You may remember , when a NATO helicopter crew in Afghanistan attacked ten children, ages 9 to 15, who were out collecting firewood, and successfully killed all but one of them.
Or you may not have heard of it. It made the Times, but from my friends and relations I heard nothing about it but plenty of allusions to something or other that Charlie Sheen said.
The gunners mistook the children for Taliban belligerents, which was easy for them to do while following the modern superpower modus operandi of killing people from as far away as possible — continents away if need be — so that you don’t have to take any unnecessary risks yourself, but you instead can pass the unnecessary risks on to children collecting firewood and other such unimportant people. This is the sort of courageous warrior virtue we have in mind when we “support the troops.”
The incident didn’t much put a dent into the public chatter in the United States, though it did interfere a bit with General Petraeus’s attempt in Afghanistan to downplay the many other examples of butchery of the innocent by those under his command (, he’d dismissed one such report by saying “that Afghans caught up in a coalition attack in northeastern Afghanistan might have burned their own children to exaggerate claims of civilian casualties.”)
Not all NATO troops are bad. One of them, Bradley Manning, reformed and took a serious turn for the good. He thought that maybe it was because the American public was unaware of the repulsive acts of its government’s military that they permit it to continue. So he leaked the Collateral Murder video, which was taken from an Apache helicopter while its crew were killing children and journalists, and, if reports are true, also leaked many diplomatic cables detailing shenanigans of the U.S. government and various foreign officials it has rented.
Manning may have been too optimistic about the possibility that sunlight would prove a potent disinfectant of the American soul, but his heart was in the right place, and he showed admirable courage and initiative — no drone pilot he.
The powers that be are furious, and they have decided to hit him with the full force of American justice, which, if you have been paying attention these last several years, you will know means taking someone captive and tormenting them heartlessly and ruthlessly in the hopes of utterly breaking them, while saving anything like a “trial” in the formal sense for some far off future when the damage has already been done.
Certainly some of this is just from a sadistic desire to hurt Manning, and to break him and turn him against those who helped him get the word out. But much of it is also a tactic designed to discourage other whistleblowers and dissenters: Screw with us and we’ll make your life a living hell and no law or lawyer or code of honor or sense of decency will stand between you and our wrath.
Fortunately, there are some people who have Manning’s back and are able to let him know of the thousands of people who know he’s a hero and want to encourage others to follow his example. You can help.