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Parry writes: "There are times when the immoral dimensions of Official Washington stand out in the starkest shades, not in variations of gray but in black and white."

Bradley Manning. (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
Bradley Manning. (photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

America's Upside-Down Morality

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

15 August 13


RSN Special Coverage: Trial of Bradley Manning

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Exclusive: Pvt. Bradley Manning has prostrated himself before his court-martial judge, apologizing for leaking documents on U.S. government wrongdoing and referencing his psychological problems as reasons for mercy. The sad spectacle underscores how upside-down American morality now is, says Robert Parry.

aving covered the U.S. government for nearly 36 years, I am not so naïve as to expect perfection or even anything close. But there are times when the immoral dimensions of Official Washington stand out in the starkest shades, not in variations of gray but in black and white.

Such was the gut-wrenching moment on Wednesday when Pvt. Bradley Manning, who exposed U.S. government war crimes and other wrongdoing, made a groveling apology for doing the right thing - when there has been next to no accountability for the officials and their media collaborators who did innumerable wrong things.

While no one in power seems to expect even an apology from - let alone punishment of - former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their subordinates who facilitated acts of torture and who deceived the American people into an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, 25-year-old Bradley Manning finds himself having to beg for mercy to avoid what could be a 90-year prison sentence.

At his court-martial sentencing hearing, Manning's attorneys presented the brave whistleblower as a psychologically confused young man who mistakenly thought he was doing something good when he was really doing something bad. They even released a photo of him dressed as a woman, setting the stage for Manning's apology.

"I'm sorry that my actions hurt people," Manning told the court martial judge. "I'm sorry that they hurt the United States. At the time of my decision, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continue to affect me."

But there has been no serious evidence that Manning's disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government records "hurt people" - and they only "hurt the United States" in the sense that many of Official Washington's misdeeds and manipulations were exposed for the world to see. Some of Manning's critics say U.S. diplomats now won't be so forthcoming in describing these realities out of fear that some future Manning might do more leaking, but there's no evidence of that either.

In contrast to the lack of evidence regarding harm, there were undeniable benefits to democracy and human rights from what Manning did reveal. Manning's documents provided the detailed "ground truth" that has enabled Americans to better understand what their government did in Iraq and Afghanistan - and how grotesque many of those crimes were.

For instance, because Manning disclosed a classified videotape, we know that the much-heralded "successful surge" in Iraq in 2007 included the slaughter of innocent Iraqis walking down the streets of Baghdad as well as the slaying of a Good Samaritan who stopped his van, carrying his own children, in a vain attempt to help the wounded. The trigger-happy helicopter gunners killed the man and wounded his kids, too.

Manning's leaks also revealed the U.S. government's awareness of gross corruption in "allied" countries, such as Tunisia where the revelations helped spark an uprising that drove out a longtime dictator and gave Tunisians a chance at democracy.

Iran's Nuclear Program

Another important Manning disclosure, which may have deterred another catastrophic war in the Middle East, was how the U.S. government had manipulated the election of the new director general to the International Atomic Energy Agency. U.S. Embassy cables, exposed by Manning, showed that Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano had been installed in 2009 as something of a U.S.-Israeli puppet.

The significance of this information was that, without it, Amano's IAEA could have advanced the goal of Israeli leaders and U.S. neoconservatives for war with Iran over its nuclear program by exaggerating the danger. That propaganda strategy was undercut by Manning's revelation that Amano was not only installed by the U.S. government but was meeting secretly with Israeli officials, ironically with Amano raising no complaints about Israel's own rogue nuclear arsenal.

When the cables about Amano came out a year after his appointment, Amano's IAEA was busy feeding the hysteria over Iran's nuclear program with reports that were trumpeted by major U.S. news outlets. IAEA's alarm undercut Iran's denial about building a bomb and a 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate which concluded that Iran had stopped work on a bomb in 2003.

So, I found it useful to examine the detailed documents regarding Amano's election. What those classified State Department cables showed was that Amano credited his election largely to U.S. government support and then stuck his hand out for more U.S. money. Further, Amano left little doubt that he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran.

According to U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA's headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn't.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. "Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive," the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director general, he would take a different "approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei" and he "saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council]/Board resolutions," i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. "We wholly agree with Amano's assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs," Pyatt commented.

A Hand-Out

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial support, stating that "the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. ... Amano offered that a 'reasonable increase' in the regular budget would be helpful."

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli "immediately after his appointment" and that Michaeli "was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues." Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano's public remarks about there being "no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability" as just words that Amano felt he had to say "to persuade those who did not support him about his 'impartiality.'"

In private, Amano agreed to "consultations" with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, which has yet to yield a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano "took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that ... he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

"More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain 'constructive ambiguity' about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December" 2009.

In other words, Amano was a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel, especially regarding Iran's nuclear program. Amano's behavior surely contrasts with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush's key claims about Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program, correctly denouncing some documents as forgeries.

The Amano cables, which Manning supplied to WikiLeaks, were first spotlighted by the U.K. Guardian in 2010. However, because the full cables were posted on the Internet, I was later able to dig through them to find additional details, such as Amano asking for more U.S. money.

Without this level of "ground truth," Americans would be at the mercy of the major U.S. news media, which seemed as much on board for a war with Iran as it was for war with Iraq. The major U.S. news outlets have ignored the cables about Amano and continue to present him and his IAEA as honest brokers regarding Iran's nuclear program. But millions of Americans know better because of Pvt. Manning's selfless disclosures.

Thus, the depth of gratitude for Manning's actions should run deep. Indeed, it is hard to calculate how many lives his disclosures may have saved and how many mistakes he has helped the United States avoid. In a moral society, he would be hailed as a national hero, rather than face prosecution and be forced to humiliate himself in a desperate bid to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.

This injustice becomes even starker when you watch the choreographers of George W. Bush's torture policies and the architects of his Iraq War go free. Or when you see the key "journalists" who facilitated the Bush-Cheney crimes remain in high-paying and high-profile jobs.

After taking office, President Barack Obama let these war criminals and their accomplices evade accountability with his infamous dictum about "looking forward, not backward." Yet, the ultimate hypocrisy in the case of Bradley Manning is that Obama's leniency only seems to apply to the war criminals, not to the truth-tellers who expose the war criminals.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, "Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush," was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, "Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq" and "Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'" are also available there. your social media marketing partner


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+32 # AUCHMANNOCH 2013-08-15 15:46
My father always advised me that if attacked by thugs to always fight back and fight back with strength and determination. He also advised that if I were overwhelmed and on the floor with the thugs boots kicking ribs and head to curl up and beg for mercy. I hope this strategy works for this brave soldier and 21st century hero.
+18 # ER444 2013-08-16 02:04
A very strange decision from Mr. Coombs. We can only hope he has really has Bradley's interests at heart and that his tactic works. Who among us wouldn't "curl up and beg" if found in Bradley's situation. It is however sad, even depressing watching this good idealist grovel before Caesar's poised thumb. Too bad the spectators in the arena are so collectively silent. If enough of us would shows thumbs up maybe justice would have a chance. The odds are overwhelmingly against it though. To admit that Bradley is right automatically points the finger once again at the real criminals, and apparently imperialist Washington has already given thumbs down on this idea. Democracy is dead, Washington is burning, and the only thing that has "changed" is the fiddler.
+36 # soularddave 2013-08-15 19:15
"Thugs" well describes Pvt Manning's captors. There are few candidates suggested for election who would entertain the notion of executive clemency, so its now or never to appeal to have the sentence trimmed. Remember, the thugs are still after other whistleblowers and enablers.

Granted, best would be to go after the war criminals but it is WE who would have to make that happen.
+12 # seeuingoa 2013-08-15 21:47
Psychodelic drugs and torture
can "zombie" any man.

Remember the 1962 film
"The Manchurian Candidate." ?
-26 # randyjet 2013-08-15 21:55
Sorry, but the criticism of Israel is WAY off base since it refused to sign the NPT, unlike IRAN! Thus Iran IS subject to being FORCED to abide by its treaty obligations. Israel is NOT. Let's try being truthful for a change.
+14 # Pancho 2013-08-16 02:34
I think you've misread the article.

Either that, or you're disappointed that it did not cover every jot and tittle involved in the Israeli nuclear arsenal and that country's constant agitation to bring U.S. and international pressure on Iran, aimed at regime change.

This is a terrific article and neither spares Israel nor fails to put the Iranian nuclear program in perspective.
+12 # Pancho 2013-08-16 02:47
When el Baradei finally got the supposed documents that "proved" Saddam was dealing with Niger to get yellowcake, it took him and the IAEA all of two days to prove they were extremely crude forgeries.

Those bogus documents, along with "Curveball's" fabrications, were a lynchpin of Cheney's strategy to gather support for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. The U.S. media, led by pernicious sycophants such as Judith Miller and Michael Gordon at the NY Times, gobbled it up, though any well-informed schoolchild could have told them it was complete bullshit. Of the major media, only Knight-Ridder resisted.

I must confess that I had not read that Manning's documents exposed what was in effect a U.S. takeover of the IAEA for propaganda purposes through its stooge, Amano. I had noticed at the time that with his appointment, it became completely ineffectual.
+10 # Brooklynite 2013-08-16 11:34
Quoting randyjet:
Sorry, but the criticism of Israel is WAY off base since it refused to sign the NPT, unlike IRAN! Thus Iran IS subject to being FORCED to abide by its treaty obligations. Israel is NOT. Let's try being truthful for a change.

That still doesn't make it any less hypocritical for the modern State of Israel to tell other countries they can't have nuclear weapons when it is well-armed with the same.
+29 # fdawei 2013-08-15 22:48
Mr. Parry, the immorality of mainstream media is also complicit in this farce of charging Pvt. Manning. While they all panted for information and the "inside scoop," and in fact many of the "better known" media were quick to publish it, none came to this brave man's defense.

The "upside down morality" extends itself to sectors other than the military. However,as we have seen in this debacle against Pvt. Manning, no one in the other sectors that have turned many Americans live irreversibly upside down forever, will ever be prosecuted, despite of reams of evidence against them.

Appalling to think we live in such an immoral century and in a country that is lead by a man whose "infamous dictum only wants to look "forward not backward.""

Finally, many thanks for your insights and straight shooting as an intrepid and incorruptible journalist.
+21 # futhark 2013-08-16 07:39
If Harry Truman had been an only looking forward not backward president, it is conceivable that there never would have been any Nuremberg Trials. Everyone needs to be accountable for past actions. Otherwise, why have a criminal justice system at all?
+17 # Milarepa 2013-08-16 00:06
Manning has made the world a better place to live in, so we all owe him. What he said in court recently, no matter why, does not alter the benefits of the great service he has done the world. To expect mercy from a kangaroo court is unrealistic. He is doing the best he can under the circumstances. All of us who appreciate his acts of courage and empathize with the torture and suffering imposed on him during detention are with him in spirit.
+16 # fredboy 2013-08-16 08:15
Since the 2000 election fix our nation has been upside down. Bad is good and good is bad. Science is a lie. Hatred is championed.

Something huge--something beyond human comprehension-- needs to happen to turn it all around. Hope karma works on a grand scale.
+6 # 6thextinction 2013-08-16 08:33
Mass movements turn things around. Impossible to organize, though. They ignite when things get bad enough.
+7 # jaycarrigan 2013-08-16 08:59
Who are the people behind President O'bama's contradicory behavior. I know the wealthy, but what does he gain from having more money? What is money in comparison to a positive place in history? Is he a presidential Gordon Gekko who never had enough? Jayc
+9 # Walter J Smith 2013-08-16 09:06
Well, reporting happens whether the US mediacracy wants it to happen or not.

Thank heavens for Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and all the other genuine patriots who have and still are blowing the most beautiful whistles on the monstrous "patriot act" bull poopy of official washington, d. c. and its wall street manipulators.
+10 # jwb110 2013-08-16 10:07
World opinion is on Bradley Manning's side, as well as Snowden's.
How can the "Family of Nations" ever trust the US again. One day we may need real help from allies who no longer exist.
+5 # gd_radical 2013-08-16 10:59
At least there is still some truth being told in the media, even if it's just a little site like ours here.... I have to state that I unequivocally disagree though with some of the comments here. The thing to do when attacked is as Jesus of Nazareth (or according to Gandhi as well)told us to do was turn the other cheek: in defiance, not subservience. Begging for mercy does nothing but allows the perpetrator(s) to feel even a greater sense of power. As for the rest of us, we can no longer pretend that we didn't know or do not know what is being done to the oppressed, the poor, the 99% of us both at home and abroad who are being systematically beaten into submission. Understand this you global elite SOB's...the time is fast approaching when you will no longer rule and your money, fame, and or power will not protect you. As for me, I fear this day will be here all to quickly, when Gen.X which fears no one or nothing, simply takes what they feel they need to survive. The bloodbath currently raging in both our urban and rural poverty stricken communities is proof enough that time always moves onward. I can only continue to pray and hope for my children's future. As for me, well let's just say that I will probably lay, as Sir Winston Churchill's metaphor for what would happen if the Nazi's invaded England in WWII, dieing and choking in a pool of my own blood but ever defiant to the end I hope....
+6 # Doubter 2013-08-16 17:43
Nice thought, but I doubt if you will do better than Manning when faced with overwhelming power and forcible coercion. I've been through quite a bit, including combat infantry WWII but I don't condemn Manning for grovelling before the slavering monster he is up against.
+7 # James Marcus 2013-08-16 11:10
Imagine being a youngster, growing up amongst this Farce of Dishonesty. What Values to establish and Entrain?
Which Leadership skills to admire?

What Poison to assimilate, and make sense of
+10 # mdhome 2013-08-16 12:16
I think we must start a petition for requesting that Obama grant a clemency for Bradly Manning. It would be proper to give him a medal for his whistle blowing, but granting him a reprieve would at least be a great thing.
+6 # Innocent Victim 2013-08-17 12:03
Yes, though Manning's confession was a harm to Assange, Snowden, and all of the other brave souls who have come forward to reveal the crimes of our government, he did accomplish a great deal of good. The harm ought not to be forgotten, because it is a result of the schooling and parenting of our young. They are, in the vast majority, raised to believe that this is, in approximation, a land of liberty and justice for all. That is the in the Pledge many must say each morning before classes begin, and it is false. The young join the military with that idealism and with the pride of their parents. They are not cautioned that they are not placing only their lives in the hands of the chain of command, but their judgments and their consciences. They may not refuse to obey for fear of their lives nor for the preservation of their consciences and mental integrity. We see the results of that disintegration in the extraordinary numbers of suicides and PTSD cases among our veterans.
+3 # Innocent Victim 2013-08-17 12:04
Mannning was such an idealistic military volunteer. He soon found his trust in his superiors and his country's President misplaced. With the inexperience of youth, he defied them - unprepared to bite the cyanide capsule if caught. He allowed a defense, not by a political lawyer but by a lawyer who defends AWOLs, insubordination s, conduct unbecomings, etc. His lawyer, Mr Coombs, allowed Manning to disgrace himself and to undermine the good that he had done. The game of defying despotism is not for youthful idealists. It is for the committed and to be played to the end.
+1 # Doubter 2013-08-19 00:10
Are you advocating self immolation; martyrdom for the poor kid? He's done enough, now it's up to the rest of us.
+1 # tomtom 2013-08-18 09:33
These comments are a great education. Having been tortured and criticized by his President, he knows the outcome is loaded against him. He's going down, just as the state of Georgia lynched Troy Davis, two years ago. Bradley did his part. We need to Get Behind a New Constitution and implement/enfor ce it. Úntill we stop them, these tyrants Will only increase their crimes against Americans.
+3 # Jack Gibson 2013-08-18 13:06
Why do we supposedly need a new constitution to stop them? If we can't use the present one to stop them, a new one certainly isn't going to do so either. The one we've got is just fine, thank you. Now we need to enforce IT.
0 # bobjbax 2013-08-20 22:49
Manning Trial, ART. 37. Unlawfully Influencing Action Of Court


Dear Commanders of Our Armed Forces,

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen Martin E. Dempsey.

Major General Jeffery S. Buchanan Convening Authority for Bradley Manning's Court Martial,

The Commander In Chief of our National Defense Forces, President Barack Hussein Obama II, your CIC, has openly stated during Bradley Manning's confinement for trial that he is Guilty.

UCMJ ART. 37. Unlawfully Influencing Action Of Court

Talking to you General Class Commanders these days is a Top Secret America JSOC death sentence for our children too. Been hit hit hit, defenseless and wretchedly sick of it for years thus I've nothing to lose to begin with in our present unlawful state. I am though ruled by principle so in speaking out to you here on this direly urgent matter I am for my part carrying out what I consider my Duty as a Veteran and a natural citizen soldier of our true Constitutional National Defense Force, We the People. What we have here as this Bradley Manning Trial is outrageous, what you do here will define you. Better look in the mirror...

Bobby Baxter HCVeteran & Marihuana Felon
United States Army Security Agency 69-72
Founder Alternative Energy Systems SV.74

0 # Vegan_Girl 2013-08-25 15:10
We can go back and forth on Manning. I personally think he is a hero, and I hope he will soon be free.

But shouldn't we talk about the war crimes? You know, the violent illegal acts that DID destroy thousands of lives? That is the debate we should be having right now.

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