Free Bradley Manning.
There, you know where I stand right off the bat - and if for some crazy reason you have no idea who I am talking about - you have some work to do.
Private First Class Bradley Manning was recently found not guilty of the most serious charge of the 22 he faced, aiding the enemy. On this charge alone, Manning was facing life in prison. He is young, the ripe age of 25, and guilty of 20 of the other charges against him, including a number of counts of violating the Espionage Act. Sentencing will most likely take until the end of August. He is facing 136 years in prison.
136 years. That’s life. Probably even life twice over, for some.
What did Manning do wrong? Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the, “He signed his life away to join the military and protect our freedom, and he broke the law and put us in danger” spiel.
I’m not buying it.
Maybe it’s me who’s convoluted for not understanding that. Did you read the lengthy transcript of Manning’s words and his take on things? Did you see the video of the individuals in the United States military who shot, wounded and killed more than a dozen people, including two Reuters employees?
I just watched that video again, and trust me - it never gets any easier and it’s never, ever okay with me. I’m absolutely sick and tired of hearing, “That’s how war works, innocent people get killed.”
The “incident” in the aforementioned video took place July 12, 2007. The US military is supposed to be the best military in the world. Yet the men in the helicopter, with technology in 2007, were unable to tell the difference between a camera and an AK-47? What type of training are we providing these young, inexperienced folks we teach to kill and send overseas? Give me a break. I hope you’re resting easy Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh (the two Reuters employees the US military members engaged upon and killed).
“Oh yeah, look at those dead [expletive],” said one in the helicopter. “Nice.”
PFC Manning sent the video along with hundreds of thousands of other cables to the press organization WikiLeaks, in an attempt to put into the public eye the actions of the US military, and war crimes carried out by the US government.
Manning may likely spend the rest of his life in a cage for - in my opinion - having a heart. Maybe too much heart for a life in the military (and I’m not saying all the folks in the military are heartless ... I’m saying take a look at the bravery and courage it took Mannying to stand up against “the man” and now look what’s staring him in the face. A life in prison).
He is not a traitor. He did not commit treason. I am not nervous or worried because of the information disseminated. I am disgusted. I am informed. I am thankful for Manning, and I am worried about him.
Men and women voluntarily sign up to serve our country, and doing so during a time of war is risky. Said individuals agree to sacrifice their lives - for whatever their personal reasons may be. Some may truly feel they would like to help curb terrorism. Some are looking for a way to get an education. There are those who are not US citizens and would like to be, so they enlist. I don’t really care what the motivations of an individual are for joining - that’s not my point here - it’s that Manning is a young man with enough courage to realize horrible things were occurring and the people acting in the wrong were not “terrorists” as modern media and education would have the average American believe, but were (and I’m sure are) members of our armed forces.
The lack of press coverage during Manning’s court martial was not shocking, but it was disappointing. The treatment of the journalists that were present at the court martial was not good - but I would have expected that from a military run court martial. I don’t know, call me a pessimist about that if you want - that’s your perogative.
If Manning spends the rest of his life in a cage for what I consider doing the right thing, what message does that send to others in a similar position?
One of the memes circulating social media sites about this issue and government “secrets” reads, “Who goes to prison when the government catches you lying? You. Who goes to prison when you catch the government lying? Nope, still you.”
What would you do in a similar situation? If you were a young intelligence analyst in the US Army who was aware of war crimes and atrocities on our hands? Would you sit idly by?
You better believe I’d be blowing my proverbial whistle (my actual whistle is on my key chain, but I may blow that too, just for added effect).
I’m sorry, and call me crazy if you’d like - but I can not, and would not, trade humanity for patriotism. People are people, we share this globe. And I am glad Manning had the guts to share the information he did.
Sentencing for this young man will be a very sad day for me, I’d imagine. I guess I just don’t have a whole lot of faith in the “justice system.” If people are going to be afraid to go to the press for fear of legal backlash, how is the media supposed to keep the government in check?
If I could send some mail to Manning (I’m just taking a shot in the dark and guessing he probably can’t get packages?), I’d send him a lengthy letter thanking him, and telling him I hope he is doing as good as can be expected. I would apologize for the treatment he received in confinement. I’d let him know if I were ever in a similar position, I would do the same thing in a heartbeat. I would tell him that he’s made an impact. Also I would send him some chocolate chip cookies, everyone likes those. Plus a burned CD with the John Brown’s Body song “Ambrosia” on it ... I couldn’t help but listen to it with leaky eyes last night while thinking about this young man who may not see freedom again. The part that said, “Good grace will live in me,” really got to me. In addition I would send him a notebook and pens. I bet he has more to say, things I’d like to hear.
You think Manning is a traitor? That’s your perogative.
I, on the other hand, say Manning deserves a medal. He has done too much time already - let him out.
Sadly, I don’t foresee that happening. But in the words of Ron Paul, “Truth is treason in the empire of lies.”