Thursday 22 August 2013

Thirty-Five Years for being a REAL Hero

We hear a lot about heroes these days; in fact you can hardly open The Sun newspaper without the word, in bold capital headline print, leaping out at you. It's usually next to a photograph of a young man in military uniform who has just been killed in Afghanistan protecting the oil industry's Asian pipeline project, and be told what the war poet Wilfred Owen called "the old lie", that he died "fighting for his country!" I myself have done Royal Navy training, luckily only for a few months. I was devastated by my discharge, but I look back now and think silver lining or what! Military training, especially during the basic initial course, is as much about altering the mind as strengthening the body. The new recruit is isolated from his previous life, given limited communication with family and friends, and put into a highly controlled and intense environment. He is exercised rigorously until he is almost exhausted and deprived of sleep; yes, exactly like interrogators do to prisoners. It's the perfect method for turning a man into a biological robot. Those who are not in the armed forces themselves are also indoctrinated by what I've termed "the Military Religion", see: We are brainwashed into seeing these biological robots as objects of glorifying worship; to be such a robot is considered "brave", "manly" and has been made very socially prestigious. In wartime, especially during the First World War, anybody who refused to have anything to do with it was immediately branded a "coward" who was "too scared" to fight, regardless of their actual reasons for refusing. The War Office employed the prettiest girls they could find to hand-deliver white feathers to these men in front of a paid crowd of onlookers, jeering and hurling abuse.

What is a real hero? Somebody once said: "most men will face an army before the scorn of their peers", and I think that's true. As far as I'm concerned, the bravest soldiers in any war are those who face that scorn along with, or instead of, an army, and break through their robotic programming to carry out an act independently for reasons of moral indignation. Private First Class Bradley Manning is such a solider. In 2010 he was arrested and charged with treason and espionage, why? Well, he passed classified film footage to Wikileaks of an attack by American helicopters on a group of armed terrorists with assault rifles and grenade launchers... except they were actually a group of journalists and news photographers with cameras and mobile phones. The US authorities tried to cover up this incident and Bradley Manning stopped them. Yesterday he was sentenced to thirty-five years in jail. Here's a very poignant interview with his uncle in Wales: If Manning had only been flying that chopper or pressing the trigger, and kept his mouth shut, he might have got a medal and been paraded through his hometown on his return. Oh the cruel irony! Michael Ellner is right, everything is backwards and everything is upside down. Bradley Manning is a real man and a real hero, yet why are there no people in shopping centres with collecting tins trying to help him!? He gets thirty-five over the wall for an act of decency in the face of extreme adversity and those guilty of the crime he exposed are still sitting there in their cosy offices, in front of TV cameras, telling their people to trust them, immune from criticism, above the law. The good news is that all is not over yet; Manning's legal team are already launching an appeal. There is massive public support for him, which fills me with hope, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize by Birgitta Jonsdottir, member of the Parliament of Iceland. The Powers-that-Be have succeeded in convicting Bradley Manning, but can they really manage to make this conviction stick? I doubt it.

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