Any government that engages in willful wrongdoing, such as the US government now routinely does, must also by necessity simultaneously retaliate against those who would reveals such acts. This explains why the Obama administration has been engaged in the most vicious persecutions of whistleblowers and the case against Bradley Manning provides a prime example.
Yesterday the government, after subjecting Manning to the extremely harsh treatment for an extended time, got a partial victory. He admitted to some offenses.
Under a plea arrangement, Manning pleaded guilty Thursday to 10 criminal charges of misusing classified material, including unauthorized possession and willful communication of information from military databases. He is expected to be sentenced to 20 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge from the military.
But Manning also pleaded not guilty to 12 far more serious charges, including aiding the enemy and multiple counts of violating the Espionage Act. He is scheduled to face a court-martial beginning June 3. If convicted, he could face a life sentence.
But Manning also had the opportunity to make clear in his statement why he did what he did and that was because he saw the US government as “obsessed with killing and capturing people” in wars that were never-ending, and committing atrocities in the process. He thought that exposing its practices were the only way to spark a national debate and bring this wrongdoing to end.
He initially tried to get the mainstream media like the Washington Post and the New York Times and Politico interested in his material but they were not responsive which is why he uploaded them to WikiLeaks. This is a good thing because we know that those media are extremely subservient to the government when it comes to issues of major wrongdoing and would have been unlikely to publish the dossier or would have only released selectively after getting government approval. That is the way the ‘free media’ works in the US.
I suspect that the Obama administration will continue to push for convictions on more serious charges and will likely succeed because it has created a ‘legal’ system where it is almost guaranteed to win. It wants its pound of flesh from Manning in order to deter anyone else from even thinking of revealing its criminal acts.
Glenn Greenwald has been following the Manning case closely and has a must-read post about the significance of what Manning did.
Without question, Manning’s leaks produced more significant international news scoops in 2010 than those of every media outlet on the planet combined.
This was all achieved because a then-22-year-old Army Private knowingly risked his liberty in order to inform the world about what he learned. He endured treatment which the top UN torture investigator deemed “cruel and inhuman”, and he now faces decades in prison if not life. He knew exactly what he was risking, what he was likely subjecting himself to. But he made the choice to do it anyway because of the good he believed he could achieve, because of the evil that he believed needed urgently to be exposed and combated, and because of his conviction that only leaks enable the public to learn the truth about the bad acts their governments are doing in secret.
Heroism is a slippery and ambiguous concept. But whatever it means, it is embodied by Bradley Manning and the acts which he unflinchingly acknowledged today he chose to undertake.
I believe that the verdict of history will be much kinder to Manning than it is now. He will be seen as this generation’s Daniel Ellsberg, while president Obama’s treatment of him will come to be seen as a shameful blot on the nation’s history.