17 April 2012

Greenwald slams liberals over Manning

Glenn Greenwald is increasingly becoming one of my two or three favorite journalists. Brilliant piece from him came out today in Salon talking about the way the Democrats (and liberals more generally) have betrayed Bradley Manning.

If you haven't been following the story, Bradley Manning is the soldier who gave information to WikiLeaks; he's been held without trial, now, in what the UN has called "cruel" and "inhuman" conditions, for almost two years.

Two passages that I want to quote here, and I'll let you read the rest of the piece (which has a rundown of the narrative that's quite useful) on your own. First:

“The whole civil libertarian message only really seems to catch fire among liberals when there’s a Republican in the White House,” says Madar. When there’s not a bumbling Texan to inveigh against, all the sudden issues that were morally black and white become complex, and liberal media starts finding nuance where there wasn’t any before.

That much is clear in the case of Manning, the young soldier accused of leaking State Department cables and evidence of war atrocities to WikiLeaks. Under different conditions, he might be a liberal hero. After all, much – though certainly not all – of what he exposed, from the killing of Iraqi civilians to US complicity in torture by the Iraqi government, happened during the Bush years. But it is the Obama administration that is imprisoning him. It is Barack Obama who pronounced him guilty before he so much as had a trial (which he’s still waiting for after almost two years in captivity). And so justifications must be made.


To be fair, liberals can’t really be blamed for their reaction to Manning. What he did was fundamentally radical, not reformist. He didn’t settle for working within a system explicitly designed to thwart the exposure of wrongdoing, through a chain of command that callously ignores concern for non-American life. Having access to evidence of grotesque crimes no one around him seemed to care about, he engaged in direct action, exposing them for the benefit of the world and those paying for them, the U.S. taxpayer.

“[I]f you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time,” Manning reportedly wrote to the man who ultimately turned him in, “and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? ” We know what his answer was. And we know what the guardians of establishment liberalism would have had him do: Nothing.

Judge for yourself which is more defensible.

I agree with everything Greenwald is saying in these passages. American politics in the general sense has disgusted and continues to disgust me - Obama and the Democrats almost as much as the Republicans. When an act of conscience - and no one's arguing that what Manning exposed was wrong, only that he was wrong to expose it - is something that both parties agree should be punished, your politics are broken.

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