Matt Taibbi on the Manning trial

He says that in the case of the Bradley Manning trial the government as usual has been successful in getting the media to chase squirrels and obsess over the wrong questions. The government has long figured that out that this tactic works well and uses it quite skillfully.

Taibbi says that the wrong questions that the media are focusing on the trial are:

Is Manning a hero, or a traitor? Did he give thousands of files to Wikileaks out of a sense of justice and moral horror, or did he do it because he had interpersonal problems, because he couldn’t keep his job, because he was a woman trapped in a man’s body, because he was a fame-seeker, because he was lonely?

The right questions are quite different:

Because in reality, this case does not have anything to do with who Bradley Manning is, or even, really, what his motives were. This case is entirely about the “classified” materials Manning had access to, and whether or not they contained widespread evidence of war crimes.

This whole thing, this trial, it all comes down to one simple equation. If you can be punished for making public a crime, then the government doing the punishing is itself criminal.

Manning, by whatever means, stumbled into a massive archive of evidence of state-sponsored murder and torture, and for whatever reason, he released it. The debate we should be having is over whether as a people we approve of the acts he uncovered that were being done in our names.

Slate was one of the few outlets to approach the Manning trial in a way that made sense. Their story took the opportunity of the court-martial to remind all of us of the list of horrors Manning discovered, including (just to name a very few):

  • During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to thousands of field reports…
  • There were 109,032 “violent deaths” recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops’ alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers…
  • In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff… [This is the infamous ‘Collateral Murder‘ video-MS]

The important thing is that we have to learn to stop chasing after the bouncing red ball that the government throws to distract us. As author Thomas Pynchon said, “If they get you asking the wrong questions, then they don’t have to worry about the answers.”

Here is a video where well-known figures do ask the right questions.


  1. says

    Put differently: there were dozens or hundreds of My Lai massacres that not only went unpunished, but remain uninvestigated. Manning did not divulge “secrets” – he divulged evidence of crimes.

  2. Aliasalpha says

    So an entire city’s worth of civilians were killed then? That sounds like a good way to frame it & get people realising the horror of it.

    Hell my home town has 60k people or so in it and whilst I don’t like most of them I’d sooner not have them all dead

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