Loose Canons

The New Mumia

On cue, the left turns Pfc. Bradley Manning into America's leading political prisoner.

By 12.27.10

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The left has found a new face for the "injustice" committed in America's name: Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army private alleged to have provided WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of State and Defense Department classified e-mails. Manning is now the focus of a campaign that accuses his jailers of torture.

Liberal core values -- to the extent that liberals have any values at all -- proceed from two assumptions. First, that American criminal law must be unjust because people are not prosecuted -- or protected -- on the basis of their political beliefs. Second only to that, is that America -- and by derivation, its secrets -- are not worthy of defense.

Pity Wesley Cook, the Philly cop killer also known as Mumia abu Jamal. For decades, ballads to Mumia's "innocence" were sung, t-shirts printed and protests made loudly in his name because, to the left, he was a victim of racism, not a murderer. Now, still rotting in well-earned imprisonment, Mumia is passé.

Enter Bradley Manning, a more fortuitous blend of modern liberal values. Pfc. Manning is gay and was for months characterized as having leaked the classified documents because he was angry at the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law which prevented him from proclaiming his homosexuality elsewhere than his Facebook page. Manning, who allegedly copied the vast quantity of classified material onto "Lady Gaga" rewritable music disks, has been in custody since May.

Since his arrest, he's been called a "political prisoner" by no less than WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, the CodePinkos have held rallies to protest his innocence. The most celebrated leaker of days gone by, Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers infamy, said, "Anybody who believes Julian Assange can be distinguished from the New York Times... is on a fool's errand." Ellsberg, of course, is wrong. At least so far, WikiLeaks stock isn't traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

But that is not enough. Now his lawyer, David Coombs, is apparently managing a media campaign that seeks to enshrine Manning as a hero and condemn his jailers as torturers the likes of which we haven't seen since Abu Ghraib. It is, comprehensively, nonsense. (My weekend e-mail seeking an interview with Coombs went unanswered.)

Manning was arrested by the Army in May and charged in July with leaking classified material. He is being held in the brig at the Quantico, Virginia Marine Base in conditions of solitary confinement. Blogger Glenn Greenwald has been hyperventilating that for months "Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything."

Greenwald repeated those charges in a BBC debate with me, citing as one of his sources attorney Coombs.

Greenwald's -- and others' -- frothing follows the usual liberal pattern. Characterize the facts in terms that fit the accusation, write about the conclusions of "experts" who have no direct knowledge of the matter, and then demand that the accused -- in this case the military justice system and the proprietors of the Marine brig at Quantico -- surrender to the political demands.

At this point, the Coombs-managed campaign has enlisted the UN's "special rapporteur" on torture, Manfred Nowak, to investigate the conditions under which Manning is being held.

But why the UN? This is the heart of the matter: If there were reason to believe that Manning is being abused (which would be a major crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for which his jailers would be liable to punishment), Coombs and his crew would have gone to the independent agency having immediate authority to investigate: the Navy (and/or) Defense Department Inspectors General.

If Coombs & Co. were interested in protecting Manning from torture, they would have complained to either of the IG's who have the power -- and the clear duty -- to investigate the allegations. The IG is entirely independent by law. Commanders and civilian military chiefs cannot overrule his decisions to investigate, and it can have access to classified material at the highest levels. The IG can get access to the prisoner, get psychiatric experts to examine Manning, and interrogate any and all who are in charge of his imprisonment. The fact that the defense team has instead gone to the liberal media and UN make it clear that Manning's condition is being maintained properly by professionals.

In the BBC debate, I asked Greenwald why there is no IG complaint, and he had no answer. I challenged him to make the complaint himself, which he could do if he has a legitimate reason to make the accusation. We shall see if he does. He probably won't, because of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001. Under that law, knowingly making a false accusation to a federal law enforcement agency is a federal crime. I'm betting neither Greenwald nor any of the others involved will make that complaint.

The UN has no jurisdiction over the U.S. military justice system: the Marines should never allow Nowak & Co. access to a prisoner of any sort, far less one whose custody is being challenged solely on political grounds. The charge that the Marines at Quantico are torturing Manning is of the stuff with which farmers' fields are fertilized.

A gentleman of my acquaintance, Ion Mihai Pacepa, is the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the Soviet sphere. He was, for a time, a general and Romania's intelligence chief. Mike Pacepa often reminds me of the difference between propaganda and disinformation. When a government (or, in this case, a defense team for an accused criminal) spouts a falsehood, it is propaganda. But when it succeeds in getting someone else to publish the falsehood for it, that is disinformation.

There will always be useful idiots such as Greenwald eager to spread disinformation aimed at discrediting America and its legal system. The only proper response is to ignore the disinformation and let the military justice system work. 

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About the Author
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. He is coauthor (with Herbert London) of the new book The BDS War Against Israel. You can follow him on Twitter@jedbabbin.