Bradley Manning:

Tony Kevin writes: Re. “Rundle: with WikiLeaks, Manning erred in being human” (yesterday, item 5). Guy Rundle’s article was informative and depressing, but I believe misses the main point about why Bradley Manning did what he allegedly did.

Bradley Manning did not “err”. As his revealed email to Lamo makes clear, assuming it is authentic which is yet to be proven,  he seems to have made a moral judgement that he knew great evils — crimes against humanity — were being routinely committed in Iraq by the organisation of which he was a part, the US Army, and he felt morally obliged to make those great evils public whatever the cost to him. If so, this is a heroic act of individual self-sacrifice for the greater public good, not an error.

This is the same moral judgement written about approvingly by Benjamin Franklin, a founder of the US Republic,  in 1792: “…a nation as a society forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

Martin Luther King made the same point in his struggle: “Our lives begin to end the moment we become silent about things that matter.”

And Assange has made a similar point on his website — that if we ignore state evil, we become part of it. I believe it too, which is why I wrote my book on SIEV X, despite some (really very minor, compared to the horrors Manning is going through now) risks and costs to myself.

What must now terrify Manning’s torturers is that he will stay sane and brave enough to have the strength to say such things in his court-martial , in which case he will become a human rights martyr. They would rather drive him insane or break his spirit,  so that he cannot say them. I pray for him that he will find the strength to face as a hero a death that, if it then comes to him, will not have been in vain. And I wonder how much longer Australia can in good conscience stay closely allied to a nation that could do such terrible things to its own citizens.

Guy’s essay seems to imply that this is all predictable and in a sense normal state behaviour. It is not. It is outrageous, as the cruelties routinely practiced by US forces during their occupation of Iraq were outrageous. Let us not help to normalise the pathologically abnormal. Let us call it as it is.

Dictator Watch:

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “Dictator watch: a friend to the tune of $700 million” (yesterday, item 13). I’m not sure what Paul Barry thinks is the correct way to deal with dictators like Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea.  He talks about prosecution, but the main laws Obiang have broken are those of his own country, which he can change at will.

If Barry wants some kind of trade embargo against every authoritarian regime, that will cover half the world and hit its poorest people hardest. And it isn’t guaranteed to bring liberal democracy.

While America failed to topple Gaddafi, I’m sure they could topple Obiang, and it wouldn’t have major political and economic repercussions.  But in practice, opposition to tyranny is ad hoc.  Mugabe was only described as one of the “vilest dictators” when he attacked white people; Mubarak was only condemned when he was losing power

Of course we can all posture self-righteously but that’s not an answer to the world’s problems.

Ice cream:

Andrew Davison writes: Gavin Moodie (yesterday, comments) is clearly an assimilationist and should be censured for his out-of-date thinking. Assimilation is out, multiculturalism is in; rainbow ice-cream, with sprinkles and chocolate chips, is the new caramel.

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