The thrilling development in the trial of Bradley Manning is that Manning has acknowledged he is the source of the leaked materials, but employed a whistleblower defence. His case is that he was exposing illegal acts and trying to arouse legitimate public debate. However in the kangaroo court trial the prosecution has objected to Manning’s proposed evidence, and claims that Manning’s detailed references to specific war crimes are irrelevant and should not be allowed to be made in court. In other words, the state is seeking to prevent Bradley Manning from presenting his defence, and doubtless the military “judge” will comply with the state.
In order to overshadow Manning’s defence, the government and corporate media brought out, the moment the news of Manning’s defence was announced, the “news” that the government will put in the stand an all-American hero, a US Navy Seal, one of the Zero-Torture-Thirty killers of Osama Bin Laden, who will give evidence that Bin Laden had a stash of the Wikileaks released cables in his home.
That the timing of this piece of propaganda theatre was deliberate to wipe out public perception of Manning’s defence – and his not being allowed to make it – there is absolutely no doubt. But what in any case is the real value of this evidence?
Well, it certainly adds to the mountain of evidence that the US government will go after Assange the moment he leaves the UK. But against Bradley Manning it adds nil. Who would have thought that Bin Laden would not read the Wikileaks cables? Nobody would have thought that. Hundreds of millions of people read them. Many Arab Spring protestors in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen were motivated in part by information in the cables. Is the US government going to bring evidence on that too?
The problem is, of course, that Bin Laden was never convicted of anything. If the Americans had not murdered him, evidence from him about his view of the cables and what he intended to do with them might have been interesting. It may even have helped the prosecution. But they killed him rather than prosecute or question him, so they do not have that.
Perhaps enough time has passed for people to be a bit more dispassionate about the strange killing of Bin Laden. There was absolutely no need to kill him. He had no weapon. His small compound was completely secured by US Marines. At the time they shot Bin laden, there was nobody on the compound who could fire back. Bin Laden was an elderly man in poor health. Trained navy seals could have hauled him alive into the helicopter without adding more than 10 seconds to their mission time – and it seems they had plenty of time, time to go searching for Wikileaks documents anyway. It is perfectly plain that the truth is that Obama had instilled an understanding Bin Laden was to be killed, not captured.
But that makes no sense. If the Americans really believe the entire al-Qaida narrative which has been banged out incessantly by the media this last decade, then Bin Laden alive would have been the most valuable intelligent asset in US history. To kill him needlessly with no attempt at interrogation would be absolutely extraordinary. There was no operational need to do it in the compound that night. Keeping him alive would in no way have further endangered the troops on the operation. They did not want him to talk.
Now for a state to use the alleged intentions of somebody as evidence, when the state killed that person to avoid him giving evidence, is rather remarkable. Only in the Bradley Manning kangaroo court does it make sense.
The US government’s problem is that it has spoonfed to mainstream media journalists for years the lie that the Wikileaks cables release endangered lives. There is then this appalling lie that Assange stated that the informers deserve to be shot – a statement which the host of the small dinner has sworn was never made, and Assange swears he never said. But despite all this propagnda, and despite the fact that they are extremely keen to do so, and every mainstream media organisation in the whole world has worked on it, nobody has produced one credible instance of an individual who was harmed as a result of being named in a Wikileaks cable – unless you include the dictators whose people turned against them.
Part of the reason for this is rather prosaic. The State Department cables were not intelligence material. The media likes to call them intelligence because it sounds exciting and sells papers, but it is not intelligence material. It is just diplomatic reporting. And it is not highly classified. None of it is Top Secret – it is just Restricted or Confidential.
If the release of any material would endanger the life of the source, that material would automatically get classified Top Secret. That is why nobody has been endangered. The system works, The Americans should celebrate that, rather than try Hollywood-linked stunts to demonise Manning.