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Toobin trusts State Dep’t more than Manning, Keller says he was motivated by ‘personal unhappiness’

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If you’re like me, right now you want to reach out to Bradley Manning and thank him for his strength of character and lonely courage during a long ordeal. But it’s been a bloodbath for Manning in the mainstream media, with John Hockenberry of NPR lately describing him as a “disturbed” young man, after Bill Keller of the New York Times gave him permission, by saying that Manning is a “complicated young man” who suffered a “lot of personal unhappiness” and who was not a whistleblower, inasmuch as he did not try and fix the system from the inside, first.

Was Daniel Ellsberg a complicated young man when he was seeing a psychiatrist?

Didn’t Bradley Manning act, at that forward base in Iraq– serving in a war that the moralizing Bill Keller pushed us to pursue– only after he went to a higher-up and told him that young Iraqis who are leafletting were being imprisoned and surely tortured, and that superior told him to forget about it?

Thankfully, Michael Ratner and Glenn Greenwald have been standing up in mainstream venues for Manning, for performing the work that is essential to journalism. And John Judis at the New Republic, which cannot be hospitable to his words, has bravely said that “by revealing indiscriminate killings [and] diplomatic deceit, Manning was doing the country a favor.”

First the critics. Jeffrey Toobin says that he trusts foreign service officers to make judgments about what is public before he trusts Bradley Manning. My god, a journalist said this? A friend sends me the CNN video of an encounter between Glenn Greenwald and Toobin. Toobin, who works for the New Yorker and CNN, says that it was “not up to Bradley Manning to disclose any of this,” the rhapsodizes about government officials:

The people who composed these cables  have devoted their lives to trying to make the world a better place… I admire the foreign service a great deal, and I trust their judgment about what’s  a secret a lot more than Bradley Manning.

Greenwald points out that Toobin is striking at the heart of investigative journalism. “Who was Daniel Ellsberg to decide?” he says; Toobin’s line is the same as saying, “I trust generals a lot more than Daniel Ellsberg” about Vietnam.

Writes a friend: 

What struck me was Toobin’s piteous appeal on behalf of the little people who work selflessly in government–(“low-level foreign service officials, on the street of foreign cities, risking their lives every day to gather information that might benefit this country”)–as the people who were betrayed: their life work endangered or anyway their jobs put in jeopardy by these leaks. He doesn’t mention generals or prison guards.

A fascinating specimen of identifying with power–in the guise of sympathizing with the self-sacrifice of individuals who work for official institutions. I’ve seen this deflection from other persons in government and in the higher circles.

It is quite unconscious. And goes with a reflex disparagement of dissenters and outsiders of lowly status.

At the Takeaway, Bill Keller was asked what he made of Manning, and he equivocated flipflopperishly. “I think he’s a complicated young man. I don’t think he’s either Benedict Arnold or Nathan Hale.” Manning’s motives, Keller went on, were a mix of a “somewhat vague” desire to fix the world, and “a lot of personal unhappiness.”

But Keller and the Times relied on Manning’s leaks to break stories. It’s hard to imagine greater contempt for a source.

Here is Michael Ratner thoroughly smashing that picture of Manning as a confused young man:

Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said he initially shared the perception that Manning was psychologically frail, but changed his view after hearing the private testify while pleading guilty to some of the charges leveled against him.

“I had an image that turned out to be completely false,” Ratner said. “I was shocked by his intelligence, his politics, the firmness of his voice. It showed a person with tremendous presence.”

“His plea was so moving,” Ratner said. “Someday maybe people will read it and begin to understand what it means to act on your conscience.”

Oh and here’s John Judis, who describes the Manning trial as a show trial and says he’s been punished enough for the guilt he accepts:

The trial itself should never have taken place.  The military should have accepted Manning’s admission of guilt last February. In my opinion, he had already served long enough, and suffered sufficiently under brutal conditions, to pay for violating his trust as a soldier in military intelligence. But the military might still have exacted a few more years of confinement in a plea bargain. Instead, they sought to stage a show trial. The case they made that Manning had aided the enemy—replete with doctored quotations from emails—would have made Roger Ailes blush. But perhaps they knew what they were doing all along. By focusing attention on the truly horrific charge, they convinced the judge to support a charge that was merely god awful. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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11 Responses

  1. W.Jones on July 31, 2013, 4:00 pm

    Manning was personally unhappy about war crimes.

    • Krauss on August 1, 2013, 1:47 am

      And I am deeply in rage, even with hatred, over the whoring of major “journalists” at “liberal” publications like the New Yorker or the New York Times.

      Manning and Snowden both probably thought in (now we know) naïve paradigms about the media, probably dating back to Vietnam. Now we know better.

      The premise was always: fix the government’s slide towards quasi-facism and warrantless wiretapping, freewheel-killing through the help of the media to alert the people.

      Well, now we(those either in the libertarian camp or in the actual-actual liberal left) must now reform the media too. It’s no longer enough to simply hope for legislative change. The corrosive deterioation of any kind of semblance of civil liberties in even the “liberal” media is destructive. The civil libertarians inside the GOP are gaining ground but as always the neocons are trying to destroy them(because they know that after drones, wars in the Middle East is up, which means less help for Israel). And the neocon enablers like Keller or Toobin are there to help.

  2. marc b. on July 31, 2013, 4:52 pm

    I am much more cynical when it comes to the motives of worms such as toobin. It’s incompetence to ignore the incestuous relationship between the military and ‘the press’, increasingly moist and presumably financially lucrative. I also can’t look at the pathetic, inane jottings of otherwise seemingly intelligent writers without wondering about the NSA vacuum, gobbling up every electronically sent crumb. and this case isn’t about whom to trust when it comes to disclosure of government misdeeds and incompetence, as toobin disingenuously puts it. that ship has left the dock. it’s really about whether there is anything at all left of a functioning democracy.

  3. lysias on July 31, 2013, 5:41 pm

    If there’s any justice, Manning’s plea will be studied in school in future centuries. It will be remembered when Obama and the others are long forgotten.

  4. ToivoS on July 31, 2013, 6:53 pm

    A fascinating specimen of identifying with power–in the guise of sympathizing with the self-sacrifice of individuals who work for official institutions.

    Once the war in Iraq began it was active duty soldier worship that kept the population supporting the war. That lasted about 4 years. It is only natural for warmongers like Toobin and Keller to revert to cheap emotional tricks to silence critics.

  5. Justpassingby on August 1, 2013, 5:06 am

    Yeah of course attack the messenger…these journalists should be ashamed of themselves.

  6. Nevada Ned on August 1, 2013, 8:54 am

    Bradley Manning is a “source”, who is being savagely punished for leaking classified information. What if REPORTERS and EDITORS were punished for publishing classified information? On a weekly basis, the New York Times publishes stories that feature leaks, often from government insiders, who are planting stories in the mainstream media. Often that information is classified. For example, last year the New York Times ran a story confirming the US was the author of the “stuxnet” virus, which was used against Iran’s (perfectly legal) program of enriching uranium for peaceful nuclear power.
    Bill Keller, an editor at the NYT, would be in jail. Except for one crucial thing: Keller publishes stories that powerful government insiders want to see in the media. The Obama White House wanted the Stuxnet story in the media.

    On the other hand, Bradley Manning leaked information that made the US government (and its occupation of Iraq) look bad – look terrible, actually. Manning’s leaks led to stories that the Bill Kellers of the world did not want to see published, especially not in The New York Times.

  7. Miriam on August 1, 2013, 12:25 pm

    Why is anyone surprised with Toobin’s exhortations about trusting the guvmint? He hasn’t appreciably changed his POV and just because he writes doesn’t make him a ‘journalist’, especially when you look at who publishes his writings and who backs him. Thank goodness for Bradley Manning, Ellsberg, Vanunu, Snowden and all the others who have stood up and been whistle blowers…it is the first duty, especially of people in the military (a la Manning) to report crimes against humanity as per Geneva Convention protocol…doesn’t anyone remember the lessons supposedly learned thru the prosecution for war crimes of Nazi soldiers and officials? Those laws supposedly also apply to so called “victors”.
    The US Army helicopter video of the machine gun attacks on civilians, Reuters journalists, a man with his children and even first responders to the initial gunning down of victims who in broad daylight lay dying in a Baghdad street.
    Manning exposed THAT by releasing that horrific video.
    So, despite all the brutality that thousands of Iraqi civilians experienced in the so called liberation of Iraq from Saddam, including torture, maiming, murders and rapes by US soldiers 99.99% have gone unpunished.
    Manning stands alone against all that US inflicted criminality…and he now facing 100 yrs in prison, alone, for telling us.
    God bless Bradley for his conscience and for doing what he thought he must to stop these psychopathic endless wars foisted onto innocents around the globe.

  8. MRW on August 2, 2013, 3:00 am

    Manning also took an oath to protect the nation from enemies foreign and domestic.

  9. piotr on August 2, 2013, 8:38 am

    I think that details of the life story of Manning are quite fascinating. To me, he is a very compelling character. It is almost like looking at the same object from under water and above water. Looking from above, we want our soldiers to be happy and obedient (but never, never, never recording their happy experiences on their cell phones and what not!).

    Looking from below, an unhappy person who does not accept that crimes are OK just because superiors order him not to worry is a hero, and when his life is destroyed it is an indictment on us. Basically, all the details that I have read about the life on Brian indicate that he did not have an easy life, and that he was remarkably informed and thoughtful, particularly given his circumstances. Moreover, the only case cited for his “mental instability” is that he quarrelled with some of his peers because he did not accept their racism.

  10. DICKERSON3870 on August 2, 2013, 10:46 pm

    RE: “The trial itself should never have taken place. The military should have accepted Manning’s admission of guilt last February.” ~ John Judis

    AS TO WHY THEY DIDN’T, SEE: “A New Kind of Bipartisanship?” ~ by Andrew Levine,, 8/02/13

    [EXCERPT] . . . Snowden is guilty only of embarrassing our “yes, we scan” President, Hillary Clinton’s State Department, and of course the Pentagon, the CIA, the NSA and the countless other government agencies that make a mockery of the idea of the rule of law.
    A government under law that abides by the spirit of the laws was what the authors of our Constitution proclaimed
    , even as they supported or permitted slavery and the extermination of the indigenous peoples of North America.
    Despite their hypocrisies and inconsistencies, their vision inspired the experiment in government of, by and for the people that Abraham Lincoln would later exalt.
    That experiment has never been easy. Just with respect to slavery and its consequences, it took a Civil War and a hundred years of struggle for anything like political equality or equal justice under law to be approximated.
    In time, however, the vision of our republic’s founders was more or less realized.
    Now, though, on the transparently fatuous pretext of fighting terrorism, our bipartisan rulers want to turn back these basic liberal and democratic achievements.
    Snowden’s revelations threaten their ambitions, and that they cannot abide.
    This is also what explains their assault on WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange, and the shameful show trial of Bradley Manning. . .


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