Image credit: U.S. Army/Wikimedia
Glenn Greenwald, from his new digs at The Guardian, wrote today on the subject of justice for war crimes in America. After discussing the hideous verdict in the Rachel Corrie lawsuit in Israel, he moved onto how the American justice system has been dealing with war crimes, and the people who reported those war crimes:
[links from original article]
The US military has continuously imposed pitifully light "punishments" on its soldiers even for the most heinous atrocities. The wanton slaughter of two dozen civilians in Haditha, Iraq and the severe and even lethal torture of Afghan detainees generated, at worst, shockingly short jail time for the killers and, usually, little more than letters of reprimand.
Contrast this tepid, reluctant wrist-slapping for the brutal crimes of occupying soldiers with what a UN investigation found was the US government's "cruel and inhuman treatment" of Bradley Manning before he was convicted of anything. Manning has been imprisoned for more than two years now without having been found guilty of any crimes – already longer than any of the perpetrators of these fatal abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces life in prison at the age of 23 for the alleged "crime" of disclosing to the world overwhelming evidence of corruption, deceit and illegality on the part of the world's most powerful factions: disclosures that helped thwart the Obama administration's efforts to keep US troops in Iraq, and which, as even WikiLeaks' harshest critics acknowledge, played some substantial role in helping to spark the Arab spring.
How the US and Israeli justice systems whitewash state crimes
In most of the articles you're likely to read that are critical of Bradley Manning, there is almost never any acknowledgement of two very basic truths about what he is alleged to have done:
- Despite nearly constant assertions that it is so, the government has never shown even one instance of where the Wikileaks disclosures have done harm to our forces in the field, and
- The very act of covering up crimes by using classification authority is in itself a crime.
Nor are you likely to see any acknowledgement that the acts Greenwald led his article with, such as the Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters or the burnings of the Koran by U.S. service personnel, have almost certainly endangered our forces by enraging the local populations of the countries we are (or were) trying to occupy. It's as though the idea that doing these things would fuel hatred of us, and that those stories would get around in those countries regardless of whether anything like Wikileaks existed, never even enters their heads.
As I've written before, it's a good thing for our leadership that our press is so incurious about the crimes those secret documents are covering up. It's one of the reasons why, in America these days, it's much better to be the person committing a war crime than the one who reports it. Nothing about that has changed since George W. Bush left office.
I don't blame governments so much for this. They always want to protect themselves, and their secrets. What's so ominous is how few of the rest of us seem to care. Nothing will change until that does.