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Losing the Real Bradley Manning Story


By Ralph Lopez - Posted on 26 November 2010

When we think of Bradley Manning, many of us tend to think of either a Wikileaks document dump or the attack in the video in which two Reuters reporters are killed after a group of Iraqi men are fired upon by an Apache attack helipcopter.  Dismissed as justifiable by Army investigators under the rules of engagement due to the presence of a rocket launcher found on the scene, this loses the real reason Manning may have leaked the tape, if he did, and perhaps one of his strongest defenses.   Anything but naive about what took place daily in Iraq, Manning was not shocked by the initial attack on the Iraqi men, and wrote to   Adrian Lamo:

"At first glance it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter...No big deal ... about two dozen more where that came from, right? But something struck me as odd with the van thing, and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer’s directory. So I looked into it.""

Unlike the intial attack, the follow-up attack captured in the Wikileaks video, "the van thing," was a strictly illegal and prohibited attack upon the wounded during wartime, which is why it was being buried in the military Judge Advocate General's office (JAG,) which is a military prosecutor.  There is no other explanation for the video being stored there.   It seals the case, in one clear, specific, and identifiable instance, that Bradley Manning was not committing a crime.  He was reporting one.

Manning virtually predicts that given he will probably be held incommunicado and without a chance to speak for himself as he is tried in the media, his biggest problem to be to tell his side of the story.  Adrian Lamo asked him in an email: "What would you do if your role [with] Wikileaks seemed in danger of being blown?"

Manning answered:

"Try and figure out how I could get my side of the story out, before everything was twisted around to make me look like Nidal Hassan (the Fort Hood shooter.)

Humane treatment of the wounded is one of the oldest laws of war.  It came into being after a lifelong personal campaign by Henri Dunant, after the Battle of Solferino in 1859, during the Napoleonic Wars, after Dunant witnessed the horror of 40,000 wounded men dying upon the field.  Dunant was founder of the Red Cross, and though he finished out his old age in ascetic poverty, he never lacked for people eager to care for him or take him into their villages across Europe.  A poor but educated man, Dunant convinced the royal houses of Europe that a law of the wounded was in their own best interests.  Observers remarked in later wars that wounded Frenchmen were often treated like royalty by all sides.

Article 12 of the Geneva Convention of 1864 states that,

"...Members of the armed forces and other persons (...) who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances. They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict...Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated...".

The law extends to those attempting to evacuate them, to whom it is required that assistance be given if possible.  The definition of wounded and sick for the purpose of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol 1) is:

"...persons, whether military or civilians, who, because of trauma, disease or other physical or mental disorder or disability, are in need of medical assistance or care and who refrain from any act of hostility."

Also from a Marine Corp study guide,Military Studies:

"Marines do not attack medical personnel, facilities, or equipment. Both friendly and enemy medical personnel are to be encouraged to come to the battlefield in safety to care for the wounded combatants."

I have perused Internet miltary sites, and the results are instructive.  Although some shock at the first attack is expressed, most commenters identifiying themselves as Iraq and other war combat vets express little outrage at the first attack.  But with respect to "the van thing," the words come up over and over, often with little elaboration: "war crime." 

In the second attack a man is seen crawling upon the ground after the first attack, partially disemboweled, when a van pulls up with men who attempt to evacuate him.  The Apache gunner in his bloodlust requests and receives permission to open fire, muttering the words "just pick up a weapon," even though no weapons are anywhere visible near the crawling man.  It is in this attack that two children who are in the van are wounded, whereupon the gunner remarks "that's what they get for bringing their kids to the battle."  These are the children saved by Spc. Ethan McCord, who runs with them to a Bradley vehicle after another soldier, upon discovering them, runs away vomiting.

It is critical that Bradley's side of the story get out.  Please urge his defense team to point out the clear war crime, and post this widely.

The Law Offices of David E. Coombs blog. 

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