Monday, June 14, 2010

On the Nature of False Heroes and Whistleblowers



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?



Utterly wrong.

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.


  1. There's a difference between, "Hey, something went terribly wrong here, and it needs to be exposed and corrected for," and "lookee me, I can haz security clearance."

    260,000 documents. Fuck. That's not leaking, that's "oo, here's a document, there's a document, I'm a special snowflake because I can get all this stuff..."

    Hell, I have more respect for Hansen and his motive was pure profit. At least he was professional about it.

  2. During my time in the Air Force, I was never called upon to fight in a war. But I know and have talked with fighting veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. People who put boots on the ground and fought and killed and watched friends die and saw war up close and personal. Everything I heard from these people confirm your description of war. It is horrible, it is frightening, and it is often horribly difficult to identify the enemy, no matter how good your intel is. And you learn to deal with it, or you become unable to function.

    People die in war, and sometimes they're people who shouldn't die. Even in the greatest war, World War II, an uncountable number of civilians died as a result of everything from street-to-street fighting to carpet bombing. The best estimates (and they are just that, estimates) are that between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed during the Normandy invasion. Roughly 2 million German civilians were killed from 1937 to 1945.

    Part of the problem is we see and hear about smart bombs and drones and are given the impression that it's possible to sit back and fight a war by remote control with weapons that give us such control that only the bad guys are killed.

    As Gen. Sherman told the Atlanta city council when they asked him to rescind his order for the city's evacuation on the grounds that it would cause great hardship to women, children, the elderly, and others who, they argues, bore no responsibility for the conduct of the Civil War, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it..."

    Yes, we can and should have standards for how we conduct war. There are, and should be, such things as war crimes, and they should be prosecuted. And there are those who will always try and cover up when crimes occur.

    But trying to give 260,000 pages of classified documents to a hacker? 260,000? To a fucking hacker?

    Fuck no.

    Fuck. No.

  3. Nick from the O.C.June 15, 2010 at 12:29 AM

    Great post, Jim. You're spot-on, as per usual.

    holow = shorthand for "how low can a despicable ahole go?"

  4. Amen brother.


    Here's the story of a true whistleblower:



  5. When I first heard about this story, I was keeping an open mind. If the gun camera footage was the only thing he'd leaked, I might have thought he was mis-guided, but honestly troubled over what he'd seen.

    When I got to the part about him trying to disseminate 260,000 other documents, that's when the whole thing fell apart for me. You'd have to be some kind of magical speed-reader with a photographic memory (and some other super-powers I'm too lazy to dream up), to even have scanned that many documents, much less formed any opinion about their contents.

    This guy was clearly nothing more than a self-aggrandizing douchebag who was looking to corner his own little market in internet fame. I don't envy his defense counsel trying to come up with any remotely reasonable explanation for his actions.

  6. I don’t know where to start. You’re right in saying that I won’t like what you’re going to say or that no matter what you say I’ll still think you wrong. However the real question is the nature of the US presence in Iraq. Has it ever been for the Iraqi people? I think not. The US armed forces were never greeted as liberators and the insurgency has popular support. To retain its hold the US must occupy Iraq and is thus an Imperial power. As with any Colonial occupation the civilians are the enemy. A fact that can’t be whitewashed with token indigenous governments.

    It’s no wonder naked acts of aggressions like the one mentioned are commonplace. Incidents at Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah, Ramallah etc. bring shame to the American people. Can mistaken identity be used as an excuse in all these cases? I think not. Rather a deliberate campaign to oppress and subjugate the civilian population is apparent. Credible evidence shows that foot soldiers were acting “under orders” when carrying out these atrocities. They couldn’t operate with out being condoned by higher authorities. This makes it naive to suggest that Manning could have reported this war crime to his superiors; that would have been a futile exercise.

    It’s easy to say that this is war and that these things happen in war. But it won’t be so easy when it’s your loved ones being slaughtered. I praise the family of those victims in pursuing a court case against those responsible. Frankly speaking there is enough evidence to justify imprisonment. Since when has violating the Geneva Convention been okay? A slap on the wrist is not what this situation warranted. I’ve watched this video and was deeply disturbed. Just another case of Democracy being spread by the sword.

  7. Saqib, you've been a reader around here for a long time, for that reason and that reason only I will refrain from deleting your comment out of hand. I’m going to say this once, so pay attention:

    Where to start? Start by thinking through your response instead of regurgitating Al Jeerza and the Taliban talking points at me. Your comment is full of logical fallacies, faulty reasoning, and false accusations:

    1) this post was about a specific incident and a specific person, not the larger question of the US presence in Iraq which I have addressed elsewhere. Note in the text of the post where I specifically said that all wars are immoral and that whether or not a conflict is justified, including this one, is a judgment for history.

    2) NOWHERE in the text did I ever say or imply that this war was "for the Iraqi people." Nowhere. Nowhere did I ever say or imply that on this blog. Ever. It can be demonstrated that the Bush administration made that claim during the invasion, BUT I DID NOT. What I did say was that it is the military's responsibility to limit collateral damage and casualties to the very best of their ability as defined by the available technology, intelligence, and assets. Which they are doing. Those pilots thought they were looking at insurgents - the same sons of bitches that have absolutely no qualms whatsoever about blowing up a market full of Muslims, so you can save the sanctimonious outrage for somebody else, Saqib, because you're full of shit. Muslims have no compulsion about killing Muslims, including women and children and infants and the infirm and the old and the feeble, when it suits them.

    3) The incident discussed in this article does in no way whatsoever compare to other incidents you allude to, you’re making a false comparison and engaging in lazy reasoning in order to justify your erroneous position. Nowhere in the text, indeed nowhere on this blog, did I ever suggest that “Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Fallujah, Ramallah etc.” were cases of mistaken identity. You keep trying to put words in my mouth instead of reading what I wrote and it’s pissing me off.

    4) There is no “deliberate campaign to repress and subjugate” the Iraqi population. Just the opposite in point of fact, and your bullshit allusion to a token government is exactly that, bullshit. The Iraqi government is the one Iraqis voted for, but I suppose you’d rather have the Saddam dictatorship back instead?

    5) In some cases soldiers were acting under orders as in Abu Ghraib – and those soldiers were caught out and punished severely and some are still in jail – but those orders came from the CIA, not the military chain of command. In the other incidents you allude to such as the rape in Ramallah those soldiers were absolutely not acting under anyone’s command. In every case you mention, soldiers were caught, punished, and in some cases sent to prison for a very long time. Your allegation that Manning’s superiors would not have acted on credible evidence of wrong doing is demonstratably wrong. QED.

    6) You are not qualified to judge the events on that video, for exactly the reasons stated in the text. In fact you have even less qualifications than Manning.

    And now I’m going to be extremely blunt with you, Saqib: It’s easy to say that this is war and that these things happen in war. But it won’t be so easy when it’s your loved ones being slaughtered. As I recall, you’re of Pakistani descent, wealthy privileged Pakistani descent, so I’ll get right to the point: they’re not your fucking relatives either. But since you decided to pull the “All us Muslims are brothers” card out, I assume you’ll be taking responsibility for all those Americans slaughtered by your brothers on September 11th, 2001. Since you’re now living in New York, I suggest you go the fuck down to Ground Zero and take a good look at what your brothers wrought, and then you and your hypocrisy can fuck right the hell off.

  8. First off I was hoping we could discuss this without resorting to name calling.

    Second of all I don't appreciate my character being called into question. I have never said or claimed to have said that I supported Saddam. He was a short sighted nationalistic dictator that led his people on one too many misadventures that cost them dearly. You will find that I have no love for him. Also, to say that the people who carried out the terrorist attacks on 9/11 are my brothers is reprehensible. I know people who died in that attack and mourn for them just like anyone else. On that note I never attacked your character and don't appreciate being called names.

    I still can't understand why you defend the pilots even after seeing their vile behavior. To write it off as gallows humor is inhumane. I may not be qualified to interpret the video footage but I know how I felt. I felt sick to my stomach and found it absolutely deplorable. I can’t make sense of it until I look at it in the wider context of how this war is being carried out. Those other incidents had to be cited to show that this is not an isolated incident and that this is business as usual. Of course the military with all its technology would look really bad if it deliberately attacked civilians. So it outsources this task to militias that have been bought by the all mighty dollar. They intimidate, threaten, maim and kill the civilian population to keep them in line. You can look up the facts if you think my innards are full of fecal matter.

    The Iraqi Government that you have so much faith in was cherry picked by the US authorities safely tucked away in the Green Zone. With no, absolutely no Idea what the common Iraqi wants. They had no choice but to vote for stooges that will do exactly what the US wants. And I am not playing any card when I consider other Muslims to be my brothers or Sisters. This is an article of my faith and I try to adhere to it to the best of my abilities.

    If I may be blunt with you. Your open mindedness was what attracted me to you in the first place. That is not evident in your comments. You would think you would get to know a guy before insulting him and throwing wild accusations at him. You know that I am a moderate and have a humanist outlook. I feel for any innocent who has been killed regardless of creed, color or nationality. I agree with you in that all wars are immoral but why wait until history judges this war to be justified? It will be too late for American service men who need to be brought home ASAP. It is obvious that it was started on a pack of lies. QED.

  9. Saqib. Name calling? I’ll assume that you’re referring to the part of your comment where you call Americans “Imperialists” and imply that the US Military chain of command (of which I am a part) is composed of liars and cowards who would condone and ignore war crimes, rape, murder, and so on? Or was it the part where you called me naïve? Is it the part where you imply that American forces are criminals routinely engaged in naked acts of aggression and a deliberate campaign to oppress and subjugate the population? If you don’t appreciate your character being called into question, then don’t quote Taliban propaganda at me.

    I’m not going to keep going over the video. Your response is exactly what I’m talking about – you don’t have the background, experience, training, or context to understand what you’re seeing. By your own admission you respond emotionally. I wonder if you got sick to your stomach when you see images of Allied forces blown to pieces by IEDs? Aren’t they your people too? No, I guess not. And I notice you continue to condemn the US Military for accidentally killing civilians and inflicting collateral damage, but deftly avoid the part where Muslims deliberately target Muslim civilians, as well as Iraqi military, police, and government officials who are also Muslims.

    You keep moving the goal posts, first it was the pilots, then it was the soldiers at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, and now it’s “militias that have been bought by the almighty dollar.” And again, Saqib, this post is about one incident and one individual and that individual’s actions.

    I didn’t say I had any faith in the Iraqi government, I said the Iraqi government was elected by Iraqis. And Iraqis were cheering them in the street on that election day as I recall. Now, they may be stooges as you say, but in case you hadn’t noticed they rarely do what the US wants – or we’d have been out of there five years ago.

    Now: And I am not playing any card when I consider other Muslims to be my brothers or Sisters. This is an article of my faith and I try to adhere to it to the best of my abilities.

    And: Also, to say that the people who carried out the terrorist attacks on 9/11 are my brothers is reprehensible.

    See the contradiction there? I didn’t say it, you did.

    Try again, Saqib, try harder.

  10. Well thanks for giving me the chance to try harder. Terrorist who kill innocent civilians have done something unIslamic, hence they don’t have the right to be called Muslims, hence they are not my brothers. You do not know how much grief the American Muslim community has to put up with because their religion has been associated with these low lives.

    Quote: I wonder if you got sick to your stomach when you see images of Allied forces blown to pieces by IEDs?

    Seeing gore of any kind makes me sick to my stomach. That’s why I abhor violence of any kind. And for that matter, yes they are my people too. I am part of the US National Reserve and some of my closest friends from high school are enlisted servicemen. Again get to know me before you paint me as some Taliban sympathizer.

    Criticizing the war effort is my right as a US citizen if I think my government is doing something wrong, it is very American to use my right to freedom of speech and draw their attention to it.

    By saying that these militias can be bought I am implying that they are corrupt. Acting like good Muslims is the least of their concerns. I’ve met people who claim to be followers of the Islamic faith yet engage in corrupt business practices, abuse the poor and gleefully break every tenet of the faith. Am I still supposed to consider them Muslims? That’s like asking a Roman Catholic to consider members of the Italian Mafia to be good Christians.

    I understand your faith in the US Military chain of command; however I lost mine when I saw how it was taken over by the Bush administration; blindly serving the interest of corporate greed rather than the American people. If you really want to show that the US military is for Muslims how about ceasing to vilify them during boot camp. Or how about providing a jury of her peers in the Aafia Siddiqui case?

  11. Terrorist who kill innocent civilians have done something unIslamic, hence they don’t have the right to be called Muslims, hence they are not my brothers.

    Ahhh, I see. How convenient.

    1. Six years later, and no one has mentioned No True Scotsman.

      Of course, maybe that's because they're still reeling from the size of the NTS bat that just smacked them in the face.

      "Funny" how often religious folks end up using that "explanation/defense"...

  12. Excellent analysis, Jim.

    If any civilians out there are interested in a dramatic rendering of war really does to those who are honor-bound to wage it, may I suggest In the Valley of Elah? My personal belief is that it should be mandatory viewing, ESPECIALLY FOR CIVILIANS.

    P.S. What in the hell is the "U.S. National Reserves?" Just curious, as it appears that Saqib is using that "affiliation" as a point of credibility.

  13. I have no idea, Janiece, unless he's referring to the national guard - which would seem unlikely.

    You do not know how much grief the American Muslim community has to put up with because their religion has been associated with these low lives

    Question: do you think that that sounding like an American-hating radicalized islamist is helping that image?

  14. Highlighting errors made by the goverment does not make me an "American-hating radicalized islamist". That's a very Bush era notion where any sound of protest was met with accusations of being UnAmerican.

    I see that we have agreed to disagree so I'll leave it at that.

  15. ...the US must occupy Iraq and is thus an Imperial power. As with any Colonial occupation the civilians are the enemy.

    ...It’s no wonder naked acts of aggressions like the one mentioned are commonplace...

    ... a deliberate campaign to oppress and subjugate the civilian population is apparent.

    ....Credible evidence shows that foot soldiers were acting “under orders” when carrying out these atrocities. They couldn’t operate with out being condoned by higher authorities.

    ...This makes it naive to suggest that Manning could have reported this war crime to his superiors; that would have been a futile exercise.

    ...it won’t be so easy when it’s your loved ones being slaughtered.

    ...Just another case of Democracy being spread by the sword.

    You damned right I disagree, Saqib. You're starting to sound exactly like Nidal Hasan and Faisal Shahzad.

    You're done now, don't comment here again, on this post or any other.

    For the rest of you - if you think I'm being too harsh on poor Saqib, it's because you haven't read the rest of his dreck here and elsewhere.

  16. Jim, as you know, I have never served in the military, and I certainly don't have the training to analyze the video from that perspective. However, using gallows humor to deal with heart-breaking situations is very familiar to me. It happens all the time in medicine. For us, too, it a coping mechanism for situations that are otherwise difficult to handle. Perhaps "inappropriate" humor allows us to face the fact that we don't fix everyone, that we make mistakes, that we have to deal with really horrible situations (e.g., amputation of both legs and an arm to save a kid's life) that we know will haunt us, that good people get horrible diseases, etc. I can't understand from a direct perspective how those pilots (or anyone who has served in a war zone) feel, but I do understand using gallows humor as armor against shitty situations.

    I think this post is a well-thought-out and extremely compelling discussion of this situation.

  17. Doc,

    Exactly. AND if the parents or relatives or the average person heard you doctors making those comments without the broader context of what you have to live with every day, they too would be outraged and condemn your lack of basic humanity.

    That is exactly my point.

    This video was classified for a number of reasons, 1) it provides insight into certain capabilities. That insight could be used by insurgents and others to avoid those capabilities, thus decreasing our effectiveness and increasing the risk to both military personnel and civilians. 2) In my opinion, the background chatter between the pilots and gunners is privileged. Just as it is in the operating room and the surgeon's lounge - these people have to to be able to speak freely between themselves, including the use of gallows humor, both in order to do their jobs and more importantly to maintain their sanity.

    Manning's release of this video puts our operations at risk, gives aid to the enemy, and compromises the warfighter's ability to do their jobs freely and may have long term impact on the mental health of our forces.

    Manning is a traitor who deserves a long long stint in military prison

  18. Jim i loved this post, and i remeber seeing that video when it hit the streets (the national public) i wasn't even in the military yet, but i downloaded it and saved it and watched it everyday. because i knew where my life was going and it was to the Marines and to the battlefield. and i agree with you about well everything (i know it's no fun intelligent debate is far more entertaining) but as a re-enforcment on your statment gallows humour is a popular and effective method for coping with stress in a war zone, i know i've seen it, i've done it, and for anyone who dosn't know what war is like let me give you a little peek, in Ar Rutbah my friend was on a patrol a car was approaching their foot patrol they followed the ROE's (rules of engagement) to the T except one of the warning shots that was fired innfront of the vehicle ricoched into the front window and killed the driver, it was an accident and it was regretable, my friend felt bad about it, so bad he pulled $500 of his own money 2 weeks later and gave it to the family of the slain young man, but the night of his unfortunate death a convoy was attacked and so was out position, we began to thank my ffriend for killing the man because we were bored and getting shot at gave us something to do, now none of us truly felt like this but it was alot better than running around shitting our pants waiting foor something to happen, so i will close my ramblings by echoing Mr. Wright, if you think you can do better than put your money where your mouth is.

  19. Exactly, Jarhead, anybody who feels they are entitled to judge the private chatter between combat force in theater is more than welcome to try it themselves sometimes and see how they deal with it. We're always looking for new recruits.

  20. Jim, re: the update: I now feel burned too many times to fully trust Glenn Greenwald's take on much, but he certainly raises some interesting questions about Wired's relationship to Adrian Lamo and Lamo's credibility.

    I personally believe that part of being a whistleblower is an acceptance of consequences--if Manning leaked a video in violation of the law, he certainly has to face up to the punishment for that regardless of the morality/immorality of it (an issue I'm not really interested in touching with a 20' pole at the moment for a variety of reasons, one of which is actually the real point of this comment at all). However, if Greenwald's characterization of the scenario is accurate (a big "if" as far as I'm concerned), I think it's reasonable to ask what Manning leaked or offered to leak. I believe he's acknowledged leaking the video, if I'm not mistaken; however, the fact that a disturbed and depressed individual offered additional documents to a mentally-ill convicted felon doesn't mean the disturbed and depressed individual actually had them, assuming that he made the offer and the mentally-ill convicted felon isn't lying to an old associate with a (shall we say) interesting history who has rehabilitated himself as a journalist.

    The point being that one of the reasons I'm personally reluctant to poke into this too deeply myself is that I'd really like to know exactly what Federal investigators are charging and what they can prove before I make too many judgments. That doesn't mean that most or all of what you say here about Manning won't be validated down the road, of course.

    As a postscript, it might also be suggested that even if Manning is a vile loser who deserves to be imprisoned for treasonous behavior, it's quite possible that Lamo violated the law and/or ethical considerations when he turned Manning in. While I'm indifferent to the hypothetical hereafter and don't really believe there's any good reason for religious confessions to be immunized (since I don't believe the person making the confession is going to Hell, revealing his confession does him no harm; confidentiality is only justified if confession to a religious figure has some societally-recognized benefit), I do have to acknowledge that my opinion is a minority view on the subject. I would also note that if Lamo lied to Manning to induce the statements, he's possibly complicated the case against Manning: at a minimum, he's very impeachable, at a maximum he's possibly created suppression issues for Manning's attorneys to exploit.

    That would be all I'd have to say at the moment, and I do agree with much of what you say here, Jim (and even things I might not agree with are well-argued). Hope you're having a good Saturday up there in Subarctic America.

  21. An edit to my previous comment: just read the transcript at Wired, and it does sound like Manning is claiming to have additional documents.

    Whether or not he had them? I imagine we'll see what the Feds have when Manning goes on trial.

    I think the rest of what I wrote stands for whatever it happens to be worth.

  22. Eric, I think you'll find that the Protect America Act and those secret provisions in the Patriot Act render the lawyer/client, priest/client, Journalist/source privilege moot in matters of national security.

    Manning also specifically waived those rights when he took his oath to protect classified information.

    Manning also was communicating with Lamo over government/military unclassified communications system from inside the war zone. Any information on those networks is subject to censure and monitoring. Period.

    Manning is fucked nine ways from Sunday

  23. The point in mentioning possible violations by Lamo is that (1) he may be fucked, too and (2) he may have damaged the prosecution's presentation.

    Unless the PROTECT AMERICA and PATRIOT act abolishes the Sixth Amendment, the Federal Rules Of Evidence and American common law, Manning will have the right to move to suppress statements made to Lamo and/or cross-examine him.* Even so, I suspect there will be enough evidence for the Feds to at least get their case to a jury with a strong chance of getting a conviction if it goes to trial.

    I am sufficiently unfamiliar with UCMJ procedure to know what problems Lamo may have created for a military prosecutor, if any at all.

    These are interesting issues regardless of how you feel about Manning. (I'm frankly not feeling overly sympathetic to either Manning or Lamo, but I'm not sure that's either here or there.) If I were prosecuting Manning, I'd certainly have concerns about what Lamo did; unless the Feds obtained documents from Manning or forensic evidence that documents existed or Manning made an admissible statement to the Feds admitting he broke the law or Manning made admissible statements to third-parties that constitute admissible hearsay (i.e. if he did, as I believe he did, publicly acknowledged giving the video to WikiLeaks), Lamo is the linchpin of the case against Manning.**

    *Well. I am assuming that if Lamo violated the law, Federal prosecutors will secure immunity for him so that he can testify. Another way in which Lamo may have damaged the Feds' case is if he has to take the Fifth during the trial. There's an interesting scene....

    **But what about the chatlog? I think there are a number of problems from a courtroom standpoint: unless the Feds have other evidence that Manning had access to or possession of 260,000 State Department documents, etc., there's a corpus delecti issue regardless of Lamo's potential as a witness. Assuming that's not an issue, I would think Lamo would be necessary to authenticate the chatlogs and that they would really only be usable to corroborate Lamo's testimony--assuming Manning can be tied to posts by "bradass87". I think if a defense lawyer can destroy Lamo, the chatlog becomes irrelevant.

    The evidence related to the video may be strong enough that this business about the rest of the documents is moot, however--it's possible Manning's lawyers just need to get him the best plea offer they can pry out of the Feds.

  24. Eric, I understand exactly what you're saying. But, remember Manning was in Iraq, a sworn member of the military, already demoted once (and previous conduct can be used against you in military proceedings, unlike the usual in civilian court [3 strikes laws not withstanding]). Also, there are some additional things you may be unaware of:

    Unless Manning was communicating from a Iraqi civilian internet cafe or some equivalent (and maybe not even then), he would have been talking to Lamo via a government network, either unclass NIPRNET (the military unclass network that gateways into the larger Internet, the .MIL domain - it's the original MILNET) or a government provided unclass net through a contractor (usually AT&T or Sprint). Those systems are monitored and recorded (and clearly marked as such, you do not have the right to privacy on either. Period). It is entirely possible that the government has the Manning/Lamo logs and connection data via those means already (and a variety of others I'm not prepared to discuss) without having to vet Lamo's data at all.

    Also, Manning logged into SIPRNET (secret network) and JIWCS (much more highly classified network Top Secret and other stuff) using his own access. It's damned near impossible to fake that, especially for a dimwitted douche like Manning, his access is tied to his CAC federal ID. Everything he did on those networks would have been recorded. Dates, times, and activity.

    The simple truth of the matter is that the government doesn't need Lamo's chat logs, other than as another data point, which is why they don't care that Boing Boing and Wired are publishing them.

    Manning will be tried under the UCMJ in front of a courts martial. He could be put away for "conduct unbecoming" or under the catch all Article 132. But, what he doesn't seem to realize is that in time of war, in the war zone, if he were to be convicted of espionage or willful disclosure of classified information, what he did could send him to the gallows (it won't, of course, but he could easily get life in Leavenworth).

    The government may not even call Lamo as a witness, they really don't need him. They may do it anyway, but they don't have to.

  25. Jim, thanks for posting on this. More for your comments on the horrors of war than on the traitorous asshole (who is clearly a traitorous asshole. That people think he's a hero hurts my brain.)

    Honestly, I've never understood why people think war is some great & glorious thing. Sometimes you have to do it- as in WW2- and sometimes good people get sent to fight a war for the wrong reasons. But mostly, people get killed. By the thousands. That's not glory; that's a bunch of corpses.

    I haven't watched the video- I don't really have any desire to. I have no doubt I'd be offended & upset but I am not a soldier. I do understand gallows humor-- it's how my family deals with just about everything (ironically, the occasional exception to that is my sister, who works in Air Force intelligence).

    sconving- scamming a convict

  26. I don't think civilian sources have any idea of this background, such as his prior demotion, and apparently they don't know enough to ask. I hadn't heard it. Hate to say it, but I'm better informed on it than an awful lot of the folks I talk to. That strikes me as odd. Why isn't this kind of information getting out better?
    Where is the information failing to get out?
    Of course reports on his being held under inhumane conditions make it sound like he's a target of unofficial reprisals now, under a different Administration. The problem is that such news strikes a lot of civilians as more of the same problems as with failing to close Gitmo and worse and worse reports on crimes from Abu Ghraib-- for many civilians, it turns into a big sloppy mess of "authority is still out of control."
    I know you might view those problems as coming from completely unrelated bureaucracies, but that's now how it looks in the eye of the public. (Yes, still not paying attention and don't care...) Yes, I know Abu Ghraib's abuses were by CIA orders through a mushy chain of command, but that's how this kind of thing happens, where nobody can be held accountable afterward. That's precisely why I would view such confuzzled administrative structures with suspicion.
    I haven't taken the time to hunt down your opinions about Mainning's experiences in military prison so far, but I know I'd appreciate your perspective.
    I would also like to post a link to this current post of yours as a new view compared to prior posts I myself have made from other sources. Many of them think the guy was not a traitor but genuinely worried about uncovering abuses. Any idea why they still think that?

  27. Sorry, should have added I'd be linking from here.

  28. Whether there is ever a valid reason for a member of the armed forces to go public with classified information, I don't know. Manning would be very hard pressed to convince me that he was having a "Nuremberg moment." Whatever my views about our nation's actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, I still think those who volunteered to served in the military should live up to their oaths. I served in Viet Nam, and was certainly a REMF (except for a few minor shellings of bases I was on). It would never have occurred to me to divulge details of operations to anyone--whether they were classified or not.

    I suppose Manning should have a court marial someday (i.e. get due process), and I suppose that if those judging him convict him, or don't, I should respect the process.

  29. Jim - if I may:
    Once again I am amazed at your writing.
    I worked for years in law enforcement, and black humor is, in my opinion, necessary for mental health survival.

    Thanks for your writing.
    Keep it coming!

  30. Manning betrayed his country. End of story.

  31. Thank you. As the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, I learned one vital lesson: a child or a woman can kill you as easily as a man. Unfortunately in war, civilians are not always just that.

    Manning is and was a traitor.

  32. I guess I was lucky. I served before Viet Nam got ugly, and in a rather odd branch of the Air Force - what was known then as Security Service. I was one of the weird guys that spoke a foreign language.

    I was also cleared at that time as highly as one could be cleared - the data I worked with and around was critical, the radio things I heard told us stuff about where some things would be that had the potential to do us great harm.

    I enlisted. I signed on. When I signed on, I knew that the paperwork I signed was binding on me for the rest of my life, and I read it carefully. I know that it didn't matter whether I thought it to be right - my signature signified that I had read it, understood it, and agreed to conduct myself accordingly.

    At the time, I was single. We could not talk about what we did, although it is hard to hide acres of antennae, what we did was only to be imagined - and how well we did it was an even bigger secret. My lady of the moment never knew what I did, athough she may have known that I spoke other languages - since I was in Germany and one of the languages I spoke was the language she grew up speaking - and she understood the game well enough she knew never to ask.

    MANY years later, it was declassified - and I can talk about it, but I don't all that much except among fellow inmates of the same asylum around the same time.

    Folks even then liked to view the military as a job, or as something with which one was involved. Most of us in the clandestine services knew it was more than merely involved - we were committed, at least for the period for which we signed up. No getting unhappy and quitting, no pissing off the boss and getting fired (although one could piss off the boss, the result was often far worse than just getting fired!) - my ass and head belonged to USAFSS - and that was how it was.

    I liked what I did - I was pretty good at it, and was proud of the things we were able to cause not to happen because of the information we gleaned from things that we heard.

    I had to fire few weapons - qualification with the M1 or m2 carbine occurred yearly, and I had a marksmanship medal so I must have done reasonably well. I was not a combatant, and really had no desire to be - I enlisted mostly because I knew that after a college threw me out the draft board would be after me, and I wanted some choices in how I'd spend the next few years - and even for only 18 months, face down in the mud didn't sound like much fun.

    My own children will tell anyone who asks that I recommended that the first thing they do out of high school would have been to pick a service and enlist - because they had nothing better to do, for some it is good and rewarding life and without trying it they'd never know, and the worst that would happen is that after their term was done, they would know for certain more than 100 things they never in their life wanted to do again, and that this was important knowledge.

    The military is important, and what the military does, distasteful as it may seem, usually needs done. One does not rise about a certain rank without intelligence, reason, and a willingness to do what must be done and clean up afterward. Our military is very good at what it does because the leaders themselves inspire respect, and as Jim has so truly stated, that respect will allow men to move in the face of impossible odds and get the damn job DONE.

    Manning and this latest jerk Snowden do not understand a basic principle of life - and that is that you often do not get to make the calls, particularly after the fact, and you live with the results. If you don't like the results, there are systems in place that allow changes - but you can't do it alone, and if you could, so could I - and you wouldn't like sometimes what I would choose.

  33. I've been pretty frustrated by some of my own family members calling for the exoneration and potential Nobel prize commendation of Mr. Manning; it staggers me to think that we have become distanced from the finer points of what whistle blowing and exposure of "war crimes" truly are.

    I don't believe that there is NEVER a case where, truly your most personally mandated course of action is to expose the behaviour of an organization you made a vow to in good faith. When a government, a military, a church, a business breaks the faith of the agreement, and nothing you can do alters the slightest course... perhaps you ARE morally mandated to break that vow. If you have already tried the courses of action set forth in your organization, or if you are faced with instructions from the highest level that obviously embrace a disdain for the principles set forth in the code they asked you to obey? Well... that's a hard road to face. Maybe you buckle and go bad. Maybe you get out and condone it silently. Maybe, you break your oath and the law and shine the light in.

    But guess what? You better accept that you may face punishment for same. If your moral code requires it? Ok. Face the music when the dance is done.

    What disturbs me about the handling of the Manning case, is that there were what to me felt like vengeance-based actions during the treatment of a prisoner. People are people, and there's bound to be some treatment of anyone you consider a traitor... but talk about a time to handle things very, VERY carefully.

  34. Death. The US gift that keeps on giving. My dad is a veteran. And if he wasn't broken before, Vietnam sure took care of that. And now my brother is in the Air Force and I am so terrified for him, on so many levels. I don't want him to die. And I don't want him to have to kill people. I really am crying :(

  35. I want you to know something. I am a physician and writer. I am not and have never been a soldier. I do not like weapons because I brawled as a teenager and weapons make violence easier and it should not be. I also think only professionals--soldiers and cops--should get to carry around weapons in everyday life because those are the only people who can use them effectively in violent, stressful situations.

    I am a pacifist who sees soldiers as members of an ancient an honorable profession. I agree that war is always immoral. I also know that there are times it is absolutely necessary. I do not think that most of the wars of the past 50 years have been necessary.

    I know that soldiers kill people, that it is their job and that they are asked to turn from that job--in a place that runs as differently as is possible by the laws of time and space from modern American social structure barring an actual time-machine direct-drop to ancient Sparta--back to civilian life with little preparation and less (increasing, but still not enough) support.

    I want you to know that there are people outside of that world who see and understand what it is you do and why, and that the very best soldiers can do is serve with honor under horrific conditions, and that no human could possibly do more.

    I do not know these things because I have been close to those who serve, except for my ex-stepfather. I know them because as a naive 18-year-old Catholic girl I went to college wanting to understand why people did evil to each other, and I studied international humanitarian law and all the very worst things people have done to each other. I talked to survivors of the Holocaust and the Armenian and Bosnian genocides, and my senior thesis advisor told me I was majoring in atrocity, and I became an atheist and I suffered severe depression and I learned what I set out to learn.

    And then I turned to medicine because its ethics are the moral opposite of all that I had seen and heard.

    There are more people than you might think who understand the horrors soldiers suffer--even if not at firsthand and not in the same way. Years later, I still occasionally dream of torture and cannot watch war movies, and I know and honor what you and your fellow soldiers do and have done.

    There are people who do not make excuses and wave flags and thank soldiers for their service and think that a country paying for a war is the same thing as that country facing it.

    After reading your defense of those soldiers, I just wanted you to know that.

  36. "Just as the average person couldn’t do what a paramedic does..." This, right here, is just another reason that I adore your essays. You GET IT.
    -From the paramedic licensed 21 years ago, who works now as an ER nurse with a seriously twisted sense of humor.


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