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Punish war crimes – not those who expose them

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Issue 2365

 Our rulers are often keen to talk about transparency and openness. But the Bradley Manning case has revealed an important reality.

A capitalist state has to do a lot of things that it doesn’t want its enemies to know about, including  its own citizens, in order to function smoothly.

Bradley Manning was awaiting sentencing as Socialist Worker went to press after being found guilty of 20 offences. 

The military court found him innocent of “aiding the enemy”.

But his convictions for espionage, theft and computer fraud carry a combined maximum sentence of 136 years.

Bradley leaked over 250,000 documents through Wikileaks to expose “wrongdoing” by the US military and diplomats.

He was motivated after seeing a cockpit video of a US helicopter shooting Iraqi civilians.

He later said, “The most alarming aspect of the video to me was the seemingly delightful bloodlust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have”. 

Bradley wanted the world to know about the “collateral” murders carried out as part of US foreign policy. 

The US government has condemned him as a traitor and a threat to national security. 

It is more worried about terrifying future whistleblowers into silence than dealing with the horrors Bradley revealed. 

When Bradley’s sentence is announced, compare it to that of Second Lieutenant William Calley. 

He was found guilty of murder after troops under his command massacred more than 500 villagers at Mai Lai during the Vietnam War in 1968.

In the outcry after the original cover-up, Calley was sentenced to life with hard labour. 

But he just served three and a half years under house arrest. 

Colonel Thomas M Pappas oversaw the torment of hundreds of detainees at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. For this he was fined just £5,200.

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008 he promised to protect whistleblowers. 

He said, “Such acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled.”

But Obama is outraged that the Russian government has granted temporary asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

Snowden revealed the global extent of the US authorities’ spying on people in the US and elsewhere.

So Obama wants to charge him with espionage too.

Both Obama and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin know that a capitalist state can’t work without hiding the lies and violence that allow it to run.

The scandal is not that Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden have “betrayed” the US state. It is that vile war crimes are still going on in the defence of imperialism. 

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