PJ Crowley: US Military Risks Making Bradley Manning a ‘Martyr’
Former State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley has written a column for The Guardian that argues the United States military should not give America’s enemies and rivals a “propaganda victory” by taking Pfc. Bradley Manning’s case to trial. He suggests the military may be “martyring” Manning and the military should accept his guilty plea and send him to prison for 20 years.
Crowley was with the State Department when it became aware hundreds of thousands of US State Embassy cables were going to be released by news organizations because they had been obtained by WikiLeaks, he was part of the damage control effort. He spoke off-the-cuff about Manning’s treatment at Marine Corps Base Quantico prison, which he called “counterproductive.” Ever since, he has had something to say about WikiLeaks or the soldier, who the military is prosecuting for disclosing information to the media organization. He was ultimately forced out of the position of State Department spokesperson for speaking about Manning’s mistreatment. However, he does not support WikiLeaks nor does he support the choices Manning made to disclose certain documents.
The argument Crowley makes in his column is similar to the remarks made by President Barack Obama in 2009 when signed and executive order that numerous Americans thought would lead to the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison. Then, he said, this would make it possible for America to reclaim the “moral high ground.” America would be able to “repair” its “image” in the world.
This is what motivates Crowley’s argument:
The external costs to American public diplomacy of keeping Manning on the global stage now outweigh any additional benefit from further legal action. The longer the case goes on, the greater the opportunity for international rivals to make propaganda hay at America’s expense. After a recent appearance on RT, Russia’s English language broadcast network, it became clear to me that Moscow, having been stung by the Sergei Magnitsky case, was happy to return fire through both Bradley Manning and Guantánamo.
Given the inherently political nature of 21st-century conflicts, credible narratives will be more decisive than bullets and bombs. The critical terrain of “clear, hold and build” is the perceptions of key global audiences, sustaining their understanding, support, trust and legitimacy for strategic interests and actions. In this context, any unwarranted action that provides an adversary with a propaganda victory could be considered “aiding the enemy.”
It is a pragmatic foreign policy argument, one that acknowledges that Manning now poses a risk to America’s ability to use what is called “soft power” to influence others. Magnitsky’s case is as bad, if not worse, than Manning’s, as he is dead and being put on trial by Russia posthumously. However, between Russia and the US, no one has high ground right now because there is evidence on both sides that someone considered a whistleblower is being persecuted in their country. [cont’d.]