The irony of Bradley Manning and his act of conscience
President Obama tried for months to extend U.S. military involvement in Iraq beyond the December 31, 2011 deadline. Negotiations between Obama and the Iraqi government broke down when Iraq refused to grant criminal and civil immunity to U.S. troops.
It was after seeing evidence of war crimes such as those depicted in “Collateral Murder” and the “Iraq War Logs,” allegedly leaked to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning, that the Iraqis refused to immunize U.S. forces from prosecution for their future crimes.
Besides helping to end the Iraq war, those leaked cables helped spark the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, Bradley Manning faces court-martial for exposing U.S. war crimes for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of pages of these classified documents.
If Manning had committed war crimes instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today. If he had murdered civilians and skinned them alive, he would not be facing the death penalty.
Manning faces more than 30 charges, including “aiding the enemy” and violations of the Espionage Act, which carry the death penalty. However, after a seven day hearing, there was no evidence that leaked information imperiled national security or that Manning intended to aid the enemy with his actions.
On the contrary, in an online chat attributed to Manning, he wrote, “If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”
He went on to say, “God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
[Excerpt of an article by Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law]