Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Law In Its Impartial Majesty

Here's the thing: by UCMJ, the guy is guilty as hell of the charges he was convicted of.

And the news, as it has always been, has been and is going to be about this one guy, himself, and all his little quirks and tics and the "inside baseball" of the trial and the implications of the not-guilty verdict on the charge of "aiding the enemy". All sorts of people in the U.S. are going to have little hissy fits because this joker is going to jail for being guilty of the crimes that...well, that he did knowing they WERE crimes under the UCMJ.

But here's the other thing; focusing on Manning the man and his trial, is part of the whole damn problem that Manning's acts and his trial throw a damning light on.

Manning uncovered tens, maybe hundreds, maybe even thousands of cases of every sort of problem and trouble in our country's doings both here and abroad ranging from individual and official malfeasance all the way up to arguable war crimes, doings that had been kept from us, doings that We the People as the putative sovereigns of the United States might have been well advised to be knowledgeable of.

We the People responded to that damning knowledge with a massive collective yawn and a fucking shrug.

The problem we're facing in this country isn't that PVT Manning is going to lose the rest of his life at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks. Hopefully he knew what he was doing and did it anyway, knowing that he was going to take the fall for the rest of us.

The problem - and hopefully Manning himself would be the first to agree - is that nobody else, nobody named in all those documents he stole, nobody in the ginormous chain of liars, thieves, grifters, thugs, and butchers that got us into Iraq ten years ago, not a goddamn one of the people responsible for all those deaths, all that loss, all that pain and suffering and misery is going to lose so much as a fucking lunch break over their actions.

And I don't know which is more infuriating; that that pissed me the hell off, or that the rest of my country doesn't seem to give a damn.


  1. "by UCMJ"

    In my humble experience, rules everywhere operate the same way.

    The rules are what the higher ups in the Chain of Command say they are.

    Put another way, the Golden Rule comes out "Those with the Gold make the Rules".

    I seem to be an outlier. The rule is, the older one gets, the more conservative one becomes.
    But I've always considered myself conservative with conservative values.
    Good Christian conservative values, like what the Golden Rule actually says.

    And things like this

    You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave . . . .

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't part of the oath us peons take when we become members of the most powerful military in the Known Universe protect the country and its Constitution against "all enemies, foreign and domestic"?

    And isn't it also true, that failure to investigate war crimes and to prosecute such allegations in itself a war crime?

    Rules are for the peons, not the enforcers, it seems is the Rule of Today.

    If I were Prez, we'd be much better off, of course, and I'd pardon PFC without hesitation.
    If only to cover my ass.


  2. I wish there was a rule that made me catch errors before I publish. :)

    "is that we protect"

    "is in itself"

    "PVT Manning"


  3. Many years ago, I met a retired jurist to whom Roosevelt gave, in 1942, a Naval Reserve commission to Captain in the JAG, telling him he wanted him available if necessary, but without specific details. As the tide truly turned against the Japanese, FDR told "The Judge" to bone up on war crimes and the war crimes trials that would be probably held for key Japanese leaders. "The Judge" said he would be happy to do so, but only as a defense counsel. FDR said he wanted The Judge's keen legal mind as a prosecutor. The Judge told FDR, that he considered any war crimes trials one last shot of the victors over the defenseless vanquished, UNLESS the tribunal would also investigate and prosecute American leader's war crimes, which he said most surely must have been committed, based upon the magnitude of the conflict. The Judge said that FDR was shocked, and said that the Allies were on the side of "righteousness" and thus could not, by definition, have committed war crimes, or something to that effect. Needless to say, The Judge was never called to active duty, and sat out the war as an inactive Reservist. At the time he told us the story, he opined that the first two years of our occupation of Germany could have risen to the level of "Crimes Against Humanity".

    I offer the above, Chief, to illustrate that the leaders of a non-vanquished state is never the subject of war crimes prosecution, as long as the state remains sovereign and a reasonable power. Just ain't gonna happen. Only the vanquished are subject to one last measure of defeat.

  4. Al: I think it was Curtis LeMay who was on record saying that it was damn lucky for him that the Allies had won for the Axis would have had a dead-solid case against him for war crimes.

    So, yes. We're not better - but also no worse - than anyone else in history at judging ourselves.

    The thing about us that gets me is our ridiculous level of USA! USA! self-congratulation. Our conceit of our own Goodness has never dropped below FDR's regardless of the weight of evidence to the contrary. I think if we had a more realistic view of our own political fallability we MIGHT - not saying we would, but we MIGHT - be a trifle less inclined to force our Goodness on others.

  5. "We the People responded to that damning knowledge with a massive collective yawn and a fucking shrug."

    Perhaps the reason is that Manning's "revelations" don't reveal much of consequence? It was all little stuff - a tapestry of tactical actions and the normal kinds of publicly embarrassing diplomatic traffic. There is nothing there that is different from any other war. The Apache video was the "crown jewel" of the leak yet at most it shows bad judgment by the aircrew.

    The "revelations" are more an indictment of war generally and the take-a-way for the public should be that war is a brutal, nasty and corrupting effort which should not be engaged in lightly. While this mass leak didn't generate outrage, it probably added to the increasing skepticism of America's Military Adventures in Asian deserts.

  6. Andy:

    There is nothing there that is different from any other war.

    Which is what I meant by saying war crimes prosecution, by definition, is only directed towards the vanquished.

    The "revelations" are more an indictment of war generally and the take-a-way for the public should be that war is a brutal, nasty and corrupting effort which should not be engaged in lightly.

    If the public did take that away, it would at least be a long term good thing. However, I would suggest that Andy Bacevich is correct in stating that in the main, Americans still hold to the notion that "War works", and any notion of it being a corrupting effort is lost in that belief. For all too many, our Asian Desert Classics are not successful because we aren't bringing enough force to bear on the problem, and we are not using sufficiently "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the like.

  7. Andy: Yep. What Al said. Having seen the elephant I know he didn't get any "revelations" from the Wikileaks material. I'm sure you didn't, and neither did I.

    And yet, here we are, with a public largely indifferent to the agitation for further involvement in places like Syria. And were there to be another attack traced to, say, Mali, what would you bet that the Great American Public would be playing bad country music about "Mauling Us Some Mali" and talking about how we need to fix them so they don't hate our freedoms?

    THAT is the real shame about all this to me. Yes, all was is a racket. Yes, all wars make men and nations brutal and stupid. But here was plain evidence that THESE wars and the people who ginned them up were certainly no better and in some cases as bad as the worst of history's wars...and yet the public, especially the public on the Right, responded with either indifference or outright denial.

  8. A New Age of War and Killing. There is some controversy about who it is we've actually been killing by remote control over the past few years. A Drone Pilot speaks out about it.

    MCEVERS: This time, it was insurgents Brandon saw on the screen - one group who had been firing at U.S. troops and another group who was standing away from them. Brandon was ordered to fire a missile at the second group.

    BRYANT: We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does. And the guy in the rear hears this, and he runs forward to the two guys in front and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there's a crater there. You can see body parts of the people. But the guy that was running from the rear to the front, his left leg had been taken off above the knee, and I watched him bleed out.

    The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we're watching this in infrared. And I eventually watched the guy become the same color as the ground that he died on.


    I think there was supposedly three people left in the building and all were military males. We just aim at the corner of the building, we're going to fire, and we do. And there's about six seconds left before the missile impacts and something runs around the corner of the building. And it looked like a small person. There's no other way for me to describe. It was a small two-legged person.


    And someone straps on enough explosives on their body to take out a CIA post in Khost Afghanistan.


  9. Cont.

    "If, as I expect, Afghanistan also refuses to grant immunity to US forces remaining after the scheduled NATO withdrawal at the end of next year, look for all of the Special Operations trained militias (known in Afghanistan as the Afghan Local Police) to also come under CIA control along with the current force under CIA control," wrote Jim White for Emptywheel.net, on March 12.

    "Who needs a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) with immunity for US troops when we have the CIA?"

    If this is the "light footprint" that everyone is buzzing about – we should want nothing to do with it. How we can think that just because our presence is "clandestine" that our bloody mark won’t be recognized, and revenged upon sometime, somewhere down the line? Or that our zombies won’t come back to bite us?

    Not that we couldn’t see this coming down Highway 1. When all of our past misdeeds – from El Salvador to Iraq – become mere footnotes and fodder for well-meaning but often marginalized journalists and human rights activists outside the mainstream, there is no incentive for our military to reverse course. Torture and extrajudicial justice became convenient to our interests — institutionalized even — whether the military admits to being directly involved or not. Why not go with what works?

    Certainly James Steele, the star of The Guardian’s 51-minute documentary on the torture chamber horrors in Iraq, has been unharmed by it all. Click onto his bio on the Premiere Speakers Bureau website. It calls Steele a motivational speaker, and quotes a deputy secretary of defense referring to his "incredible bravery and also incredible expertise about police forces in third world countries," and characterizes his work with the Iraqi police as "heroic."

    Some group will pay him thousands of dollars to talk about it. And unfortunately for the rest of us, that’s all they will want to hear.


    Tactics from the Spanish Inquisition and comfy SOFAs. A scene from a Monty Python skit or a description of American Foreign Policy since Mossadegh?

    And the Attorney General of the United States of America offers promises to the leadership of Russia not to torture or to put to death a fellow in Russia that he wants in US custody.
    Torture . . . that arguably was done to Manning during the year before his trial.

    War truly is a racket, isn't it, Senator McCain?



  10. Clarification for my Khost comment. That action is reported to be caused by Israeli policies toward the Palestinians and the lopsided support given to Israel by US governments.


    A major criticism of what Manning and WikiLeaks did WRT the release of State Department cables is that it put the lives of those sympathetic to US interests in foreign countries at risk.

    Not saying what actual policies and the repercussions from them actually do in the world.

    I believe what actually happened to Manning while in US custody is more telling than what such claims say.

    Peter Van Buren, a whistleblower who worked for the State Department until being forced to leave because he linked to a cable published by WikiLeaks on Libya on his personal blog, told Firedoglake he believes the department “overvalues its reporting.” That is the “psychology” or “internal culture” and it prevents them from admitting some of their attitude toward the material is overwrought.

    “The State Department did go absolutely insane,” Van Buren said. The release of cables “caused great panic,” however, he questioned how much damage could have actually been done because of the way classification works.

    Cables are classified “Top Secret” if they could cause “exceptionally grave damage” to national security. They are classified “Secret” if they “could be expected to cause serious damage” to national security. They are classified “Confidential” if the release could be expected to cause “damage” to national security.

    “No cable is sent without at least three levels of review (drafter, clearer(s) and approver, though for some very senior people all three might be the same person),” according to Van Buren. If something was classified “Confidential,” two people would check to see that classification was correct. A classification level would always be upgraded if there was doubt about what could happen.

    None of the cables disclosed by Manning were classified “Top Secret.” As Van Buren said, “Absent ‘exceptional grave damage,’ whatever was disclosed does not seem [to be] worth a young man’s life.”



  11. I've just been reading the post and comments at Col Lang's site. An interesting read, from both author and commenters.

    One bit that caught my eye, when questioned under what circumstance should an oath to a government or employer be broken, Lang gave the example of Colonel Staufferberg.

    An oath to a villain hated by all ( most folk at any rate ), a villain who lost a war.

    Referencing to the remarks above, a corollary to "Winners get to write the histories."


  12. Chief, Al:

    "And yet, here we are, with a public largely indifferent to the agitation for further involvement in places like Syria. "

    I disagree. You look at Libya, for example, and it seems pretty clear to me the operation was limited on our end because of domestic political opposition. Same with Syria, and the polling is pretty clear:


    And look what's changed since 2007 on Afghanistan:


    It took a while, but I think the American people have learned just about the limitations of military power. How long will this skepticism last? Who knows.


    Well, I did the drone thing for three years (hated it), but Brandon Bryant is greatly exaggerating about a lot of things in that interview.

    And CIA controlled Afghan police in a post-2014 Afghanistan?! Where's my tinfoil hat? If there's one thing everyone should know after 34 years of war in Afghanistan, it's that no one there is "controlled" for very long by any outsider.

  13. Oops, that should be, "It took a while, but I think the American people have learned just a little bit about the limitations of military power."

  14. To all,
    I hope i'm ot.
    We miss the main point on Manning.And Padilla. And J.Walker Lind.
    All of these guys were tortured and denied due process.
    If the gov't can torture and deny them , then it's a short walk over to your street, even if Zimmerman is the watch man. Z's gun won't protect us from the super spooks.No pun intended.
    Look at the pic of wimpy B. Manning on this post.He hasn't seen the sun since who knows when. Look at him- he's a ghost.
    Why is he even in cuffs/chains? He couldn't punch his way out of a wet bag. For you west coast types thats a thing that we carry groceries in down here in the south.
    When did we as a system of justice assume that a person is guilty before the trial?
    When did a guy like BM become a flight risk?
    None of us offer up comment on the key stuff to the PWOT.
    Justice is dead.
    I think BM is a hero, and i wish more of us had his balls, at least i wish i had..
    As a SF officer i saw a lot of stuff that was wrong and i kept my lip buttoned. I was an o3 and he a e3 and he was braver than i ever could muster.
    jim hruska

  15. BB,
    Maybe we need to amend the oath to be realistic.

    Lets start by-I swear allegiance to the Constitution, one document for all.

    I personally cannot, will not and shall never understand how we can believe that there are 2 Documents and levels of protection.
    We only have 1 document and nowhere does it have an exemption of policy for soldiers.
    I hope that i read it right.

  16. Chief,
    I DO NOT accept that BM is guilty as hell.
    It is our gov't that is guilty.
    Let's start with something as insane as the way the gov't now stacks charges and terrifies defendants. I again posit Lind.
    This is gov't malfeasance and intimidation before even stepping before a jury.
    BM was considered guilty by all before he stepped in court.
    IMO he confessed ONLY because they hung death threats against him.
    The word Kangaroo comes to mind.
    What exactly was he guilty of?

  17. BB,
    As an after thought-what do you do when the government is violating the Constitution?

    1. Well now, it all depends upon the severity, doesn't it?

      And also, we must take into account who it is that is at the Helm of the Ship of State, shouldn't we? The "government" is not some alien entity forced upon the tender, virginal and chaste lap of the American Public.
      It very literally is us peons and the people we elect to rule us, both by our voting and our refusal to vote.

      Some duly elected member of the Ruling Elite who is trying his or her honest best for the general welfare, or some bought-and-paid-for shill for the monied interests who are currently sloshing their ill-gotten billions about the country, molding our society to their personal idiopathic ideals.

      So my suggestions range from education and GOTV to some apocalyptic happening like 1789 France or 1917 Russia, and we know how those last 2 turned out.


    2. My afterthought: Could jim of RAW be caught doing this?


      Forming into impromptu affinity groups, we split up and filtered to the hotel. Though it will likely be heavily guarded later this week, on Monday we easily strolled into the front doors and up to the second floor bar and lobby looking every bit like normal customers of the establishment.

      The bar was full of people enjoying business meetings or early happy hours, and they took no notice of us until the chanting began. This was Chicago’s first “Moral Monday” action!


  18. As Chief says, we should be looking at the government's guilt and not Manning's.

  19. jim

    Manning violated the UCMJ. The only actions for which motive negates criminality are violence performed in self defense.

    Don't matter how minor the classified info might be, if it is classified, it is classified. If it is misclassified, it is still classified.

    How Manning was treated pre-trial is another issue. And yes, cuffing him to come to court when he has not been charged with a crime of violence is over the top.

  20. Al,

    I agree. He is guilty and should be punished (he's already plead guilty to charges), but I think his treatment and character should be taken into account with sentencing.

  21. Andy,
    Of course he should be punished. Could i be so bold as to suggest we bend his dog tags?
    It's a shame we didn't find him guilty of a capital crime then we could've hung him and televised it.
    This trial was a joke.
    I must wonder why it wasn't in a civilian court if it was soo serious. It has / had ramifications beyond the military concerns of UCMJ. The court knew the outcome before the jury was sworn in.
    That's my take.
    It doesn't pay to screw with mother nature.

    Andy and Al and Sven- thanks for your comments.

  22. Jim,

    He wasn't tried in a civilian court because he was a member of the military, on military orders, deployed to a war zone, under military command and he violate the UCMJ. I don't see how he could be tried in a civilian court given those circumstances. Additionally, as one with some personal experience with military courts, the UCMJ does offer advantages to defendants not available to civilians. Manning, through his legal counsel, took advantage of some of these, as he should. He declined a jury trial to have his guilt and sentencing decided by a military judge. That is probably a smarter move that a "jury of his (military) peers."

    The fact remains that Manning did commit some crimes, he has admitted to committing the crimes, and he has already plead guilty to committing some of them. If one believes in the concept of the "rule of law" and not the arbitrary whims of popular opinion, then Manning must face some kind of justice. What remains is a judgment on what additional punishment, if any, he should receive tempered by the potentially illegal treatment he received in pre-trial confinement.

    Whatever the judge decides he will have the avenue of appeal potentially up to the Supreme Court.

  23. IMHO viable organizations have moral authority, a fuzzy, but real sense that the activity promotes some greater value. When organizations lose that sense of mission, some individuals – Trotsky, Snowden -- take on the role of Old Testament prophets and go public with their complaints. But most hold their silence, become disaffiliated and do as little as possible and while holding out for retirement. This is what seems to have happened to the Soviet Union and, at a much less intensive level, to the American auto industry during the 1980s and 90s. And that is the real danger to the country posed by drone warfare, Draconian persecutions of naïve truth-tellers, such as Manning, and perennial cover ups. Government becomes distasteful, and people turn away into their private concerns. Fragmentation follows.

  24. Andy,
    The reasons that you state do not mean that a soldier cannot be tried in a civilian court.
    The nature of the offense dictates policy.
    As a Co Cdr i had 2 soldiers go on a armed robbery rampage in south ga and n. fl.
    They were tried in a Fl court.
    IMO the BM trial would have been better addressed in a civilian court.

  25. jim

    Even as a PVT in the Corps I knew that crimes by active duty military committed off a military reservation were prosecuted by the civilian authorities of the jurisdiction where the crimes were committed, and crimes committed by military personnel on a military reservation are prosecuted under the UCMJ.

  26. Al,
    I reckon i just ain't as smart as a Marine PVT.
    What you say ain't always true either. Or at least i don't think so.
    Let's take a GI killing a German on post in Germany. Who will try that offense?
    I wonder if a Marine PVT would rape a maid on post on Okie -where would that be tried?
    The dividing line(without snarkiness) between us is that you back authority much more readily than i do.
    Of course BM is guilty, but what was he trying to do?
    As a result of our discussions i wonder why Russia, Red China and all those other places to include IRAQ and AFGH don't have whistle blowers and why don't they have as many espionage cases as we the great democracy play out in the courts?
    I reckon it's how one reads the law.
    It's all so black and white.
    In case you're wondering - i caught the slap down.

  27. OK, so I was referring to jurisdiction for crimes in the US. Troops and bases in foreign countries are covered by SOFAs, and each SOFA is unique to that country.

    BTW, it wasn't a slap down. It was a simple statement of the training in the UCMJ that we received in Boot Camp, to include the basics of jurisdiction.