Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Bradley Manning Thing and Starship Troopers

Klendathu -- It's an Ugly System, a Bug System

"Starship Troopers" has been on heavy rotation one of the broadcast movie channels here, and I watched it the other day and had a good hoot over it. When the United States went to WAR!!! some years ago -- good heavens, more than a decade now -- I and others made many comparisons between the propaganda that suffuses Paul Verhoeven's film and what Americans were being subjected to in order to whip them to a frenzy of Muslim-Bug-Hate, and we commented about how much the images of the WAR!!! ON TERRA! and the WARR!!!! ON KLENDATHU! resembled one another. It was as if we were being made to live out this mockery of Heinlein's adolescent fantasy as re-configured by Verhoeven. Truth was stranger than fiction.

The book was published in 1959; the movie -- the original, not the sequels -- was released in 1997 not long after the Bosnia campaign; the WAR!!!! against Klendathu, er, Afghanistan was initiated in 2001 and quickly spread to Iraq and has now embroiled much of the Middle East and parts of Africa with no end in sight... here we are, so many years down the line, and so many young people can't really remember a time when we weren't fighting Klendathu/Bugs for some reason.

We have always been fighting Klendathu/Bugs in a way.

A young soldier named Bradley Manning is to be court-martialed for turning over massive amounts of military and State Department documents and communications, some of it classified, to WikiLeaks some years ago (we've lost track of the exact timelines now), a trial that has been delayed for an extraordinarily long time as the sides prepare and maneuver. The most recent phase involved a hearing on the conditions of Manning's confinement at the Quantico brig, conditions which were ridiculous when they weren't appalling, but conditions which are faced by tens of thousands of domestic prisoners, including children, every day. The hoopla over Manning's confinement conditions seemed to me to be over the top, in part because so many prisoners in America face similar conditions, and many of those prisoners have not been convicted any more than Manning has been convicted. There simply is no outcry, there's hardly any recognition that atrocious, indeed torturous, confinement conditions are standard operating procedure in America's vast and expanding prison/industrial complex.

Confinement conditions in Marine brigs have been notorious for brutality and psychological terror for decades. What was done to Manning, while atrocious, was actually mild compared to the treatment of some prisoners held in the brig for various offenses both pre and post conviction. I've reported previously that a relative faced far worse conditions, and for far longer, than Manning when he was held in the brig for four years on what I believe was either a completely bogus or completely political (ie: Marine Corps politics) criminal charge. This is how a formidable and corrupt system works and has worked for many long years. Where is the outcry?

Quite simply, there is no outcry beyond the highly select cohort of individuals who truly care about these things. Manning should not have been treated the way he was at Quantico, nor should anyone else face such treatment and worse in any part of the American Gulag, but the conditions faced by those not named Manning wasn't part of the general conversation and still isn't. Americans by and large are in complete denial about the prison/industrial system that holds millions of its citizens and foreigners under often appalling conditions, day in and day out, year in and year out. It is an out of control punishment system that gets more out of control and brutal as time goes by.

The hearing over Manning's confinement conditions has concluded; it was covered by Kevin Gozstola over at FDL and a few other reporters, notably not including the New York Times until a public outcry (and a rather harsh column by the paper's public editor) embarrassed the Gray Lady's Powers That Be enough to send someone to witness part of one day's testimony -- and then write inaccurately about it. There might be a ruling on the manner of Manning's Quantico stay sometime in January, but I won't hold my breath because this case has been delayed so many times for such a long time over all sorts of things, while Manning himself cools his heels at the Ft. Leavenworth facility awaiting a disposition that may never come.

Manning is accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, some of which were classified "Secret" and above, but many of which were unclassified. The intranet system from which this material was obtained was not secure; there was little effort to make it secure for months after the alleged leak allegedly via Manning and his all-purpose thumb drive. Consequently, part of the defense argument has been that Manning's actions really couldn't constitute such a big security breech -- because there was so little security to begin with.

The argument of many of Manning's defenders has been that Manning is a Hero and therefore should not be subjected to... well, what, actually? Accusation? Trial? Law itself?

The central document that was released through WikiLeaks as a consequence of the actions Manning is accused of is the "Collateral Murder" helicopter gun-camera video of the slaughter of some dozen or so Iraqis gathered on a street that took place in New Baghdad in 2009 (October, if I recall correctly). It is classic "Death From Above" war-porn and could have been straight out of a movie like "Starship Troopers." It was hideous and disgusting to anyone with a shred of conscience. And it was run in heavy rotation on all the propaganda news outlets for weeks in April of 2010, in a sort of orgy of bloodletting visuals that led to fist-pumping celebrations of American Might.

As I pointed out at the time, this video, while horrible to witness, is one of any number of similar extermination-porn videos, American "Death From Above" videos, many of which were proudly released by the military itself. They're available on YouTube for anyone with an internet connection to view anytime they want. They are all very similar, very hideous, and very disgusting. Yet they caused little sensation and no general outcry when they were released. Like the "Collateral Murder" video, they inspired pride not revulsion in many if not most of those who saw them.

It was only when Manning allegedly provided WikiLeaks with the "Collateral Murder" video that a small but vocal segment of the public spoke out, claiming War Crimes and perfidy in the conduct of the Iraq Occupation, and by extension in the conduct of the various imperial wars of aggression in general. The vocal segment that spoke out against the slaughter depicted in the "Collateral Murder" video is now mostly focused on the outrage of the Drone Campaigns that have been expanded under Obama. While the outrage is not misplaced, the focus may well be far too narrow.

There are almost too many individual incidents of "Death From Above" during the constant WAR!!!! against "Klendathu" to count. The incidents are grotesque, but at some point the underlying issue needs addressing.

These incidents are happening because Our Government is intent on pursuing an Imperial Expansion objective, one that has been determined by those few individuals and interests that own and control the Government. The People never agreed to this Imperial Project; they are largely ignorant that it is going on. The People have no say in these matters in any case.

"Klendathu" has always been Our Enemy, and so it is today. If we want the incidents to stop, we have to stop the objectification of our Bug-Enemies, and furthermore we must stop the Imperial Expansion Project that allows and requires this endless horror to go on.

I don't know whether Manning had or has any of that in mind. He's a complex character whose motivations have never been entirely clear. At one time, it was claimed that his "torture" at Quantico was undertaken to extract information from him regarding WikiLeaks. That tack seems to have been dropped as it became clear that his treatment at Quantico was done because it could be done and not for any other reason at all. The brig commanders are brutal and not very bright thugs. Hello? This is news somehow?

WikiLeaks has largely faded (which is a whole other story). The Manning Thing was ostentatiously ignored by the New York Times, which was the exclusive US publisher of the WikiLeaks trove (allegedly from Manning) at one time. Coverage of the Manning Thing is still spotty. Imperial wars of aggression continue with occasional adjustments.

We are still at war with Klendathu. The Bugs are Still Out There...

"Death From Above"

[Sorry about the absence of links, have to see if I can add some later...]

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