Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Summits and Valleys

Dis, mis and no information


    “… and the truth shall make you free.”
—John 8:32

It’s difficult to think clearly about an issue without accurate, timely and reliable information about that issue. Understanding is impossible without clear thinking, or at least so it seems to me, and it is always disturbing when information about issues that concern, for instance, you, are clearly being kept from you. If it is truth that makes you free, then inadmissible facts buried in disinformation, misinformation and no information in the service of nationalistic loyalty or any power or entity that needs your ignorance more than your understanding, are forms of slavery.
    No credible defender of democracy or, for that matter, freedom or humanity itself, condones either slavery or ignorance.
    But there certainly is a great deal of disinformation, misinformation and no information purporting to justify it in the name of, though not the reality, spirit and truth of America, Americans and their best interests. Bradley Manning comes immediately to mind.
    Manning is perhaps today’s highest profile example of the cause and costs of freedom—in this case the freedom to insist that truth is more than admissible, it is necessary. He has very likely felt lonely during the past three years, but he is not alone. Manning was a Pfc. intelligence analyst with the U.S. Army serving in Iraq in 2010. In April of that year, Julian Assange’s Wikileaks released a U.S. military video taken from an Apache helicopter above the streets of Baghdad. The video has been dubbed “Collateral Murder” and clearly shows gunfire from the helicopter killing a dozen unarmed, non-threatening civilians in the street, including two Reuters employees, a videographer and his driver. The cavalier dialogue of the Americans in the helicopter is almost as unsettling as the carnage in the street below. “Collateral Murder” was on the Internet for a short time until it became an inadmissible fact and was removed. But anyone who saw it (I did) will never forget it.
    A month later, 22-year-old Pfc. Bradley Manning was arrested and charged with leaking the video along with hundreds of thousands of documents to Wikileaks, including military records from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and more than a quarter million U.S. State Department cables dubbed “Cablegate.” Among other things, the documents illuminate the true cause and number of civilian casualties in the Iraq war, human rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors in Iraq, and the role of spying and bribery in international diplomacy. The conditions of Manning’s detention since then have made a mockery of American justice, American military justice and American concepts of human decency, including the presumption of innocence. Manning was moved to Kuwait and locked in a small cage inside a dark tent for two months, and his subsequent conditions of detention in the U.S. have included 10 months of solitary confinement without exercise, social interaction, sunlight and, on several occasions, clothes, all illegal under U.S. military law. One U.S. State Department official called Manning’s treatment at the Quantico, Va., Marine Corps brig “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” A United Nations rapporteur on torture investigated the Manning case and concluded that his treatment at the hands of the U. S. military has been “cruel and inhuman.” It is a reminder to other potential whistleblowers of what to expect for choosing truth over inadmissible fact, and it is a clear violation of the 5th and 8th amendments to the Constitution of the U.S.
    Manning has said of his actions, “I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
    The great American hero and patriot Daniel Ellsberg, the Vietnam-era whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971, calls Manning a hero and patriot.
    Though Manning has not been convicted of anything, almost a year before he had his first pre-trial hearing, President and Commander in Chief Obama said of Manning and his pre-trial detention, “He (Manning) broke the law,” a statement that any first-year law student and every member of the military knows undermines Manning’s right to presumption of innocence.
    That’s an admissible fact, as is Manning’s status as hero, patriot and defender of the truth.

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