By Vladimir Gladkov
The Pentagon has accused former U.S. army soldier Bradley Manning, who leaked hundreds of thousands of classified military and other documents to the WikiLeaks whistleblower, of aiding Al Qaeda. The accusation sounds absurd and it shows how desperately the U.S. government wants to get out of the awkward situation it has found itself in.
Manning has heard similar accusations before, but this time it’s a formal indictment. Military prosecutors insist that by downloading and sending to WikiLeaks half a million battlefield reports from Iran and Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and a video of a U.S. helicopter attack on Afghan civilians, Manning played into the hands of Al Qaeda, America’s top foe.
Without doubt, the Pentagon will do its best to prove that Manning is an enemy of the state. It needs the charges to be upheld in court as this would justify the harsh detention conditions in which the troubled soldier was being kept. The inhumane treatment of Manning has stirred an international outcry, forced U.S. State Department Secretary Philip Crowley to resign and earned Washington accusations of torture and abuse from the UN Human Rights Council.
Many people sympathize with Manning, others declare him a hero. Whatever they say, leaking classified military and diplomatic data is definitely a crime. But he is not a hard-core terrorist to be treated that harshly.
Manning’s case raised many eyebrows. Why a young man suffering from psychological problems and openly skeptical of military service and U.S. foreign policy was deployed to Iraq and was given access to classified material? Why wasn’t he sent back after threatening his fellow soldiers with a gun? And why the cipher keys to classified files were so easy to obtain?
Just a few days ago, another psychologically unstable U.S. soldier shot dead 16 Afghan civilians in cold blood in the Kandahar province. This latest incident combined with Manning’s affair casts strong doubts on the competence and professionalism of U.S. commanders.