Open letter to servicemen and women regarding supporting WikiLeaks in the U.S. Military

Sourced by WLCentral

Submitted by Anonymous on Thu, 07/21/2011 – 02:51

Authored by data venia

To this day, supporting WikiLeaks remains unreasonably controversial. Depending on a person’s country of residence, job position, and so forth, the opposition to this support varies greatly. But there is one area where being pro-WikiLeaks is criminalized like none other: the United States Military.

As an American citizen I never expected to have my freedom of speech challenged so heavily. But I have realized that the U.S. Military is practically a separate entity from the country it represents. This is most easily expressed by the fact that it operates under its own set of laws, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). As goes the saying reiterated by many soldiers, “We are not a democracy; we just protect it.”

The story of how and why I joined the military is unimportant. At the time I was ignorant of world events. I was basically like a typical American, who knew nothing of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan besides the fact that they existed. It wasn’t until December of 2010 that I finally became educated on the matter, and that was almost solely thanks to WikiLeaks. Surprisingly, I hadn’t even heard of WikiLeaks until that point, which goes to show that, as much as the U.S. Military loves to hate it, it would rather pretend WikiLeaks never existed.

I knew from the beginning that I could never voice my support without consequence. This fact was concreted quickly by my supervisor’s calls for Julian Assange’s assassination, as well as my friend’s belief that Bradley Manning deserved a life sentence in prison. I did tell a close and trusted friend of my support, hoping he would understand, but instead he turned on me and threatened to report me to the special investigations unit on base. At this point, even more so, I knew those I deemed as trustworthy must be carefully chosen.

As I continued my work in the military, my support for WikiLeaks only grew. Not only because of my personal unhappiness with my job and work, but by the apathy of my coworkers, and the blatant hatred they expressed for Iraqi and Afghan people. At one point I even had someone call me a “terrorist” for reading Al Jazeera.

Twice more I attempted to share my opinion on WikiLeaks with others. The first person seemed to be interested, but as it happened, that interest was feigned solely as an attempt to get closer to me. And the second just showed blatant apathy. After describing to them the entirety of the “Collateral Murder” video, they paused, then simply asked, “…And?” I was completely dumbfounded. At first I had hoped it was just ignorance and military bias keeping soldiers from understanding the good of WikiLeaks, but it turns out that, for many of them, it is also a complete disconnect from people of any other country but their own.

Though seemingly all military members are anti-WikiLeaks, there is a difference depending on age and rank. The younger, lower-ranking soldiers seem to be generally apathetic, and could care less about WikiLeaks. But they do disapprove when asked. I assume this is because of the way it has been presented by the military, and not of their own opinions. Whereas the more senior a member is, the more strong their hatred seems to be, to the point of ridiculousness. For example, my command has said that Human Rights groups are “anti-military” and a “threat.” The idea that high-ranking individuals in the United States Armed Forced have connected “human rights” with “anti-military” is, to me, horrifying. And even further, my command continued to say that associating with individuals connected to Human Rights groups could be grounds for investigation.

Many times have I wanted to take a stand and tell those around me that I support WikiLeaks. The one time my office had a discussion on the topic, I could only do so much to correct inaccuracies without sounding suspicious. But the consequences that come with voicing support are something that must be thought about intricately. With the grand jury that has been commencing in Alexandria, Virginia, it is obvious that even supporting WikiLeaks in the civilian world can lead to troubling issues. So, it is only reasonable to figure that doing so in the military would be many times worse.

One would hope that the U.S. Military would hear of a WikiLeaks supporter and, at the very worst, give them a swift boot out the door. But of course, the immediate step taken would be an investigation, followed by possible criminalization, and even jail time, as shown by the Royal Navy medic, who conscientiously objected to rifle training due to WikiLeaks revelations and was sentenced to 7 months in prison.

But would the U.S. Military truly be able to criminalize you for simply supporting WikiLeaks? To answer that, I would like to refer to Article 134 of the UCMJ, which states:

“Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special, or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.”

As Wikipedia describes it, this is a “catch-all” article, and is for “many offenses that are not covered by other specific articles of the UCMJ. These other offenses… vary from kidnapping to disloyal statements.”” In other words, this article can be used anytime the U.S. Military wants to criminalize something that has yet to be specifically defined as a crime.

So, those of us who are in the military, and who do support WikiLeaks (I know I cannot be the only one out of 1.5 million U.S. military members) are at a rather difficult crossroad. Do we continue in silence, serving out the remaining years of our contact with a strained conscience, or do we step up and voice our opinion, willing to face the dire consequences?

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