Letter: Manning revealed truth of Iraqi war
To the editor:
Bradley Manning was in middle school when a blitzkrieg called “Shock and Awe” carried us all into the nation’s first preemptive war. The slender five-foot two-inch, 18-year old (son of a U.S. Naval intelligence officer) enlisted late in 2007 while an Iraqi civil war rages (2006-2008).
Following basics and intelligence training, he deployed to Iraq. By then (Oct. 10, 2009) a war to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction had morphed into Operation Iraqi Freedom. The lofty label well suited a powerful republic spreading freedom and democracy. Pfc Manning’s patriotism and pride to be a part of such a mission soared.
A promotion to specialist with top security clearance (Nov. 12, 2009) and new intelligence duties immediately thrust him into a quagmire of moral ambiguities and ideological conflicts. Assignments took him into files holding a decade of field reports and videos revealing relentless sectarian bloodbaths. Streets were littered every morning with headless corpses, cadavers laced with electric-drill holes, bodies missing fingernails and others tattooed with grotesque acid burns. Carnage covered metropolitan Baghdad (one-third of Iraq’s population) with a civilian death toll peaking at 3,100 per month.
Concrete-walled ghettos separating Shiite, Sunni and Christian residents had reduced, but not eliminated, the number of atrocities. Iraqi police and soldiers were still butchering those arrested civilians they considered infidels. Perpetrators held impunity under a secret “fragmentary order,” Frago 242, issued by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld in June 2004. It decreed “...Only an initial report will be made...” when there is Iraqi-on-Iraqi abuse or torture. Coalition troops were not to investigate any violation of international humanitarian law.
Shortly before his arrest for treason (May 29, 2010), believing silence dishonored his mission, his uniform, and his country, Manning messaged a supposed friend, “I want people to see the truth.” Many believe this moral choice disclosing institutional complicity supporting torture and murder deserves commendation, not punishment.