Home > United States > Don’t punish him, punish them

Don’t punish him, punish them

According to press reports, Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks, faces court martial, the outcome of which could be life in prison. While there is no question that the diminutive soldier has committed a reprehensible action and exercised bad judgment, the breach of security is minimal and most of the documents did not deserve to be classified in the first place. The main consequence of the leak has been diplomatic embarrassment. Also, there’s something unpleasant about such a gift to unsavory Assange. So definitely try Manning, chastise him, discharge him. But life in prison? If nothing else, past history should show us that the Daniel Ellsbergs, Bradley Mannings and other whistleblowers are indispensable to a free society. It takes courage for people who know that they are being manipulated or lied to to bring the story out in the open, consequences be damned. And yes, sometimes they shouldn’t.

Compare the howls of outrage of the military in this case to the awkward response of the same brass to the truly awful story of the four Marines laughing as they urinate on the bloodied corpses of dead Afghans. Listen to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta muttering a few pious sentences about how “utterly deplorable” he finds the incident. Really? “Utterly deplorable”? A Navy spokeswoman said that the authorities have not decided whether to press charges. But, listen to this, they will try to find out who created and posted the video now gone viral. In other words, desecrating corpses is not too bad, telling the world about it is. Murdering Pat Tillman? Hush now, shit happens.

Nothing much has changed, has it? It all sounds much like the ugly Abu Ghraib incidents where no one except a couple of white-trash underlings were held accountable. But that was in the time of the loathsome Cheney/Rumsfeld team. What’s the excuse now?

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