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Bradley Manning Case: Why We Can’t Have A Secret Trial

By Charles Langley

14 September, 2010

Bradley Manning faces a court martial for allegedly releasing military documents and videos that expose what appears to be a military policy of shooting unarmed civilians in cold blood.

It should be noted that the documents in question are nearly three years old and have little value except to historians and people who don’t want the truth to be known.

That’s why Bradley Manning’s trial must be public.

A democracy cannot thrive in secret. The American people and the politicians who represent us have a right to know what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet if the military succeeds, the Manning court martial will remain a military secret. Americans will not see the evidence because watching unarmed civilians gunned down in cold blood could bring, in the words of the official charge sheet “discredit upon the armed forces” – a threat so horrifying to the U.S. Army that it is repeated eight times in the official indictment.

In its defense, the military has a good point. Seeing unarmed people murdered at close range seems unfair. Some of us, including this blogger, find it mildly disturbing to see our tax dollars being used to shoot non-combatants in the back with 30mm cannon fire.

But that’s just me. I’m squeamish.

Make no mistake: the gore in Collateral Murder has no value as a national security document. Nor is it likely that the other documents published on WikiLeaks have any value either – all of them are from years past, yet the US Army insists that they are classified for national security reasons.

But if you have the courage to watch it, and listen to the testimony of battle-hardened veterans, you will know the truth: These documents aren’t about national security. They are about preserving the security of a military that has lost its moral compass.

That’s why the military wants a secret trial.

It is also why Bradley Manning’s trial must be public. He deserves nothing less. And neither does America. We are paying for this war and we deserve to know the truth. It is possible that Bradley Manning exposed the massacres. If he did, he is a patriot and a hero.

A secret government that holds secret trials is government by the few and for the few. If this isn’t the America you want to live in, then do the patriotic thing – demand a fair trial.