Bradley Manning knew what he was doing when he downloaded reams of government documents and forwarded them to WikiLeaks. He knew the information was classified. He knew that he shouldn't have been doing what he was doing.
Well, except for the fact that he exposed human rights violations committed by our government. He had a duty to reveal that information. After all, at the Nuremberg trials we found out that a defense that one was just following orders was insufficient to keep a noose from being tied around your neck.
But maybe that was just because those put on trial for committing war crimes were the losers in the war. No one ever puts the winners on trial. Maybe history will - one day.
Bradley Manning was a whistleblower and, just like every other whistleblower, he broke the rules to expose the wrong doing. That's part of the game. These folks who are willing to stand up and tell the truth about what's going on behind closed doors do so at a great price. Sometimes the consequences are financial and sometimes they're greater.
Pvt. Manning knew what that price was - yet he did what he thought was the right thing anyway. Without his actions we would never have seen video of the chopper killing children and journalists while the soldiers inside acted like they were playing a video game. The film was classified not because there was anything secret about what happened - it was classified because it was really embarrassing.
Yesterday Pvt. Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges filed against him - but he was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. Even though he was acquitted of the charge that could have brought about a life sentence, Pvt. Manning is still looking at the possibility of spending decades behind bars.
The aiding the enemy charge was dismissed by Col. Denise Lind because the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manning intended to provide the material to enemies of the United States. But the remaining charges do cast a large shadow on advocates for more government transparency.
Yes, the world's a dangerous place. Yadda, yadda, yadda. And part of the reason it is a dangerous place are the policies of the US government that are carried out without benefit of illumination. Our government has a sorry record of backing military dictatorships and authoritarian rulers due to fears that those who produce wealth will one day rise up and demand their fair share of the pie. Our government provides the weapons of war to despots in order to keep the steady drip of oil from running out. Our government has done things during this so-called War on Terrorism that we would condemn if the other side did the same.
Our government occupies over 100 countries around the world by the use of military bases. Our government gets involved in the internal politics of nations all over the globe in an attempt to ensure that politicians who favor a neo-liberal economic agenda and who are friendly to global corporations sit in the seats of power.
Just imagine the outrage if these roles were reversed. Would the US stand for another nation putting a military base in the Lower 48? What would be the reaction if it turned out that a foreign government funneled money into an American election?
Bradley Manning peeled back the curtain and for that he will be punished severely. The entire circus that has surrounded this case from the beginning has only served to distract the public from the real issues. During the trial we were consumed by the question of whether or not he intended for Osama bin Laden to see the information. We've questioned whether or not he exceeded his authority to download the material in question.
But few people questioned the basic assumptions of this case. No one in the mainstream media questioned whether or not government officials violated international law or committed human rights violations. No one questioned whether it was proper to charge someone criminally who exposed wrongdoing to the press. No one questioned whether the actions of our government that Pvt. Manning exposed were proper.
President Obama has come down harder on whistleblowers than any other president. He has made it his mission to keep the American people from knowing what their government does in their name. He has gone after those who exposed wrongdoing with a vengeance.
Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have done us all a service by exposing the illegal actions of our government. History shall be the judge of how they should be rewarded.