Why Bradley Manning is worth more than any movement we have in Britain.
The Bradley Manning case is an interesting one, because it involves the clash of two very important principles: giving your word, and doing your duty.
Seventy years on, we salute Von Stauffenberg for paying with his life by trying to kill Hitler at the Wolfschanze with a bomb. But Stauffenberg had given an oath of allegiance to his Führer ten years earlier, so he also had to break his word – something which, to a Prussian staff officer, was unthinkable.
Those Nazi officers who turned up alive at Nuremberg in 1946 were, in the main, hanged. “But I voss only obeyink ordass” fell into the language as a standing joke about Germans. Now the American legal system is effectively saying it will bang Manning up for 130 years for doing what Von Stauffenberg did. Were another President to come along in ten years time with a strong sense of ethical foreign policy, Manning would be revered as a hero. The future makes fools of us all – even the Law.
I’d imagine that, as a raw, wide-eyed recruit, Mr Manning felt patriotic – and thus willingly gave his oath of loyalty. But then he decided, having found irrefutable evidence of his country’s perfidy and serial falsehood, that he should not be bound by that oath of loyalty….that he should obey a rule from a higher order of importance: when you see evil, don’t turn a blind eye.
Partly this goes back to my weekend post about whether our UK State is doing anywhere near enough to deserve our support in the first place. But the Manning saga involves qualitative, not quantitative judgement. The case is about what to do that’s right when your State does something wrong.
This is has been the ultimate dilemma for State and Citizen since government began. Except that, in any genuine hierarchy of loyalty, the decent citizen has no choice: if he feels loyalty towards his State, but his State then does something unforgivably inhuman, he must obey the higher loyalty of morality – otherwise all we have then is ‘My country right or wrong’. And down that road lie gas chambers. Or, if you’re Chris Spivey, showers.
Given the Dark Age we’re stumbling through at the moment, we hear and see all around us those who sneer at the idea of ethical foreign policy. But the truth is that those doing the sneering at Westminster sold out to Washington, the Pentagon, and the CIA years ago. Under Blair, Robin Cook believed in an ethical foreign policy. Bush bade Blair fire him, and of course Moral Tone did so. Within 48 hours of being made Foreign Secretary in May 2010, William Hague was on a plane to Washington. Clearly, the lessons of Chilcot are lost on Willy.
What the Manning case tells us is that the State in 2013 will break any butterfly on the wheel if it should obey conscience. This is about as base a precedent as one might set, but we should not be surprised: the State lies about everything today, for now we have a new hierarchy of mendacity: liars, damned liars, statistics, and States.
More and more on Twitter and in the blogosphere, I find that the obvious consequences of the way States behave can be sanitised and even made irrelevant by the various means available. The methods, though, really boil down to a non-stop pillow fight between the Dan Hannans of this world, and the ‘TOREESCUMSMASH’ tendency. In fact, what the violent language and frequent foul mouth of the Left do is reduce everything to a course in Marxist dialectics for Tourettes sufferers. What Hannan does it make trite points that do not bear examination – and always evoke a tweet from me to demonstrate that. Dan retweets the yellers 24/7, because he knows it puts decent people off. He never retweets my ripostes. Think about it. Both sides are trying to suggest that the other one is beyond the pale. Neither viewpoint is credible, and they’re each as bad as each other.
Neither the middle class berk who thinks life is a jolly little debating society nor the bellowing syntaxistas have the remotest relevance to Britain’s problems…problems which are about to get exponentially worse after August.
Bradley Manning has far more of the Right Stuff we need than the Leninsparts and Hannans; for what they do is robotically proclaim, ‘My tribe right or wrong’. Manning stepped outside the stockade and gave the truth to Wikileaks. My view of Assange remains the same: he’s a narcissistic schizoid personality who emits his condition with every exclamation of his body language. But Bradley Manning thought for himself and did the right thing. For this alone, we should salute him.