Why I Didn’t Side With Bradley Manning

So, unless you live in a cave, you know that Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison today. And that he will be eligible for parole in about 10 years.

I’m not sure it’s enough.

Yes, I’m empathetic to Manning’s personal story. He had a really crummy childhood. He didn’t know who he was in many ways. He was a lost kid and a confused young man. He probably felt alone in the world for much of his life. I’m not sure if he ever had any good friends. What a tragedy for anyone, especially a sensitive, lonely person like Manning.

But when his family and community failed him, the United States military took him in, trained him, housed and fed him, gave him a good job, even promoted him. Yes, he was badly mistreated by some individuals in the military, and I’m befuddled as to why those individuals weren’t dishonorably discharged and punished. However, because of the U.S. government, young Bradley Manning had a good income, health insurance, a place to live, an interesting livelihood, the ability to travel, and (at the worst) a reason to get out of bed in the morning, which is a hell of a lot more than millions of Americans—indeed, many million more world citizens—had at the time Manning called up Wikileaks and said, “hey, I’ve got access to gazillions of these confidential documents. Want ’em? I can email them right to you.”

Right . . . he disagreed with some American policies related to the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War.  Well, Bradley, SO DID EVERYONE ELSE EXCEPT THE CRAZIES.

Right . . . he felt enraged that American citizens were (in his eyes) not engaging in a dialogue with our elected representatives to keep the wars, and all their horrors, moving toward an end. But Bradley, HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF US WERE PAYING ATTENTION AND TALKING EVERY DAY.

Right . . . he was shocked by a small population of U.S. military personnel’s behavior toward Iraqi citizens. C’mon, Bradley, SO WAS EVERYONE ELSE!

Right . . . he felt alone and isolated. Boo-hoo.

He wanted transparency. He was sensitive. He wanted justice. He was deeply troubled by injustice. I get it.

But I just can’t understand his leaking all that stuff to Wikileaks. Hundreds of thousands of documents, supposedly.

That’s not transparency. And it’s not justice. You’ll never convince me otherwise.

If he would have had the chance to read through and analyze all the materials and ensure he wasn’t endangering any lives or the security of the country he’d sworn to protect, I might be more forgiving. But no one would have the ability to wade through everything he leaked. He didn’t leak anything specific that particularly irked him, intellectually or morally. He leaked every damn thing he could get his hands on. He didn’t care what he was leaking. He threw a big temper tantrum because things weren’t going so well for him, and (after being rejected by The New York Times & The Washington Post) took the info to Assange, who must have salivated greedily even as he dug his feeble, cowardly claws deeper into the literal and metaphorical hideaway that he can never leave.

I know, I know . . . as a Great Democracy, the United States cannot begin setting precedent for prosecuting citizens who reveal secrets that make the government look bad. U.S. citizens need to feel safe in questioning our government and, when necessary, revealing scandalous information that may make our elected officials or our republic look bad. I get that.

But that’s not what Bradley Manning did. He willfully turned over classified documents that he probably couldn’t even identify today, because he was feeling angry and lonely and disenfranchised. It seems to have been all about Baby Bradley. Worse, he doesn’t seem to have considered the potential consequences of his actions. I’d like him to reply honestly to this question:  Did he really believe the information leaked would improve anything? Or did he think he’d get some attention and feel better for causing a ruckus while joyfully making his own government (you know, the one who clothed, fed, housed, and employed him) look bad?

I think it’s the latter.

Here’s what I did when I was really, really pissed off at President George W. Bush for declaring war on Iraq (remember, no WMD’s) and then continuing an asinine war that makes to no sense to this day, and which has probably endangered the United States for many decades to come for the hate it provoked:  I sent nasty, nasty emails to President Bush and his so-called Vice President. I told them they were ignorant asses and that they didn’t have me fooled. I told them how short-sighted they were to declare war on a defenseless country and that now everyone hated us, thanks to them. I told them that when I visited Europe in 2007, I sewed a Canadian flag on my backpack so I might be able to fool a few people into thinking I wasn’t American. (I am from Minnesota, so I already have the accent.) I told them that I was going to talk to everyone I knew and explain how stupid our country’s leadership was.

I wrote a couple of letters to the editor of my local newspaper, spouting off. Some people called me to say “good job” and some called to leave me nasty, anonymous messages. I didn’t have caller ID at the time—they were lucky!

I called and emailed my United States Senators and Representatives and explained why I thought the war in Iraq was a big mistake and made suggestions for how to get out, fast.

In short, to an extent that helped me release my frustrations and express my displeasure, I voiced my opinion.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Like Manning’s supporters, I like people who aren’t “yes” people, and I like that about Manning. I like that, despite the shitty experiences he’d had in his life, he wanted to do SOMETHING. But why did he have to do what he did? He could have hurt us badly, and the info he provided may still hurt us badly in the future. I’m incredibly disturbed that he didn’t really know what he was doing or what he was getting into. His actions could have done great harm to those he was paid to serve, and he didn’t seem to think about it. In short, he was desperate to do something, so he did anything. He gave the info to anyone who would take it.

It was not only dangerous, it was thoughtless. Manning was no more thoughtful toward his government and his fellow citizens, than were those people and institutions in his life who wronged him. How pathetic.

Shame on you, Bradley Manning. I guess you’ll have to grow up now.


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