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On 4 July - The absolute patriot and truthdigger

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Every week the Truthdig editorial staff selects a Truthdigger of the Week, a group or person worthy of recognition for speaking truth to power, breaking the story or blowing the whistle. It is not a lifetime achievement award. Rather, we’re looking for newsmakers whose actions in a given week are worth celebrating.

"Chelsea Manning is a patriot.

Today, on the most patriotic of days, she should be celebrated for her heroism. But unlike most Americans enjoying the Fourth of July by barbecuing or watching fireworks, Manning will spend the nation’s birthday within the dreary confines of a prison cell.

That’s because we seem to have a very slippery notion of what it means to love one’s country. Symbolized in our post-9/11 world by homicidal antiheroes like “American Sniper” Chris Kyle or misdeeds like the Patriot Act, America’s savagery is too often rendered as patriotism.

 For exposing some terrible truths, Manning has endured imprisonment, torture, humiliation and the denial of basic rights and freedoms. Bringing to light America’s war crimes via the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, she acted out of idealism. “I want people to see the truth,” she said, “because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Manning did her duty as a citizen and a soldier. She acted in the best interests of her country after witnessing grave violations on the part of the United States government, violations that contravened the Armed Forces’ Uniform Code of Military Justice, the rules in U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10 and international law.

During her 2013 trial, she described the “delightful bloodlust” an Apache helicopter crew exhibited in Baghdad in 2007 as it mowed down a crowd of civilians, which included Reuters photojournalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh. The footage Manning released to WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed how the crew “dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote ‘dead bastards’ unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers.”

“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me,” Manning recounted of her motivations. “I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan are targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure-cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. …

“After the [WikiLeaks] release, I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public. ... As I hoped, others were just as troubled—if not more troubled—than me by what they saw.”

Without Manning’s act of conscience, the American public would know nothing of the extent of war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The widespread torture conducted by the Iraqi authorities in full knowledge of the U.S. military would have remained hidden, alongside previously unknown estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. military checkpoints and the massive Iraqi civilian death toll brought about by the American invasion."

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