Bradley Manning and U.S. War Crimes

The Injustices of a Criminal System

August 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


In May 2010, Bradley Manning told someone whom he considered a friend that he had released to WikiLeaks the "Collateral Murder" video and a video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that had killed over 100 Afghan civilians. Manning was arrested, and among the 34 counts he was originally charged with were four that mentioned a "2007 July 17 Baghdad video." For the "crime" of exposing war crimes, Bradley Manning is now facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Bradley Manning faces a possible sentence of life in prison for EXPOSING U.S. war crimes.

Meanwhile, those who have carried out U.S. war crimes are seldom even brought to trial, or if they are, are given very little punishment.

In October 2001, the U.S. and some allies invaded Afghanistan. They claimed it was in response to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York a month earlier. This invasion began a war and military occupation of Afghanistan that continue to this day. In March 2003, the U.S. launched an invasion of Iraq, allegedly to deprive the Iraqi government of its "weapons of mass destruction"—weapons which did not, in fact, exist.

In the 12 years since the invasion of Afghanistan set off the U.S.'s "war on terror," hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by the actions of the U.S. and its allies. A recent article in the medical journal Lancet reported that estimates of "excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of war" in the first 40 months alone after the U.S. invasion were 655,000, and that at least 5 million Iraqi people had been displaced from their homes.

Millions of other people have been traumatized, maimed, and sickened by the war. As just one example—doctors who have studied public health in Iraq think that the depleted uranium and other toxic residue of U.S. explosives are the cause of a sharp increase in cases of cancer and other immune disorders, birth defects, infertility in women, and other devastating medical conditions. Chris Busby, a chemist at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and one of the authors of a study of the health crisis in Iraq, said recently that the situation in the city of Fallujah represents "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied."

The U.S. has terrified and killed people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia with its remote controlled drone bombings. The U.S. has developed a network of torture chambers like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram, that spans much of the globe.

The people who order, plan, supervise, and execute these and other war crimes in the interest of the U.S. empire are regarded as heroes by this system, and often honored with medals. On the rare occasions when a U.S. soldier faces charges for particularly savage behavior that somehow comes to broader attention, the charges have been nowhere close to commensurate with the atrocities they've committed. In the even rarer cases where they've been convicted, their sentences are a fraction of what Bradley Manning is facing for exposing such war crimes in the files he released to Wikileaks.

Some examples:

  • On March 15, 2006, 11 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including several children, were shot to death by U.S. forces in a night raid on their home in the town of Ishaqi. A U.S. investigation into the slaughter determined that the troops had used "appropriate force." One of the cables sent to WikiLeaks by Bradley Manning was an email from a United Nations official who concluded the Americans had "executed them all."
  • U.S. Army specialist Armin Cruz and other prison guards stepped on and kicked naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. They forced the prisoners to crawl on the floor while handcuffed together. Cruz was sentenced to eight months in prison.
  • Sgt. Sabrina Harman, whose picture was seen around the world as she stood leering next to a pile of naked, hooded Iraqis was, was sentenced to six months in prison for "maltreatment" of prisoners.
  • Marine Sgt. Frank Wuterich and eight other Marines burst into a home in the Iraqi city of Haditha and killed 24 civilians, including children and elderly people. Wuterich, who said he had given an order to "shoot first, ask questions later," pled guilty to a charge of "negligent dereliction of duty" and was sentenced to 60 days. He didn't serve any of his time because of a pre-trial deal he had struck.
  • The "Collateral Murder" video is one of the most damning of the files Bradley Manning released to WikiLeaks. It depicts a horrifying attack by two Apache helicopters on reporters and Iraqi civilians in 2007. Eleven people were killed in the attack; three people, including two children, were seriously wounded. In 2010 the Pentagon announced that its investigation into the incident had been concluded. No one responsible for the death rained on those Iraqi people was charged with anything.


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