Man­ning case a dark mo­ment in US his­tory

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - CHEN WEIHUA

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. chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

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