Thursday, August 22, 2013

The high price of exposing the truth

Yesterday Col. Denise Lind sentenced Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for exposing the truth. He exposed the lies, deceit and criminal acts perpetrated by our government. He exposed human rights abuses. He exposed war crimes.

Yes, the documents he provided to WikiLeaks embarrassed the US government. Yes, it put government officials in tricky positions after their lies and deceit were exposed to the world.

Bradley Manning never stood a chance at trial. The convictions were a foregone conclusion. The only question was whether Col. Lind would play along and convict Mr. Manning of aiding the enemy. While she made the right call on that charge, she gave the government its bone with the sentence she pronounced.

President Obama told the world - before the trial ever began - that Mr. Manning was guilty. Damn the evidence, full speed ahead, Mr. President. Let's just gloss over the fact that Mr. Manning didn't pass the documents to the "enemy." His actions hurt no one. He wanted to foster debate on the policies of our government. He wanted to let the world know the truth about what has been done in our name.

Among the materials he provided to WikiLeaks was footage of an American helicopter gunship mowing down civilians - including journalists and a father and his children.

Mr. Manning was subjected to torture by his own government while awaiting trial. Of that there is no question. It's the reason that Col. Lind gave Mr. Manning additional credit for the time he served before trial.

So, while Mr. Manning is serving his 35-year sentence for exposing the truth, there are five men who acted with the intent to harm Americans who are serving shorter sentences for their crimes.

David Hicks is an Australian national who fought alongside the Taliban. He was captured, sent to Guantanamo Bay and sentenced to seven years in prison.

John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban," was captured fighting alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan. Mr. Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Noor Uthman Mohammed was convicted of providing material support to terrorists and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri is a Qatari citizen who was living in the United States on a student visa. He admitted to providing material support to terrorists and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kevin William Harpham is a white supremacist in the US who pled guilty to trying to bomb a Martin Luther King Day parade in Seattle in 2011. He was sentenced to 32 years in prison.

So, while Barack Obama campaigned for the White House in 2008 on a platform in which he promised to end the wars in the Middle East, to close down Guantanamo Bay and to promote greater transparency in government, President Obama stood up and declared Bradley Manning to be an enemy of the United States. Bradley Manning followed a higher duty than preventing the US government from being embarrassed. He followed a higher duty than covering up the war crimes committed by US military personnel in the Middle East.

For that he is looking at spending the next 30-plus years behind bars.

Sometimes the price we pay to expose the truth is quite high. Bradley Manning deserves praise and thanks for what he did - not 35 years behind bars.

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