Boing Boing has been putting up transcripts of the chat logs between Manning and Lamo.
Boing Boing’s general gist is that Lamo led Manning to believe their conversations were privileged, protected under both the California journalism Confidential Source Laws and because Lamo is apparently an ordained minister and Manning could consider their conversation a “confession” of sorts.
Then Lamo turned Manning into the FBI and betrayed that trust.
There’s some fine, fine poetic justice for you right there. Personally I don’t see where Manning has a pot to piss in when it comes to complaining about betrayal of trust or making what are supposed to be privileged communications public.
In the last month a number of folks have asked my opinion regarding the US Soldier who passed classified information to the WikiLeaks site.
Including this now infamous video clip.
The general consensus seems to be that I might regard this soldier as a hero – and a number of folks pointed me at this idiotic site.
Seriously, what the hell is the matter with you people?
This guy is a turd who doesn’t know the first thing about either patriotism or keeping his word.
If you think that I would regard Army Specialist Bradley Manning as anything other than an traitorous asshole who betrayed his oath, his service, and his country and who jeopardized the lives of his fellow Soldiers, then you really don’t know anything about me at all.
There’s a huge difference between a whistleblower and a disgruntled turncoat.
Manning is the latter.
He’s a coward, a criminal, a shitbag loser who was demoted for striking a fellow soldier, and from where I sit, a dishonorable traitor who deserves to be in prison for a good long time – right next Robert Hanson and John Walker and the fact that Manning gave his information to WikiLeaks instead of the Russians is irrelevant.
For those of you not familiar with the story of Spec Manning here’s the thumbnail version: Manning was a 22 year-old US Army specialist serving in Iraq who passed classified gun camera video to the WikiLeaks website. He then tried to pass 260,000 classified documents to a former hacker at WikiLeaks while bragging about his exploits. That hacker, Adrian Lamo, turned Manning into federal authorities. Manning is currently sitting in military detention in Baghdad.
Couple of things:
First, it’s a damned sad day indeed when a lowlife convicted hacker like Lamo has more honor and integrity and sense of duty than a US Army soldier trusted with a security clearance and the defense of secure information and the nation.
Second, the media widely reported Manning as an “Intelligence Analyst,” but the truth of the matter is that as a Specialist he was a low-ranking gofer, who obviously had way too much time on his hands and not nearly enough supervision. This guy was an “analyst” in only the broadest, most entry level, sense of the word.
I spent over twenty years in military intelligence with one of the highest security clearances in the military and I recognize Manning right away, he’s an E-4 headquarters discipline problem who spent most of his time in the war zone skylarking in a cushy non-combat assignment and sifting through classified networks instead of doing his fucking job. While his fellow Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Guardsmen were out risking their asses every single day, Manning was sitting fat, dumb, and happy, safe in a secure compound surfing military networks and spying on his own people looking for juicy gossip, instead of performing the work that he was supposed to be doing and that would help protect the lives of his fellows. All of us in the military know shitbags like this, the slackers who sit around drinking sodas and slurping cup-O-noodles all day while everybody else not only does their own job but his too. The fucker is probably the same guy who always takes the last cup of coffee and doesn’t make more.
Third, about that video – those pilots didn’t do anything wrong. That’s right. They. Did. Not. Do. Anything. Wrong. Unless you’ve been there, you do not have context to hang this event on and you do not have the experience to understand what you’re looking at. Period. If you think otherwise, you’re wrong.
I’ve avoided discussing this despite a number of requests – because you’re not going to like what I have to say – but I’ll do it now anyhow.
The video is disturbing, it shows the true horror of war, of conflict, and killing – and that horror is not the death of innocents, it is what happens to those who do the killing and who are submerged in blood and death and destruction for months and years at a time.
You should be horrified by that video – just like you should be horrified by videos of those flag-draped steel boxes coming home to Dover Air Force Base (and that is, of course, why the previous administration tried to hide them, don’t want the population revolted and shamed by dead soldiers, no sirree). That’s war, and it’s pretty fucking horrifying. There is not one damned thing glorious about it. No matter how you slice it, what it ultimately comes down to is that you’re killing people and they are killing you. Your government is killing people. Whether or not it is justified is a matter for history and irrelevant to those who actually wage it. On the ground you’re killing people. Killing. Them. By fire and flame and blast, by gun and bombardment and by missile. Sometimes it’s quick and painless – and sometimes it’s slow and lingering and terrible. Sometimes it’s a quick shot to the head and all neat and tidy – and sometimes it leaves human beings splattered like burned chunky spaghetti sauce across the landscape. Sometimes you kill the people you intend to, those sons of bitches on the other side who are trying to kill you – and sometimes you kill children and old people and reporters and friendlies and some poor hapless bastard whose only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the minigun cuts loose. That’s war, it’s brutal and it’s ugly and it’s inhuman and it is immoral (yes, immoral, war is inherently immoral no matter which side you are on. I’m not saying that war isn’t oft times justified or that the actions of individual soldiers aren’t moral and righteous, but war itself is a dirty immoral business and make no mistake about it). That is the vicious nature of war, perhaps if Americans actually understood that they’d be less eager to have one every ten years or so. And we’ve been at this one now longer than any other in our history (with the exception of the so-called “Indian Wars”) and it is taking a measurable toll.
Americans want to believe that war is somehow glorious and moral and a grand adventure. That might makes right and that real American soldiers sleep the sleep of the righteous and the just untroubled by bad dreams. That patriotism is slapping a $2 magnet on the back of their cars while waving a flag and calling those who don’t believe as they do un-American. They live in some make believe fantasy land where it’s possible to bomb a country into democracy while making a profit and the enemy is easy to identify because he looks just like a Jap or a Nazi or a Slope or ragheaded terrorist. Americans want to believe that the enemy doesn’t love his country as much as they love theirs. Americans want to believe that war is just like TV or a video game, all clean and safe and without consequence. Americans want to believe that God stands with us and that he thas forsaken the enemy. Americans want to believe that war isn’t horrifying and inhuman and immoral.
Americans want to believe that Johnny can march off to war and come home unaffected.
Reality is somewhat different – and after WWII and Korea and Vietnam and the Gulf War and Bosnia and Beirut and Somalia and now more than ten years of this goddamned endless conflict you’d think Americans would understand that fact.
But they don’t.
So, let me clue you in. If you are to survive the battlefield with your mind intact, then you’d damned well better have mental defenses that are as bullet resistant as your ballistic vest. Some folks can’t deal with it, can’t deal with the stress and horror and inhumanity of it all. They just can’t. The DoD and VA mental health clinics are full to bursting with these broken veterans – and truthfully, they may be the most human of us all. All are affected in some way. And those who engage in the business of war develop coping mechanisms or they simply won’t survive on the battlefield. And those coping mechanisms are well understand by those who train us – and those who have to fix us after we’re broken. Killing human beings in our society is immoral, and since we generally don’t recruit sociopaths into the military, we have to find a way to overcome that prohibition in the people we send off to war. The oldest and best method is to vilify the enemy, to make him less than human. Japs, Krauts, Gooks, Slopes, Towelheads, whatever, soldiers have done this since the time of the Roman Legions. It’s a natural human primary response to the situation and it works. So does gallows humor. The business we are engaged in is ghastly and horrible, we know that, but it is our sworn duty, it is the nature of our profession. And so we deal with it the way humans in similar circumstance deal with blood and gore and horror and stress – they make jokes, just as cops do, just as paramedics do, just as firemen and doctors and pilots do (I’ve known more than a few air traffic controllers in my life, all have lost aircraft under their control. When that happens, they crack wise and keep doing their jobs – because the alternative is to come unglued at the thought of an airliner you were responsible for full of people splashed all over some cornfield, and if that happens, if they freeze or become hysterical or lose focus, thousands more could die. So they crack wise and make graveyard jokes and they carry on as long as they have to. Ever wonder why the ATC profession has such a high rate of alcoholism and suicide? So do we).
Those Apache pilots were doing what they were supposed to be doing. They were directed onto target. They were literally miles away, watching those men on the ground through powerful night-vision cameras. They had seconds to analyze what they were seeing. It’s not like the movies. It’s not like a video game. It’s sweltering and the bird is shaking and vibrating and howling. It’s nerve wracking and the levels of stress and paranoia and adrenalin are so far beyond anything a normal human being ever deals with that it can’t be described – and it’s a damned sight more harrowing than anything some cowardly skylarking E-4 REMF* back there in an air conditioned trailer ever had to deal with. Now, those pilots had to kill people, in a way far more personal than the average Soldier or pilot, and they had to do it over and over again, for months, years. That was the nature of their job. Could you do that? Unlikely. Just as the average person couldn’t do what a paramedic does, or a surgeon, or an executioner. It’s not the physical aspect, it’s the mental. They deal with it by joking, by gallows humor. Those pilots had no reason to believe other than what they did at the time, that they were looking at a legitimate military target, and they did what they were supposed to do. They eliminated the threat. They pulled the trigger on human beings in a very personal way – and they joked about it while they were doing so because that’s how you deal with it.
And that’s what so many people found offensive. That’s what Manning found so offensive.
They were wrong, of course, those pilots – not for joking while killing people, but for killing the wrong people. It’s easy for the armchair generals to condemn them for it, but if you think you would have made a better judgment call in that situation, well, then by all means sign up. Put your abilities, honed by hours of Gears of War, to use. The Army is always looking for good people with the magic ability to see through the fog of war and separate friend from foe. Go on, put your money were your mouth is.
I know, no matter what I say, you’ll still think me wrong.
You think the real question is this: with all our vaunted technology why couldn’t we tell that those men on the ground were TV reporters and children and non-combatants? Why?
Well because as I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph, war is not at all like a video game or a movie or a book written by somebody who has never been there. And because computers aren’t very good at determining the intentions of human beings in a grainy green-lit shaking night-vision video feeds taken from miles away.
That’s the job of Intelligence.
That’s the job of Intelligence analysts.
See, while those Apache pilots, and countless thousands of other forces, were out there on the line – intelligence analysts were sitting in an air conditioned trailer in a secure compound in Bagdad. Their job was to analyze video and images and data and patterns and messages and the countless other bits and pieces and fragments of information in order to give the trigger pullers a better picture of the battle space. It was their job to determine intent.
In this case, the events in the video happened two years before Manning showed up in the war zone, but somebody just like him was supposed to be looking at the data and providing information to the warfighters.
Now, it’s true that you never have enough information, and you never have a clear picture, and you can never truly know the enemy’s intention. And that too is the nature of war. You simply do the best you can in a dynamic and ever changing environment. And even if you do everything right as an analyst, everything you know may be rendered outdated in seconds by changes in the battlespace. Intelligence work never ends. In the war zone there is never an idle moment. You learn from your mistakes and failures – and you will make mistakes and you will have failures and that too is the nature of war. But what you don’t do is sit around, fucking off and surfing through the networks looking for ways to screw your superiors when what you’re supposed to be doing is supporting the guys out there on the line. What Manning should have been doing was his job, analyzing data, doing his part to help build a coherent picture of the threat in order to reduce the likelihood of killing the wrong people.
He should have been doing his part to support his brothers in arms.
Instead he betrayed his oath, his duty, and his country, those soldiers out on the line, and those self same innocent Iraqis he claimed to be so concerned about. Manning’s actions directly put his fellow soldiers in harm’s way and may have put Iraqi lives at risk as well. If Manning was so concerned for the lives of those innocent Iraqis, then he damned well should have done his job**.
Now, if Manning truly felt that he had evidence of a war crime – then there are very specific methods to bring that to the attention of the chain of command, all the way up to the Commander In Chief. He could have forwarded that information to his superiors. If he was unsatisfied with their response he could have reported it to the Inspector General’s Office – and he could have done so anonymously if he was afraid of repercussions. Every single one of us in uniform knows how to contact the IG – and if you could find Adrian Lamo’s email address, you damned well could find the number for the IG which is posted on the bulletin board in every space in the military. Failing that, he could have contacted his Representative or Senator – and again, if you can find a hacker’s email address or a two year old classified video buried in SIPRNET, you sure as hell shouldn’t have any trouble finding your congressman’s webpage.
No, Manning, with malice aforethought, deliberately betrayed his country. He stole classified information that he was neither authorized to access or equipped to understand and passed it to unauthorized persons. Nothing whatsoever justifies his actions. Period. But, then he bragged about it to Adrian Lamo and offered to pass on 260,000 additional classified documents. Two hundred and sixty thousand. He didn’t do this out of some outraged sense of morality, he was doing it for the same reason every other traitor does it – because he thought he was smarter than his chain of command, because he thought himself above his brothers in arms, because he appointed himself moral guardian of America, and because he wanted to improve his situation at the expense of duty and honor. What Manning did was a violation of not only his oath of enlistment, but the oath he swore to protect classified information when he was granted a security clearance. This man’s word is shit. He is a disgrace to the uniform he wears and an insult to all of us who have ever served with honor and distinction and who hold our oath dear.
Specialist Bradley Manning is a cowardly dishonorable scumbag and his actions may have led directly to the deaths of Allied men and women and have directly affected national security both in the war zone and at home.
More than that, because he was busy betraying his country instead of doing the job he was trained and paid and sworn to do, other pilots may find themselves living with the fact that they killed innocent men and women and children because they didn’t have the information they needed to make different choices in the battlespace.
This man is no hero.
And to call him one is to spit in the face of every man and women who has ever served and sacrificed for this country.
This man deserves nothing less than life in prison.
* REMF = rear echelon motherfucker. It’s a technical term used in the military to describe somebody who gets to shower regularly and watch TV every night. Usually reserved for HQ and Staff personnel.
** I speak from direct experience here. Somewhere in the box of awards I keep upstairs on a shelf in my office is a Navy Commendation Medal that I was awarded for, in part, saving the lives of 43 Iraqis. Manning’s bullshit excuse is personal to me.