Bradley Manning was sentenced today to 35 years in prison for releasing to the public thousands of classified information. The release of that information removed the shroud from numerous immoral if not illegal actions done in the name of the American people. Actions that cost innocent people their lives, saw others tortured, and have haunted so many of the young women and men we asked to be a part of it, that there are record number of suicides and cases of PTSD survivors.
Manning accepted his sentence today with the following statement:
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my
country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11,
our country has been at war. We've been at war with an enemy that
chooses not to meet us on any
traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we've had to alter our
methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.
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. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq
and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the
enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed
innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct,
we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified
information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition
of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due
process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by
the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the
name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts
are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown
our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American
soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of
democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the
Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that
many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar
light. As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."
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.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing
that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.
I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is
truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all
women and men are created equal.
I have been wrestling, in this age of seemingly constant sorrow, injustice, environmental unraveling, with what might I so firmly believe in that I would be willing to serve 35 years in prison for? And am I of sufficient strength to stand up for what I believe is right and true in the face of powers substantially greater than me, as Manning has surely done.