The Hero We Deserve 2

Posted on July 4, 2011


Glenn Greenwald eviscerates yet another in-depth article in to the “real” Bradley Manning in his column today. The New York piece is the latest in a series of muck-raking dives into the private life of Manning, who, despite the fact that he is partially responsible for a near-revolutionary paradigm shift in news dissemination, must be outed as abnormal, fussy, nervous, unstable and unpleasant to be around. It has been a journalistic genre of sorts for many years. One could almost say that it’s a system-wide reaction by an institution so invested in the political status quo, and the deep and vulgar inhumanities that it necessitates supporting, that they can literally not understand how another human being could stand against the powers that be. Such a person as Manning could not be principled, that would have uncomfortable and dissonant resonance. What would that mean for a profession that must sublimate truth in order to maintain access to power? Manning must be some kind of super-freak, that’s the only thing that can explain it. As I wrote last year, after the publication of the New York Times hit piece what possible relevance could even the unhappiest period of Manning’s life have?

… he may have been the unhappiest 22 year old man on earth, but that in no way removes what seems like the most likely primary motive behind his actions–his conviction that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are immoral.  I can tell you some stories about my childhood, and I certainly have found myself in some dead end jobs—that doesn’t interfere with my ability to see the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as disgusting, murderous shit storms.

Don’t even ask me about my love life, an issue the New York article seems pre-occupied with in the case of Manning. As my sister once wisely proclaimed, “everyone’s crazy, the only people that know about it are their lovers.” And if you take on a courageous act of anti-establishment heroism, such as Manning did, the rest of the world, of course, thanks to the mainstream media. The spectrum of petty failings of humans in general, even at their quotidian worst, blanche before the spectacular evil that are our invasions. What Manning did in his private life up until the moment of standing up against our horrendous foreign policy is meaningless.

What we never see, obviously, are such exploratory pieces about people like Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus–men who have devoted their lives to an institution that excels at producing murder and suffering, and if nothing else, has the unbeaten record for annihilating family reunions. Nor do we see many investigative articles into the military mindset that encourages atrocities like these, where even those soldiers who had no direct part in wanton murder, took the next puff on a joint when it was passed to them by the killers of a 15 year old child they had killed and framed as a combatant:

Morlock was particularly eager to volunteer the truth to his fellow soldiers, evidently unconcerned about how they would react to his having murdered an unarmed Afghan. The same evening he shot Mudin, several members of Bravo Company convened in the privacy of a Stryker vehicle for a nightcap of hashish, a common activity among the unit. […] Morlock passed the hash and recounted the killing in detail, even explaining how he had been careful not to leave the grenade’s spoon and pin on the ground, where they might have been used as evidence that a U.S. weapon had been involved in the attack. For the same reason, he’d also been careful to brush away traces of white explosive powder around Mudin’s body.

From Britain, to America, to Israel, the war-time military mindset is one of reveling in death and destruction, it is so by design, by training and by purposed reinforcement. One need only look at these horrifying confessions from Israel occupation troops to note the curious similarities between the mental fragmentation of our own soldiers and theirs:

Taking pictures of dead bodies, that’s nothing new. It happened in our company as well. When a Palestinian was killed, and his body had to go through that whole procedure of transferring it, plenty of people got their pictures taken with it. The body was not abused, it was photographed with them. My company commander, too, had a picture he took of the body, like some sort of war souvenir.

You don’t care about them, about what happens to them. You don’t care. You pass your time because you know you have to and there’s nothing you can do about it, whether it’s a warning or something that is actually happening. You don’t know. Something has to happen that really shocks you in order for you to change. And I guess it doesn’t. The fact is such serious things did occur and so many people would not talk about them. Perhaps, too, they don’t think it is so severe or serious – that it was natural, a part of what we called ongoing warfare.

Those that cannot bring themselves to go along, or cannot bring themselves to become inured, are brutalized both emotionally and physically.

Casting aspersions on the state of mind of one such soldier, who, rather than accept as “normal” the twisted narrative of murder and oppression that the American war machine is now infamous for, broke against it in an act of bravery few would contemplate, is madness of a peculiarly American kind.

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