I’m writing this fully expecting a huge “liberal backlash”—and that’s fine. As I’ve said many times before, I write to express my opinions on certain topics, not to pander just so people will agree with what they’re reading.
Almost 2 months ago, I wrote a piece where I did a little background on Bradley Manning and expressed my belief that he’s much closer to being a traitor than a hero.
Now let me be clear, I don’t feel that Bradley Manning was “aiding the enemy” (the more serious charge he faced and was found “not guilty” of).
I don’t believe for a moment Mr. Manning leaked this information out with the intention of helping terrorists or anyone that we consider an enemy.
But the bottom line is, Bradley Manning willingly leaked classified information that could have resulted in the loss of American lives and violated the code of military conduct. A code which he swore to uphold.
Now, his supporters only look at “what” was leaked, while ignoring the much larger picture. At the time he recklessly leaked over 700,000 pieces of classified information, he had no way of knowing what horrific consequences could have resulted due to his actions.
It’s a question I’ve posed to almost every one of his supporters that I’ve come across:
If the information Bradley Manning leaked had resulted in the death of one of your loved ones, would your opinion about his actions be the same?
When I ask the “I am Bradley Manning” people this question, I rarely get an answer. Usually I get some kind of deflection or hyperbole which never directly addresses the question.
See, it’s easy in retrospect to say that the information Manning leaked didn’t directly result in any American loss of life. But Manning had no way to know this. There’s no possible way he knew everything that was contained within the hundreds of thousands of documents he released.
And laws suddenly don’t become nullified simply because someone doesn’t get hurt. Drunk driving doesn’t suddenly become legal because the driver made it home safe and vigilantes don’t become justified simply because some might agree with their actions.
“Batman” might make for a great superhero in a comic book or movie, but could you imagine if some billionaire actually decided to go around taking the law into their own hands as some masked vigilante? I’m sure that would go over really well.
But as I said before, this wasn’t a long time veteran in the intelligence community who carefully organized information to leak out to expose atrocities (and yes, some of what Manning leaked was horrific). This was an individual who did an information dump, grabbing as much as he could, as quickly as he could—simply because he had the access.
During an appearance last month on HuffPost Live, we discussed Mr. Manning and whether or not his actions were justified. During that segment one of his defenders compared him to Martin Luther King Jr. and called for him to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Both statements I found completely ridiculous. First, the Nobel Peace Prize statement simply made no sense. Second, comparing him to Martin Luther King Jr. put on full display how many of Manning’s supporters simply don’t “get it.”
Manning wasn’t a civilian like Dr. King was. If Manning remained a civilian and spoke out strongly against the war and what he felt were disgusting acts by our government, then by all means—he has that right.
But that wasn’t the case. Bradley Manning volunteered to join the United States Military while we were at war—even though records indicate he strongly opposed both wars prior to enlisting.
Then if he witnessed events which he felt were illegal, unethical or should be exposed, there were better ways to do that then leaking them to some foreign “activist” who was already wanted by the United States. You can’t tell me if he somehow got information about what was going on to someone like (for the sake of argument) Congressman Dennis Kucinich or Congressman Ron Paul—that this information wouldn’t have been made public somehow.
There are enough activists within the United States he could have made contact with where he could have found a more responsible way to expose some of the horrible things he had been witness to, without handing over hundreds of thousands of classified documents to some foreigner.
Now I’ve seen other whistle-blowers in the private sector try and compare their stories with that of Mr. Manning.
But again, they completely miss the basic and undeniable truth—he isn’t a civilian. When you’re in the military you’re subjected to a whole different set of rules. Every individual who joins the military does so voluntarily (we haven’t had a draft in decades) so when they swear their oath and sign the papers—they’re agreeing to abide by a completely different set of rules.
This wasn’t some executive at Bank of America exposing fraud. This was a United States soldier, deployed to war, dumping hundreds of thousands of classified documents without having any possible way to know if that information could put our troops at greater risk.
You can’t argue that point, nor can you negate those rules simply because you “disagree with them.” Bradley Manning knew what he was signing up for, and when he volunteered to do so, he gave up his rights to be a political activist. He gave up his rights to speak out whenever he wanted to.
But he just didn’t get that. By accounts of his behavior while in the military, before the leaks, he had behavioral problems dating back to basic training where he was almost kicked out before completing his training. While deployed at war he also suffered from discipline problems, and anyone who’s read about these stories will quickly realize this guy had no business being a member of our military.
Which I still maintain is an issue that should be investigated. How does a guy who barely made it through basic training, and had continued problems with discipline while deployed to war, end up being granted access to so much classified information?
And while I’m sympathetic to what Manning might have seen as horrific acts being committed during a time of war (and I agree some were) when you become a member of our military you lose the right to be a political activist.
From the moment Bradley Manning swore an oath to our military, then violated that oath by illegally leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents, he betrayed his country and became a traitor—period.
But like I’ve asked his supporters before, “If his leaking of this information had led to the loss of someone you deeply loved and cared for who was serving overseas, would you still support his actions?”
Because imagine this headline:
Over 3,000 American Troops Killed After Army Private Bradley Manning Leaked Over 700,000 Classified Documents Which Exposed Troop Locations to Our Enemies
I highly doubt many would be calling him a “hero” then.
And just because that didn’t happen this time, doesn’t mean it can’t happen when the next “Bradley Manning” thinks about leaking classified information that could potentially put American lives at risk.
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