Sunday, August 18, 2013

Bradley Manning Is A Moral Giant

Credit for all photos of Manning: Bradley Manning Support Network / 
Made available for unrestricted use by Manning family
Bradley Manning's apology during the sentencing portion of his court martial trial for whistleblowing had a shocking effect on many. Because they have championed Manning for releasing evidence of war crimes and U.S. State Dept. complicity in corporate government, many activists were disappointed in his stating that he was sorry, and that he now regrets the unintended consequences of his leaking actions.
When I hear this, I wonder if he perhaps means unintended consequences like a month in a cage in Kuwait, ten months in solitary confinement in the Marine brig at Quantico, Virginia, or perhaps being on trial with the possibility of a life sentence just for sharing information.

Other commenters have noted that 90 years in jail would cause many of us to recant.

I would like to note that Manning chose to testify as an unsworn witness. This prevented the prosecution from cross-examining him, and also means (I think) that he did not swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. Remember crossing your fingers behind your back when you were coerced into saying something you didn't want to say as a child? This is what I would like to believe Manning was doing.

Another thing that many found shocking was his own defense team's decision to share a photo of Manning coiffed and made up as a pretty woman, attached to an email he sent to his superior in the Army with the subject line "My Problem." The attempt by prosecutors to portray Manning as a person deeply troubled by gender identity issues, and thus unstable, appears to have been adopted by the defense during the sentencing portion of this trial. (Of course much of what the prosecution has alleged has been kept ultra-secret from the public, who only pays for every penny of all the war crimes, court martial trials, confinement and so on.)

The defense introduced this material to make the point that Manning had tried going through the proper channels to get help for his isolated, stressed position in the ultra-macho atmosphere of the U.S. Army during the occupation of Iraq. His commanding officer says he never forwarded the email or shared Manning's concerns up the chain of command because of his concern that the photo would be shared widely and that Manning's life there would become even more miserable. This sounds humane, and may well have been humane, but it also had the effect of keeping Manning in his job as an information analyst during a period of extreme emotional duress. And it is in that context, apparently, that the defense hopes Judge Lind will view Manning's actions.

David Coombs is considered the pre-eminent court martial defense attorney in the U.S., and I sincerely hope that he knows what he is doing.

There was something during the sentencing trial that did shock me. It also hurt me so badly that I just laid my head down on the kitchen table at 6am and had a good cry.
Manning's older sister testified about their childhood growing up with parents who were both alcoholics. She said that their mother drank constantly while pregnant with her little brother, and that he was neglected and underfed as an infant. This seems to explain Manning's extremely small size, which often appears in stark relief as he is swarmed by the enormous beefy soldiers tasked with guarding him.

I am the adult child of an alcoholic parent, and have watched members of my family drink themselves to death. I also continue to live with and cry over the generational effects of alcohol addiction and other forms of substance abuse in my extended family. It is not a pretty sight, and the littlest members -- the ones who haven't started drinking yet and who I fervently hope won't fall prey to the family illness -- are who I thought of when I learned the ugly truth about Manning's earliest years.
I will stand on a different bridge than usual this Sunday, speaking up for peace and against war with Starr Cutler-Gilmartin and her friends. I will wear my Bradley Manning support t-shirt, and I will be thinking about Manning's sentence which will probably be handed down in a couple of days from now. I have stood to support Manning outside Quantico, outside the White House, outside Leavenworth prison in Kansas; I have read the accounts of people like Medea Benjamin and David Swanson who went to the courtroom at Ft. Meade to hear Manning's statement last week. I read reporters Alexa O'Brien and Kevin Gosztola often, because they have so faithfully covered the trial of Bradley Manning.
Manning will always be a towering figure in my mind, a person of great moral stature who dared to strike a blow for truth in the hope of making a better world for us all. Although I will probably never meet him, I send him love every day.

After he is sentenced, I will be in the streets protesting his spending even one more day in jail for his actions. Click here to find a demonstration near you.

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