Bradley Manning’s letter to the President

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

 

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

 

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

 

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

 

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

 

As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”

 

I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

 

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

Via Gizmondo

Release Bassel Khartabil

The post is copied in its entirety from the Creative Commons weblog

What open means to you
Bassel / joi / CC BY

Earlier this year, Creative Commons issued a statement in support of Bassel Khartabil, a longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15. Amnesty International recently released a document with information suggesting that Bassel has been ill-treated and even tortured. This morning, we sent a letter to President Bashar al-Assad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim, and Minister of Defense ‘Imad al-Fraij; urging that Bassel be released unless he is promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offense. We urge Syrian authorities to grant Bassel immediate access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, and all necessary medical treatment.

Bassel has played a crucial role in the open technology and culture communities, both in Syria and around the world. Through his service as Creative Commons’ project lead in Syria and his numerous contributions to the advancement of open source and related technologies, Bassel has spent his career working toward a more free Internet. Many of us at Creative Commons have become friends of Bassel’s over the years. All of us have benefited from his leadership and expertise.

Please stand with us in support of Bassel. Amnesty International has provided instructions for contacting Syrian authorities. For more information, visit freebassel.org.

Read Creative Commons’ call for the release of Bassel Khartabil (PDF).

Eight years have passed

For eight years the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak has been detained without a trial in a prison in Eritrea. It is difficult to imagine what that must be like. He was imprisoned on the 23 September 2001.

Here is an excercise in perspective:

One month after his imprisonment the first iPod was launched (23 October 2001) and Microsoft released Windows XP (25 October 2001). Facebook was launched in 2004 and so was the first version of the Ubuntu operating system.

For more information FreeDawit.

Shooting Back

Providing cameras and video cameras to different groups is not an uncommon method which allows the subjects to bring their own lives into focus without the direct mediation of the “outsider” camera/filmmaker. Naturally all uses of technology contain risks of bias and slanted views – nobody still believes that the camera never lies? Even if many still believe that fashion images are “real”.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched Shooting Back, a video advocacy project focusing on the Occupied Territories. We provide Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public, exposing and seeking redress for violations of human rights.

In projects such as these technology in the form of the cameras and Internet as a distribution medium can be used to empower those involved in a conflict while still providing a preaceful alternative way of coping with everyday violence.

Utility of Force

The University of Bath has a podcast with General Sir Rupert Smith. Sir Rupert is the author of the insightful book The Utility of Force: The art of war in the modern world (amazon). His main thesis is that war is changing from the tradition industrial war into a war amongst the people.

The essential difference is that the use of force is no longer used to win a battle but to create a condition  in which the strategic result is achieved in other means. The strategic object is to alter the opponents intentions as opposed to win over him or to remove him.

Don’t believe in (cyber) war

Once again one of Sweden’s largest daily papers refers to a report about the state of Swedish national IT security. Apparently we are totally unprepared and vulnerable to everything that’s out there. Two things really annoy me about reports like this:

Firstly, very few people seem to question the motives of these “expert” reports. Most of them are written either by companies attempting to provide systems intended to solve the problems they discover, or (as this latest report) is provided by organizations (often governmental bodies) that need to show that there is work to be done. The implication is that the organization should be funded to carry out the work.

Secondly, if the world was so unprotected and vulnerable to cyberwar and cyberterrorism then why is it that most of our technology related collapses, disasters and problems do not originate from bad people, purposely intending to do us harm but rather by faulty systems, incompetent staff, greedy management and pure incompetence. Just look at technology related disasters such as Five Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal and Exxon Valdez.

Terrorism and war remain on the primitive level of bombs and rockets – incompetence and greed accompany high level technical systems.

On Sleeping Bears

Getting older is a strange thing. I don’t feel older – in fact I feel younger today than I have been for many years. But I am older and the best way of measuring age is not the way in which you feel but rather in the way you relate to older and younger people.

I am not old and yet I have a school tie in my closet that is older than many of my students, I am not old but I am trying to lecture to a room full of people who were born when I was attempting to disco.

The difficult thing about getting old is attempting to talk across the barriers of age. My students perceive me as older and I perceive them as younger. The difference, in a teaching scenario, is the problem of giving examples. It is hard to convey the importance and turmoil of 1989. This was the year that saw both the Tiananmen Square student massacre and the fall of the Berlin wall.

While growing up the concept of the cold war seemed outdated. East-West relations had been frosty for my entire life and we had always lived under the threat of nuclear war. My generation was bored with the fear of nuclear war and were more concerned with the social economic changes brought about by Reagan and Thatcher.  We were tired and blasé, we did not really expect change. We knew that teenagers everywhere where in reality the same but politics was (and is) the game of old men.

So it’s understandable for my generation to see 1989 as a proof of the correctness of optimism and it is equally understandable for my students not to understand why I make a big deal of it all.

The question is what shall we all make of Putin’s decision to re-activate strategic flights by nuclear bombers:

Russia has resumed regular “strategic flights” of nuclear bombers. (They may or may not be carrying nuclear bombs, but you can practically hear Putin’s smirking tone as he says, “Our [nuclear bomber] pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.”) (via Question Technology)

Are the cold war generation just nodding their heads in the understanding that the last 2o years has been an exception to the status quo. Do the post 1989 generation even think about the possible implications of this or have they lived in a post cold war era for too long to be able to imagine the alternatives.

And what on earth does my generation think about it all…

War blogs silenced

Wired News reports that In a directive (dated 19th April) US troops have been ordered not to blog without first clearing each post with a superior officer. There is also a discussion going on at the Wired Blog Danger Room.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

It’s hardly a surprising move. It’s doubtful whether blogs were revealing security information (US troops should be better trained in this case) but on several occasions information on blogs and films of YouTube (for example Iraqi kids run for water) have caused embarrassing situations which hardly have improved anyone’s opinions of the war.