Friday, August 16, 2013

Another of his screw ups







Yesterday, Bradley Manning spoke for three minutes in the military proceedings against him.  Paul Courson (CNN) explains:

Convicted leaker Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged Wednesday that by leaking tens of thousands of pages of classified documents he "hurt people and hurt the United States."
"I understood what I was doing was wrong but I didn't appreciate the broader effects of my actions," he said during his sentencing hearing at Maryland's Fort Meade. "I only wanted to help people, not hurt people."

That's fairly straightforward but appears to confuse Alexa O'Brien and some in her circle.  Reflecting on their statements today, I was reminded of film director Angela Garcia Combs sharing at Women and Hollywood Monday an observation of the late Karen Black:

Karen once described to me a great lesson she learned from Lee Strasberg. She was a young actress in his class attempting to grow her craft, yet she didn't like him. What he said didn't sit right with her, somehow his personality rubbed her the wrong way, but she had trouble putting her finger on it. One day, however, Strasberg was as usual pontificating before his class, yet he was not wearing his trademark suspenders. As he lectured, he nervously fiddled with his now imaginary prop and it occurred to Karen that for all his undoubted wisdom, Strasberg was not living in the present. Her observation of Strasberg's simple conditioned response freed her. She realized that living in the present, recognizing something as simple as what is there, rather than imposing what we wish to be there -- this is was what it would take to inhabit the characters she was to play, and thus ended her relationship with the esteemed pedagogue. Karen was a great observer of human nature and she could see when someone was not in the present. Karen inhabited the present.

Alexa O'Brien appears to be unable to live in the present as well.  Whether than report what happened yesterday, she's invented these alternative realities and is making so many ridiculous statements such as this in her dotty performance on Democracy Now! today:

Now, of course, it didn’t come in the package that people expected it to come in. It actually came in a very sort of—I would actually characterize it as an earnest and sincere package. People have to understand something: Bradley Manning is more of a moral character than he is a political one. Why are people so moved by Bradley Manning? Why do people say, "I am Bradley Manning?" Because his acts were fundamentally an act of conscience.

If you are a friend of Alexa's you might encourage her to stop imploding publicly.  She had a shot at a career in journalism.  But reporters don't dish in "a moral character."  /Even columnists -- those not named Gail Collins -- try to avoid that kind of nonsense.  And people said "I am Bradley Manning" to show solidarity with him.

Words have impact.

As I noted yesterday, I fault attorney David Coombs for Bradley's statements.  But whomever you blame or credit, the statements drive away support.  That's reality, start addressing it.

I would hope grown ups could.  I don't know about Alexa.

  1. Bradley Manning did not say he harmed the US. He said he hurt the US. I think there is a difference.

Am I the only not just thinking O'Brien's splitting hairs but also remembering the scene in Love & Death between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton?

Boris:  Sonya, are you scared of dying?

Sonya:  Scared is the wrong word.  I'm frightened of it

Boris:  (mocking) That's an interesting distinction

The statement Bradley made was stupid and ignorant -- regardless of who came up with it.  All along, the talk has been of a win on appeal.  That especially became the case as observers with any knowledge of the law watched David Coombs bungle repeatedly.  So if you have Bradley make a statement, you make it a rousing one that will rally the supporters.  It was stupid not to have done that.

Danny Schechter (News Dissector) observed this morning, "It was a humiliating day for Bradley Manning and his supporter who have been lobbying for him to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. He finally had a chance to have his say in court and he opted to seek mercy and perhaps a reduced sentence by apologizing."

David Swanson (War Is A Crime) offered his reaction:

I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion.  I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down.  Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy.  He's on trial in a system rigged against him.  The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago.  He's been convicted.  The judge has been offered a promotion.  The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor.  Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence?  Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong.  But -- wow -- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom.

There is a wide range of reactions to Bradley's remarks.  Many were voiced last night in the roundtable for the special gina & krista round-robin published this morning.  Mike shared his reaction at his site:

I kind of thought what Bradley did was brave and the right thing to do.
Now that he's apologized will those celebs in the "I Am Bradley Manning" video join him in apologizing?
I don't know what to say.
I advocated on his behalf and I defended him.
Today he apologizes and tells the court he was wrong.
Whatever, huh?
He and his support network can have each other because I'm done with him.
As I explained in a roundtable we did tonight, other people should do what they want.
But I do have a law degree.  I did public defending pro bono.
And you don't do what Brad did today.  Not to lessen a sentence (or try to).  You don't disown actions you're proud of.
Bradley's lost his ethical high ground now.

Others can defend him.  I won't attack them for it (in the community or out).  But I'm done with him.
I've got a life and I'll be living it no longer worrying about him.  He disowned his actions?
I supported those actions.
I'm done supporting him.  And since he's admitted to damaging the country (yeah, he said that too), he'll get whatever sentence Col. Denise Lind gives him.  And if she now throws the book at him, oh well.  That's his problem.

(Added) Marcia shared her reaction to the 'defense':

But as a member of the LGBT community, I feel betrayed by the 'defense' David Coombs presented.
Brad is not, you understand, a brave person who came forward and did the right thing.
No, he's a dirty pervert with a sickness and, in the best tradition of burn the witch, Brad is forced to confess his sins and admit to damaging the country.
I'm real damn sorry that David Coombs is such a stupid ass and transphobe, but I'm even sorrier that Brad's name is now muddied.
I'm sorry that what he did is now on record as being a result of a 'perversion.'
Being transgendered is not "disorder."
Coombs had a right to defend his client.
He did not have a right to do so by spitting on the LGBT community.
To put on the stand witnesses testifying to a "disorder" was spitting on us.  In the early 90s, that "disorder" could have been same sex attraction.
I have nothing but support for Brad but David Coombs is a transphobe and a homophobe.  (Homophobe?  He repeatedly equated trans as "gay."  Women trapped in men's bodies are not "gay," they are transgendered.)

Of Bradley's statements, Alexa O'Brien declared on Democracy Now! today (with a straight face but while rocking herself back and forth), "So, it’s very much in line with, I think, what’s been a really actually successful defense strategy on Coombs’s part, is to lay it all out there and show how it all fits together."

Successful defense?  John Knefel (Rolling Stone) noted Colonel Denise Lind found Bradley "guilt of 20 other counts, which could get him up to 136 years in military prison." We should probably point out that Bradley won't get the death penalty but that's only because the military took it off the list of options before the court-martial began.  So how has Coombs mounted a successful defense?  In what crazy world does Alexa O'Brien live when you're found guilty of all but two counts against you and are now facing the possibility of over 100 years behind bars?

The Bradley Manning Support Network is attempting to mount a response for when Lind announces the government's sentence against Bradley.  Kat noted that last night and offered:

Are you kidding me?
In this heat?  You want me to demonstrate in this heat?
For someone who says they were wrong to do what they did?  For someone who says their actions damaged the country?
Forget that.  Since May 2010, I have wasted my time on Bradley Manning.  I've done so here, in pieces co-written with Third and over and over in various groups we've spoken to around the country.
I could have used that time on other issues, I could have used it for pleasure.

I used it on Brad because I believed in what he did.  Now that he apparently does not, I don't have time for him.  Sorry.
Don't give me that crap that he's facing life behind bars.
His statements today do not change that.
What they did is renounce a powerful stand.
I don't have time to fight for those who won't fight for themselves, sorry.
Some in the community (we did a round-table for a special gina & krista roundtable that will be in inboxes tomorrow morning) are of the opinion that Coombs is entirely responsible.  That's fine.  I respect them and their opinion.  But Bradley made his statements today and, I repeat, I don't have the time to fight for those who won't fight for themselves.

I pin the blame on Coombs and do so because he's the attorney who is supposed to advise the client.  If the statements were Bradley's idea (if!), Coombs should have explained the damage they do in terms of public support and in terms of an appeal.

I'm sorry, let's walk it through.  Bradley hires a functional attorney like Marjorie Cohn or Michael Ratner for an appeal.  That would be a great move.  But what would Cohn or Ratner have to work with. "Your honor, Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower and his actions helped many ---"  At what point does the prosecution jump in to point out that Bradley disowned the actions in his statement to the court and admitted he had "hurt" the United States?

I blame Coombs.  But whomever you fault or credit, you're allowed your reaction.  After three years plus of defending Bradley, you're allowed to feel negatively about his statement in court yesterday.  Kat and Mike are done with him.  That's not an unnatural response.  There are others who will feel the same way.  Living in denial or attempting to impose it on others (I'm not sure which O'Brien is doing) will not change the way people feel.

Before I go further, as Kat noted in her post last night, I say Justin Raimondo ( has the right to shout, "I was right!"  He was.  I had hoped he was wrong.  But from the start of Coombs' nonsense, Raimondo called it out.  (I wrongly thought that when the court-martial started we would see some grand plan for a defense where it all made sense. That never happened.)  Raimondo caught on to the nonsense of David Coombs, to how he distracted and wasted support early on.  I was wrong -- I often am -- and Justin Raimondo was right.  Good for him.

Back to the statement Bradley made.  It included, "How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?"  That also bothers people because people do make a difference.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't decide, "I'm a Christian minister.  How could I make a difference over the decisions of those with the proper authority."  But let's not just make this about the left.  I can't stand Phyllis Schlafly or the beliefs she extolls.  But she apparently believes in her stated beliefs and she never let anything stop her from pushing them.  This is a woman who ran for Congress in the fifties.  She lost, so what.  At a time when there were 96 US Senators and only one was a woman (Senator Margaret Chase) and when there were 435 House Reps but only 7 were women (Edna Flannery Kelly, Katharine St. George, Frances P. Bolton, Marguerite S. Church, Vera Buchanan, Reva Beck Bosone and Elizabeth Kee), Shlafly felt she -- one person -- could make a difference and she ran.

The belief that one person can make a difference is not rooted in left or right politics, it's a belief that belongs to all.  It's in religions, including missionary religions, it's in children's fables  and is the whole point of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes."

The Emperor's got no clothes on
No clothes? That can't be -- he's the Emperor
Take that child away
Don't let the people hear the words he has to say
One small voice
Speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice
Speaking with the values we were taught as children
[. . .]
You can change the world
But you better be strong.
-- "One Small Voice," written by Carole King, first appears on her Speeding Time

This is what we are taught as children, as Carole's song so aptly points out.  So for Bradley's statement to go against the grain on that as well is going to leave many feeling less than thrilled.   At World Can't Wait, Dennis Loo compiles a list of the many ways Bradley's actions did make a difference.  WikiLeaks released a statement which included:

But Mr. Manning's options have run out. The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning's humiliation. In light of this, Mr. Manning's forced decision to apologise to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off his sentence must be regarded with compassion and understanding.
Mr. Manning's apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier.
Bradley Manning's apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance.
Mr. Manning's apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for. Public pressure on Bradley Manning's military court must intensify in these final days before the sentencing decision against him is made.
WikiLeaks continues to support Bradley Manning, and will continue to campaign for his unconditional release.

There are a wide range of opinions and stands.  Pretending that Bradley didn't say what he said or that the defense has been a success?  That's not opinion that's slash fiction.  And don't pretend you covered the issues if you never explored counter-insurgency.  Pauline Jelinek and David Dishneau (AP) explore the many issues of the hearing including counter-insurgency:

COUNTERINSURGENCY CAMPAIGNS • Manning was disturbed by what he saw at war, including the civilian deaths and tactics that turned the local populations in Iraq and Afghanistan against U.S. and other foreign troops. Those are issues that frustrated other troops who served, up to the war’s highest commanders.

Manning said he hoped exposing how America fought in Iraq and Afghanistan might prompt debate and reform of its counterinsurgency strategy, which created the battlefield around any corner and any village and neighborhood — and, as Manning said, often produced resentment and lack of cooperation among the people of both nations.

Ritchie said the question of Manning’s motives is interesting on various levels.

Yes, Bradley did say he wanted to start a debate on counter-insurgency.  Too bad for Bradley, most people weren't up to it - -hadn't been for over a decade.  How did counter-insurgency become 'respectable'?  The Carr Center at Harvard and places where other academic whores gather.  Review Adam Curtis (BBC News) 2012 report and marvel over how counter-insurgency went from being so reviled during the Vietnam era that the US military disowned it, to staging a comeback in the 00's.  It took a lot of silence for that to happen and you can look to The Nation magazine which refused to call it out (I'm not forgetting Tom Hayden's piece -- I'm also not forgetting that it first appeared elsewhere and that in all the years that have followed no one at The Nation bothered to ever weigh in).  Look to The Progressive magazine which never called it out.

Excuse me, The Progressive wasn't just silent.  We often note Samantha Power blurbed the military's counter-insurgency manual.  I never would have known that were it not for the ad for the military's manual that ran in The Progressive.  So the magazine didn't just remain silent, it accepted money to promote war on a native population.

Counter-insurgency was mentioned by Bradley in his court-martial.  It was mentioned by witnesses (including one this week) but where was the coverage?  AP reported on it.  Kelley Beaucar Vlahos ( has written of it many times including this week in a column on Iraq:

 Currently, I am reading (Ret) Col. Gian Gentile’s new book, Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency. Gentile is a friend of, having sat for an interview back in 2009. His consistent criticism of counterinsurgency (COIN) amid the unprecedented drumbeat for it by the civilian and military power establishment was both vilified (by COINdinistas) and welcome to those of us opposed to U.S war policy overseas. In his book, he has the last say, gazing on the ruins of American power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything he predicted then is playing out each night on the (very) brief news reports about Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) attacks against Maliki’s government and the civilian populace. But we doubt Gentile, who fought in Iraq during its deadliest moments in 2005, is taking any satisfaction.

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