Malice Versus Nobility: On Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

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Malice Versus Nobility: On Scooter Libby and Bradley Manning

After 9/11, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a Yale graduate with a law degree from Columbia, and fellow neo cons plotted to twist and invent "intelligence" data to convince the public that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, so as to build a case for invading Iraq.

From 2001 to 2005, Libby served as Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States and Assistant to President George W. Bush.

Libby and fellow neo cons stressed Bush’s dubious 2003 State of the Union Address claim that "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Cheney repeated that Saddam Hussein was "trying once again to produce nuclear weapons" in March of that year.

The CIA was asked to investigate. Joe Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador and expert on Africa, got chosen for the mission. His wife, Valery Plame, worked as a covert CIA operator.

Wilson dismissed the “yellow-cake tale”. His July 2003 New York Times op-ed, What I Didn't Find In Africa, suggested the Bushies had invented pretexts for the Iraq war.

Libby and fellow war plotters Karl Rove and Richard Armitage, not satisfied by their success in making war, wanted to punish their Washington enemies. They leaked Plame’s name to the mischievous columnist Robert Novak — to punish her husband, Wilson. Novak’s story ended her CIA career, and exposed her agents and contacts.

A jury later convicted Libby of obstruction of justice and perjury around the case. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison, and fined him $250,000. Bush, months later, commuted his term.  But no one got charged with plotting to distribute false information to lure the public to war. The New York Times had even helped the campaign by publishing the lies as news stories on its front page.

Count the Bush cabal’s accomplishments: thousands of dead US military personnel and contractors, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis; hundreds of thousands wounded, physically and mentally – here and there. Iraq remains broken. 13,000 Iraqis died violently last year. Bush destroyed Iraq’s integrity. His profligate war spending vastly increased the national debt. His definitive biography might be called: “Lying The Nation Into War.”

Libby served some months in prison. But the neo con gang should be called simply "cons" – as in convicts. Most of them got great jobs instead.

In November 2005, a Marine Corps unit killed 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children in Haditha, Iraq. Investigators determined all died from multiple gun shot wounds at close range  — apparently as payback for an Iraqi rebel attack on a US convoy in which a Marine Corporal died – the mini My Lai of Iraq.

This past January 24, a U.S. military judge handed down harsh sentences. Squad leader, Staff Sgt. Frank G. Wuterich, pleaded guilty of war crimes and received a maximum of 90 days in prison and a reduction in pay and rank. He served no time in the brig. One Marine was acquitted; six others had their cases dropped

No U.S. official has been charged for the massive number of civilian deaths in Iraq, or for lying as a pretext for war. Who remembers the Nuremberg laws?

Now look at Private Bradley Manning’s ordeal. He had access to and allegedly released — to Julian Assange of Wikileaks — hundreds of thousands of secret documents. These documents did not expose secrets vital to our enemy, but lies, corruption and crimes by U.S. officials and those of other countries. Manning’s defense team stresses that what Wikileaks published wasn’t or shouldn’t have been secret.

Manning did however embarrass U.S. officials by exposing their illegal, stupid, selfish and downright inane activities. If he illegally distributed those documents, why doesn't the Justice Department charge the New York Times and other newspapers that gleefully distributed this supposedly classified (mortifying) material? One video Manning allegedly released spread virally. U.S. helicopter gunship members get orders to fire on Iraqis because one (a Reuters cameraman) might have a weapon (a video camera). We witness from the camera mounted on the gun the massacre of a group of men near the cameraman, and then of others who subsequently arrive to help the wounded, including a child in a van. Humanitarian behavior in Iraq? Who invited us there?

Was this classified because Iraqis didn’t know our troops did such things – or because it disgraces our military?

With vindictiveness aforethought the military held Manning for months in solitary confinement – often naked with the light on all night — in the Quantico Virginia Marine Base. Solitary confinement “crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment,” as John McCain described his two years of solitary confinement in Vietnam.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, The Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and the New York Times concluded that solitary confinement constitutes torture, designed to break a person. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture tried to investigate Manning’s prison conditions. The military refused his request for an unmonitored visit.

The 24 year-old Manning faces 22 charges, including "aiding the enemy." If convicted, the government will call for life imprisonment, unless Manning implicates Julian Assange in the "conspiracy" to expose the "secret" sins of U.S. national security. Members of the Icelandic Parliament have nominated Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Let's help him win it – as a free man.

Saul Landau

Saul Landau is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow and an internationally known scholar, author, commentator, and filmmaker on foreign and domestic policy issues. His latest book is A Bush and Botox World (2006, Counterpunch Press).

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