Hero or Heretic?

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August 31, 2010

Do you know Bradley Manning? And no, he is not related to Preston. Some would argue he is a new American military hero. Some would argue he is a traitor. We have no idea how the history books will paint him. We don’t even know the details of the case because there is a pending legal investigation around it, but here’s what I’ve gathered from the various quasi-news sources.

As a young man Bradley Man­ning enlisted in the mil­i­tary and was soon dis­patched to Iraq.  Even though he was away life was good for Bradley.  Back home his high school sweet­heart was wait­ing for him to come back.  In the field, because of he was a smart man and because he had demon­strated him­self as a loyal sol­dier, he quickly moved up within the ranks of intel­li­gence offi­cers.  Pretty soon he was inter­cept­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion between Iraqi com­bat­ants and prop­erly relay­ing high level top secret Amer­i­can doc­u­ments.  It wasn’t long though before his life became a lot more com­pli­cated.  His work was becom­ing quite stress­ful and his girl­friend unex­pect­edly broke up with him.  Whether it was his increas­ingly dif­fi­cult job or his sud­denly tur­bu­lent love life, some­thing snapped in Bradley.

You see, Bradley’s job required him not only to dis­cover the enemy’s secrets, but also to keep his own country’s secrets.  It seems as though Bradley had prob­lems with both parts of his job.  His job was to look for secrets that would demon­strate how evil their enemy was.  It seems to me that Bradley didn’t dis­cover as many of those secrets as he needed.  But the secrets he was being asked to cover up, that was a whole dif­fer­ent story.  We don’t know what Iraqi secrets he dis­cov­ered, but we do know some of the Amer­i­can secrets he was asked to cover, only because he stopped cov­er­ing them up.

Wik­ileaks is a web­site that invites peo­ple to make anony­mous sub­mis­sions of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion.  A while ago, a lot of clas­si­fied Amer­i­can mil­i­tary infor­ma­tion started appear­ing on this web­site.  Then, what really got people’s atten­tion was when a secret Amer­i­can mil­i­tary video appeared on youtube.  The video showed Amer­i­can sol­diers in a heli­copter shoot­ing at Afghan chil­dren with­out ade­quate evi­dence and then laugh­ing about it.  The response to his actions have been swift, he was quickly arrested and is due to be court mar­tialed for high treason.

It needs to be said how­ever that he has only been charged with doing these things, and it will be up to US mil­i­tary lawyers to prove in court that he is guilty.  My sense how­ever is that it will quickly become clear what he did and didn’t do but much more atten­tion will be paid to whether or not those things are ille­gal.  Cer­tainly releas­ing clas­si­fied mil­i­tary secrets is ille­gal by def­i­n­i­tion, but some­times peo­ple get away with doing ille­gal things if it uncov­ers the more ille­gal things that other peo­ple do.

Read­ing about this story and the com­ments peo­ple post on those arti­cles makes clear that this is a hugely polar­iz­ing issue.  Peo­ple are love him or hate him.  So far though it’s really only seemed to be an eth­i­cal and legal dis­cus­sion, but I’m sure it won’t be long before some influ­en­tial reli­gious peo­ple weigh in with their opinions.

If you want to find more infor­ma­tion, you can fol­low any of these links:

It’s unclear how pub­lic this trial will be, but I think this is only going to get more interesting.

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I’ve tracked and sup­ported Bradley’s case since day one. If he is guilty, he has done more in stop­ping these wars, than I have over the last 40 years and will pay a price far higher than I and most I know. I’m also an US Army vet­eran and a life mem­ber of Vet­er­ans for Peace. Bradley was enlisted, not an offi­cer. He was pro­moted nor­mally as any sol­dier in a tech­ni­cal field, who did their job and stayed out of trou­ble. After an alter­ca­tion with a fel­low sol­dier he was busted down from a Spe­cial­ist E-4 to Pri­vate First Class E-3.
I’m writ­ing a crit­i­cal analy­sis of the offi­cial report on Col­lat­eral Mur­der. It will be on my face book page and most face book pages that sup­port Bradley.

Thanks Tom for the clar­i­fi­ca­tion of some of the details from this story. I salute you and your VfP allies who are work­ing to stop these wars.

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