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Manning Sentenced

Digby posted on the 35-year sentence, but went further and compared it to that of mass murderer William Calley, convicted for the Mi Lai massacre:

Sentenced to life imprisonment, Calley spent only three days in the stockade at Fort Benning before President Nixon ordered his release to house arrest. Three years later he was a free man, paroled by the Secretary of the Army.

Bradley Manning spent more time in confinement before his court martial, than William Calley spent after being convicted of mass murder.

One of the first things that came out of what Bradley Manning leaked was a video of American forces killing unarmed civilians, including two employees of Reuters. The US government apparently feels it is a misdemeanor to kill civilians, but a major felony to tell people about it.

7 comments

1 Lynne { 08.22.13 at 12:56 pm }

Just curious, did that video actually portray something for which someone was convicted of a misdemeanor? I haven’t watched that video myself but my understanding is that Pvt Manning did not actually expose anything illegal. Morally wrong? Yes. Unjust? Yes. But illegal? No. War is immoral. It isn’t pretty. Innocent people *always* get killed and often in terrible terrible ways.

At any rate, I think that Pvt Manning was wrong but I also think the punishment she has received is way too harsh considering the circumstances of the crime. *shrug*

2 Steve Bates { 08.22.13 at 3:58 pm }

Lynne, I have two questions for you. One: how familiar are you with the Geneva Conventions and Protocols? Two: do you think you can dismiss the contents of the video without even seeing the video? It isn’t referred to as the “collateral murder” video for no reason.

If your answer to the first question is “no,” I have some news for you: there are many violent acts that are illegal under international law during wartime, law to which the US is signatory. If your answer to the second question is “no,” please be aware that your opinion will carry very little weight until you have seen what you are casually dismissing.

3 Bryan { 08.22.13 at 8:15 pm }

Lynne, there are rules and laws governing warfare. We were at ‘war’ in Vietnam, but William Calley was convicted of killing innocent civilians. That video shows the same thing – the massacre of innocent civilians by members of the US military and no one was even charged. We weren’t ‘at war’ in Iraq when this happened, we were occupying the country. There were attacks against the US military by various groups, but it wasn’t a war.

The US classified and hid that video because it showed a massacre, and Manning wanted people to know what was being done in their name. Just because the government refuses to prosecute doesn’t mean there wasn’t a crime.

My ancestors have served in the US military since there has been a US military. My service covered the war in Southeast Asia and the Cold War. The oath you take is to the Constitution, not the government.

Civilians die in wars, but when those deaths are intentional and not an accident, it is still murder, even in a war.

4 Lynne { 08.23.13 at 7:20 pm }

I have watched the video. It was awful. No question about it. It was ugly and immoral and exactly why I don’t think our country should engage in war. But was it illegal? If it was, surely now that the video has been leaked, there would be an investigation. What part of the Geneva Convention did it violate?

5 Lynne { 08.23.13 at 7:46 pm }

I mean seriously, it did not seem to me like those soldiers in the helicopter realized until later that they were dealing with civilians. Maybe the positive here is that this video might make realize how fucked up war is and how fucked up occupying another country is. It is not against the GC to fire on civilians if you think you are firing on soldiers.

It actually is too bad for Manning that this wasn’t illegal. I think her heart was totally in the right place. Had this event been illegal her defense would have used that because if this was illegal, she would have been protected under the whistleblower laws. Her actions also really could have cost people their lives. Perhaps only indirectly but still. I don’t doubt for a second that more transparency would be good for us as a nation. I demand it all the time from my Congressman and Senators. However, there is also legitimate reasons to keep some things secret and it isn’t for the worker bees to decide what should be secret and what shouldn’t without some consequence.

Here is the thing. I admire Pvt Manning on some level. She felt very strongly that this information needed a wider audience. She did this KNOWING what the consequences would be. I think the consequences are important because they help people use their best judgement. If it means prison, you aren’t going to leak just anything. That is a real important safeguard for the stuff which actually legitimately must be kept secret.

6 Bryan { 08.23.13 at 7:49 pm }

Lynne, it was murder. In Washington state, Army sergeant Robert Bales was just sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for killing 19 civilians in Afghanistan. Deliberately killing unarmed civilians is murder, with or without a war. The military ‘investigated’ and covered everything up, which is why Manning was so upset. The US military refused to prosecute the soldiers involved which makes it a war crime under the Geneva Convention. If any of those involved travel outside the US they are subject to arrest and trial by the International Criminal Court.

7 Bryan { 08.23.13 at 9:44 pm }

Lynne, they weren’t under fire and there were no weapons visible. The US controlled Iraq, and this was in the city. You don’t just start shooting at people without a reason. You don’t do it in a guerrilla war because you reveal your position to the ‘bad guys’ for no reason. It’s not only criminal, it’s stupid.

They shot people who were trying to help the victims of their initial attack, even though they still hadn’t been fired on. It was senseless murder.

Manning tried to use the chain of command, and when that didn’t go anywhere, s/he resorted to leaking to tell the world about the crimes.