The conscience and courage of Chelsea (Bradley) Manning

Published on ROARMAG, by Nozomi Hayase, April 4, 2014.

Four years after WikiLeaks’ release of the Collateral Murder video, Manning’s contagious courage continues to reveal the dehumanized colonizer within.
Four years have passed since WikiLeaks’ sensational release of the classified US military video titled Collateral Murder. On April 5, 2010, the raw footage was published depicting airstrikes by a US Army helicopter gunship in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. The soldiers attacked Iraqis, killing about a dozen men wandering down a street, including two Reuters staffers, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh in the first of three reckless attacks involving civilians.  

The video opened with a quote from George Orwell:
Political language … is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.” It gained global attention, with viewers reaching millions, shattering the euphemism of ‘collateral damage’ and revealing the true state of modern warfare behind the warping shield of propaganda//

… watch the video: Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq, 17.46 min …
(also on YouTube, uploaded there by sunshinepress, April 3, 2010) … //

… Conscience first engages the empathic imagination, breaking down walls of separation. One can begin to feel another person’s pain as if it were one’s own. The moment Manning saw other human beings who she had been trained to see as ‘enemy combatants’ in the gunsight, she freed them from a perception enslaved by the subject position of US supremacy; a perception that had made these human beings into lifeless objects. Here, the other perspective that had long been denied was brought back to consciousness. Manning saw another human being whose life was as precious as hers; not an enemy, but a victim of an unjust war waged by an imperialist military-industrial complex.

In the famous chat log with hacker Adrian Lamo that led to her arrest, Manning recounted how she wanted “people to see the truth… regardless of who they are… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public… We’re human… and we’re killing ourselves…”

Manning saw what people too often fail to see: she saw those who had been branded ‘enemy combatants’ as human beings like herself. This happened also to US soldier Ethan McCord, who rescued the little girl from the bongo truck in the Collateral Murder video, and who realized she was no different from his own daughter:

… watch another video: Innocence Lost, Ethan McCord recounts aftermath of Iraqi civilian massacre – UNPC 7/24/2010, 10.07 min …
(also on YouTube, uploaded there by mediasanctuary, July 24, 2010).

Manning’s deed of whistleblowing was an act of conscience: knowledge gained by placing herself in a relationship with others; putting herself in the other’s shoes. She was willing to sacrifice her safety to restore a lost image; an inception point and authentic act of courage from a place of our common humanity.

Manning’s courage to act out of her conscience interrupted a trajectory of history that had been moving in a particular direction. The memory started to flow, reaching back before the invasion of Iraq, before 9/11 and even before the nation’s addiction to oil began — to the genocide of the natives; the moment when those who are made enemies became dehumanized in eyes.

Before anyone even starts talking about justification for acts of war, we should all be asking: who are these Iraqis and Afghans, these Libyans or Syrians who are so often portrayed as “putting America in danger”? In that iconic leaked footage from a fateful day in New Baghdad, who did we see or fail to see? Unfolding images of the decimated Reuters reporters shot from the Apache helicopter confront us with a question: are we truly civilized? Who are the people who have been dehumanized, turned into enemies and made into inferior beings?

One ordinary person with extraordinary courage offered the possibility to restart a genuine conversation about the legitimacy of Western “civilization” that has until now been operating as a monologue. Manning created a possibility for real dialogue, one that is long overdue. Her courage, and the tireless work of those at WikiLeaks, calls us to truly see these events beyond the political language that makes lies sound truthful and murder respectable.

Are we able to witness what is really happening — ongoing collateral murder carried out in our name — even right in this very moment? Manning’s conscience awakened her heart. We, too, can awaken our hearts, for courage is contagious.

(full long text incl.hyper-links).


Frame of Reference and Journalistic Integrity, on Dissident Voice, by Kim Petersen, April 6, 2014;

The Anti-Empire Report #127, on Houston Communist Party, by William Blum, April 7, 2014;

Book: America’s Deadliest Export, Democracy – The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, by William Blum, on amazon;
More books from William Blum on amazon;

Why Inequality Matters and What Can Be Done About It, on Next New Deal, by Joseph Stiglitz, April 1, 2014;

Higher Education Financing Needs a Better Deal Than This, on Next New Deal, by Raul Gardea, March 31, 2014;

Understanding China and its unions, on Political Affairs, by WADI’H HALABI, March 27, 2014;

Book Review: Manufactured Crisis – The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, by Gareth Porter (Just World Books, 2014, 310 pp.), review published on on Zmagazine, by Edward S. Herman, March 26, 2014;

International Women’s Day 2014: Millions of women still face barriers at the workplace, Looking at the challenges that lie ahead in achieving gender equality at work, on International Labour Organization ILO, March 7, 2014.

Comments are closed.