The GI in question is, of course, Bradley Manning, the young soldier charged with leaking the video of American gunships killing civilians in Iraq, and suspected of involvement in passing thousands of war-related secret documents to Wikileaks.
Manning has been quoted by friends (and the false friend who betrayed him to the authorities) about his motives for his actions. He has said quite plainly that he wanted to show the American people the true nature of the hideous Terror War operations being carried out around the world by their government -- "incredible things, awful things." One of his genuine friends said: "He wanted to do the right thing." Concerning the video of the gunship atrocity, the friend, who had been in contact with Manning, said: "He didn’t want to do this just to cause a stir…. He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again."
These motives are entirely clear, understandable, and imminently sane. In fact, Manning's actions reflect a mind far more healthy and stable than the diseased brains in charge of the War Machine, who compulsively, continually distort reality to an extreme, pathological degree in order to justify -- to others and, presumably, to themselves -- their own murderous, brutal depravity.
Yet it is Bradley Manning who must be examined to see if he is mentally "unstable." Yes, of course, that's it: he must be crazy. Why else would anyone -- especially an American (and a real American, not one of those with, you know, funny names or dark skin), especially a soldier -- want to challenge the authority and embarrass the benevolent leaders who protect us and care for us? To those pathetic wretches afflicted with the pathologies of power, Manning's actions -- courageous, noble, humane -- literally make no sense. Therefore, he must be mentally diseased.
There are also some practical considerations at play here, of course. If Manning were to be declared criminally insane, he could be locked up indefinitely, right away -- no need for a messy trial that might cause more embarrassments for our imperial minders.
In any case, it's good for the prosecutors -- or shall we say, the persecutors -- of Bradley Manning to have the "nuthouse option" in hand among the vast array of "legal" weaponry they are bringing to bear against the young man. And even if the matter proceeds to trial, these stories about Manning's "shaky mental health" will help immunize any unseemly testimony he might give in the dock. Official shoulders will merely shrug at new revelations: "Well, what do you expect? He's crazy, isn't he? He'll say anything." And the corporate media will doubtless shrug along with them.
As the Guardian notes, the Chinese elite -- following the model of the old Soviet Union in its later years -- take the same approach to troublemakers:
They snatched Liao Meizhi on her birthday, dragging her off the street and into a dirty blue van as others held back her husband.
It was only two months later, when a stranger knocked on the door, that her family learned where she had been taken. The man said he had just been discharged from a nearby mental hospital – and that Liao was being held there against her will. Her husband insists she has no psychiatric problems ...
Researchers believe she is among a growing number of people wrongly detained in psychiatric institutions after clashing with local officials. One activist has compiled a database of more than 500 such cases.
Some victims have been held for a decade. Those freed describe being forcibly treated – with electro-convulsive therapy and powerful anti-psychotic drugs – for health problems they never had.
"In the last few years you have been seeing more and more cases involving petitioners and whistle blowers – 'the awkward squad' – [often when] the authorities have tried other punishments or sanctions to make them stop and nothing else has worked," said Robin Munro, author of China's Psychiatric Inquisition and a research associate at SOAS law school. "Finally they really try to scare them to hell by putting them in mental hospitals."
Well, it worked for Jose Padilla, the American citizen snatched, without charges, on American soil, and held, without charges, for years, while being subjected to mind-breaking tortures for his alleged terrorist activities. The charges against him began with dramatically broadcast claims of nuclear terrorism aimed at the US and ended with the broken man's conviction on lesser charges of aiding foreign groups involved in foreign conflicts, far from American shores. Yet even here, the judge in the case declared that "there was no evidence linking [Padilla] to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone" -- even as she handed the torture victim a 17-year prison sentence, as Winter Patriot reports.
Manning will perhaps escape the extremities of torture doled out to Padilla; he has at least been formally charged and has access to legal counsel -- something denied to Padilla for years during this torment. But make no mistake: the depraved minds in charge of our morally insane empire seek to break him, one way or another -- as an example to us all.
On Tuesday night, Barack Obama gave a speech from the Oval Office on Iraq that was almost as full of hideous, murderous lies as the speech on Iraq his predecessor gave in the same location more than seven years ago.
After mendaciously declaring an "end to the combat mission in Iraq" -- where almost 50,000 regular troops and a similar number of mercenaries still remain, carrying out the same missions they have been doing for years -- Obama delivered what was perhaps the most egregious, bitterly painful lie of the night:
"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility."
"We have met our responsibility!" No, Mister President, we have not. Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the rape of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.
Then and only then, Mister President, can you say that America has begun -- in even the most limited, pathetic way -- to "meet its responsibility" for what it has done to Iraq. And unless you do this, Mister President -- and you never will -- you are just a lying, bloodsoaked apologist, accomplice and perpetrator of monstrous evil, like your predecessor and his minions -- many of whom, of course, are now your minions.
I really don't have anything else to say about this sickening spectacle -- which is being compounded in Britain, where I live, by the sight today of Tony Blair's murder-tainted mug plastered on the front of the main newspapers, as he makes the rounds pushing his new book, doling out "exclusive interviews" full of crocodile tears for the soldiers he had murdered in the war crime he committed and the "great suffering" of the Iraqi people which, goodness gracious, he never foresaw and feels, gosh, really bad about. All this laced with venomous comments about his former colleagues -- those who, like Gordon Brown, sold their souls to advance Blair's vision of aggressive war abroad and corporate rapine at home -- along with, of course, earnest protestations of his God-directed good intentions, and his unwavering belief that killing a million innocent human beings in Iraq was "the right thing to do." Pol Pot could not have been more blindly self-righteous than this wretched moral cretin.
I will say again what I have said here many, many times before: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?
Words might fail me, but wise man William Blum has a few that put the "end of combat operations in Iraq" in their proper perspective. Let's give him the last word here [the ellipses are in the original text]:
No American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up ... an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again.
II. Same Question, Same Answer
The piece below was written in the first few weeks after the invasion. Its scene is the same Oval Office where Barack Obama spoke last night. And the choice offered to the leader in this piece is the same one that Obama has been offered -- and his decision has been the same one taken here, not only for Iraq, but for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other places around the world.
The Karamazov Question Variation on a theme by Dostoevsky
A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office. He wasn't noticed at first, in the bustle around the desk of the president, where George W. Bush was preparing to announce to the world that the "decapitation raid" he had launched on Baghdad a few hours before was in fact the beginning of his long-planned, much-anticipated invasion of Iraq.
A woman fussed with the president's hair, which had been freshly cut for the television appearance. A make-up artist dabbed delicate touches of rouge on the president's cheeks. Another attendant fluttered in briefly to adjust the president's tie, which, like the $6,000 suit the president was wearing, had arrived that morning from a Chicago couturier. As for the president's $900 designer shoes – which, as a recent news story had pointed out playfully, were not only made by the same Italian craftsman who supplied Saddam Hussein with footwear, but were also the same size and make as those ordered by the Iraqi dictator – they had been carefully polished earlier by yet another aide, even though they would of course be out of sight during the broadcast.
In addition to all of this activity, the president's political advisors and speechwriters were also making last-minute adjustments to the brief speech, while giving the president pointers about his delivery: "Keep your gaze and your voice steady. Project firmness of purpose. Confidence, calmness, character. And short phrases, lightly punched. Don't worry, the breaks and stresses will be marked on the teleprompter."
It's little wonder that no one saw the man as he advanced slowly to the center of the room. He stood there silently, until the sense of his presence crept up on the others. One by one, they turned to look at him, this unauthorized figure, this living breach of protocol. He was, in almost every sense, non-descript. He wore a plain suit of indeterminate color; his features and his skin betrayed no particular race. He had no badge, no papers; how had he come to be here, where nothing is allowed that is not licensed by power?
Then, more astonishing, they saw his companion: a two-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face; a plain red dress covered her thin body. She too was silent, but not as still as the man. Instead, she turned her head this way and that, her eyes wide with curiosity, drawn especially by the bright television lights that shone on the president.
A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested. The aides and attendants stepped back then stood rooted, as if stupefied, their ranks forming a path from the man at the room's center to the president's desk. The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"
The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous, and wish to do good for the world."
"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as He in His wisdom reveals it to me. In His will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."
The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world – peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee such a universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" – here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president – "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."
With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness, and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round from the force of the shot – once, twice, three times in all – then fell, her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.
At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president – the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand – strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.
The speech went off without a hitch. The hair was perfect, the voice steady, the phrases short and lightly punched. No one saw the blood and bits of brain that clung to the president's $900 designer shoes; they were, of course, out of sight during the broadcast.
First published in The Moscow Times on April 20, 2003.
We hear a lot about barbarism and backwardness and bloodthirstiness among the nations of the Middle East, where violent religious extremists are praised and supported -- and often hold state power. A lot of this is hype and misinformation, of course, but sometimes it's all too true. From the Guardian:
An Israeli army officer who fired the entire magazine of his automatic rifle into a 13-year-old Palestinian girl and then said he would have done the same even if she had been three years old was acquitted on all charges by a military court yesterday. ...
The soldier, who has only been identified as "Captain R", was charged with relatively minor offences for the killing of Iman al-Hams who was shot 17 times as she ventured near an Israeli army post near Rafah refugee camp in Gaza a year ago.
The manner of Iman's killing, and the revelation of a tape recording in which the captain is warned that she was just a child who was "scared to death", made the shooting one of the most controversial since the Palestinian intifada erupted five years ago even though hundreds of other children have also died.
... The military court cleared the soldier of illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and perverting the course of justice by asking soldiers under his command to alter their accounts of the incident. ...
The army's official account said that Iman was shot for crossing into a security zone carrying her schoolbag which soldiers feared might contain a bomb. It is still not known why the girl ventured into the area but witnesses described her as at least 100 yards from the military post which was in any case well protected.
A recording of radio exchanges between Capt R and his troops obtained by Israeli television revealed that from the beginning soldiers identified Iman as a child.
In the recording, a soldier in a watchtower radioed a colleague in the army post's operations room and describes Iman as "a little girl" who was "scared to death". After soldiers first opened fire, she dropped her schoolbag which was then hit by several bullets establishing that it did not contain explosive. At that point she was no longer carrying the bag and, the tape revealed, was heading away from the army post when she was shot. ....
Palestinian witnesses said they saw the captain shoot Iman twice in the head, walk away, turn back and fire a stream of bullets into her body.
On the tape, Capt R then "clarifies" to the soldiers under his command why he killed Iman: "This is commander. Anything that's mobile, that moves in the [security] zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed."
At no point did the Israeli troops come under attack.
Well, at least they didn't stone her, did they? After all, Israel is a "bastion of Western civilization" in the midst of all those swarthy savages, isn't it? I mean, can there possibly be a clearer expression of civilization -- especially its ultra-modern Western version -- than Captain R's Aristotelian formulation? It bears repeating -- nay, memorizing, searing deeply into the brain and heart -- for it is clearly the guiding principle of all our glorious terror-fighting democracies today, not only plucky little Israel but also its patron and paymaster, the United States (and the lackey Limeys who trot along at Washington's heels):
Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed.
Even if it's a three-year-old.
Even if it -- this thing, this object, this Other, this creature, this piece of shit -- is a three-year-old.
Kill it. It needs to be killed. Kill it. You need to kill it. A three-year-old? Kill it. It needs to be killed.
Now that, my friends, is civilization.
UPDATE: Here's another shining example of modern-day, Anglospherical Western Civilization in action, this time in the great victorious imposition of civilized values on the grubby little darkies in Iraq. From the Guardian:
The British government has ordered an urgent inquiry into the disappearance of an injured Iraqi child who has not been seen since being placed in the care of UK military medics in 2003.
In one of the most bewildering episodes of the Iraq occupation, Memmon Salam al-Maliki, an 11-year-old boy, disappeared within days of being taken to a British base after he was wounded while playing with unexploded munitions. Although his injuries appeared not to be life-threatening, his family have not seen him since.
The British authorities told Memmon's father that they had sent his son to an American military hospital in Kuwait for further treatment, but have been unable to tell him its location, or provide information about his whereabouts or condition. The US authorities, however, insist they know nothing and say that in the absence of documentation they cannot even be sure he was transferred into their care.
... Memmon's family, meanwhile, say they are deeply distraught, confused and angry. They say there was no reason to believe the boy's injuries were life-threatening, and point out that he was still alive more than a week after the explosion. Until they have proof of his death, they say they must hold out hope that he could be alive.
Memmon was injured in April 2003, shortly after the invasion, while playing with abandoned, unexploded munitions near his Basra home. He suffered a serious eye injury and lost his left hand and several fingers from his right. He was picked up by a passing British convoy and taken to a nearby base for first aid. From there he was transferred to a British military field hospital at Shaibah. What happened next remains unclear.
Subsequently, the Ministry of Defence began to regard the family's appeals as claims for compensation, rather than requests for information about the boy's whereabouts. In its last communication with the family the MoD expressed its sympathy but denied all liability.
Ah yes, sympathy without liability: that's the civilized way. In any case, what's the big deal? It was just an 11-year-old object, wasn't it? It shouldn't have been messing with the holy hand grenades left behind by the defenders of Western Civilization when they were launching an illegal war of aggression on false pretenses (exactly as another stout defender of Western Civilization did 71 years ago this week). So it "disappeared." So what? Maybe it wandered into the wrong "zone" somewhere. Maybe it needed to be killed. Or cast aside. Or just plunged through the labyrinthine bowels of the war machine, lost for seven years while its family lives day after day, year after year, in agony.
That's just the price of civilization, you see. That's what makes us good and great and godly and benign. Thirteen years old, eleven years old, three years old -- they are the food and fuel of empire. It their blood -- their extreme, hellish suffering -- that makes us so special.