Opinion: History will pardon Manning, even if Obama doesn't


#1

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#2

If Manning had only disclosed information about war crimes and misdeeds, I would completely agree that history will pardon her.

But she also disclosed information that had the potential to endanger completely innocent people and to disrupt legitimate and very important diplomatic efforts. I can imagine some of the ways Manning might have justified that to herself--or simply not realized it. But I have a hard time forgiving it.

Our justice system generally follows the philosophy that it's better to let the guilty go free than to wrongfully punish an innocent. I think that's a pretty good ethical rule, and Manning essentially violated it.

Manning's case wasn't handled perfectly (the solitary confinement thing seems vindictive and wrong to me), but I actually think the court martial got it right in the end. She was acquitted of the bullshit "aiding the enemy" charge, but still convicted of the crimes she actually committed, and given a sentence that was very harsh, but still a lot less than harsh than what the prosecution was seeking or what other lowly intelligence officers who stole confidential information have received (not that what Manning and Pollard did was analogous, but it's still a useful point of comparison).


#3

Thanks, John Cassidy and Xeni. I think this part bears repeating:

Amid all the discussion of the rights and wrongs of whistle-blowing
and WikiLeaks, it’s easy to forget what exactly Manning revealed. In
an article last month calling for him to be pardoned, the *New
Republic’s* John Judis provided a useful reminder of some of the
incidents captured in the battleground reports that Manning released:

American troops killing civilians, including women and children, and
then calling in an airstrike to destroy evidence; the video of an
American Apache helicopter gunship shooting civilians, including two
Reuters reporters; American military authorities failing to
investigate reports of torture and murder by Iraqi police; and a
“black unit” in Afghanistan tasked to perform extrajudicial
assassinations of Taliban sympathizers that killed as many as 373
civilians.

What has happened to those responsible for these acts? In most cases,
not much. For example, no charges have been brought against the U.S.
military personnel who were in the Apache helicopter when it opened
fire in Baghdad, in July, 2007—an incident that my colleague Raffi
Khatchadourian wrote about at length in his 2010 article on Julian
Assange and WikiLeaks. “When a soldier who shared information with the
press and public is punished far more harshly than others who tortured
prisoners and killed civilians, something is seriously wrong with our
justice system,” the A.C.L.U.’s Ben Wizner said in a statement. Could
anybody disagree with that?

The idea that Manning belongs where she is for breaking confidentiality agreements, which might have hurt people though I have never seen any incidents named, while she was trying to expose people who were breaking international law, killed people, and are still free, should obviously be a terrible mockery of justice. Yet many are really happy to make an example of the one but quick to forget the other, and we are much poorer for it.


#4

If Manning had only disclosed information about war crimes and misdeeds, I would completely agree that history will pardon her.

But she also disclosed information that had the potential to endanger completely innocent people and to disrupt legitimate and very important diplomatic efforts. I can imagine some of the ways Manning might have justified that to herself--or simply not realized it. But I have a hard time forgiving it.

The security state is very comfortable making decisions that endanger innocent people, and for much more poorly informed rationales than those of Manning. If we can get closer to ending that state, it's better to go ahead and do it--and doing things has consequences. There's still no credible evidence that anyone has been harmed as a direct result of Manning's actions, but even if somebody had it would still be worth it.


#5

Considering how many people consider her a hero now, I'd say this opinion's a fairly safe bet.


#7

I cannot find ANY good excuse for waiting for 'history' to judge Manning at all. Waiting for history to do so is the same as throwing up our hands and saying, "Oh well....". If Obama will not issue a pardon, then it is on us to ensure that the next election sees this as a campaign issue.

Manning's defense showed at trial that the information revealed was already available publicly through other sources. This is why no guilty verdict could be had concerning endangering out troops. And, once you take that charge off the table, there is no real support for the sentence given, let alone the overly long imprisonment and torture prior to the trial.


#8

History doesn't have a lot of credibility these days. The current standings in international public opinion:

  1. Manning
  2. History
  3. Obama
  4. US gov/military
  5. The war criminals Manning unveiled (who were never charged).
  6. The profiteers who lied to invade Iraq (Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc) but were never charged.

#9

Manning was crucified, there's no other term for it. History will judge the United States very harshly for all the events that occurred after the 9/11 attacks, including both wars and the surveillance society that has sprung up since. We have horribly lost our way from our guiding national principles.


#10

There are any number of activities one can engage in which have the "potential to endanger completely innocent people."

There is no evidence that any of what Manning revealed harmed any innocent people. The "diplomatic efforts" she disrupted included spying on UN representatives, lying about air strikes that actually (not potentially) killed dozens of innocent people, and protecting the Bush administration from investigations into their torture program.

What do the people who tortured Manning deserve? Do you think Manning deserved more time than people who actually sold secrets? Do you have a "hard time forgiving" Obama for all the actual, real people whose lives have been destroyed by his policies and actions?


#11

Id be more sympathetic if this wasn't just a simple case of someone who's inconvenient to the Empire being stomped on. As long as there is not equal prosecution, there is no justice. Ted Rall nails it, as usual:


Apparently the fewer people you kill, the more guilty you are, and worst of all is the man who killed no one. If this were only about the law, the list of prosecutions would be much longer, and very different.


#12

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