Before, I start I want to acknowledge that Bradley Manning has much bigger attachments than most people and that includes me. He is one of the few people in the world that have been willing to make a huge personal sacrifice to do what they think is right.
Carol Burnett once said that Comedy is Tragedy plus Time. I think a corollary of that might be A Hero is a Traitor plus Time. Maybe you don’t think Bradley Manning is a hero – although I think he is – and the judge has already ruled that he is not a traitor by throwing out the charge of Aiding the Enemy, and it is still too early to look at Manning and see reality through the fog of our own preconceptions, but he has exposed to light a dark part of our National Character.
Today, most people think that Daniel Ellsberg, if not a hero, was a patriot and a positive contributor to our collective history. But, that is now. In January of 1973, he was thought a traitor by the government and brought to trail under the Espionage Act as well as charges of theft and conspiracy. He would have gone to jail for up to 115 years if the judge hadn’t thrown out the case because of government misconduct. That is much less likely to happen in the military court where Manning is being tried.
What Ellsberg did do was embarrass the United States – or, more accurately, the Nixon, Johnson, and Kennedy Administrations, or, even more accurately, powerful, people in those administrations – by showing, in Ellsberg’s words, that the [Nixon and] Johnson Administrations had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance. Bradley Manning has done pretty much of the same thing only with alot more documents.
Among 91,731 other classified documents, Manning gave WikiLeaks videos of an American helicopter airstrike in Baghdad in 2007 and an airstrike in Granai, Afghanistan in 2009. Both airstrikes were most likely accidents and both were classified. The 2007 airstrike was was against a journalist and two other men who were Reuters employees carrying cameras (the helicopter then fired on a van that stopped to help). The 2009 airstrike killed somewhere between 86–147 Afghan civilians (depending on who is counting).
We don’t like to admit that we kill journalists or civilians in our hygienic wars and, when we do kill them, it often gets covered up. To kill journalists or civilians is embarrassing. I don’t think that making wars and killing seem civilized and controllable is in the best interest of the United States and I don’t think that the guy who exposes these cover-ups should be put in jail.
Democracy is doomed without informed citizens, says Robert Meeropola, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg’s son, and I believe he is right. That is where I disagree with the Obama Administration. Maybe I don’t disagree with Obama himself, maybe he really does still believe in the transparency that he ran on. Maybe his administration is going after Manning only because they think they have no political choice, or, maybe they are only trying to cover their asses. I hope Obama still believes in transparency, but I don’t know and have no way of knowing, so I can only hope.