Bradley Manning is facing a whole laundry list of charges, but on the main one of aiding the enemy, Manning has been found not guilty. He’s still going to do a lot of jail time, rather than receiving a medal, though, and that’s another dark blot on American history.
Juan Cole reminds us that Manning was tortured, and compares him to Mohammed Bouazizi, a Tunisian who immolated himself in protest.
Manning, like Bouazizi, is young. He also faced, with all his youth and inexperience and impatience, a political situation that was the result of criminality. Dick Cheney and John Yoo and Karl Rove and George W. Bush were responsible for creating a public image of government lawlessness that encouraged whistle blowing. They went to war against Iraq on false pretenses and in contravention of international law. They themselves tried to leak the identity of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA operative, to the press. They set up Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and Bagram as black torture facilities. They lied repeatedly to the American people (there was no looting in Iraq, no guerrilla war in Iraq, no civil war in Iraq, no torture practiced by the US in Iraq, no more than 30,000 civilian dead in Iraq, no need for more armored vehicles for our troops in Iraq).
The political situation Manning faced was also unyielding. Long after the American public turned against Washington’s Forever Wars, they are still being pursued, and are killing thousands of innocent civilians for war goals that range from the highly unlikely to the utterly phantasmagoric. Manning’s leak was an act of desperation no different in intent from Bouazizi’s self-immolation. He intended to protest, by putting himself on the line. He wrote in chat room, “god knows what happens now — hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms — if not & we’re doomed.” He did not intend to get caught, but he must have known the risks. His was a cyberspace form of self-immolation, a career-ending, decisively life-changing act that, however foolhardy or possibly illegal, was certainly courageous.
Manning is going to jail. Cheney, Yoo, Rove, and Bush walk free.