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As we celebrate Christmas 2010, 100,000 US troops languish in Afghanistan, and Bradley Manning sits in "maximum custody" in Quantico for the alleged crime of disclosing classified "secrets" about U.S. foreign policy - "secrets" like the video of U.S. troops killing two Reuters employees in Iraq, a video that the U.S. military refused to release to Reuters.

It is a particular stain on our country to be at war during the Season of Peace, just as it is a particular stain on our country to be at war during the Olympics. "Peace on Earth" should stick in our throats a bit this holiday season, when our own government is bombing other people's countries, a practice which we have, so far, been unable to stop.

The idea that there is something especially offensive about prosecuting war during Christmas is longstanding.

On December 7, 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for an official Christmas truce in the war in Europe, "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang."

The Pope's call was rejected by the warring governments, and two words he used suggest a reason: "at least." The Pope's remarks strongly suggested that he objected to the slaughter on the other 364 days as well. And so, the generals may have argued, it was a slippery slope. Allow the troops to have a Christmas holiday from killing each other, and they might begin to get even funnier ideas. Next they'll be demanding Easter, then Yom Kippur and Eid al-Fitr. Soon you won't be able to have a war on any day of the year. So there was no official truce.

However, in what was arguably one of the most morally compelling acts of spontaneous mass civil disobedience in recorded human history, German and British troops took matters into their own hands, negotiating their own Christmas cease-fires in their opposing trenches on the Western Front, exchanging Christmas carols and gifts, and even playing soccer. The story is told in the 2005 movie, Joyeux Noel ("Merry Christmas"), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006. It would be a significant advance in human civilization if this movie would take its rightful place alongside "Miracle on 34th Street" and "It's a Wonderful Life" as standard Christmas fare.

It's particularly appropriate to reflect on this history now, as TV talking heads repeatedly pontificate without a shred of evidence that the WikiLeaks disclosures "threaten our national security,"  because in its time, as Stanley Weintraub reported in his 2001 book "Silent Night: The Remarkable Christmas Truce of 1914," not only was the Christmas truce considered a threat to "national security" in the warring countries; even the knowledge that it had taken place was initially suppressed. The New York Times finally broke the press blockade on December 31, 1914, after which the British press followed suit.

Doesn't it seem ridiculous today that news media initially tried to suppress reports about the Christmas truce of 1914, apparently in the belief that such information was a "threat to national security"?

Won't it seem ridiculous someday that people who knew better once claimed that WikiLeaks was a "threat to our national security," and were taken seriously?

How long do you suppose that will take to occur?

Merry Christmas. Let there be peace on earth.

 

Originally posted to Robert Naiman on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 12:50 PM PST.

Poll

WikiLeaks is not a threat to my security.

74%38 votes
25%13 votes

| 51 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Do you really want a 20 year old making (0+ / 0-)

    decisions of sending out secret and confidential information?  This is not a courageous act. It is treason.

    Wars are fought for a "moral" reason.  We went to war with Japan because they attacked our country.  We went to war with Germany because their goal was world domination.  With your attitude we should have said ok and we could all be speaking German/Japanese now.

    •  Assange is not a US citizen (7+ / 0-)

      so calling what he does "treason" is stupid in the extreme.

      And what Manning did isn't treason either, or he'd be charged with that instead of much more minor violations.

      Reality has a liberal bias.

      by Hayate Yagami on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:38:05 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

        •  Violations of UCMJ=treason? (6+ / 0-)

          Article 92: Failure to obey orders
          Article 134: 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.

          That's strange, MsLizzie.  Didn't you say there was treason in there?

          Reality has a liberal bias.

          by Hayate Yagami on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:51:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  US Constitution, article III, section 3 (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RonV, MsLizzie

            Section 3.
            Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

            The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

            The information released could be seen as aiding the enemy.

            "No man deserves to be praised for his goodness unless he has strength of character to be wicked." La Rochefoucald

            by Void Indigo on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:57:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  How can a person who is not a (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              neroden, marykk

              citizen of the United States commit treason against it? That just plain doesn't compute. Treason is

              a crime that undermines the offender's government.

              We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

              by unclejohn on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:00:44 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Giving in to... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              neroden

              bin Laden's demands, as the US government has done, could also be seen as aiding the enemy. Or at least giving them comfort.

              It's all in the interpretation, I guess.

              "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

              by RonV on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:03:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  By that definition I think a charge of treason (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Void Indigo

              could probably be sustained, whether the military decides to make the charge or not.

            •  "Aid" is a term so nebulous it is meaningless (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              neroden, marykk

              Drone bombings in Pakistan help AQ and the Taliban recruit.  Are the people responsible for those attacks now guilty of treason?

              Bombings by manned aircraft that kill civilians help drive recruitment for anti-US forces.  Are those pilots traitors?

              The NYT recently published info that the US is considering expanding ops in Pakistan, giving classified info to any "enemy" who reads the article.  Are they now guilty of treason?

              The existence of Gitmo and the torture there is a major recruiting tool.  Are presidents Bush and Obama, as well as the Congress which authorizes its existence all guilty of treason?

              Medical care is provided even to captured enemies.  Are those medics now traitors?

              International relief organizations provide aid and comfort to people who may even be enemies of the US.  Are any American members of such organizations traitors?

              Reality has a liberal bias.

              by Hayate Yagami on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 08:41:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Also, MANNING HAS NEVER BEEN CHARGED (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              neroden, marykk

              WITH TREASON.  If the government thought they had a case for it, why is he only being charged under articles 92 and 134 of the UCMJ?

              That's the most insane part of the kneejerk "traitor" response.  It's so far out that no one in the government even thinks there's a case for it.  If they did, they'd have charged him with it.

              Reality has a liberal bias.

              by Hayate Yagami on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 08:44:55 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Well I certainly hope you're not suggesting (9+ / 0-)

      that we have a "moral" reason for being at war in the middle east.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:47:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You seem to be prone to fall for (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BOHICA, marykk, shenderson, Hayate Yagami

      propaganda. How is your critical reasoning?

      There is no such thing as a "moral" war. Wars are fought for power and wealth. They are garbed in moral raiment in order to sell them to the gullible. Without the gullible cannon fodder, there could be no wars. Are you willing to be reduced to hamburger?

      We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

      by unclejohn on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:57:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, perhaps a home defense. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marykk

        I can accept those who take arms up when their homes are under attack as conducting a "moral war".  Hmm, that would be the Native Americans who were wiped out by the US, then, for example.

        I don't see how a foreign invasion can be a moral war, but even if it could, the Iraq and Afghan wars are immoral for additional reasons.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 08:53:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  First of all MsLizzie, do you still consider these (4+ / 0-)
      wars moral?  Do you still consider these occupations...wars?  Do you really believe that these occupations of 10 years in any way resemble this country's moral quandary with Germany and Japan?  Seriously?  Signed:  A pissed off X-Marine of 8 years.

      _"George, when I want your opinion I'll give it to you!" -Dick Cheney 2002_

      by oopsaDaisy on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:41:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  MSLizzie: Hate to say it on Christmas night, When (4+ / 0-)

      everything is supposed to be pretty and white.
      How much proof does it take to convince you
      That your "government" what is a danger to you?

      That lies and the frauds that embody our "policy"
      Are anathema to that ol' mistletoe and holly?
      That the Jesus that I know quite would agree
      That an XM-25 is not the best really cool frikkin' gift to find under the tree?

      That you in your comfort and I in my rack
      Are not settled in safety while the MSM and CIA and MIC and Foggy Bottom package and peddle endless volumes of such endlessly false but seductive-to-the-ignorant-tribalist pap?

      Your "logic" neck-hangs dead, from strings of bright Xmas lights,
      And people that think like you give me the frights.
      The history's much more complex than you say,
      And there's far better ways to live on day to day.

      This aging Vietvet is sick unto puke
      Of "Patriot" wet dreams like are peddled by you
      And the others who buy such tripe out on the Mall
      And think American Exceptionalism and militarism and imperialism and all that shit excuse just damn all.

      So love being ignorant, blind, deaf and dumb,
      Fat and happy consuming the shark's favorite chum.
      And make it so easy for Petraeus and Gates
      To drag us to Hades by our curly pates.

      Flag pins and loyalty oaths? Wait, there's more!
      Congressional "probes" by the bucket and score.
      Bring back Roy Cohn out of his lonely casket
      To help dump the little tiny bit of true virtue that ever existed in the City on the Hill American Dream into a tight-lidded, depleted-uranium-weighted basket
      And like rednecks in pickups do with kitties and puppies,
      Dump that Threat To The National Security State into the river to sleep with the guppies.

      Merry Christmas to all you True Believers who clap your hands when the TSA guy gropes your junk or laughs uproariously at your navel hernia and minuscule girlie and boy parts and belly drooping over your belt... And buy into the notion that Manning and Assange are TRAITORS? And to you I also say, thank God I am older and won't likely live to see too much more of what your grim-faced, beetle-browed, lipless idiot idolatry of The State will be bringing YOU for Xmas in years to come...

      Treason? How about Jonathan Pollard, and so many others? What's more treasonous? Killing the goodness that was America? or publishing the materials that demonstrate how incrementally it is being done, day after weary, war-laden day?

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 04:15:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm so glad you mentioned that movie (7+ / 0-)

    We watched "Merry Christmas" several years ago, and it made a deep impression on my son (who was probably about 10 when we watched it).  I recommend it to anyone.  It's on Netflix (which is where we got it from).  I love that it's actually in the three languages that the soldiers involved spoke.

    I agree--it should be on everyone's top five list of holiday movies (and it's a LOT better than "Christmas in Connecticut" which I saw for the first time the other day and which sucked sucked sucked and had such enormous plot holes that I couldn't enjoy it plus really wide shoulders on all of Barbara Stanwyck's outfits).

    Everyone should see "Merry Christmas."  What a wonderful movie.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Emerson on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:36:54 PM PST

  •  I would love to see all U.S. troops withdrawn (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kestrel9000, marykk

    at once from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Christmas truce in 1914 was a beautiful example of the humanitarian impulses of ordinary people. There were similar examples of decency and fellowship in the Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant, a brilliant general who fought in, but opposed the war with Mexico as unjust, and was no war monger, celebrated those acts of humanity in his memoirs.

    WikiLeaks has done some good, but Bradley Manning is a soldier who very indiscriminately and recklessly released a huge volume of classified material that it was his duty to protect. It has the look of an immature act of insubordination rather than an act of conscience or real political concern. I think this is a little different in character from the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War and I personally think he should go to prison.

    •  Bradley Manning (0+ / 0-)

      was a 20 year old kid, and demonstrated the lack of awreness of the potential consequences of his action consistent with his age.

      Can you honestly say that at 20 you would have had an appreciation of the ramifications of such an act?

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:49:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  He released 150,000 classified diplomatic cables. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kestrel9000

        When I was 20 years old I was fully aware of the potential consequences of my actions. He had assumed the responsibilities of an adult was aware of the obligations. And I think I read in the Economist that he is 23. Being immature and irresponsible is neither a legal defense nor a moral one.

        •  Bull-f*cking shit (0+ / 0-)

          When I was 20 years old I was fully aware of the potential consequences of my actions.

          And I mean that, of course, in the nicest possible way, apropos of the season.

          If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

          by marykk on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:03:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  You cannot imagine someone 20 years old (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kestrel9000

            behaving responsibly and being aware of the consequences of their actions? I have no more idea what you did when you were 20 than you have what I did. Maybe you are not yet 20 and have no idea what you will do. But, apropos of the season, please have a little faith in humanity.

      •  Plenty of our (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BOHICA, Roger Fox, shenderson

        "leaders" at 40 and 60 are so totally clueless that a 20-year-old should not be dissed simply because of his age. Is this reverse ageism? ;-)

        We cannot win a war crime - Dancewater, July 27, 2008

        by unclejohn on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:05:06 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  20-year-olds are adults, last time I checked. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shenderson

        He is responsible for his actions.

        What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

        by mistersite on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:23:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The law has a cutoff (0+ / 0-)

          because it's administratively easier.  However, there's a fair amount of research that indicates that it may be too soon,particularly with male defendants.  

          But whether someone has researched the age of legal adulthood is a wholly separate question from whether he has found himself in a situation far beyond his ability to appreciate.

          If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

          by marykk on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 02:29:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's about being responsible for one's actions. (0+ / 0-)

            I knew even at the age of 20 - and younger - that if i did something illegal, I would be held responsible for that.

            Manning is an adult. He should stand in responsibility for his actions. I don't buy this "he was only 20!" argument. If he's old enough to serve his country and vote, he's old enough to know right from wrong and be held responsible for what he does.

            What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

            by mistersite on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 05:13:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  Take a moment to appreciate the truce. (7+ / 0-)

    "Christmas in the Trenches" by John McCutcheon

    "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

    by RonV on Sat Dec 25, 2010 at 01:55:20 PM PST

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