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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.
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