A friend who leaped out of character to shout me down in a discussion of Bradley Manning a month or two ago, replied to my mild-mannered email making the points he hadn’t let me make in the car by telling me I deserved a more thoughtful reply than he was able to craft at the moment. I probably posted something about it here at the time (here, at the end of this post). I was shocked at his ferocity, after he asked me casually what I thought of Manning’s disclosures.
We had a more measured discussion a few weeks later, inconclusive. Then, earlier today, I opened the following can of worms:
ME: I agree with the ACLU Comment on the Bradley Manning Sentence
“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. A legal system that doesn’t distinguish between leaks to the press in the public interest and treason against the nation will not only produce unjust results, but will deprive the public of critical information that is necessary for democratic accountability. This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”
HE: I heard that the government asked for 60 years and that the defense sought 30 years. Although I didn’t follow the case in depth, my sense is that the sentence of 35 years, in the context of the history of Bradley Manning, is cruel. The Union’s proportionality comment and its comparison between treason and leaking, are hard for me to address without a better knowledge of the pre-trial and trial record of the case. Puzzling, is why the defense sought 30 years. What’s your guess?
ME: The defense asked for 25 years, I guess they figured that was the best they could hope for, given his guilty pleas to many of the charges, the trial, and the judge’s rulings. 35 years does seem an unduly harsh sentence, but Manning’s head goes on a pike as a warning to any other conscience-stricken nerd who may fancy himself a person of conscience. We do that now.
Many of the issues are hard to address knowledgeably since most of the trial record has not been released. Kind of a neat loop they have there, in a dark side Dick Cheney kind of way. Although it seems the gov’t stipulated that no actual harm was caused by Manning’s disclosures. Nor was any war crime apparently investigated as a result. What happens in war stays in war.
Nothing ambiguous about this part of the ACLU’s statement:
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.
Lt. Calley, for his part in the belatedly reported My Lai carnage, three years under house arrest. I think Calley was the only American punished for that massacre.
I guess the judge considered herself merciful for shaving four months off Manning’s sentence for the cruel and unusual (except for Gitmo detainees) detention Manning suffered while awaiting American Justice, you know, the nude solitary confinement in an outdoor cage and that kind of thing.
As my old man used to say “doesn’t this make you glad to be an American”?
HE: In this era, there is a violent war between secular and sectarian in which we have been killed and injured and are in danger. The theory is that government exists to protect us. In such anomic times, it seems as though the community approves of giving the government a good edge when it comes to social control over autonomy. In kinder times, the edge swings back to civil liberties.
I thought about replying, then thought better of it. The man has a fine vocabulary, I had to look up “anomic”.
Dig it, complete with a fitting quote from Charles Krauthammer:
an·o·mie or an·o·my (n-m)
n. 1. Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values.
2. Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals: “We must now brace ourselves for disquisitions on peer pressure, adolescent anomie and rage” (Charles Krauthammer).
[French, from Greek anomi, lawlessness, from anomos, lawless : a-, without; see a-1 + nomos, law; seenem- in Indo-European roots.]