One of the most common attacks against whistleblowers in this country is that their leaks put American troops at risk. The position is: sure, whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning are exposing governmental wrongdoing, but isn’t it ultimately more wrong to endanger members of the U.S. military? Won’t somebody please think of the troops?!
Forget whistleblowers, though: let’s level that charge against the United States government first. After all, it’s not the whistleblowers who are choosing to place troops in perilous situations on a daily basis. If this nation’s leaders were so concerned about the wellbeing of its armed forces, it could demonstrate that by stop inventing reasons to send our troops to war in the first place.
It’s not hard to figure why the government trots out this rhetoric each time it gets caught with its pants down: it misdirects the conversation. By associating whistleblower support with the death of Americans, people who might otherwise be critical about the information leaked are put in the impossible position of having to defend why the news is worth jeopardizing American lives — even when there’s no substantial reason to believe that troops have been endangered.
Following murmurs of a potential pardoning of Snowden in recent weeks, these troop-harming criticisms have remerged. Some members of Congress are now claiming that most of the intelligence Snowden nabbed concerns military operations, not the NSA. They’re alleging that American troops are likely to be endangered as a result. Considering that not one piece of military intelligence has leaked from Snowden in six months, these accusations amount to alarmist distortion.
As far as Manning is concerned, many of the documents he turned over to Wikileaks proved far more damaging to the military’s reputation rather than its security. Manning’s most prominent revelations exposed widespread torture, the astonishing number of civilian deaths abroad, and the cruel joke that is the Guantanamo detention center. What this information really put at risk was business as usual for casual war crimes, which ultimately takes a shot at the military industrial complex as a whole, not the troops themselves. Although it was barely publicized, experts testified at Manning’s trial that no Americans died as a result of these leaks.
Suppose that a whistleblower were to have shared information that exposed the claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a fabrication back in 2003. Would this military intelligence leak have risked the lives of American troops? On the contrary, assuming the truth was sufficient to stop Congress from supporting the war, it could have saved the lives of the 4,400 American soldiers who perished in the war in Iraq – not to mention a half-million Iraqi lives, as well.
Whistleblowing goes a long way toward revealing not only wide-scale corruption, but also the true atrocities of war. If their campaign to convince American citizens to oppose war is successful, ultimately whistleblowers could protect more lives – both American soldiers and otherwise – than a military with well-kept secrets ever could.
Again, forget the whistleblowers. If you’re legitimately concerned about the wellbeing of troops, question the U.S. political elite — they’re the ones hell-bent on perpetually having troops engage in warfare.