Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Truth and Private Bradley Manning

Trials, lawyers will aver, are about seeking the truth.
This is, of course, hogwash. But then again, we are talking about what lawyers say.

Mad Dog is reading all he can about the Bradley Manning trial, and it is not easy. Discerning "the" truth is always a dicey proposition.  Likely there are many truths, and whose truth is more important is difficult to say.

Mr. Manning, Mad Dog suspects, was and is a tortured soul.
He may have been struggling with his sexual identity. His father may have pushed him into the military to "make a man" of him.
But so far, as far as the testimony has leaked out, according to the New York Times, when he was asked by a fellow hacker why he did not want to sell the documents he was planning to leak to Wikileaks, Manning replied he did not want to sell them because he thought they ought to be public property. Of course, we need to know more details, but this, at first blush, does not sound like an opportunist or a traitor. It sounds like a man of conscience.


And what exactly was contained in those thousands of documents? 
Did any of them actually expose agents who had worked on behalf of the United States to danger, as one would think revealing a spy might do?
Come to think of it, did Dick Cheney and company get thrown into a cell with 24 hours lights when he revealed Valerie Plame was a spy, and did that revelation endanger the lives of agents she ran?

The trial is young, but so far it appears what was really exposed was a raw nerve in the Obama administration, an administration which got us out of Iraq, saying it was the wrong war, which we could all understand because it looked just like Vietnam- no real purpose, no real achievable mission, a no win situation. 

Then there is the issue of 20,000 documents. If you want to really hide something well, like the Arc of the Covenant, you hide it among 20,000 other documents or boxes, as they did in "Raiders of the Lost Arc."

So far, Mr. Obama and Mr. Holder look no better than Richard Nixon when it comes to vindictiveness against those who would embarrass them. 

The thing is, embarrassing an administration, revealing the lie behind a war ought not be a crime. It ought to be considered an act of patriotism. When Daniel Ellsberg released a voluminous document from the Pentagon, the famous Pentagon Papers, detailing the lies which led us into Vietnam and which underlay that war's prosecution and raisen d'etre, he was not imprisoned. He was cheered. How is his case different from that of Private Manning?

On the other hand, if Mr. Manning did not examine those documents to be sure he would not be exposing and endangering lives, maybe he does deserve to be behind bars.

But one thing is clear, from the way he has already been treated, this is not a prosecution by a deliberate, clear headed, objective administration. This is a personal vendetta in which a man who has not yet been convicted of anything has already been tortured, when, in fact, he ought to have been treated with elaborate respect and courtesy. 

There will be time enough for meanness, after a conviction. Until then, if you treat any prisoner with anything less than complete politeness it is the accuser on whom most suspicion must lie.

If the Wikipedia article on Private Manning is accurate, it suggests the signs of Bradley Manning's personal angst were so obvious it beggars the imagination why a man as manifestly in crisis was allowed to be:  1. In Iraq, i.e. a war zone 2.  In the military (after at least one prior attempts to discharge him) 3. In proximity to any sort of secret or sensitive documents.  You do not put the boy who plays with matches, who burned down his school in charge of the ammunition dump. 

One thing which must be true if even a sliver of what is on Wikipedia is true is the Army must be the worst organization in the world when it comes to evaluating its own people. It is hard to imagine how it could be any worse. 

Remember Major Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who opened fire on unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood?  Now, there is another example of a soldier who had trouble written all over him, but his commanders responded to his palpable craziness by simply transferring him to some other unit.  The man gives a lecture at the Army medical school in Bethesda saying Muslims should kill infidels and his superior officer transfers him to Fort Hood, Texas. The rest is history, or rather, infamy.

Evidently, the Army can compete any day with  the Catholic Church, when it comes to dealing with problem personnel.


  1. Mad Dog,
    One of the differences between Ellsberg-who certainly had his detractors at the time-and Manning is that Ellsberg was a much more senior and knowledgeable informant. He had worked on the PP so he knew exactly what he was releasing. The same can't be said of Manning, which goes to your question of why such junior level personnel, never mind potentially troubled ones, have access to information so critical to national security. If every Tom, Dick and Bradley(sorry MD-I couldn't resist..) has access to it is it really as important as the government portrays. Wouldn't that be like the maintenance man and part-time teller having the combination to the bank vault? In any case, if his leaks really did jeopardize national security or put behind the scene operatives in danger the government may have no choice but to prosecute.

    I agree the military does seem to be falling short on some critical issues like rising suicide rates, sexual assaults and security breaches to name a few, but my money remains on the Catholic Church when it comes to an inability to deal with problem personnel...

  2. Maud,

    Ah, the imagery. One of the best things about this blog is seeing the images Maud can evoke: The keys to the vault held by the teller and the maintenance man. Do management have a problem here?
    In the case of the military, it appears to Mad Dog the powers that be really do not know what good is; consequently, they cannot recognize bad when they see it.
    This is what I think the MBA's would call a "structural problem."

    Mad Dog