Bradley Manning Vs. The US Military
Bradley Manning, a cause celebre of The Redel Traub report, and defenders of free speech and truth everywhere, was arraigned in a military court today. Well, Bradley Manning deferred his plea today, as well as whether he wants to be judged by a military jury or solely by a judge. To review: Manning is the whistleblower who stands accused of releasing a cache of secure military documents to Wikileaks. For this, Manning faces 22 charges and the real possibility of life in prison.
Manning’s defense team is expected to formulate a defense based on several aspects. Firstly, that the documents Manning released, while embarrassing diplomatically, did not substantively aid the enemy or imperil U.S. interests. Even Hillary Clinton has been quoted as saying that the documents Manning released “did not represent significant consequences to foreign policy.” Hand-in-hand with this defense is the idea that much of what Manning leaked shouldn’t have been classified in the first place.
Another main component of the defense is that Bradley Manning was facing severe emotional distress because of his sexuality. Manning wrote to an online companion that “It took them a while, but they started figuring me out, making fun of me, mocking me, harassing me, heating up with one or two physical attacks.” Though Manning surely suffered, this defense almost cheapens his moral stance in my mind. Many of the folks that have celebrated Manning have done so in the belief that he was a beacon of free speech, willing to speak truth to power, but this charge of harassment makes him seem vindictive. The defense argues that Manning was clearly unstable, he appears to have violated many rules and apparently had violent emotional outbursts in Iraq, so the military should’ve been wary granting this clearly troubled soldier with access to sensitive material.
Far be it for me to speak on the pressures of being gay in the military in the heyday of “don’t ask don’t tell,” and it certainly seems like he suffered real abuse, but I’d like to think that Manning was so moved by the crimes he saw that he was willing to take a risk to expose them. Perhaps it was a mixture of both the abuse and his conscience. Apparently, Manning was so disturbed by an incident in Iraq in which he felt his actions had caused the death of an innocent civilian that he spoke to a counsellor, and he expressed anger over his observation that military higher-ups seemed to care little about Iraqi civilians. Maybe Manning was moved by his conscience and was unmoored because of the abuse he’d suffered.
Other pieces of his defense include the idea that he was given too much clearance for a soldier of his low rank. Also, the computers that were used to download the files, which the Army has forensically tied to Manning, were used by other. Additionally, though this bears more relevance to Julian Assange’s extradition, the Army has been unable to find a direct link between Mr. Assange and Mr. Manning. That it’s Mr. Manning who needs to defend his actions, and not the gentleman that got us in this quagmire in the first place, is a subject deserving of far greater scrutiny.
In the end it seems Mr. Manning’s guilt is a fait accompli. Manning has spent about two years in solitary confinement, regularly being placed on suicide watch. Even if Manning defies the odds and is acquitted no one can imagine the emotional hell he’s been in for the past several years. And for what? The biggest tragedy of the Wikileaks saga is that it’s hardly made a dimes worth of difference. The folks who were outraged by the crimes Wikileaks made public, were folks that were already opposed to U.S. intervention, and already well informed on the horrors of the wars the U.S. was waging in the Mid East. To the general American public it seems that Wikileaks didn’t mean a thing. They were waging their own “don’t ask, don’t tell” campaign, they didn’t ask about the grim realities of war and they sure as hell didn’t want anyone to tell them. In the recent ratcheting up of tensions with Iran, the U.S. is headed down the identical bellicose path as it did 9 years ago in the run up to war with Iraq. Like Iraq, Iran supposedly poses a severe threat to the U.S. and it’s interests and we simply can’t wait until the smoking gun is a mushroom cloud over New York or Tel Aviv. Regardless of Bradley Manning’s mental state he did a remarkably brave thing, he uncovered harsh truths and for that he’ll likely spend his life in jail; it’s a tragedy. Even more tragic is that it all appears to be for nought, the American public decided to hear no evil and continue down the same road to perdition Manning desperately tried to expose.
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