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Posted By Daniel Flynn On December 9, 2010 @ 12:40 am In FrontPage | 26 Comments
Noam Chomsky lauds Manning’s “courage” and “integrity,” spinning the Army private’s illegal transfer of secret U.S. diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks as “serving his country.” Michael Moore, who announced a gift of $5,000 to Manning’s defense, paints the imprisoned Army private as “patriotic” and deserving of a “Profiles in Courage” award. “Soldiers’ sworn oath is to defend and support the constitution,” Daniel Ellsberg explains. “Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our constitution.” The Pentagon Papers leaker dubs the WikiLeaks leaker a “hero.”
Strange characterizations of a goat seen as a hero may not seem so strange to people who remember the 20th Century. The Cold War witnessed numerous turncoats described in such glowing terms.
Journalist Eric Alterman eulogized I.F. Stone in 1989 as exhibiting “a loving patriotism” and “a fiercely independent intellectual ethic.” Within a few years, a KGB general, the Venona cables, and the files of Soviet intelligence pointed to Stone’s longtime work as a lackey for Moscow. Historian Ellen Schrecker insisted in her book, Many Are the Crimes, that American agents of the Soviet Union were “not betraying their country”; they merely “did not subscribe to traditional forms of patriotism.” Speaking for many on the Left, Abbie Hoffman explained in 1980, “No one force is supposed to rule the world. That’s why the Rosenbergs to me were great heroes, and I hope they tried to give secrets to the Russians (I would have).”
This is not merely a matter of intelligent people making stupid mistakes. Alterman, Schrecker, and so many others labeled turncoats “patriots.” This is a colossal error. A lapse in judgment doesn’t account for such extraordinary foolishness. A whole way of looking at the world conditions such a response. Through the Left’s looking glass, down is up, night is day, good is bad—and America is the Evil Empire.
The warped lens pictures a heroic Manning refusing to play the Good German, an idea predicated upon America being Nazi Germany reincarnate. But the United States isn’t Nazi Germany, Barack Obama isn’t Hitler, and Bradley Manning certainly isn’t Claus von Stauffenberg. Getting Bradley Manning wrong stems from getting America wrong. Getting America wrong results in a topsy-turvy conception of patriotism.
A patriot is someone whose love of country is so profound that it generates a willingness to sacrifice for the national good. The opposite of this is not someone too selfish or lethargic to sacrifice for the country’s betterment. It is someone whose hatred of country is so intense that it generates a willingness to sacrifice to undermine it. This is Bradley Manning, whose treachery has undoubtedly undermined his country and his freedom.
Exposing America’s sources to harm and America’s secrets to the world doesn’t make America better or stronger. It makes it harder for friends to stay friends and information to flow our way. This was the point—to cripple, or at least hamstring, America’s foreign policy apparatus. Like Alger Hiss or Julius Rosenberg, Manning’s treachery needed not thirty pieces of silver as an inducement. Hatred of country sufficed—just as love of country has prompted thousands of his Army comrades to die on the battlefield in Afghanistan and Iraq. The same word, “patriotism,” cannot retain any semblance of a stable meaning when it’s used to describe both Army Private First Class Ross McGinnis, who jumped on a grenade in Baghdad to save his comrades from death or serious injury, and Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, who transferred America’s secrets to an anti-American computer hacker.
A glib omniscience characterized the betrayal, in which a “never noticed” and “regularly ignored” 22-year-old private first class not only released more than a quarter-million secret documents without review, but did so while lip-synching to Lady Ga Ga. The frivolousness in which Manning carried out that grave act was fueled by a reflexive anti-Americanism and an ends-justify-the-means mentality. He may not have been old enough to even remember the Cold War, but Manning unknowingly adopted many of the attributes of Americans rooting for the wrong side of that conflict.
Certainly the disseminator of Manning’s purloined information remembers the Cold War. Veteran reporter Arnaud de Borchgrave recently detailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s childhood drenched in radical politics. De Borchgrave reported, “Australian acquaintances say [Assange] was bitterly disappointed by the outcome of the Cold War with a resounding global victory for the United States and its allies.”
The heaven on earth has long since disappeared. The devil state remains.
Historians John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, writing in their 2003 book In Denial, observed of an earlier generation of domestic subversives:
The American people, through the Constitution and under laws enacted by the Congress, invested in Presidents Roosevelt and Truman authority to share or not share the nation’s secrets with our allies. They did not invest that authority in Harry White, Theodore Hall, Alger Hiss or Lauchlin Currie. These men never went before American voters to ask for this authority or to account for their actions, but arrogated to themselves the right to give secrets to a foreign power.
Ditto for Bradley Manning. No one voted for him to decide what information remains private and what becomes public. He hubristically usurped that power.
He will pay the consequences. More so will his country.
Daniel J. Flynn, author of A Conservative History of the American Left, blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.
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