Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Good Day For Bradley Manning

Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.
David Coombs, attorney for Private First Class Bradley Manning

Yes, you might say that. Obviously you celebrate your victories, no matter how small, no matter what else is coming around the corner at you like an out of control Spanish train.

A military judge ruled today that Bradley Edward Manning was not guilty of aiding the enemy, a charge which carries a life sentence. That is the good news for the Private. The bad is the same judge found him guilty of 20 other counts, including one of leaking intelligence while knowing it would be accessible by the enemy. If the judge decides to go all maximum on the 25 year old GI he could get hit with as much as 136 years. That would be in addition to the 20 he might already face because he has previously pleaded guilty to 10 other counts. Now I'm not big on math, or longevity studies, but if those numbers are added up with his current age, Mr. Manning won't see the outside of Leavenworth Military Prison until he is 181 years old. I guess some good days are a tad less hopeful than others.

Manning is the soldier who released to WikiLeaks approximately 700,000 classified documents regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Coombs he was, "trying to ply his knowledge to hopefully save lives." He added that his client thought he could make a difference.

Not hardly, but then the PFC isn't the first to have thought something as naive as that and probably won't be the last. It is a bright and shining disease that infects many of our young. Large numbers of us have displayed its symptoms in the past.

Of course the army, in its infinite wisdom, put young Mr. Manning in a position to hang himself despite a myriad of warning signs they were dealing with an intelligent, but highly troubled individual.

A cursory reading of his biography on Wikipedia shows the kid should have never been allowed around classified information at all and in fact shouldn't even have finished basic training.

He was born just up the road from Oklahoma City in Crescent. It is a tiny burg on the edge of the Oklahoma wheat belt. It's only previous claim to notoriety had to do with the Kerr McGee plant on its south side. It was the place that employed Karen Silkwood, who tried to blow the whistle on the poor quality of the nuclear reactor control rods being manufactured there, plus a number of safety issues. She ended up dead in a ditch as she was driving to meet a New York Times reporter. The documents she was supposedly carrying at the time were never found. But, as we all know, that's an old story and is currently available on NetFlix.

Manning didn't have an easy childhood. Although computer savvy, he was dealing with his Welsh mother who was not only chronically ill, but also chronically lost in the bottle. His parents divorced and he loathed his father's new wife. He was a slight child, effeminate, unsure of his sexual orientation, and an easy target for bullies.

All of that followed him into the army after a period of borderline homelessness and menial jobs. According to one source who knew him, he was constantly hounded by not only the drill sergeants, but nearly everyone else in his platoon. At 5'2" and 105 pounds he was an easy mark. It got so bad he was washed out of basic training. Despite the bullying and his sometimes angry and verbose responses to his platoon leaders, Private Manning was reinstated because the modern army needs computer geeks and not a lot of them apply for the openings available.

His mental state was such that before he was sent to Iraq, Wikipedia reports, two of his superior officers considered leaving him behind. They felt he could be a risk, not only to himself, but others. His condition was so iffy he was referred to an Army mental health counselor. Soon after he was deployed he threw a screaming fit when he was punished for being late to his job multiple times. During the outburst Manning overturned a table that held a computer and had to be physically restrained.

He was sent to Iraq in October of 2009, By November of that year he was in touch with WikiLeaks. In February of 2010 they began to publish the material he was sending them. In May he was ratted out to the FBI by a civilian he had confided in on line named Adrian Lamo. He was arrested on May 27th.

Now the army is going to send the little man away because he violated his oath and he disclosed all sorts of  information they didn't want made public. What they will never admit is they should have known Bradley Edward Manning was the loosest of all cannons. He had been dealing with tortuous mental and emotional issues from practically the moment he was born and certainly since his enlistment, but they ignored it all.

PFC Manning has been called a criminal and a traitor by some and has been saluted as a hero by more than just a few, One of them is Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times back in the early 1970's. They exposed the government's cover up of the true extent of American involvement in the Vietnam War.

This nation has been sucked into far too many wars that have nothing to do with either the constitution, or national self defense. They were fought just because they felt right at the time to the people running the country. The first three off the top of my head are the war with Mexico, the war with Spain and the war in Vietnam. Compared to those three adventures the invasion of Iraq was the most crass and cold blooded of them all. The others could at least be written off to blatant imperialism and some bizarre notion of saving south east Asians from themselves. The only thing the invasion of Iraq had to do with was the length of G.W. Bush's cock and the value of Dick Cheney's stock options.

So, in the end is Bradley Manning really a hero? Has he made a difference and saved us and others from ourselves?

I'd love to say so, but he hasn't. He is just another wounded soul who had a mind caving in on itself and was stuck in a place he should have never been. The nation is no better off because of him, or the information he made public. Neither is the world. America is still wound up in a collective hubris that demands we and we alone as a country make the difference, but only when and where the powers that be decide. The brute reality remains that more often than not the conflicts we become mired in are determined, not by altruism, but whether a scant few of us can make a buck.

PFC Manning leaked the information, but the Army is the one who gave him access to it. They are also the ones who knew he was not suited to wear the uniform they issued to him.

Now they've convicted him because they were too stupid to acknowledge it.

Ultimately, the truth is, Bradley Edward Manning didn't say a thing we didn't already know, or at least should have known.

Unfortunately for him, some of us are pissed off because he had the temerity to say it out loud.


sic vita est


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