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Al Jazeera review: The Passion of Bradley Manning


The following is my review for Al Jazeera of civil rights attorney Chase Madar’s new book The Passion of Bradley Manning, just released by O/R Books.

When American civil rights attorney Chase Madar told me he was writing a book entitled The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History, I knew right away that Madar was mentally ill, abusing a range of pharmaceuticals and possibly also epileptic.

My diagnosis was confirmed with the book’s release this month. What else would compel a lawyer to suggest that there is “an injustice hardwired within the system of laws itself”?

A studious ignorance

As Madar demonstrates in The Passion, similarly scientific methods of diagnosis have been employed in the case against Manning, the 24-year-old Army intelligence analyst from Crescent, Oklahoma who is accused of transferring hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

As a result of the leaks, the world has learned more about topics ranging from the etiquette of US soldiers operating Apache gunships in Iraq to US State Department machinations to prevent an increase in the hourly minimum wage in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, from 22 to 61 cents.

Quoting extensively from segments of the chatlogs ascribed to Manning – which, in the words of Madar, reveal the young man’s “intent is conscious, coherent, historically informed and above all it is political” – the author notes that the information contained therein has “for the most part been studiously ignored by a mass media determined not to comprehend Bradley Manning’s motives”.

In the chatlogs, Manning offers a variety of straightforward justifications for leaking government material: “[I] want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.” As Madar documents, however, the possibility that a rational human being has made a decision in accordance with his own rational principles is categorically dismissed by media pundits who prefer to expound ad infinitum on the sexual, emotional, psychiatric and pharmacological reasons for Manning’s behaviour.

One of these pundits is “Joy Reid, a Harvard-educated blogger, commentator and Obama loyalist” who invokes Manning’s homosexuality and transgender aspirations in her analysis of the Army whistleblower as “a guy seeking anarchy as a salve for his own personal, psychological torment”.

Obama: paranoid schizophrenic?

Madar argues at the start of the book that Manning is guilty of precisely “what Barack Obama swore he would do on coming into office”: increase governmental transparency and highlight the constructive role of whistleblowers in society.

One has to wonder about the implications for said society when the entire political and media establishment has unleashed its impromptu expertise in the field of psychoanalysis against Manning while not even the liberal-leftcares to scrutinise a president who, as Madar writes, “has preserved, streamlined and often intensified his predecessor’s bellicose foreign policies” and “has presided over more leaks prosecutions under the Espionage Act of 1917 – a use that the statute’s authors never intended – than all his predecessors combined”.

Madar’s debunking of efforts to pathologise Manning’s actions is meanwhile accompanied by his own replacement diagnoses such as that “[r]ight now, classification is the disease of Washington, secrecy its mania and dementia its end point”. With the help of tragicomic details such as that Washington managed to classify approximately 77 million documents in 2010 and that it took the National Security Agency until 2011 to declassify documents from 1809, Madar outlines the perils of over-classification, especially given the post-9/11 “elephantiasis-like expansion of state apparatuses intended to ensure the control of information”: “If a society like ours doesn’t know its own history, it becomes the great power equivalent of a wandering amnesiac, not knowing what it did yesterday or where it will end up tomorrow.”

Click here to continue reading at Al Jazeera.


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