Saturday, August 7, 2010

Note to the Pentagon: Killing innocent people is worse than leaking evidence of that murder

For the last two weeks, we've been hearing nearly every day about how Private Bradley Manning hacked 'secure' government computers and stole classified government documents which he then released to the popular leak site Wikileaks. We've heard the Pentagon ramble on endlessly about how he broke protocol and didn't follow a chain of command. We've heard them appeal to the emotions of the American people by telling us we have no idea how many lives may have been lost because of Manning's actions. You know what we didn't hear from them?

"Killing innocent people is bad. We won't do it anymore".

No, we've not heard a single Pentagon spokesperson condemn those actions as vehemently as they've condemned Private Manning. In fact, I've not heard the military even make a single comment on the outright murder of those innocent people at all. Oh, I'm sure it's all wrapped up in some classified 'internal investigation' that will, no doubt, lead to the military being exonerated, but I highly doubt anyone will ever face justice. Except, of course, Private Manning.

The Pentagon has screamed for the last few weeks about 'proper channels' and 'chain of command' and how Private Manning failed to go through them. But let's consider why he failed to do so? Could it be that this video, while classified, had been seen by probably dozens of people at the Pentagon who chose to do nothing about it? Could it be that Private Manning had little faith that his superiors would actually respond to his whistle blowing if indeed he had done it?

The government doesn't really have that great of a track record when dealing with whistle blowers. Recent leaks from several intelligence agencies to the media clearly show employee frustrations with the way federal agencies handle complaints of internal wrongdoing: they don't. The FBI alone has had several employees go to the press with information after begging their superiors for months to take action and being ignored. Why would Private Manning expect the military to be any more responsive?

Every day, I hear someone make the argument that "he didn't even give the military a chance to address his concerns". That's true, he didn't, and perhaps he is culpable for that. However, can we deny the fact that our military has engaged in wrongdoing in the past then covered it up or destroyed the evidence to hide those actions?. Had Private Manning gone to his superiors, chances are decent that he would have been arrested and tried for hacking the 'secure' system and the evidence of what he found destroyed before it ever reached the American public. Manning would be the only one punished when the greater crime was committed by the very people who would punish him.

Don't get me wrong: I support and appreciate the men and women who get up every day and put on our nations uniform. They put their lives at risk for what they believe is the right thing to do. They are brave and selfless individuals who we should all say a huge thank you to.

But that doesn't make them infallible.

It means that, when criminals and murderers are found within their ranks, we owe the good men and women of the United States military the dignity to drag it out into the light and make an example of them no matter who it embarrasses or exposes. We owe that to them because of the sacrifice they're making every single day.

Personally, I salute Private Bradley Manning for having the courage and dedication to bring the wholesale murder of innocents by the U.S. Military to light. The cowards who gunned down innocent people, including a reporter, should not be protected and the military should be much more concerned with bring those people to justice than persecuting Private Manning.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, covering your tracks seems to be much more important to those at the Pentagon than truth or that elusive American ideal called justice.