only traitor in the whole fiasco, but he is the only one who is being punished.
He’s a pale young man. He’s 5’2, 24 years old and wears glasses. Two and a half years ago he kept the world in suspense: WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of documents Bradley Manning had copied out of the U.S. military’s network, including logbooks about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and confidential diplomatic reports.
When Bradley’s cover was blown, some made him out to be a hero, others a terrorist. A few days ago, when he appeared publically for the first time, before a military court, one could only sympathize with him. His entire life he had been a tortured, lonely person, out of place. He wanted to do something right for once. This is his current life: solitary confinement, sleep deprivation, permanent suicide watch, 20 minutes of sunlight a day, but only in restraints.
One of the leaked videos dates from July 12, 2007. It shows Baghdad from the perspective of an American Apache helicopter. A group of men drifts down the street. One of them carries over his shoulder what looks like a machine gun. The marksman opens fire from the helicopter and a viewer can hear his radio and sees everything through his eyes: how the ant-like men run, how they fall, how they crawl on the ground, injured, how a car stops to help the wounded.
The marksman fires one more time on the injured and the helpers. All in all, he kills eleven people, among them Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, photographer and driver for Reuters news agency. What Namir carried over his shoulder was a camera with a zoom lens.
At that time, Julian Assange succeeded in becoming a venerated messiah with these documents. In the meantime, he has cocooned himself in conspiracy theories that all revolve around himself. Assange promised freedom, which would exist through transparency. For Manning, the opposite is happening. But the Messiah never promised to protect his informant.
Barack Obama was President of the United States then and still is now. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp still exists in spite of his promise (we’re still holding 167 detainees) and the prison conditions are better than those of Manning. The U.S. military has since stolen away from Iraq without leaving democracy and peace behind. But Obama is not personally responsible for that.
The crew of the Apache helicopter was never made accountable for the eleven deaths in Baghdad. It was war, mistaken identities happen. Hundreds of similar scenes doubtlessly occurred every year – the only difference is that journalists are usually not hit.
No one can bring back Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. In Afghanistan there are still many like them: locals who work as translators, drivers, cooks, messengers for foreigners, whether for the military, NGOs or the media. They will be gravely endangered after the withdrawal of NATO troops. Revenge and retribution threaten.
Bradley Manning will be tried for high treason in March. One can heap all the treason on him that is connected to this story. But his shoulders are a bit too narrow for it.