Manning case a dark moment in US history
US soldier Bradley Manning, who leaked a trove of US government and military information to WikiLeaks, was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Wednesday. Without Manning, people around the world would not have known the many secrets of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and the hidden American atrocities in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the killing of civilians and journalists. Had it not been for people like Manning, such information would still be lying among the mountains of classified documents, and the US government would still be glorifying the wars.
No wonder, the court decision was immediately condemned by the American Civil Liberties Union. Ben Wizner, director of speech, privacy and technology project of the union, says something is seriously wrong with the justice system when a soldier who shares information with the press and public gets a more severe punishment than those who torture prisoners and kill civilians.
The United States led the invasion of Iraq to “find” weapons of mass destruction, which of course the Americans knew were not there. The US and its Western allies turned Iraq into a war zone, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians. But still no one has been held responsible, let alone sentenced to 35 years behind bars, for those crimes.
I liked what comedian Steve Colbert said when Manning was acquitted three weeks ago of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy but was found guilty of violating the Espionage Act. Colbert “discovered” that Manning was actually spying for the American people against the enemy. And the enemy was clearly the government.
On Wednesday, Manning’s defense lawyer David Coombs read an eloquent letter from Manning, seeking pardon from US President Barack Obama. In the letter, Manning explained why he leaked the information. “It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.”
Manning compared the war in Iraq and Afghanistan to the dark moments in US history, including McCarthyism and the Japanese-American internment camps. He believes many of the US actions since Sept 11, 2001, will one day be viewed in a similar light. The 25-year-old quoted late American social activist Howard Zinn as saying that there is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.
Manning challenged Obama by saying: “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”
I guess a lot of people are eager to know Obama’s response to the letter. Will the Nobel Peace Prize winning president pardon Manning and have the courage to acknowledge and apologize for the war crimes in Iraq?
As a young senator from Illinois, Obama bravely opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Although he must have drawn a lot of criticism for his remark and even been labeled unpatriotic, today it is clear that those who opposed the war are the real heroes and real patriots.
That is how Manning should be seen. He is a real patriot who loves his country and humanity. And Obama could prevent this case from becoming a dark moment of his presidency by granting Manning pardon. The author, based in Washington, is deputy editor of China Daily USA. firstname.lastname@example.org