Isn’t thirty-five years in prison more than a little excessive? This is the sentence handed down on August 21 this year by the military judge in the court martial of whistleblower Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. The prosecutors argued for almost double that number of years in prison, but the military judge in her Solomonic wisdom gave Manning only thirty-five years. New York Times OP/ED columnist and author Thomas Friedman would likely refer to the Manning sentence as “jail” time, but then he’s not the brightest bulb in the marquee as viewed by writer and blogger Barry Eisler in a recent revealing blog post. “Jail” is where a prisoner is sent for lesser crimes or where he spends up to a year before he is sent to prison. And as grim as jails are—and they are grim—they are a walk in the park compared with prison.
What did Bradley Manning do to get him sentenced to thirty-five years in prison? He revealed to the world information that showed the Iraq War was illegal and high American officials and diplomats as complicit in a system of lies that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi lives and the displacement of over a million Iraqi citizens…not to mention the current civil war that is destroying what is left after the Americans kinda-sorta-departed. Who can forget that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney and their associates led America to a war based on deliberate lies? Yet these individuals walk free while Bradley Manning faces thirty-five years in prison for revealing information that any thinking and even halfway observant person knew already.
Though supporters of the Iraq War have contended that Manning’s revelations endangered American and Iraqi lives, the government has been unable to prove that anyone, either American or cooperating Iraqi, has suffered reprisals as a result of the revelations. It is one more lie that conceals the real reason for the brutal treatment and prosecution of Manning: the United States has been embarrassed and shown to be as hypocritical as other nations it regularly condemns.
We don’t yet know how many of those thirty-five years will be served before Manning is released. We don’t yet know if President Obama will act with compassion to commute part or all of Manning’s sentence, but based on his internationally-condemned and high-handed pursuit of whistleblower Edward Snowden, we shouldn’t hold our breaths.
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning is a patriot and a hero to much of the rest of the world while America degenerates daily into an Orwellian nightmare of pervasive surveillance that makes a mockery of the Constitution. Aren’t you proud to be an American target in this age of unconstitutional government surveillance?
I am reminded of Clemenceau’s observation that military justice is to justice what military music is to music.