Bradley Manning, who is now known as Chelsea Manning and is a “she” rather than a “he”, may very well have been a causal factor in the Arab Spring. This tribute to her, if true, implies a domino effect of her actions of leaking secret information to Wikileaks (it also implies that this association is the most under-reported story of the year).
The gist is this. The secret cables leaked by Manning provided fodder for groups operating in Tunisia. These groups seized upon the treasure trove of documentation of corruption of the Tunisian government and distributed it via social media and other means, including physical media. Details of government corruption spread like wildfire in the country. Less than three weeks after the initial revelation, a very literal fire emerged, as Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor, set himself on fire in apparent desperation and frustration of local authorities. The fate of the central government was sealed by this act of self-immolation.
There is perhaps no stronger statement than setting oneself on fire. But the less dramatic act of releasing damning information to the public should not be discounted. Manning will pay a stiff price for his act–decades in prison–but if the article is accurate, Manning may very well be the cause of one of the most noteworthy events of our generation: the toppling of various Arab regimes in what has become known as the Arab Spring, starting in Tunisia.
No US government policy or CIA mission could have possibly done what Manning allegedly and unwittingly accomplished. Billions of dollars on the most sophisticated program would have not only failed, but likely been counterproductive, cementing dictators in place rather than removing them.
Tunisians didn’t need Tunileaks [leaked documents regarding Tunisia] to tell them their country was corrupt. Tunisians had been gossiping and joking about the corruption for years. What was different was the psychological effect of an establishment confronted so publicly with its ugly own image. It was that the government knew that all people knew, inside and outside the country, how corrupt and authoritarian it was. And the one telling the story wasn’t a dissident or a political conspirator. It was the U.S. State department…
This revelation may be one of the most crucial nuggets of information I’ve read on the subject, begging many questions. Is it true? How can the release of information already largely known to some degree foment revolution? To what degree did the leaked information play a role in Egypt, Libya, etc, in their own awakenings?
The Obama administration should study this topic closely. If Manning is the critical prime mover of the Arab Spring, then a pardon for his actions isn’t so far fetched. In fact, perhaps an apology for his mistreatment and an accolade for his service are in order.
Edit – nobel peace prize laureate nominates Manning for peace prize.