Curtain Raiser

Pardon Whistleblowers, Not War Criminals, Colltalers

Grandstanding about troops and the sacrifices of veterans is a political gimmick, always favored by objectionable officials. But Trump’s Memorial Day plans to pardon soldiers found guilty of war crimes is not just morally outrageous. It’s also dangerous.
And so is the indictment of Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange on Espionage Act charges. What would still be abhorrent in some backwater republic, is gravely scandalous as an assault on the very first constitutional amendment of ‘America the Beautiful.’
More in a second, but first, there’s the U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation, and re-emergency of Boris Johnson set to replace her, which has surprised absolutely no one. As European Parliament elections have just shown, though, support to hacks like him is waning. That is, growth of right-wing, conservative populism continues to be a concern, but it did lose some steam.
Or we’re being over optimistic? After all, perennial far-right ghosts, such as National Rally party’s Marine Le Pen, and Hungary P.M. Viktor Orban, have both increased their profile, and Italy didn’t disappoint Steve Bannon either, by going a bit further right.
Brexit helped bring back Le Pen, a collector of major defeats, rejected many times by the French, to once again appear as if she’s less irrelevant than she’s always been. And regimes such as Hungary and Poland to turn into conservative wells, bubbling up a toxic mix of nationalism, religiosity, sectarianism, and anti-civil rights, while pursuing energy policies lethal to the planet.
As it stands, the bloc won’t be dominated by the far-right. While both Germany and France have some about face to do with their own electorate, even if Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron may somehow leave the picture, the Green Party’s stellar showing in the polls is certainly a better bet in the future than a manipulative revival of the worst of Europe’s tragic past of intolerance.
Navy SEAL’s Edward Gallagher, who shot unarmed

civilians and killed a prisoner; Green Beret’s Mathew Golsteyn, found guilty of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; Matthew Behenna, who murdered a released Iraq detainee; an unnamed ex-Blackwater security contractor who shot dead dozen of Iraqis; and a group of Marines who urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters.
Such a tarnished list and more, supposedly put together by a Fox News anchor, is on Trump’s desk for pardon. And that has a wide array of military authorities, Pentagon officials, and C.I.A. sources, up in arms against it. Not to mention on this day, one dedicated to the under-served and ever growing contingent of U.S. Vets. That, though, holds no water to this White House.
Memorial Day’s usually prone to the kind of empty ‘Support Our Troops’ speech. It rarely features antiwar rallies, or highlights the contradiction of having the biggest armed forces of the world being run by those who never had to set foot in a battlefield, as the president. Meanwhile, one too many high ranking officers seem only too happy to kill the unarmed or stab the handcuffed.
‘The U.S. needs legislation to protect the public right to free speech and a free press, to protect it from the actions of the executive branch, and to promote the integrity and transparency of the government.’ Chelsea Manning, the Army intelligence officer, who gave Wikileaks a trove of thousands of unclassified documents, published by the site to public outrage in 2010.
The material, which included State Dept. cables, battlefield reports, and profiles of some Guantanamo Bay detainees, cost the then Pvt. Bradley Manning, a court marshal and a lengthy imprisonment, between 2010 and 2017. Her foes didn’t end there, as she was put it jail again for 62 days, and again now, for refusing to testify on the case the government is setting against Assange.
The Wikileaks founder is now the one being charged on the 1917 Espionage Act, and although his personal morals and conduct are under scrutiny, they also have no relevance to this case: he’s charged for being a journalist exposing an opaque government.
The sobering ‘lesson’ from this saga is, if you see something at the trenches, or at home, don’t say anything or tell the American people what you saw. Between the legislative contortionism required to frame them both, and its Orwellian spy-catching rules, this administration’s set to beat President Obama’s sad record: seven out of 11 times that the Espionage Act was ever applied.
There’s something about whistleblowers and leakers though: almost no one would do it for gain; it’s too risky and the financial prospects are dire. That’s why they are so important, and the free press that protects their identity, while relating what they saw to the public. Tyrants hate them, and so would any organized armed forces, concerned about safety of its personnel and operations.
But the choice of whether tell the people what’s being done on their behalf never comes from the top. And rarely from someone with the clout to face an entire defense establishment, whose interests depend on public ignorance about what they’re doing.
People who expose facts, out of conscientiousness or sense of duty; those who’d refuse to shoot unarmed civilians or combatants under their guard; who join to serve, not necessarily to kill, are of no interest to the president, or to Fox News for that matter.
What they care about are those they’ve picked for pardon, never mind they were declared guilty, dangerous, and unfit by their own organizations. They rose above even the utmost horror and savage conditions implicit to any war, and committed crimes.
No wonder, those who actually care for the honor and reputation of the American soldier, are against such travesty of justice. In ideal times, it’d be up to congress to deliver a blow deflating the president’s folly. But it’s more likely that he’ll even receive a handful of undignified expressions of support by every Republican, possibly Democrats, plus a presidential candidate or two.
The good news is, that’s not even close to the priorities shared by American women, in the fight of a lifetime to preserve their reproductive rights from becoming dependent of whims of corrupt old men; and that of kids demanding global climate action.
Thousands of women went out to protest recent draconian anti-abortion laws, passed in several GOP-controlled states; and millions were out all over the world, last Friday, in yet another march led by young students. These two groups, along those protesting misguided presidential pardons, are in fact representing the side of the rule of the law and the power of the people.
The majority of Americans, and the so-called Western societies, are invested into a world where women are in charge of their bodies; those who commit murder, even if wearing a badge, go to prison; and whistleblowers are protected for telling the truth.
‘We were young, we were foolish, we were arrogant, but we were right.’ Daniel Ellsberg, whistleblower extraordinaire, whose 1971 Pentagon Papers leaking helped end the Vietnam War. The episode cost his career as a military analyst, and almost his own freedom, but thousands of Americans lives were saved as tide turned against the war. Let’s be foolish but right too. Cheers. WC


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