Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hear Brad Manning

Brad Manning - the poster boy to blame for everything that's gone 'wrong' in America's little effort to recreate Iraq and the rest of the world, is getting his day in court after almost two years in military prisons. And things are taking a decidedly nasty turn for the powers that be, or at least the powers that were. For despite the 'image' of Manning as so far presented - a homosexual, loser, runt with mental issues and a hatred for everything America stands for, he's turning out to be surprisingly lucid, intelligent and more than reasonable.

One wondered when almost immediately he pled 'guilty' to the greater number of charges against him, illegally sharing classified information he was not authorized to divulge. He remains on trial on the charges to which he pled not guilty, ie the charges of treason, and aiding the enemy in time of war.

Along with that guilty plea, Manning has been able to offer the court an account of what he says he did, and why he did it. In that story is the proof of his pudding. And now someone has leaked the audio of his statement to the court. Unless the government can rebut this, or prove otherwise, Brad Manning might go free at last.

The audio record is available here.

What strikes one immediately is Manning's native intelligence and, apparently, his moral fortitude, he just doesn't sound like somebody who thinks, after two years of 'special handling' by the Marines, that he's done something wrong.

First of all, relating to how and why he came to have access to America's most secret information, it seems that his aptitudes and testing on intake to the military were of such a high order that his other obvious 'deficiencies' were  downplayed. He is not constitutionally fitted to America's standard 'vision' of  the 'warrior class'. Basic training - at least the physical part- was a challenging and notably protracted experience. He passed basic in twice the length of time prescribed - ie he should have 'washed out'. For some reason his superiors saw military value in him that allowed them to make a pass of a short, weak, deficient soldier. He pleads guilty to being a somewhat 'weak sister' sort of guy.

Having passed basic he was assigned to military intelligence where he soon learned his 'craft' - gleaning intelligence reports and synopsizing the same for upward transmission, sifting and combining pertinent reports to make note of trends or patterns that could be used for military purposes. He seems to have been good at his job and technically proficient in managing large data systems. His 'problems' started when he insisted on thinking about what he was reading. He claims to have become affected by a "helping" operation was  becoming a self-defeating one. That Iraqis were unappreciative of American sacrifice, but that America's counterinsurgency tactics were geared to do anything but 'win them over'. What he was reading in situation reports was glaringly at odds with the 'official narrative' put out for the information of American forces, and the American people.

He claims that he did what he could to undo what he considered to be incompetent work by military intelligence and was stopped by military bureaucracy and  hierarchy. He claims that personal problems at a time of furlough led to reflection turning into a perceived need to act. He had 'backed-up' his data in a way that would be accessible to him and he had that in his possession, not for nefarious reasons but only to preserve the continuity and integrity of his work. He sought advice from friends and what he thought to be  trustworthy others - including the man who would later turn him in, who was, then, claiming to be an "journalist" and "pastor".

The notion of sharing what he knew with the US media took form in his mind. He approached some media and was rebuffed. No media sources proved to be as interested in what he knew as he hoped they would be.  Eventually, however, he got somebody, who could appreciate its news value, to look at what he had  ... that was the Wikileaks organization. After that the media started to take notice.

Manning was careful to note that the information he transmitted was, according to its official coding, material that was widely-distributable within military and government circles.  He did not transmit any information that was classified or highly restricted.  He explained those 'official' codes to the court.

In short Bradley Manning is proving to be the Daniel Ellsberg of his time, leaking official documents that are at odds with what is being released as truth, or being done in reverse to what is being said. This is, simply, the 'Pentagon Papers' all over again, only this time from the State Department.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Round Numbah 6

The newspapers are to-day full of stories about a 'break-through' in negotations with Iran over its nuclear program. At the same time, there are stories of America 'kow-towing' 'selling-out' and 'giving-in' to terror. At the same time, US media is reporting that the Senate took time  from its deliberations about another imminent fiscal catastrophe, to introduce 'non-binding' legislation that the US would support Israel if, for reason of 'self-defence', it is "forced" to attack Iran. A 'straw vote' of how the Senate feels about aiding gallant l'il Israel if need-be.

Sounds interesting. Let's start at the top.

 The 'break through' news is reported to originate in the Iranian committee, who note, for the first time, a fairly reasonable tone in regard to Iran's atomic enterprise. The 5+1 negotiators have introduced the notion that economic sanctions might be eased if Iran was to commit itself to enriching no more of its uranium than it has already done. This is a sea change from the previous stance of, 'We KNOW you're working on a bomb let us in to see.' And the concomitant: 'Stop everything you're doing, turn it over to us, let us in to see and we'll give you some fuel rods.' The Iranians for some reason think this new stance in an improvement.

What it is, is the Euro perspective being applied  as a precursor to the hoped-for Iranian recalcitrance that will 'force' Israel to attack.America remains firmly unconvinced by anything the Iranians are offering, shy of restoring Shah Jahan II of New York City  and the CIA.

 The Israeli press is full of the same old - last wind-sprint toward an Iranian nuclear bunker-buster, or mother of all bombs and the story of how the Americans have been duped into rolling-over so the Ayetolleh can get at their 'jools.' Avigdor Lieberman - who, until this time could barely tell what was for lunch, has donned the cape of the 'head screamer' in the newly-revised 'Stepford Wives vs Nukuler Peril'. Little Bennie Netanyahoo is saving the 'big guns' for later, or else he's speechless at the Turks calling his regime 'fascist'.

 Apparently it's one of those 'look at things differently and be surprised at how much they change' things. Going into this, much has been made of how former deadly menaces (like China, Russia and Vietnam) were morphed into something far less frightening when they stopped being viewed as monsters. But considering that a recent poll indicated that 99 percent of American (99!) feel that Iran is a threat to America, I don't give the change of perspective a hope in hell. The only thing that will change that demographic is a remake of 'Argo'. This last having far more impact on the great American 'sheeple' than a couple of years worth of  honest diplomacy. AIPAC has done its job well.

 So what is to be expected?

Obviously the Iranians could lob the ball back into America's court by making the 5+1 a compromise that would be hard to reject.  Open up the nuclear industry but demand that IAEA open its membership to more reliable - ie less-biased - observation.  A couple of Russians or other friendlier Europeans or Asians might help. The Iranians have said that they have converted what enriched material they had into 'fuel plates' for their reactor operation. That should be easily verifiable.  They might even give up their domestic nuclear industry in return for non-aggression treaty. The Iranians really have little to lose and much more to gain.

If the US and Israel are bent on aggressive regime change that will happen no matter what Iran does. It's just that, in the court of world opinion, there will be nothing to use as an excuse. America wouldn't have invaded Afghanistan without the Taliban and couldn't have invaded Iraq without Saddam Hussein. Plum dog dirt loco as George Bush was, after 9/11 he had some 'creds' with the UN and his NATO allies. That situation does not apply to Iran, without the threat of another nuclear maverick at large.

There is something being made of the up-coming Iranian election seating a new Prime Minister who could possibly be worse than Achmedinejad or a lot easier to live with. That day is some way off and may prove something. In the interim I think it should be clear to America that the President is on the same page as the current PM, if not even a little more extreme. President Khameini may be religious but he's a Persian first. There isn't much dissent in Iran, especially over the nuclear issue.

POSTSCRIPT: The sixth round was a bust. The Iranians offered the unacceptable and the Euro position was undercut by restatement the standard US/Israel  surrender or die position.
Couldn't have smelled that coming.