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Bradley Manning's Post-Sentencing Statement (holdenweb.blogspot.com)
412 points by llambda on Aug 21, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 184 comments

"I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity."

One of my best friends spoke similarly when I met him after his tour as a Marine in the first Gulf War in 1991. Based on what he saw, after long introspection, he applied for conscientious objector status. He felt he was sent around the world not to protect his country's freedom or safety, but government and corporate interests. He felt his conscience could only oppose all wars he could possibly imagine his country fighting. He could only learn that by going, not from what his government told him before going.

The situation today seems more objectionable than then. I feel like the more we learn about the government's actions, the yet more objectionable they seem.

I shudder when I connect the data point then to today's and extrapolate a few years out.

But I still take inspiration from people who honor the Constitution over what seems opposing policy.

(Edit: since people are asking about what happened to my friend, instead of evaluating his conscientious objector intent, they gave him bureaucratic run-around for years until it was easier for him to get his Honorable Discharge on schedule.)

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

- Dwight Eisenhower


* 1961. We've had a half-century to get used to it then so I suggest take responsibility for that instead of pretending it's something that fell out of the sky and landed on us.

It is fundamentally different pre-1989, after the existential threat to the world went away (mostly), than now.

I honestly would have been happy with current NSA monitoring (if disclosed) if it were effective to reduce the odds of nuclear war with the USSR. As it is, it would have been ineffective then, is clearly ineffective now, and is worse for genuinely uninvolved people than the McCarthy period was for most people (who were never targeted).

I probably would have tried to work for NSA or CIA or SAC during the Cold War, as a way to reduce the odds of nuclear war by a tiny percent. Fighting shoeless jihadi fucks in caves who just want to make life hell for their own countrymen on the other side of the world isn't worth any amour of money, civil liberties, or US casualties beyond the minimum required to keep oil and lines of communication open. We don't need to sacrifice to help them, except voluntarily as private citizens.

Most of our problems are due to the Baby Boomers (IMO the most worthless generation to walk the earth) not recognizing that 1989 was a sufficiently large change to completely recast how the US should approach security. Until 2008 (and then 2010, and clearly 2012 and especially now), the Boomers (and older) were the only political force in the US.

After seeing the way you post in all these threads, you're the worst kind of apologist.

That was an unnecessary and uncivil remark about anigbrowl.

I'm saying this despite the fact that I probably agree with you about Manning. I was once much like the descriptions of him, possessed by a combination of high intelligence, arrogance, emotional confusion, and moral naivete, and frequently in denial about very obvious realities before me. In as much as I can forgive myself for being a bit of a messed up kid, I can forgive Manning.

Anigbrowl has been very actively trying to defend the NSA and USG - and I am 100% against that.

It is not uncivil to call him out. His position is the enemy of freedom.

Manning and Snowden are heroes.

There are nuances in arguing that what the NSA/Manning/Snowden did is wrong or right . It isn't a 100% black/white and/or issue. It seems HN thinks that it should be this way, but it isn't like that in the real world we live in.

I understand that position, and there are nuances to to the matter, but I am coming from the position of my personal principles - which are far less nuanced.

I am 100% unequivocally against the NSA, the USGs position on this and the entire world that supports this. It is not the reality I want for anyone to live in a reality with absolute surveillance and no freedom of thought. I refuse to accept this.

You will never get to the truth by shouting down those that oppose your views. As long as someone is willing to engage in an open and robust discussion ... The minute "opinion, belief or faith" enter the equation, an intelligent conversation is dead. Otherwise, you should get to the truth.

I would hope you have more respect than 100% belief in just about anything. Look up the Socratic method for some good example of flaws in anything being 100% wrong, or 100% right.

I'm not saying I'm 100% right. I am saying I am 100% against the NSA surveillance state.

Also, we can have soft debates all day long, but I stand for the belief that what the USG, the NSA are doing is against a free and sovereign state and I am taking a stand.

Did this belief just start last month because of Snowden?

Heh, no. While I am not going to point to my online history - I have held the same position for several decades. I have been aware of these programs since the early 90s.

You can see in my HN comment history where I talk about my first learning of USG backdoor requirements in Cisco gear in 1997.

The thing is, by refusing to accept a middle ground and holding an extremist position, all of your arguments carry much less weight. In particular, your arguments about the non-extremists like anigbrowl that you disagree with because they are leaning towards the other extreme are going to be ignored by just about everyone, save for other extremists.

So what I'm saying is, if you really care about the NSA and USG not abusing their powers - and most of us care about this - you're not actually helping yourself or anyone else by holding on to a black-and-white position.

So, I am uncivil for calling Anigrbrowl "an apologist" - then you label me "extremist" and use the language "non-extremist" to describe Anigrbrowl?

While at the same time, you're deriding me for my language, and completely ignoring the issue, or the points, I am arguing, and on top of that, condescendingly advising me how to debate.

I see.

I'm using the word "extremist" because you are unequivocally 100% against the NSA. Those are your words. That's an extreme position. You could not possibly be more against them, because you're at one extreme of the continuum of beliefs about the goodness of the NSA. Whereas anigbrowl is not an extremist, in that he is not unequivocally 100% in favor of the NSA.

I'm not even sure why it's offensive to you that I'm calling your position extremist, or you extremist in so far as you adopt that position, given your clearly stated understanding of your position. I'm an extremist when it comes to the badness of molesting infants, for example. I understand that this is hypocritical with respect to what I wrote above, I just feel that strongly about it.

But "the worst kind of [government] apologist" is needlessly pejorative and doesn't advance any useful argument, besides indicating that anigbrowl's position is somewhat pro-NSA, which is not a priori a bad thing.

He felt he was sent around the world not to protect his country's freedom or safety, but government and corporate interests.

There's nothing new about that.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Is_a_Racket (by Gen. Smedley Butler)

http://www.amazon.com/Overthrow-Americas-Century-Regime-Chan... (by Stephen Kinzer)

Yes, there is.

Unlike tens of millions that served their tour silently and never questioned requests they were given, regardless if it meant to protect a hospital building, or machine-gun group of civilians from aboard hovering helicopter, this guy, knowingly he could pay the ultimate penalty of life in jail, decided to go against selfish interests of his superiors and altogether with his heart's gut.

And for taking this stand, he's go my lifetime's respect.

EDIT: since this is getting upvoted heavily, I want to add something:

Imagine that every single soldier is a copy of Bradley Manning. Than when a supervisor breaks the law, they blow the whistle. As a result, you can imagine two things happening: either army would stop existing (doubt that) OR supervisors, colonels and all those little monsters in power would STOPPED breaking the law once for all. Its as simple as that.

Okay, you can say: get down to Earth, this is War, War is always dirty. Sure. So my response is: the last War we been at was World War 2. We have no business WHATSOEVER to be (or ever been) in Iraq, Afganistan, or tens of other places where US soldiers are currently deployed. None! All those "wars" we fighting are NOT in the name of peace or freedom of Americans, living tens of thousands of miles away, here on US soil. The War we are in right now are in most part because there is easy tax-payers money to be grabbed and the Industrial Military Complex do not want to rest on not spending trillions of dollars. That's it!

EDIT 2: next time you say: "oh there is a chance Manning did endanger lives of US citizens". Maybe yes maybe no. Maybe if grandma would have mustache she would've been grandpa. But do yourself a favor: go and watch Youtube helicopter massacre that Manning uncovered. I assure you people you watch ARE beyond any shade of doubt DEAD.

I think you misinterpreted the text quoted by the parent as referring to Manning's actions. It is not; it refers to the government's impetus for war as realized by the GP's friend.

I like your comments and think they are of a serious nature, but oh man!

> Maybe yes maybe no. Maybe if grandma would have mustache she would've been grandpa.

Is the funniest comment I've seen all year!

Manning joined the military in late 2007 or early 2008...long after incidents like the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib, and even the admission by President Bush himself that the decision to go to war had been based on faulty intelligence.I cannot take Manning's claims that he had no clue that there was anything untoward going on until he arrived in Iraq and began reading secret military reports.

Now, I wouldn't have expected him to have an adult's awareness of all the political issues, but did this young man never see the front page of a newspaper or watch a television news broadcast during the previous four years? You would have to have been living under a rock to be unaware that the US invasion of Iraq had been the subject of controversy.


So, is it too hard to accept that direct exposure to the magnitude of what was actually happening made him conscious of his role in perpetuating institutional violence? That perhaps in his service as a low level functionary of the army intelligence service he became conscious of how he was acting as part of the machinery of oppression that held him down as well? One could almost say that he became conscious of himself as a member of a class of people who enable the oppression of others so that it falls slightly less harshly upon their own backs.

Yes, that is too hard for me to accept. I've talked to many people who were younger than Manning who were well aware of the immorality of the war in general and things like Abu Ghraib and torture in particular. My view is that you should think about issues of this sort before you join the military.

Just because some people younger than Manning have a better grasp of where they stand on the war and its morality doesn't mean that Manning actually had, or should have had, that same understanding at the time he signed up and joined the military.

People come from different situations. I care a lot more about politics and our general situation as a country now than I did at 18-21... honestly I just didn't give a shit until about 25. Then I became interested and decided I needed to be well informed. Are there people older than me who are still uninformed? Yes. Are there people younger than 25 who give a shit about these things. Yes.

Nothing requires that Manning have developed these interests before he joined the military.

Also, while it is "your view" that these things should be thought about before joining the military, I can guarantee you that every person I knew going into the military when I was in high school did not think about these things at all. It was mostly two reasons, economic, or their family expected them to enlist as that's just what people in their family did.

While the army and the world might be better off if people thoroughly examined these issues before enlisting, that's just not the current state of things.

Hell, Abu Ghraib was just bad apples, officially, and said apples were punished.

So it would have been entirely possible to go to war in its wake without expecting to participate in its like. After all, officially (from the outside), it was condemned.

So maybe he was living under a rock. Is that a crime?

What is the alternative hypothesis, that when he joined he had an understanding of the ongoing horrors? That seems harder to believe than "he was in fact living under a rock."

More likely, it's easy to convince a teenager. "yeah, there may be a few rogues out in the middle of a war zone. There are hundreds of thousands that serve with honor, and those that don't will be punished. Please sign here.

One view of the military recruiting teenagers is that the military exploits the fact that a large fraction of teenagers are really eager to belong to something.

If that's your argument, then we shouldn't trust them with the ability to vote, enter into contracts, or get married.

Only if we start from the premise that there is no middle ground between totally infallible and too stupid to take any responsibility.

I meant teenage boys. Okay, you have a really nice daughter, cute, sweet, pretty, darling, adorable, precious, a girl you have never been able to say "No" to, who has had you wrapped around her little finger since she was six months old, great student, cooks, sews, plays piano, great babysitter, loves kids, popular, etc. and at 16 falls in love with a boy 18 and wants to get married. You "trust" him with your daughter?

That little scenario aside, the claim in my statement is that the military doesn't just use the strong desire of teenage boys to be members of groups but exploits it. The exploitation is in basic training, etc.

It's a manipulation.

For voting, entering into contracts, and usually even marriage, the role of manipulation is usually much lower and the consequences less deadly.

Absolutely, though I'd consider such naive trusting to fall somewhere in the general neighborhood of "living under a rock".

Or being 18 years old ;)

He was between the ages of 19 & 20 when he joined the Army. I think it's quite reasonable to expect basic adult awareness of what organization he was signing up for and to be aware that the Iraq war was far from a clean-cut ethical situation. If he lacked such basic awareness, then that does not say very much for his judgment, does it? As it was, he had been described since high school days as 'very smart, very opinionated, very political' and had taken college classes in history before signing up for the army.

As it was he had a Top Secret clearance before he was ever deployed to Iraq. Now there is no way he got a Top Secret clearance without exhibiting the ability to understand the military context he was headed into. If he had ethical reservations about the conduct of the war then it just might have been a good idea to raise them prior to deployment, no?

I'm not unsympathetic to the guy, but taking his story at face value requires adopting a position of spectacular naivete.

Not everyone thinks like you, not everyone has the same experiences and viewpoints as you. There are people all over this country that continue to enlist in and support the military, and view it and the government as forces for good. Obviously he knew there was some controversy, but so what? That doesn't mean he's going to make the same conclusions as you.

You're arguing from a certain viewpoint, and being blind to the fact that people can come from different places that are entirely foreign to you. Maybe he was brainwashed, or willfully ignorant, or something else; whatever the case may be, it's possible for people to come to realizations that they were unable to see before.

A parallel is useful. My father joined the Junior ROTC in high school, and the ROTC in college. He rose eventually to the rank of second lieutenant in the US Army Reserve. He started taking some of his college time to do charity work in Mexico and eventually ended up helping build houses in a Native American community that had finished an uprising against the government. He returned to file for conscientious objector status only to discover he had been promoted to First Lieutenant. Given that Vietnam was escallating, they refused his request for a general discharge and he refiled. They called him up for active duty and he refused. They sent him to to the stockade and he set himself up as the go-to person for helping people apply for conscientious objector status. His request for a general discharge was rejected again, on the basis that he was too honorable for it. Six months later (more time in the stockade, I think totalling around a year), they reached a deal where he would teach a driving course and be honorably discharged. The course was done on film, but by the time they finished it, they discovered that Lt. Travers had made such a name for himself in the stockade in terms of helping people apply for discharges that they couldn't use it. At the end of the day he was honorably discharged and the court martial called off.

It's one thing to watch movies or think about things. It is another thing to see the results of war with one's own eyes.

There are two meanings of "expect" which are often in conflict. Consider:

"A mother walks into her living room to discover her teenage son playing video games the night before a big math test. Reasonably upset, she says, 'I expect you to do well on that test tomorrow.'"

Now, does she think that her son will do well on that test? No, she wouldn't be upset if she did. Does she nevertheless consider it his responsibility to do well? Of course. She does not expect him to do well on the test, but she does expect him to do well.

It is not reasonable to expect a 19/20 year old who is signing up for the military to have a full appreciation for the implications of his action and the actions of the military he is joining. Nevertheless, society expects exactly that of him.

He had a Top Secret clearance before he ever went to Iraq. I think it is reasonable to expect a minimal degree of introspection and self-awareness from anyone who's entrusted with a top secret clearance. We're not talking about some involuntary draftee here, as if he had top secret clearance foisted on him when he wasn't looking.

Expect? Sure. Expect? No. Regarding it as obligatory is fine. Regarding it as likely is just being foolish. Do you have any experience with people?

Seriously though, what is your thesis here? That he joined with the intention of leaking secrets? That he doesn't actually think anything objectionable was going on? What? You have made it plain that you think he should have known that shit was hitting the fan, but you haven't actually made a point.

I have made a point - that he knew, or should have known what he was getting into. If he failed to do that (which I don't believe) then he should not have trusted his own judgement about what was or wasn't constitutional and what should be leaked - because the vast majority of what he leaked didn't expose any wrongdoing whatsoever.

My thesis is not tha the joined with the intention of leaking secrets. My thesis is that he joined up thinking it would help him straighten out his sexual identity issues and when it ended up making them worse it's unfortunate (largely for himself) that he didn't seek a medical discharge on basis of his gender dysphoria and the severe stress it was causing him. I don't think he's an inherently bad person, but if you're going to carry a top secret clearance you have to be aware that that's some Serious Business.

Do you have any experience with people?

More than you seem to imagine. It's because I've spent so much time out at the fringes of society that I have so little patience with this infantilist bullshit. Like Manning, I left home and (broken) family at a young age to make my own way int he world, instead of going along with the crowd on the conveyor belt. I sympathize with him, but I also think that respecting his right to make his own choices also involves investing him with the responsibility for the outcomes of those choices.

I like what I see of Manning, but think he made some catastrophic mistakes that's he's going to be paying for for the next few years. Your view of events is predicated on him being a helpless automaton that joined the army and earned a top secret clearance without understanding what any of that meant, which is to deny him agency for his own actions.

I don't think it's necessary that he "know or should have known" what he was getting into. We have shitloads of people with top secret clearance in this country. In order to view certain documents for various jobs, it's just a clearance you have to have. There isn't a requirement to know the larger picture, and where you stand, with any specific accuracy.

Do you believe it's plausible to change your views? I think the most likely situation is that he thought he knew what he was getting into, and, through his access to lots of top secret documents, ended up learning more things, and thus changed his mind.

I mean seriously, have you never gotten into a situation where you learned information that changed your mind?

As I see it, you are the one that thinks him some sort of automaton who must always be making the most logical conclusion from the evidence available to him. The slightest fault there seems to cause you to to jump to the other absurd extreme.

He's not perfect, obviously. Joining the army when he did was stupid as hell just for staters, I don't think we disagree there. Does that lapse in judgement signal a broader permanent disability of some sort that will follow him for the rest of his life? People change, you should know that.

If he says that he decided that the war was objectionable after he joined, I believe him. I have no reason not to, nothing about somebody changing their mind conflicts with my mental model of normal people with agency of their own. Normal people with their own agency can change their mind, that isn't suspicious.

Automata don't draw conclusions, because they don't think. Of course he could have changed his* mind, but if you do after having joined the army, obtained a top secret clearance, and spent time n theater, then obviously it means your earlier decision was misplaced. Having just made a major wrong decision, you're not in a good position to start interpreting the Constitution on your own and dumping information out left and right.

As I keep pointing out (and nobody has refuted), nothing in the State Department cables revealed any unconstiutional or even awful activity. So our diplomats also spy on on other diplomats they meet - shocker! This is what diplomats do, and intelligence-gathering is a normal function of embassies. The trouble with Manning's argument from principle that it doesn't really explain the bulk of the leaks (I have acknowledged repeatedly that leaking materials which appear to show actual war crimes is justifiable).

* I'm using the male pronoun because that's the identity he was using at the time. As of today she is now living as a woman and has changed her name to Chelsea Manning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_manning#Gender_reassign...

Are you saying it is impossible for a person to change their stance based on time and increased exposure to something? Heck if you had asked me when I was 20 my stance on any number of things and then asked again today, you'd find they had changed. The basic facts about them haven't changed, but my perspective and exposure to their consequences sure has,and therefore so has my understanding and attitude towards them.

How is it so unbelievable that a kid wanting to serve his country was changed by the experience of doing so, having been placed to see what it means firsthand?

Finally, it is well understood that brain development continues into the mid 20s - so changes to thinking should be physiologically expected at least.

Have you known many, um...humans? We are all of us terribly, terribly eager to be on the right side. When we see evidence that our side is wrong, our first instinct is to doubt it, to discredit it, or to ignore it entirely. Changing our minds on issues of core identity does not come easily, if at all. Some of us realize all this; some fewer struggle against it; fewer still manage to actually escape it, sometimes, for a while, in some cases. God knows I try, but the definition of the beast is that we rationalize failure as success; you can never know whether you've actually succeeded or just found a new level of self-deception.

Young Manning's "spectacular naivete" is what the rest of us call "the human condition." But maybe you're the one actual rational human being in all of history. Congratulations.

That makes perfect sense to me, and I've also been aware since my early teens that there are plenty of people out there who will try to manipulate people on that basis. Count me out from this moral vacuity you describe.

A surprisingly large number of Americans live in a position of spectacular naivete--in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on. Until death.

Apparently it's not all that exclusive to get top-secret clearance to government intel (as evidenced by the Snowden incident).

Also, who is it that was calling him 'very smart, opinionated, and political'? It could be that he was smart, opinionated, and political in favor of the agenda that the army invaded Iraq & Afghanistan under. If I'm in a position of power in the Army and I see that someone is smart and opinionated in favor of my agenda, that's someone likely to gain a security clearance from me.

I don't completely disagree with you though. It seems pretty logical to me that war is a nasty business where morals are swept under the rug.

I think it would take more thorough research to postulate on Manning's political leanings prior to the war. My gut feeling is he was liberal-leaning prior, and his conscience was attacked by the reality of what he experienced.

"taking his story at face value requires adopting a position of spectacular naiveté."

It really doesn't. Just need ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Admittedly not easy. Hard enough to do when building an app for users, let alone analyzing someone else's life choices.

Every empire has a propaganda apparatus. I'm sure he thought he was doing the right thing, more or less, when he joined.

Don't give me that, even if you never looked past the front page of a newspaper you would have to have known that Iraq was a giant clusterfuck.

It's not hard to believe that some portion (if not the majority) of people joining the military genuinely think they are doing something good.

I had a friend who joined the National Guard long before the Iraq War. When the push to invade started she expressed grave reservations about the impact on the world. One thing she said was "if we go to war, do you have any idea how much history will be lost?"

She was called up to serve, and served in a war she honestly believed was unnecessary and wrong. She never was willing to talk about her experiences over there. A year after she got back, she hanged herself.

It is easy to look at the military and assume that these are people without a conscience. It is harder to recognize that people can join the military for a large number of reasons, many good, and when duty calls, the conflict between political opinion and duty is not always an easy one to resolve.

I believe that the majority of those who join the military do so out of the belief that they are doing something good. Those who eventually realize they are not pay a heavy price one way or another. Either like my father they go to jail (my father went to jail for refusing to go to Vietnam--- he was a First Lieutenant in the Army Reserves at the time), or like my friend end up taking their own lives.

read the starship troopers. it's a little entertaining little short story.

But it hit like a punch to face when you finally grasp how the mind of a kid gets turned around in the army. In the end, even you are being proud of his dumb and blind service to the war effort.

If you are looking for an intentionally anti-militaristic message, I recommend the movie over the book. If you enjoy unintentional messages, the book is fantastic too.

Clusterfuck for sure, but it doesn't seem to be relevant for many. People continue to voluntarily sign away their civilian rights and join the military. Somehow the fact that you are signing up to kill people (or support those who do) for corporate profits doesn't deter. What's worse, society continues to place a high honor upon those who agree to continue this process.

I recall noticing a shift in popular rhetoric recently. People went from fully supporting the war to perhaps no longer supporting the war, but still supporting the troops. I think another shift may be required before the obvious giant clusterfuck makes any damn difference to people signing up.

How many teenagers read newspapers?

I mean, I did, but I also didn't join the Army...

That would be expecting someone who is 19 in the late 2000s to actually read a newspaper.

You can also add in the fact the war was incredibly unpopular. Considering the mainstream media coverage at the time (I don't recall a positive article the entire war) it's hard to imagine he still had no idea about what we were doing there with all of the negative media coverage.

His naivety was his undoing in many ways.

anigbrowl wrote: "I cannot take Manning's claims that he had no clue that there was anything untoward going on until he arrived in Iraq and began reading secret military reports."

Do you all seriously belive that Manning could say anything else at this point? There are many other possible frames of mind he could've been in when joining the military and getting secret clearance, but he cannot express any of them (at least not if he wants that parole in 8 years).

Maybe he expected that post-admission operations would be cleaner.

"I shudder when I connect the data point then to today's and extrapolate a few years out." Well put.

How much of the military enrollment is based on taking advantage of the naivety and emotional charge of young adults that will then be (ab)used for hidden interests ? It does not seem very far from terrorist organizations processes ..

> Based on what he saw, after long introspection, he applied for conscientious objector status.

Successfully? I'd think it would be much harder to do so after initially agreeing to fight.

It should be possible to change ones mind about something.

Lots of conscientious objectors do so from a religious viewpoint, but having a conscience is not exclusively reserved for people of some religion, you are welcome to have one all by your lonesome. And that conscience can start to ask annoying questions about your actions and affiliations which can cause you to change your mind about something.

What is more worrisome to me is that it would be something that could be refused. If someone states they have no will to obey the government entity they have applied for then they should be allowed to leave. The alternative feels too much like ownership to me.

Oh, I agree with you completely. That doesn't necessarily mean it works that way, though. Conscientious objector status requires proof, and as I understand it the burden of proof is on the objector. I could easily imagine that that burden of proof would be higher if the objection occurred after initial acceptance, especially voluntary acceptance.

My father was eventually granted CO status after spending a year in the stockade for failure (well, refusal) to report for active duty. I don't know how things there have changed since Vietnam though.

I imagine it's quite a bit more difficult to argue int he absence of a draft.

Why do you "apply" for conscientious objector status? Surely that means they can decide whether or not to accept it.

> Based on what he saw, after long introspection, he applied for conscientious objector status. He felt he was sent around the world not to protect his country's freedom or safety, but government and corporate interests.

Isn't that the basis of ALL war?

> Isn't that the basis of ALL war?

Its the basis for at least one side in pretty much all war, but every side in every war (at least since treating war as a private rather than public affair and paying troops by overtly giving them either land grants in conquered territory or the right to loot conquered territory fell out of vogue) presents that as the other side, not their own side.

I've always argued in defense of Manning's actions, but simultaneously that he did break military law and should we be a nation of laws, he should be treated accordingly.

I was wrong.

The State breaks the law. And it does so daily. For helping to point this out Mr. Manning deserves a prize, not a punishment.

Yep, the rule of law argument is really only valid when the laws are not a shamble, otherwise you just come off as authoritarian as far as I can see.

How do we get more people to evolve to this position?

That's the really bad news of the age: I don't think we can.

"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." - http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_Planck

Ideas, just like science, advance one funeral at a time.

I'm not entirely sure that's true. Consider the rapid advances in the mainstream acceptability of LGBT concerns over the past 20 years, and the number of people who have come to `a new understanding'. Similarly, the shift in perspective over the acceptability of racism; James Meredith, the student whose enrollment at Ole Miss sparked riots, is still alive as are many of his schoolmates. I'm reasonably sure that most of them have had their opinions regarding integration changed by public opinion and the subsequent years.

It would be interesting to know the amount of background efforts in the years prior to these "sudden groundswells" (which makes me think of the overnight success myth). For example in the civil rights situation, a a t of stuff happened in the background of WWII and immediately after in the army, as well as having lots of academic and popular writing going on.

I'm also interested inthe demographics of the social graph of the wave of support. I suspect it starts in the 20somehing crowd realizing that they are allowed to have their own valid opinions and taking up the banner that was conveniently placed there for years prior waiting for them to find it. All those years it was available were formative years for those people and the idea was floating in the background, therefore not foreign.

All good points.

One of the best arguments I came across as an undergrad was Kohlberg's stages of moral development [1].

Of his 3 stages, I've come to the conclusion that most people never evolve past the second stage which is basically "against the law = wrong". The point of questioning whether the law itself is unjust, or could be appropriately ignored under certain circumstances either doesn't occur to people, or bothers them more than any injustice caused.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Kohlberg's_stages_of_m...

What's worse is the cognitive dissonance in people who in one discussion will lament how some particular law is fucked (usually it is a law pertinent to their lifestyle that they take issue with, e.g. gun control is too restrictive, or marijuana is not legal), and in another discussion will white wash that idea and say what amounts to "you do the crime you do the time" as so many posts here sadly boil down to.

So we have in these discussions - everyone individually recognizes that the legal system is fucked, the laws are fucked, the way we make laws is fucked, the judges are corrupt, the prosecutors care only about case volume, the defense attorneys are underpaid and overworked, the jury is stupid and uninformed, the press sensationalizes everything, ... and drilling into any one of these topics will reveal miscarriages of justice and tragedies of procedure, but tl;dr "bradley manning was found guilty".

On the other hand, a lot of people are still upset that Zimmerman was found not guilty.

More leaks, more discussions.

I believe the word is legitimate to describe laws which people can believe in.

Unfortunately people can believe in anything.

I mentioned to a friend yesterday about the UK government demanding destruction of The Guardian's hard drives and I was told I was engaging in "conspiracy theories."

Agreed. I hope he gets a pardon as soon as possible.

Sadly, I greatly doubt he'll get one at this point. Neither this administration nor the next one (whether D or R) would be willing to forgive, let alone rollback the programs he fought against.

Best case, he'll get parole 8 years from now.

What law-breaking do you think Manning pointed out?

The Law of War:


From the prespecitve of the treatment of POWs Gitmo breaks most of those:


From the prepective of civilians in war zones, some of the tactics used in Iraq broke those:


Which of these did Manning point out?

He released tens of thousands of secret documents that highlighted the fact the USA knew it was breaking the Law of War.

One of the first releases and the one that got him arrested was the video showing a US Apache helicopter gunning down and killing unarmed civilians which is again a breach of the Law of War:


Would you kindly point out precisely which part of the various directives and agreements the actions depicted in the first three-quarters of the Collateral Murder video violate?

(You have seen the uncut video, right? It's forty minutes long. If not, I strongly recommend that you watch it. It gives a slightly different impression of what happened.)

Anyway, I understand the need to be angry about heinous acts. However, I've discovered that when one plays the "What laws or regulations does this heinous act violate?" game, one somewhat frequently finds that the act in question does not violate the letter of the relevant laws or regulations. Similarly, when one examines footage that has not been edited for emotional punch, one often reaches a different conclusion about the events pictured.

> "What laws or regulations does this heinous act violate?"

The Law of War defines rules of engagement.

To define what engagement I’m referring, consider the few minutes after 4:45 at which point the pilot "lights them all up".


Now, I’m no expert in the Law of War, so I will leave that to the lawyers.

But to me that looks like an attack on a civilian population. Considering the fact two children were also nearly killed in the attack, that adds more weight to that point of view.

> I strongly recommend that you watch it. It gives a slightly different impression of what happened.

If you think there is compelling, evidence somewhere on that 40 minute video feel free to present it.

> I strongly recommend that you watch it.

To be honest, just watching those two minutes makes me sick to the stomach. All I’m seeing is an act of barbarism.

However, this is not so much about a video and trying to determine who is right and who is wrong.

This is about a much a bigger question.

Is it right and proper for governments to suppression the truth from its people?

Reuters lost two reporters in that engagement, so naturally they asked the US Military for details as to what actually happened.

The US Military came back with the standard reply, something along the lines of:

We reviewed video of the incident and from that it’s clear the reporters were caught up in an armed conflict between the US Army and a hostile enemy.

Reuters then asked to see the video but the US Military declined the request.

If the video of the engagement (all 40 minutes of it if you like) is so compelling, why did they outright refuse to release it?

What right did the US Military have to suppress the release of the video?

Fortunately for us, Manning did release the video, so the truth did come out.

Unfortunately, for the US government and the US military, the truth is sometimes ugly and it is that ugly truth they were trying so desperately hard to suppress.

This last decade has seen the US government (not unlike most other governments) get into the bad habit of hiding the truth.

Look at how they desperately try to make examples of people like Manning, Snowden and Assange, it the hope that it will somehow deter others from letting the truth be know.

You based your reply to me on a quote that was deliberately taken out of context. Because of that, I'm not going to engage with you extensively. I see that your answer to the question that I actually asked is "I don't know what Rules of War they violated, if any, but I really like saying that Rules Were Violated, as it lends an air of authority and gravitas to my opinions.".

I feel that war is heinous, and a tool of last resort (right after "We've tried every other reasonable option, let's just do nothing and see how that turns out." is seriously considered and maybe tried for a while).

You seem to be unable to rationally think about situations that involve the killing of other humans. In order to analyze such situations, you have to temporarily suppress your visceral disgust for the situation and think about the facts of the particular situation.

In this particular situation you had one or two guys carrying what appeared to be RPGs, travelling with other men armed with RPGs and rifles near the area where US troops recently reported coming under RPG fire. Those folks were killed by people employed to kill (when deemed necessary), in order to prevent the injury or death of US troops. The van that arrived was removing enemy wounded or dead. If the occupants of that van had been successful, the folks who seemed to be involved in rocket attacks on US soldiers would be taken away and nursed back to health in an environment that would allow them to get back to firing RPGs at US soldiers. So, the van, and its occupants was destroyed.

It's a pity that there were children in the van. I can understand that calculus that lead to the caretakers of those children endangering them in the way that they did. I cannot say that those caretakers made the wrong call.

The Reuters reporters were operating in an active war zone, and travelling with armed members of enemy forces. It's a pity that they died, but that is a risk that they probably would have readily acknowledged that they were taking.

Reuters was likely denied access to the gunsight video in part because it corroborates the Pentagon's assessment of the situation, and in part because the Army isn't in the habit of handing out gunsight footage to interested non-military parties.

So, seriously. Suppress your visceral disgust for the situation, take forty minutes out of your life and watch the full-length gunsight video. It paints the situation in a different light. Whenever you feel yourself saying "What! How could they do that? That's clearly unreasonable!", pause the video, think carefully and critically about the situation revealed thus far, and maybe go back and review the last twenty or so seconds to ensure that what you thought you saw couldn't reasonably be seen in another way.

Also, stop misquoting people. I don't know why you think that that's a reasonable thing to do, but it reflects very poorly on everything that you have to say.

Lex malla, lex nulla.

In a similar vein:

"No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law" ~~ Frederick Bastiat[1]

[1]: http://www.fluxneo.com/llbarnhart/bastiat.htm

I agree with this, but only to a certain degree.

Very often laws exist in part to create legal fictions, and these laws are effectively broken all the time, but one can pretend that they are followed. These legal fictions can be extremely valuable.

For example in Indonesia abortion is illegal. The primary effect of this is that abortion clinics pay off police a small amount generally, and get prosecuted if something bad happens. Paradoxically, this is important to ensuring the quality of care. Everyone gets to pretend that abortions are banned, but in actuality, they are accessible and regulated by a position of being relatively legally vulnerable.

The problem is that when the fictions are unsustainable, then there is no semblance of respect that can be left. Once this is gone, though it isn't clear it can be salvaged. This is why this is so big. The government has shown that they have massively betrayed our trust and this means that certain tools of law enforcement just won't work in the future.

Just looked that up and learned something. Thanks!

Largely forgotten in all this is the fact that Manning was tortured in retaliation for the leaks. That this is being treated like an afterthought, with no indication of any accountability, illustrates how far we have descended in such a short time. I hope Manning continues to speak out against torture during his time in prison.

In the other article from WaPo about Manning sentencing, there was this quote:

"Manning will receive a credit of 1,293 days for the time he has been confined prior to the sentence, including 112 days of credit for abusive treatment he was subjected to in the brig at the Quantico Marine Base."[1]

The math isn't clear, but it seems to confirm he was somehow compensated for the horrible treatment. I would call it psychological abuse, not sure if it equates to torture. Given that it's a sort of admission of wrongdoing, I suspect the days of credit were part of the plea deal--otherwise he'd be persuing further actions over it.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/judge-...

While solitary confinement isn't considered torture today, there are psychologists who, after studying the effects of such confinement, have started trying to get it labeled as a form of torture.

There are some levels of pain I would actually prefer over solitary confinement.

Consider that more people kill themselves because they can't bear psychological pain than they do because they can't bear physical pain.

Isn't that because psychological pain is much more common?

I would think it's because, while physical pain readily heals, psychological pain doesn't seem to heal nearly as effectively.

FWIW (not much) his sentence included a credit for 100-something days due to "abuse" received while in detention.

Odd that even he didn't mention that in this statement?

I think he was trying to appear heroic in the statement rather than seeking pity.

FTA: One might wish that President Obama could put up such a principled defense for his scurrilous conduct in handing over the security of the American people to secret courts and universal surveillance.

What exactly is Obama's defense? I know myself and others are extremely disappointed in his direction, despite voting him in for a second term. Yet it doesn't seem like he's made any attempt at justifying his direction. Does he even feel obligated? Has he directly addressed the issues of his hypocritical back-flopping on prosecuting whistleblowers, or blatant disregard to our privacy rights? Is he just ignoring the backlash?

Here's my hypothesis. Obama is thinking about the situation like a lawyer and as a result he can't understand why there would be such a vociferous objection now of all times.

As the recently declassified FISC opinion shows, most of the NSA program is broadly within well-established law. Third-party doctrine means it's not illegal to get data from third parties like Google or Facebook, and it's well-accepted that 4th amendment protections don't apply to foreigners. The U.S. has been surveilling foreigners for decades now, and has been gathering records from third parties like banks, etc, for decades as well. The legal nit to pick with the NSA's recent efforts seems to be that it's doing searches on purely domestic communications that indadvertedly get caught in the nets (though it also seems that the NSA isn't trying very hard to make the nets finer). But you can't object to the very foundations of the program purely on legal principles.

If you're looking at it from a legal point of view, it seems like a lot of uproar over something that's bad, but not something that's bad down to its foundations.

But to the digerati, it's a much bigger deal, and as someone who is not in that group I think Obama can't appreciate that point of view. The idea of getting e-mails from Google strikes a chord with many people in a way that the idea of getting bank records from banks doesn't. The digerati oppose electronic surveillance on principle, and don't care if analogous programs have existed in other areas for decades.

Incidentally, I don't expect Obama, or old line politicians like Feinstein or Pelosi to "get it" any time soon. This seems to be a "you either get it or you don't" issue. Either you have a visceral aversion to the idea of electronic surveillance or you don't. It's much more an emotional issue as anything else, and Obama's not an emotional guy. He's also a big government liberal, so he doesn't have any reason to oppose the NSA program on those grounds. He's got the most aggressive foreign policy and national security policy of any Democratic president since, well I don't even know who. He's the second-coming of Reagan on that front. He has no reason to view this as anything other than some NSA programs that stepped out of line and need to step back on the right side of the line.

> As the recently declassified FISC opinion shows, most of the NSA program is broadly within well-established law.

The recently declassified FISC opinion shows that the NSA had a pattern of lying to the FISC about what the NSA program actually did to get it approved as within the law by the FISC, but that most of the parts the FISC had managed to find out about at the time of the opinion were still within (in the FISC's view) existing law.

Of course, if the NSA was repeatedly caught misrepresenting material facts in non-adversarial proceedings where there is no opposing party to independently seek evidence, challenge evidence, etc., how much of what remains is also misrepresentation? We don't know, and even the FISC can't know, because they can't know what they haven't yet caught the NSA lying about, but they certainly know that the NSA is willing to lie -- including to FISC -- as long as they can get away with it.

And because of that, neither we nor FISC have any idea -- from the opinion or after it -- how much of the actual NSA program is even remotely justifiable under the law.

Even if you assume the NSA was lying to the FISC, what does the solution look like? A program much like the existing one, with a stronger external check on ensuring domestic communications aren't collected? You appoint a Special Counsel in the DOJ to prosecute perjury by NSA analysts? You think that'll make Hacker News happy?

The technology crowd objects to electronic surveillance conceptually. I think a large portion don't even like the idea that Google and Facebook could be forced to hand over data pursuant to a real warrant or subpoena, and that's so well established I couldn't tell you what century it was when that power didn't exist.

> Even if you assume the NSA was lying to the FISC

"Assume"? They were caught repeatedly lying to the FISC.

> what does the solution look like?

That's a hard question, but getting enough people even starting to think about it first requires getting recognition of the problem.

It's a hard question, but the threshold issue is: how far is that solution from the status quo? If you start reasoning from the set of principles you can reasonably impute onto Obama just based on his politics, the answer is: not that far. And if you want to know why he doesn't seem that concerned about the whole situation, there's your answer.

The digerati do not oppose surveillance on principle. They oppose surveillance en masse without proper oversight (such as real warrants looked at on an individual basis by a judge and signed off by that judge, not some electronic rubberstamp or similar) which effectively turns a significant portion of the population of the globe into suspects ahead of any crime they might commit.

If that doesn't freak you out I don't know what will.

I'm not sure if you are familiar with the 'Amsterdamse Bevolkingsregister' affair during WorldWar II but maybe if you're not you could spend a half hour reading up on it.

Long story short, without that registry a lot of Jews would have survived the war. I'm categorically against any registration of personal data or communications if it is not for a specific crime brought to the attention of a judge who considers the case serious enough to issue a specific warrant.

I had been hoping that Obama's relative youth would put him closer to digerati territory, but it would seem that we're not there yet, despite his legendary social meda campaign and BlackBerry addiction. I think most people still think about spying in terms of WW2 and spy movies: individual humans listening to individual telephone calls of known targets. Obviously they don't have the resources to care about your "personal life", so they're just hunting the Worst of the Worst, right?

Only when one is savvy enough to understand that (a) a database never forgets, and (b) a well-mined database never shuts up, does the real danger of these programs become apparent.

...of course, there's also the possibility that Obama does understand all of this, either because he's somehow checkmated by the agencies and their knowledge, or he's part of the club and genuinely believes in naked power. But your theory is probably the most likely.

>Obviously they don't have the resources to care about your "personal life", so they're just hunting the Worst of the Worst, right?

Even this argument is flawed, there are FBI documents showing they very much cared about the personal life of noted communist agitator Martin Luther King.

I don't think there will ever be "digerati" in politics. Among the kids entering college this year, there are future mayors, future congressmen, and possibly even a future president or two. These aren't the kids that will one day identify as digerati; their paths diverge quickly.

OT, but I don't see how you can say his foreign policy is so robust. His Middle East policy is orders of magnitude less agressive that the Bushes militarily and Clinton's diplomatically.

I think Barack Obama is going to try to keep his public distance from the surveillance debacle. Classic power player tactics; the Machiavellian Prince is to be kept clean and associated with only good news. Dirtying themselves with dispensing punishment or handling scandals and bad news is for underlings - disposable if their sullied reputation becomes too much of a liability.

I voted for Obama in 2008 but after watching his first term decided that there was no way I could legitimize a second term. I voted Johnson and said loud and clear that Johnson was running on Obama's 2008 civil liberties platform, while Obama had been running as fast as he could in the wrong direction.

Obama has long ignored any backlash. During the OWS protests, he gave a jobs speech where he called for deregulation of Wall St. He knows nobody on the left will dare oppose him.

But what this means is that half the nation breathes a sign of relief, that we are being screwed by "our guy" instead of "the other guy" because if the same policies were put in place by someone from the other party, that would be a disaster.

There was a blip of news last week or so when Obama said that somebody would be appointed to provide oversight over the NSA programs, and that thing would become more transparent. I don't think anything has happened since except a slow trickle of news that paint a picture that gets worse and worse.

The closest we got to any change was the vote in Congress lead by Amash, which failed. People are getting disappointed, more people are wanting "out" in various ways.

Americans seriously need to band together and find a way to punish those responsible for these crimes, not the people who are willing to risk their own lives by disclosing the crimes happened.

Until you do, the legal system is a joke.

> Americans seriously need to band together

Not Americans - individuals. All wars and the state itself, which is war, are various manifestations of the same conflict: individuals vs the mob.

There are no Americans, gay, feminists, unemployed, disabled in this war. There are no groups whose rights need to be protected more than those of individuals. This war will continue as long as we appoint somebody who promises the illusion of protection in exchange for our personal responsibility.

There is nothing to lose, therefore nothing to fear, therefore nothing to protect. Imagine this taught in schools instead of warrior worship sprinkled with "because I said so".

America the country is the thing causing these problems. Americans have more control and more responsibility for that country than anyone else in the world does. Everyone else belongs to another country they have to worry about, and do worry about, more successfully on the whole. You're not seeing Italy firing bombs at the Middle East right now.

I love Americans. Some of the behaviour of the United States government I am not so sure about.

Of course the behaviour of governments in other countries can be just as absurd. We are not so different. You're not seeing Italy firing bombs at the Middle East right now. The stories are different, the absurd behaviour is much the same. http://www.beppegrillo.it/en/

Philosophically this is always on really shaky ground. Those that strongly support Manning's actions are saying "We want to live in a nation of laws. However, if an individual believes those laws to be unjust or unfair, based solely on his determination, then he should be free to ignore those laws and act as he sees fit. He should not be punished" That's a pretty open ended precedent to set. There is absolutely no doubt that people die in the US every year who would not die in say a Western European country because of the choices this country makes around the role of government in helping the sick, the poor and the old. Is someone free to break the laws and put lives at risk in the name of rebelling against the injustice of those who die or suffer when we have the resources to ensure they don't? That's why even if Bradley is right he's wrong. And btw I have so much respect for the fact he is getting 1/10th of the coverage of Snowden but may actually be more worthy if anything of attention.

As far as I can tell, nearly everyone agrees that breaking the law when it is unjust is a good idea, in at least some cases. In the U.S., the illegal civil-rights marches and sit-ins now enjoy nearly universal praise (including quite a few retroactive converts), and the Boston Tea Party is even taught to schoolchildren in a positive light.

The only real disagreement seems to be over what injustices are serious enough to warrant such actions, not over the principle. And I mean, trashing someone's ship while disguised as a Native American, in order to protest an import tax, doesn't exactly set a high bar.

That's not the situation. He exposed the fact that the US Military was breaking the law. Thus whistle-blowing. There are laws protecting him and he is still being punished.

This is actually a very nice sentiment. Unfortunately, given the jadedness i've aquired over the last few years have convinced me that it will do little good for his freedom.

I only hope that, as demographics in america swing younger, the libertarians and progressives can put put aside our differences and get this guy a pardon down the road. Scooter Libby is free and Manning is in jail.

Scooter Libby was charged for obstructing an investigation. He didn't leak any secrets. I don't see the connection.

Libby never did time, Bush commuted his sentence. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooter_Libby#Presidential_com...

I thought he exposed the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That seems like a fact that was supposed to be secret, which he leaked (supposedly.)

You're right, he was convicted of obstructing the investigation about how Valerie Plame's identity was leaked... so it's not fair to say that he leaked it himself. He just protected Dick Cheney, who - semantics aside - was likely the actual leaker (in terms of responsibility for the leak and directing that the leak occur).

Libby didn't do time. His sentence was commuted by Pres. Bush before it started iirc.

I would have a much easier time supporting Manning if he did as Snowden did, and turned over select documents to a reputable media organization.

Manning is white-washing his actions a bit here. He doesn't mention divulging years worth of diplomatic cables, including cables with countries uninvolved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he divulged them en masse, without regard for their content.

I don't think the I-would-support-Manning-if-he-had-selectively-released-info position is morally tenable. You're saying that some of his releases were vital and necessary (you'd support those). And then somehow, the perceived damage or liability of the other releases negates the "useful" ones? But I don't see how it's a zero sum game.

More importantly, Manning did give a bunch of unredacted content to people whom he trusted to release it appropriately. And they did for a while, redacting names in the cables. But then, "[t]he rest of the cables were published unredacted by WikiLeaks on 1 September 2011, after David Leigh and Luke Harding of The Guardian inadvertently published the passphrase for a file that was still online..." [1]

Also, who's to judge the quality of each release of info? Divulging the name of operatives would be a bad thing (Wikipedia[1] says the state department had to relocate some people after the Cablegate leak), but not to pacifists who believe the US shouldn't be conducting secret ops overseas.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Manning#Diplomatic_cabl...

>I would have a much easier time supporting Manning if he did as Snowden did, and turned over select documents to a reputable media organization.

Define reputable. If his objective were to have talking heads bicker about it on CNN, then handing it over to WaPo or NYT would have been well-advised. If, on the other hand, he wanted real people to have access to the information so they could participate in an informed debate (which is what he said he wanted), then those outlets would have been a terrible place to go. Wikileaks could at least guarantee that the material would reach the public unaltered; the MSM could not.

Also, it might not have even gotten to the level of talking heads. It could have been covered up. Assange said that WaPo had the Collateral Murder video for a year before WikiLeaks did, although WaPo has denied that.

Bradley Manning is not a criminal. He's a prisoner of conscience.


I was unfamiliar with this term. That was a very interesting article.

How many Americans died fighting to protect their country's ideals of freedom? When I hear about the "War on Terror", the TSA, the NSA, police militarization, etc. I wonder... "Is this the freedom they died to save?"

This guy has spent 3 years in solitary confinement and is facing 35 more in the brig. And yet has the courage and clarity of mind to explain why he did what he did and say he will "gladly pay that price". Astounding.

Does anyone else see the irony in this statement? Manning's defense in this argument is almost the exact thing he was supposedly rebelling against. The most glaring example is on one hand he says patriotism was used as the justification for many horrific actions and on the other he says he broke the law, disclosed classified information, and endangered others due to his own love of country.

What don't you understand? Patriotism was the path of committing atrocious acts, so he did "unpatriotic" things in the eyes of those in power, who were manipulating patriotism to align it with their terrible actions.

"I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others."

He explains away his actions as an act of patriotism. He acknowledges the laws were broken and lives were endangered in order to accomplish his goals, but he acted anyway out of love for country. That sounds like similar logic that could be used to explain a lot of the action he revealed.

Absolutely the same logic could be used to explain the actions he revealed, that is exactly the problem.

We are being forced to choose between realities. Either his action is a noble one born of patriotism, or those that he revealed are.

Both sides are claiming to be right, noble and patriotic, and both sides see themselves as acting appropriately.

The question is which reality do we want to be true? which side do we want to be associated with and to support?

Pick your side, and see where that decision takes you.

There are no objective realities here. Just a personal decision regarding the reality we wish to support, encourage and stand with.

Well, I'm not going to side with the people who gunned down a Reuters journalist from their Apache and the military who tried to cover for them over the person who outed their conduct. I guess you can choose which way your patriotism swings, but it seems like a fairly obvious conclusion to me.

To be fair you are taking the worst action of one entity and comparing it with the best action of the other. I don't think many people here would say what happened in the Collateral Murder video was justifiable or disagree with the motive Manning had in leaking it. The problem is that is just a piece of the picture. Manning released a lot more information and some of it endangered innocent people. He basically put innocent people in life threatening situations to expose that innocent people had previously been killed.

The same problem arose during the Crusades when the Christians and Muslims both fought with God on their side.

Of course, in this case you have patriotism used as a prop for furthering secret government and corporate objectives, or patriotism as a means to expose corruption and the authorized murder of civilians in a post-WWII world replete with the United Nations.

You be the judge.

Maybe that's what happens when you get tortured.

I just wonder what city will arise as the capital of the Eastern American Empire. How long did the Roman Empire last after the split? 80 years (395-476, give or take). Yeah, I don't expect to live that long, but it's going to be rough downfall.

Hopefully we can create some kind of planetary federation to keep a lid on this privacy/freedom shit before it gets too out of hand.

It kills me that Joss wrote one of the better "tree of liberty" quotes in recent memory ... maybe that's just where we're at as a culture:

"Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave."

Foreign Policy magazine stated that the Manning leaks was a catalyst for the revolutions in Tunisia which triggered the Arab Spring. It may not have been good for the US, but it was good for the world. Democracy spread to two arab countries.

Poor guy; I take his statement at face value.

But, he's misled: In simplest terms, "War is hell.", and this is not news. Germany bombed London and killed mostly civilians. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and civilians were a large fraction of the deaths. The US fire bombed Japan and killed maybe 80,000 civilians in one night and did that on many nights. The two atom bombs killed many more civilians. The US and England bombed German cities and created horrific conditions for mostly civilians (although often war production workers) maybe best addressed just by hoping that the deaths came quickly, which no doubt often they didn't. Germany attacked to the East all the way to Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad and likely killed many more civilians than soldiers. Did I mention that "Was is hell"? It is.

In Iraq, a civil war was going on, and the US, to its credit, eventually stopped it, but while it was going on no doubt many Iraqis did all they could to kill other Iraqis, and civilians got caught in the crossfire.

Gitmo? Of course there is "due process", as defined and executed by the US DoD but, right, not as in the US criminal justice system. We treated them as prisoners of war out of uniform or some such. That's the form of "due process" they get from the US DoD fighting a war. Did we follow some statements of the UN? Maybe not, but the UN wasn't fighting the war, either. As prisoners of war, in many ways they are very well treated. If the US were to let them go, then a significant fraction of them would attack the US again. Last I read, it's costing the US $1 million per prisoner per year -- we are being very generous.

The poor guy just is not looking at reality.


We tortured those poor SoBs. We never torture PoWs. You know why? So that we have a reputation of never torturing PoWs, so that when our soldiers are captured, they stand a good chance of also not being tortured. That reputation has been obliterated, and for what, exactly? What accurate, actionable intelligence ever came from Gitmo? We have put our soldiers in very real danger for absolutely no gain whatsoever.

I hope to hell whatever real power we end up tangled with next can overlook our crimes and summon the basic human decency to treat its captured American soldiers with decency and respect.

Yes, you have a point.

But, the standards have long been that easily a PoWs life can be so bad that maybe usually there will be little difference. Consider what the USSR did to German prisoners -- marched off to Siberia or some such and never heard from again. North Korea did to US prisoners in the Korean War? What North Viet Nam did to Senator McCain?

And our torture was water boarding, cold rooms, loud music?

Your "decency and respect" are asking a bit much. Did I mention, "War is hell"?

Supposedly at times prisoner interrogation can yield quite useful results, but you may be correct that from Gitmo we didn't get much (at least that we didn't already have).

But there is such a thing as a dumb ass clusterfuck, or the older FUBAR or SNAFU, and there's been a lot of that since 9/11.

More narrowly we elected W, and with 9/11 he and Cheney seemed to get all super-hyper concerned about their oaths of office to "protect and defend the US", paid a bit too much attention to threat scenarios of Saddam putting a nuke in a cargo ship, sending it to a major US port city, and setting it off, etc. Yes, it was a difficult threat to evaluate -- small risk of a big loss.

As we know now, Saddam was talking about WMDs mostly to scare his own people and neighbors, and our intelligence was so poor we didn't know better.

So, W/Cheney convinced themselves that Saddam, definitely a bloody thug, following Stalin, was a threat to the US and that the US should invade and occupy Iraq and set up a democratic government and could do so quickly for maybe $60 billion. The guy who said $120 billion or some such got fired. The guy who said we'd need 500,000 troops to occupy the country got fired.

Did I mention clusterfuck, FUBAR, SNAFU? Saddam had told us that it would be tough to hold the country together. We didn't listen and, instead, ignited essentially a several sided civil war. By the time we put down the civil war, likely more Iraqis had died a violent death, from us and/or other Iraqis, per month and in total than at any time under Saddam. We killed, what, 5000+ US soldiers? Seriously injured, what, 50,000+, 100,000+? Blew, what, net present value $3 trillion? SNAFU? FUBAR?

There was a lot of really sick violence. E.g., when an angry Shiite captured a Sunni or an angry Kurd captured a Shiite, or an angry Sunni captured a Kurd, etc. new chapters in torture could be drafted. And several US workers where strung up from a bridge.

So Manning didn't t like it. Easy enough to understand -- I didn't like it, either.

But, W/Cheney were elected, about as fairly as the US can manage. Of really high importance, the US Congress authorized Gulf War II and appropriated the money for it. And the result was a bloody mess: The people really badly injured were the lucky ones because they died quickly and, thus, didn't suffer as much before they died.

But, that was reality. It's not too difficult to see just why it happened. It's clearly what is likely to happen in many situations of military action and US national security. It's not really a big surprise. I'm sorry reality is like that, but in this universe, in this solar system, on this planet, now, that's the case. Heck, there were bloody battles in the US Civil War, Medieval wars, Roman wars, etc. There's been plenty of torture, as I recall, by some Spanish Roman Catholics. Again, the lucky ones were the ones who died quickly. Death? There's been a lot of that. Ugly? Once I was reading the Bible and got to where the pregnant women were cut open, threw the book across the room, and have not opened it again since then.

For W/Cheney, as far as I can tell, they were superficial, simplistic, simple-minded, silly, sloppy, stupid, etc. and put in less thought and planning than needed for a good Sunday BBQ.

The thing for a person to do is to try to stay out of the way of such a huge disaster. That's what Manning should have done.

More generally all US mainstream media and all US voters should clearly understand that when a politician starts talking passionately about "protecting the US" (translation: covering his ass so that if something happens don't blame him) and US military action in foreign lands, firing experts with skeptical estimates, "to spread democracy, freedom, and prosperity", see a big chance of throwing away a lot of US blood and treasure, ugly, violent deaths of a lot of people "over there", and a really big clusterfuck, FUBAR, SNAFU.

Track record: Korean war, mixed. Viet Nam war, total SNAFU, accomplished essentially nothing good. Gulf War I, pushed Saddam out of Kuwait quickly and relatively cleanly. Gulf War II, total clusterfuck and will likely result in just a Saddam II in Baghdad. Afghanistan, smaller scale clusterfuck, essentially nothing good. Syria, seed of a total clusterfuck -- just add military aid. Egypt, the US supplies the Egyptian military, and they keep down the radical Islamists, don't attack Israel very much, and keep the Suez canal open.

It's mixed.

We don't torture PoWs. We know that information obtained from torture is -at best- unreliable, and more typically is whatever the tortured feels will make the torturer stop torturing.

Comparing American torture to Korean or Russian torture is not the point. (The misbehavior of other countries doesn't excuse the misbehavior of ours.) The point is that, as a matter of policy, we do not torture because it doesn't provide usable information, and it gives enemies more reason to torture our troops when they capture them.

I carefully read the remainder of your reply. While I agree with one of your over-arching points (poorly lead large organizations in chaotic situations often produce sub-standard results), I don't see how the remainder of your reply relates to my condemnation of and furious anger toward those who destroyed our reputation as a country that humanely handles PoWs by ignoring centuries of history and research.

If there is one lesson we can all take from this it is: No matter how cruel or wrong the actions of your Government are, they are always right even when they are wrong. Democracy? I think not.

[text deleted]

At some point, I will learn that HN is not the place for intelligent expression of political expression divergent from its denizens' norms.

My bad.

> We cannot have a military like that.

Instead, we have a military that slaughters innocent people with zero accountability. Fuck that.

I can be snooty too.

At some point, I will learn that many people just aren't capable of pulling the blinders off and realizing that killing thousands of innocent people every year without any sort of accountability is just complete lunacy.

Honestly, it seems like your definition of "intelligent" is "middle of the mainstream road." I can't really see how that holds up to tell you the truth.

You assume that all consciences will reach the same conclusion as yours. They don't. They haven't.

A military "accountability" of individual conscience would essentially be a reversion to feudalism, with armed power first migrating to leaders based on visions of conscience, then deteriorating to coalitions of interest. And now you're back at "might makes right" but without any ethic to get you out.

Even granting we are killing thousands of innocents without accountability, Manning's statement is not a safe way out.

> You assume that all consciences will reach the same conclusion as yours. They don't. They haven't.

That was my point. I was returning the undue egoism.

> And now you're back at "might makes right" but without any ethic to get you out.

That's where we are right now. It's the definition of democracy (close enough to republican government for the pedants).

> Even granting we are killing thousands of innocents without accountability, Manning's statement is not a safe way out.

Anything that reduces our imperialistic tendencies is safer than allowing the imperialistic tendencies to grow. To throw it back at you: might doesn't make right.

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