Bradley Manning: An American Hero

by Marjorie Cohn, Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.  She teaches criminal law and procedure, evidence, and international human rights law. She lectures throughout the world on human rights and US foreign policy. She is former President of the National Lawyers Guild.  This was republished from

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking military secrets to the public. This week, his supporters are holding rallies in 21 cities, seeking Manning’s release from military custody. Manning is in the brig for allegedly disclosing a classified video depicting U.S. troops shooting civilians from an Apache helicopter in Iraq in July 2007. The video, available at, was published by WikiLeaks on April 5, 2010. Manning faces 52 years in prison. No charges have been filed against the soldiers in the video.Collateral Murder

In October 1969, the most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, smuggled out of his office and made public a 7,000 page top secret study of decision making during the Vietnam War. It became known as the Pentagon Papers. Dan risked his future, knowing that he would likely spend life in prison for his expose.

The release of the Pentagon Papers ultimately helped end not only the Nixon presidency, but also the Vietnam War, in which 58,000 Americans and three million Indochinese were killed. Dan’s courageous act was essential to holding accountable our leaders who had betrayed American values by starting and perpetuating an illegal and deadly war.

Manning’s alleged crimes follow in this tradition. The 2007 video, called “Collateral Murder,” has been viewed by millions of people on the Internet. On it, U.S. military Apache helicopter soldiers from Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment can be seen killing 12 civilians and wounding two children in Iraq. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency.

The video shows U.S. forces watching as a van pulled up to evacuate the wounded. They again opened fire from the helicopter, killing more people. During the radio chatter between the helicopter crew members and their supervisors, one crew member gloated after the first shooting, saying, “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards.”

One Iraqi witness told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! “The helicopter came yesterday from there and hovered around. Then it came right here where a group of people were standing. They didn’t have any weapons or arms of any sort. This area doesn’t have armed insurgents. They destroyed the place and shot at people, and they didn’t let anyone help the wounded.”

Another witness said, “They killed all the wounded and drove over their bodies. Everyone witnessed it. And the journalist was among those who was injured, and the armored vehicle drove over his body.”

Journalist Rick Rowley reported that the man who they drove over had crawled out of the van that had been shot and he was still alive when the American tank drove over him and cut him in half.

Commanders decided that the wounded children would not be taken to a U.S. military field hospital. Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers on the scene who picked up one of the children and tried to take him to a military vehicle, was reprimanded for his response.

The U.S. Central Command exonerated the soldiers and refused to reopen the investigation. Reporters Without Borders said, “If this young soldier had not leaked the video, we would have no evidence of what was clearly a serious abuse on the part of the U.S. military.”

In fact, the actions depicted in “Collateral Murder” contain evidence of three violations of the laws of war set forth in the Geneva Conventions, which amount to war crimes.

There were civilians standing around, there was no one firing at the American soldiers, and at least two people had cameras. There may have been people armed, as are many in the United States, but this does not create the license to fire on people. That is one violation of the Geneva Conventions – targeting civilians who do not pose a threat, not for military necessity.

The second and third possible violations of the laws of war are evident in the scene on the tape when the van attempts to rescue the wounded, and a later scene of a U.S. tank rolling over a body on the ground. The soldiers shot the rescuer and those in the van, another possible violation of the Geneva Conventions – preventing the rescue. Third, when the wounded or dead man was lying on the ground, a U.S. tank rolled over him, effectively splitting him in two. If he was dead, that amounted to disrespecting a body, another violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Josh Steiber, a former U.S. Army specialist and member of the Bravo Company 2nd Battalion 16th Infantry Regiment, was not with his company when they killed the civilians depicted in Collateral Murder. Steiber told Truthout that such acts were “not isolated incidents” and were “common” during his tour of duty. “After watching the video, I would definitely say that that is, nine times out of 10, the way things ended up,” he said.

Steiber explained that during his basic training for the military, “We watched videos celebrating death,” and said that his commanders would “pull aside soldiers who’d not deployed, and ask us if somebody open fired on us in a market full of unarmed civilians, would we return fire. And if you didn’t say ‘yes’ instantly, you got yelled at for not being a good soldier. The mindset of military training was one based on fear, and the ability to eliminate any threat.”

Manning is also being investigated for allegedly leaking the “Afghan War Diary” documents that were posted on Wiki Leaks in coordination with the New York Times, the U.K. Guardian, and the German magazine Der Spiegel. But President Obama said, “…the fact is, these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan.”

Those reports expose 20,000 deaths, including thousands of children, according to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Many of them also likely contain evidence of war crimes.

Besides the fact that targeting civilians is illegal, it also makes us less safe. A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which was released by the New America Foundation, concluded that civilian attacks in Afghanistan make our troops more vulnerable due to retaliation. A typical incident that causes two Afghan civilian deaths provokes six revenge attacks by Taliban and other fighters.

Moreover, Marine Col. David Lapan, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said that so far, there is no evidence that the Taliban has harmed any Afghan civilians as a result of the WikiLeaks publication of the 76,000 logs this past summer.

Over 1,000 Americans and untold numbers of Afghans have been killed in this war which is just as illegal, expensive, and counter-productive as the one in Iraq.

The charges against Manning end with the language, “such conduct being prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.” On the contrary, if Manning did what he is suspected of doing, he should be honored as an American hero for exposing war crimes and hopefully, ultimately, helping to end this war.

25 thoughts on “Bradley Manning: An American Hero

  1. How can I help? I will be driving through the D.C. -Quantico AREA this week on my way to Florida from upstate N.Y, 315 776 8664 H 315 430 4439 Cell—I leave Wed night 10/20 will be in the area 10/21 in pm.

  2. I think the U.S. Of A have a lot to answer for. They go in ‘Guns Blazing’ with no thought to others. A common thing with the U.S. They preach to other countries but never look at what’s going on in their own country. Thank God for Wikileaks!!!!!! Shame on the U.S.

  3. Wikileaks,

    Would you please get the stuff on the really bad crap that happened under the CIA’s MK-Ultra? If you want the US “defense” leviathan to go down, get that stuff, and show it.

    It’s demonic.

  4. The leaking of this information is the one decent thing to have come out of this miserable and disgraceful incident. I am sure that US citizens share with us in the UK the hope that we may be the good guys. The US government response to this proves that we are not at all when our forces are allowed to murder civilians at will. How can we expect to keep our citizens safe from terrorism when we do this stuff. Whether or not US politicians have any decency you would think that having been caught with their pants down they would at least try to look decent. Why are they not prosecuting the murderers?Good luck to Brad, he is a real hero. Wikileaks must survive for the good of all.

  5. Disgusting. What will US citizens think when we are ravaged by other countries attempting to “fix” our system based on subjection and opinions? Will the wives and children of these militant murders be spared when we are attacked? We provoke murder and violence on our own soil. The problem is the only ones fighting are the ones that have this mentality, thus making the rest of us appear as cold-hearted demon killers. Death by right to those that make the decisions that should be left to GOD. Killing in the name freedom is still murder. Killing in the name of GOD is still murder. Murder is still murder, no matter the title. These US soldiers are worse than our so-called enemies because not only are they killing children, but they are killing them on their homes. These actions will not be left unchecked. Whether it be in this life or the next.

  6. History will remember.

    Bradley has more courage than most.

    The soldiers who shot innocents should be behind bars.

    Justice will prevail.

  7. wikileaks is th best thing to happen since the war started. usa are digging there own grave as per usual, sorry but hasto be said. they own 5000+ nukes but are willing to go to war with middle east for apparently building 1 bomb. WTF!! where is the justice. uk stay thye hell out of this sick unjust slaying orf innocents and take the troops out now. stop sucking yankee c**k. bradley you the man, justice will be done and you are defo a hero in my eyes and you deserve a medal of honor. ATB.

  8. ‘In fact, the actions depicted in “Collateral Murder” contain evidence of three violations of the laws of war set forth in the Geneva Conventions, which amount to war crimes.’

    But you don’t understand. Assange, and certainly not Manning, are not employees of the United Nations. If they were, I believe they would recognise each other, but Assange says that he does not know Manning.

    • I’m not sure the relevance as to whether or not they are employees of the UN.

      You don’t have to be a UN employee to blow the whistle on UN violations.

  9. All this just makes me think that Americans have forgotten that American soil can be invaded, like it almost was with Pearl Harbour.

    Maybe it will take the Iraqis to do as what the Japanese once did to wake them up.

    And as it is, the last assaults on American soil have been committed by Middle Easterners.

    This is tricky. You have to allow more Middle Easterners like Iraqis into American soil, if they want to, in order to avoid an assault the proportions of 9-11; but the more you allow in, the greater the risk you run of actually contracting an assault like that.

    Like Deng Xiaoping once said, ‘If you open up the window, some flies naturally get in’.

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  11. Manning seems to be the 1 in 1000 000 who has proven morale. A hero!

    What is discusting is USA and allies reaction to the leaked information. Cover-it-up and punish the “whistle blower” is the worst of all strategies.

    I’m loosing faith in our leaders. To the rest of the world USA and allies are looking morally crippled, two faced and credibility is evaporating.

    TRANSPARENCY seems to be the only workable tool to mild their power.

    Thank God, or whoever, for Manning, Assange, WikiLeaks and The Net which are democratising information. The leaders we have are apparently not moral beings sufficiently responsible to monopolize information.

    Examples of previous disasters, possible only by manipulating information, show this clearly: Gulag (Stalin), The Great Leap (Mao), Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot), WWII (Hitler), Iraq (Bush), Rwanda, Balkans etc.

  12. Bradley Manning is a true American hero. If the allegations are true, his actions were extremely courageous and selfless, done wit conscience and integrity. The fact that he languishes in solidarity confinement in a military brig is a travesty, especially when nothing has been done to the murderers of “collatera murder.”

    If Pres Obama signs his executive order authorizing unlimited detention without trial, revoking the constitutional protection of due process, our hero could spend the rest of his life in a military confinement facility while the attrocities continue on. This should be totally unacceptable to everyone.

    We need to organize rallies all over the country; building a network of support – starting with university campuses and anti war organizations. We need to demonstrate, demonstrate, and demonstrate until we can’t be ignored, forcing the major media to shed some light on this idious crime.

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  14. It is difficult to stand by and watch the government of the day perpetuate this travesty of human justice. Bradley Manning has done us all a valuable service and he alone suffers for it. As a Canadian I feel helpless and angry that our Conservative majority government has nothing to say on this issue.

    But isn’t it the way of our species to crucify those that history exalts.

  15. i was going to hate america because of all the crimes you brought over the world in the last 50 years.

    i loved your country sice i was a child,but ur fucking wars and killing of democratic elected presidents in latin america made me hating you guys.

    now i am full of hope again,that in your country people will get up and kick this elite shit in their asses,thei are worth than the sickest russian or other communist leaders in the 1970.

    i hope manning will be the biggest hero and america will have at least one person to be proud of after kennedy.

    manning,what you did was right and importand,they do fear and they try to break you to hide their own fear,thei are murders and you are a great big man fighting for peace.

    i will teach mi kids to do in whatever situation the same what you did.

    but i will never visit america because its a facist regime over there.

    • Unfortunately, the military-worshipping majority of the States, not to mention those hostile to homosexuality or transgenderism, will make recognizing his heroism difficult.

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