Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Heroes and Traitors, The Bradley Manning Verdict


And, so, we’ve finally come down to end of this miserable affair.

This week Army Private First Class Bradley Manning was acquitted on charges of aiding the enemy.

He was, however, convicted of violating the Espionage Act.

As such, Manning will avoid a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole, but he’s still facing something more than a century behind bars in a military prison.

He won’t serve that, of course, even if the court gives him the maximum possible sentence, but there it is nonetheless hanging like a sword over his head.

Few, supporters and detractors alike, are happy with the verdicts.

Likely the sentencing won’t make them happy either.

To some, Manning is a hero who blew the whistle on war crimes and who should be set free.

To others, Manning is turncoat traitor who betrayed his sworn duty in time of war and should be taken out back and shot.

As in the previous essay about a highly polarizing case, the two opposing opinions are arrayed more or less according to political affiliations, automatically taking sides in a predictable fashion.

Such is the nature of the world we live in.

Given what regular readers know of my background, it’s probably no surprise that I’ve gotten dozens of letters in the last twenty-four hours asking my opinion on the verdicts.

And I suppose, given my background and my nature, it’s also probably no surprise that I would have an opinion on this subject.

And so I do.

But first, a disclaimer: while I’ll attempt to be as dispassionate as possible, I admit right up front that my opinion is strongly influenced by my experience as a US military intelligence officer.

Of course it is, and I won’t try to blow smoke up your ass by attempting to pretend otherwise.

I spent nearly my entire adult life in the field of classified military intelligence at levels far above anything Manning ever had access to. I have extensive experience in this field. I have detailed knowledge of the kind of material Manning compromised and the networks he got it from and, in fact, some of that material might have been things I was involved in and information that I helped acquire and produce.  For more than twenty years it was my sworn duty to protect the military secrets of the United States of America and her allies. This was an obligation I accepted of my own free will and I took my oath very, very seriously indeed. And like everybody else who has retired from my former profession, I am still under certain restrictions regarding the protection of classified information, not just the information, but also the methodology surrounding its collection and processing and use – an obligation that I also take seriously and will not violate.

Now, the reason I mention this right up front is not to make myself sound all mysterious and important, because I’m neither, but because it means that what follows is written from a position of authority that, unless you’ve spent time in the same field, you will just have to take my word for. 

That’s unfair to you. 

And it’ll get more unfair, to you and me both, because when you attempt to argue Manning’s status as a “hero” in the comments section, likely my only response is going to be, “you’re wrong and you don’t know what you’re talking about, but I can’t tell you why” (and if I don’t respond to your contrary comment at all, you may assume the silence means pretty much the same thing).

Given that unfairness, I’ll completely understand if you bail out now. Thanks for dropping by. See you on the next post.


Still here?

Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve written about Bradley Manning before, my position likely seems harsh to the uninitiated – or to those who have mistakenly pegged me as a tofu-eatin’ Prius-drivin’ bunny-huggin’ big-L Liberal – but as I said in that previous article, it’s personal to me, just as is my position on Edward Snowden.

I called Manning a “shitbag traitor” in that previous post, perhaps my opinion has softened slightly since I first penned that piece, but not by much.

That said, let’s talk about the Bradley Manning verdict:

First, the charge of aiding the enemy: It’s pretty obvious that Manning did, at least to some extent, aid the enemy.

Manning had to know that the information he stole and fenced to Wikileaks would find its way to our enemies – his training and experience made that an absolute certainty. Manning most certainly knew that his pilfered information would end up in the hands of anybody with an interest and an internet connection, that’s the whole point of Wikileaks in the first place – and some of those folks were going to be our enemies.

Manning had plenty of training in this subject, including numerous examples from history.

Copies of documents he leaked were found in Osama bin Laden’s compound and there is no doubt that our adversaries, those beyond just al Qaida, are combing through that trove right now with great interest. How damaging is that? Unknown, but just because you read those documents, just because Wikileaks and Anonymous and Manning’s own fan club “analyzed” that information and decided that it contained nothing of significant value to our enemies doesn’t mean that it’s so.   

Manning gave aid to the enemy, to many enemies – or adversaries, depending on how you define the terms.

But was that “aid” significant?

There’s giving aid to the enemy and then there’s giving aid to the enemy.

Hell, any incompetent commander can be said to be aiding the enemy through his own poor decision making process – and some of them have been tried and convicted for exactly that (it’s pretty rare, and tends to happen mostly in Third World dictatorships nowadays).

War is test of wills. War is a contest of luck and skill and daring, of assets and terrain and most especially of information. History is full of battles that were won or lost because a single piece of obscure information arrived at just the right time, and because a commander was savvy enough to then recognize that slight advantage and because he was daring or cunning enough to use it in the right place and in the moment when it would make a difference.  Don’t believe me? Don’t believe that a single tiny piece of apparently innocuous information can turn the tide of an entire war? Look up the WWII Battle of Midway Island and the significance of the desalination water plant and its role in breaking the Japanese navy’s JN-25B code.

American commanders, and Japanese, risked all on that tiny piece of information.

And that one tiny piece of information gave the US Navy a small but very real chance at victory and combined with a little luck and the giant brass balls of Chester Nimitz, it helped send the Japanese fleet to the bottom of the Pacific. The US Navy’s victory at Midway changed the entire course of the war in the Pacific and ultimately altered the face of history.

Our enemies, whatever else they are, have repeatedly proven themselves to be experienced and capable and savvy and cunning

Manning handed them a windfall of information, not just a tiny scrap. Time will tell what use they can make of it. Perhaps it’ll be nothing, perhaps there’ll be no consequences from Manning’s betrayal.

The odds are against it given the vast amount of information, but we can certainly hope for the best.

However, those charged with protecting the United States cannot, repeat cannot, operate on wishful thinking. It is our duty and our job to plan for a worst case scenario.

Manning knew that, absolutely he knew that, he used to be one of us.

Does that mean Manning intended to aid the enemy? Again, beats me. Only Bradley Manning knows what motivated Bradley Manning to do what he did. He’s said plenty of things and he’s made plenty of excuses for his actions, but those things are exactly that, excuses.

Now, looking at it dispassionately through the eyes of the court, I doubt Manning intended to aid the enemy, the judge certainly didn’t think so.

But, does intent matter?

Manning committed a crime, ipso facto he’s a criminal whether or not that was his intention, right?

True, but in the case of treason, intention does very much matter – just as intention is the determining factor between murder and manslaughter.

Well then, whatever his intent, did Manning’s actions cost lives, American or otherwise?

Certainly it can be argued that Manning put Allied forces at increased risk, and I’m about to argue exactly that, but it’s a qualitative assessment not a quantitative one. That risk is something military commanders, and especially those of us in the intelligence field, know to be true but cannot measure. 

Those of us engaged in this grisly business know just how important every single piece of information can be. Information is never just what you see. Information is always wrapped in layers upon layers of other information – i.e. the mere fact that I’m interested in such information tells my enemies something, as does my level of interest and my degree of certainty in the information’s validity, how much effort I put into its acquisition and verification and protection, how I acquired it, who I allowed to access to it, who I shared it with (or didn’t share it with), and especially what other information it might be connected to, and so on. In many cases, this associated information tells an experienced intelligence analyst more than the actual information itself – as was abjectly demonstrated at Midway. The mere fact that my enemies (or my friends) know that the information exists increases my risk in the battlespace (whether that battlefield is in the warzone or at the negotiating table … or in the boardroom). Manning’s betrayal most certainly increased that risk.

Just how significant was that increased risk? There’s no way to measure that, but war is an inherently deadly business, any increase in risk, no matter how small, increases the danger – hell, the mere idea that the risk has perhaps changed can have a direct and measurable impact on your own decision making process. Again, victory is often the result of daring, but commanders are rarely inclined to throw away the lives of their soldiers (despite what you might have been led to believe by popular media) and any perceived increase in danger or threat can adversely affect a commander’s willingness to engage in a risky course of action – or, worse, drive commanders to overcompensate for the perceived increase in risk (take off, nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure. Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out, only then send in ground troops. Increased perception of increased risk whether real or not can, and does, lead to a scorched earth strategy which very well might reduce our own casualties, or not, but the consequences can be terrible. See the later stages of the Vietnam war, see Dresden, see Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

That said, so far, no single death, allied or enemy, has yet to be directly attributed to Manning’s actions.

But the risk exists nonetheless.

Did Manning’s betrayal compromise diplomatic efforts? Did it harm military missions or put US personnel (further) into harm’s way?  Did it damage military intelligence operations?  The answers to all of those questions are: Yes, or perhaps no, or, well, it’s hard to say for certain. The scale of this conflict and the scale of Manning’s betrayal was such that all of those answers, yes, no, maybe, are true to some degree or another depending on where you look and and at what. Again, the answers are almost impossible to quantify in any useful fashion – it’s like the Bible, depending on your viewpoint you can likely find proof of any position based on how you massage the data.

Ultimately, all the questions boil down to this one:

Did Bradley Manning’s betrayal weaken the United States?

As compared to what?

The chicanery of those in charge of the mortgage industry?  The staggering greed and avarice of Wall Street?  The ever widening gap between rich and poor, the haves and the increasingly disenfranchised have-nots? The ongoing pigheaded gridlock of an intractable Congress? The fact that gleefully ignorant creationists in the guise of the Texas State Board of Education yesterday took the entire American educational system hostage at the muzzle of their fantastical worldview? The ever growing national debt? The ever increasing divide between Left and Right that won’t be satisfied until blood runs like rivers in the streets and Washington burns to the ground? 

I mean, seriously here, compared to that and all of the rest of our continuing self-flagellation, how much damage did Bradley Manning really do to the United States?

And so, Manning was found not guilty on the charge of aiding the enemy.

And that sounds about right to me.

I can live with that verdict.

He was, however, found guilty (or pled guilty) to twenty-two additional charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including five counts of espionage and theft.

And that too, sounds about right to me.

See, unlike in the civilian world, in the military your oath has the force of law. 

Your oaths, both that of enlistment, and those additional ones you might swear when entering into positions of trust, are legal instruments and you, and you alone, are strictly accountable for living up to the obligation.

Because of the nature of what we do, the consequences for breaking those oaths are dire – and for damned good reason

Again, some of you will likely disagree and feel that military discipline, your knowledge of which was likely acquired through fictional portrayals in the media, is too harsh.  Again it is here that I’ll say to you that if you’ve never worn the uniform, especially in the position of a senior NCO or an experienced officer, especially in the warzone or under fire, then you have no idea of what you’re talking about. 

Our oath defines us. It is the core of everything we do. Either it is good, or it is not, there is no middle ground.

Our discipline holds us together in the test of adversity, in the face of horror most of you can’t even begin to imagine.

Even if compelled (as is permitted by law under the Constitution) the oath of enlistment holds the force of a binding contract between us and the citizens of the United States.

The oath you swear upon assignment of a security clearance is entirely voluntary and cannot be compelled.

Either your word is good or it’s not – and in the military world, if it turns out that your oath isn’t good there are immediate and dire consequences, all of which are made clear to you up front before you ever raise your hand.

Manning voluntarily swore both of these oaths and deliberately violated them – that’s a jail sentence without any further need of embellishment.

Unlike the charge of treason (which is what aiding the enemy is), for a conviction under the charges of espionage and theft intent doesn’t matter. 

Now, this is the point where Manning’s supporters start making excuses for his actions.

Okay, sure, they say, he broke his oath, big deal, so what? The war is wrong, it’s immoral, unjust, unlawful. He shouldn’t have enlisted in the first place.

Wrong. Or, rather, right for you as a citizen, but wrong for Private Manning.

See, we, those of us in uniform, we don’t get to decide.

Ours, as Tennyson said, is not to reason why, ours is to but do and die.

This war, whatever history ultimately judges it, was approved by the lawful government of the United States of America with the willing support of the majority of the citizenry. We were ordered into battle by our lawful commanders under the authority of our elected leaders. As citizens we might argue the lawfulness and wisdom of the war itself, but as sworn members of the military our duty under penalty of the UCMJ is to carry out the lawful orders of our commanders. Period. There is no gray area here. We don’t get to decide (outside of a very narrow and sharply defined window) which orders to obey and which ones to ignore, which wars are moral and just and which ones aren’t.

Whether or not the war itself is immoral and unlawful, that’s for you, American Citizen, to decide.

It’s for you to hold your elected leaders to account.

Nothing Manning was ordered to do was illegal. He might not have agreed with it, but his agreement was not required and that was clear to him before he ever held up his right hand and swore the oath.

We don’t get to decide.

And there’s a good, a damned good, reason why it should be so.

In America the military is under command of civilian authority. This is one of the fundamental pillars of our republic. The military does not decide when to go to war or when to come home. The military, from the mightiest general to the greenest private, doesn’t decide the morality of the conflict. The elected civilian leadership does, and through them the American citizens do. The implications of this should be obvious and I’ve outline them in the preceding paragraphs.

Citizen Manning may cast his vote right along with the rest of us, but Private First Class Manning doesn’t get to decide which orders and regulation he’ll obey and which ones he won’t. If you allow this kind of rot in the ranks, if you allow the military to decide morality for the nation, sooner or later you’ll end up looking down the barrel of a military junta – history is rife with examples and you don’t have to go very far to find them.

And I’m going to let you in on a little secret, war is immoral.

No matter how just your cause, no matter how righteous, war is immoral. 

No matter how you whore it up, no matter how many patriotic slogans you toss about, no matter that you wave the flag and trot out the drum and fife and sound the bugle call, it’s a dirty, horrible, immoral business and make no mistake about it.

Maybe if more Americans understood that, we wouldn’t have a war every ten years or so.

Yeah, but doesn’t Manning, or any sworn member of the military have an obligation, indeed a duty, to disobey, to stand up, to break ranks if he or she believes they’ve uncovered evidence of a war crime.


Isn’t that exactly what Manning did?


Over on Truthout and reposted on The Huffington Post, writer Marjorie Cohn attempts to make that exact argument: i.e. that Manning was justified in his actions because he had a legal duty to report war crimes.

Manning fulfilled his legal duty to report war crimes. He complied with his legal duty to obey lawful orders but also his legal duty to disobey unlawful orders.

Actually, no, Manning did not comply with his legal duty to obey lawful orders – or we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place.

This is what I mean when I say that unless you’ve worn the uniform, it’s pretty likely that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Just because you don’t like the orders, doesn’t mean they’re unlawful.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice sets forth the duty of a service member to obey lawful orders. But that duty includes the concomitant duty to disobey unlawful orders. An order not to reveal classified information that contains evidence of war crimes would be an unlawful order. Manning had a legal duty to reveal the commission of war crimes.

Cohn is correct in essence, but she left a few critical things out – either on purpose or because she didn’t do her homework.

There is a proper and lawful way to report such concerns.  That method is drilled into every military member. Every one.  The procedure for reporting such crimes is clearly posted on every bulletin board on every base from Anchorage to Antarctica. That procedure doesn’t include handing over hundred of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks.  Manning had plenty of legal options if he felt his chain of command was ignoring war crimes. He chose instead to violate his oath and his own legal responsibilities.

If you think you’ve got evidence of a crime, you don’t get to commit another crime as a result.

And then there’s this: what war crime?

No really, what war crime?

Where is it?

It’s not the helicopter video – which I discussed in detail in the previous post on Manning.  As horrific as that is, that’s war. Cohn tries to make a case that the pilots committed a war crime by first shooting the wrong people and then by shooting the people who came to help the wounded.

Again, this is what happens when you don’t do your homework.

Cohn, and indeed a significant fraction of Manning’s supporters, cherry pick military regulations and the Geneva Conventions to justify Manning’s actions while conveniently ignoring the rest of the law.

The civilians in the video made famous by Manning are armed. Clearly so. As such, they make themselves lawful targets in a war zone.

Medical personnel are required to be clearly identified, including ambulances, through the use of international symbols such as the red cross or the red crescent. That was not the case here. Those responding were armed, were not clearly identified as rescue personnel, and by international law that makes them legitimate targets.

Whether you like it or not, whether that video turns your stomach or not, it’s not a war crime – it’s war.

Jesus Haploid Christ, you should find it sickening. Welcome to the fucking party, Rambo.

Manning felt certain information he found in classified military databases constituted in his words “war porn,” in other words he thought his fellow soldiers might be enjoying those images too much.

His commanders had  a different opinion. And it wasn’t Manning’s call. War porn, whatever that means and as provocative as that sounds, isn’t a war crime

Manning didn’t like that. Too damned bad. He could have gone to the IG with it if he thought it was an actual crime, hell, he could have even called in a Congressional investigation (and don’t think that doesn’t happen, I’ve personally witnessed a dozen such investigations, or more), he didn’t do that either. And you want to guess why? Because he damned well knew he was wrong.  So, instead, he betrayed his oath.

Likely you’ll disagree, that’s your right. But ask yourself something: where’s the war crime?

Where is it?

In all the days of testimony, in all the reams of information Wikileaks has published, where’s the war crime?

I don’t mean the dirty immoral business of war itself, those filthy horrific things that turn your stomach when you realize you’re watching real people die (but cheer wildly for when Sly or the Govinator act the same thing out on the silver screen), I mean where’s the actual war crime?

In all the articles, in all the blog posts, in all the comments, how come nobody mentions the war crime Bradley Manning supposedly exposed?

Answer me this: If there was an actual war crime, an actual no shit real provable war crime, the kind we haul people in front of The Hague for, why didn’t Manning’s defense use that as justification for his actions? Why didn’t Manning’s defense use that war crime to prove the correctness of Marjorie Cohn’s Truthdig article? Why didn’t Manning’s defense show that the only way, the only way, for him to get the truth out was to do what he did?


Because in all the information Manning stole nowhere is there any actual evidence to justify his excuses.

Because he had legal and lawful ways to report his concerns to the chain of command and to the public.

What you see in that information is the fact that war is a dirty rotten immoral business – something you as a responsible informed citizen should have goddamned well known before you threw us into the meat grinder, God knows you’ve had enough examples over the last hundred years.

Here’s the bottom line, Manning directly and purposely violated his military oath. There’s no gray area there. He did it. He admitted it. Evidence proves it beyond any shadow of a doubt. The violation is not in question.  Manning goes to jail. Period.

It does not matter if Manning was confused about his gender or his sexual identity or any other damned thing – a lot of people have personal issues in the war zone, Manning’s personal crisis isn’t anything special.

It doesn’t matter if Manning felt his commanders were unresponsive to his protests – that’s not his call, he had options for a legit complaint, he chose not to exercise them.

It doesn’t matter if Manning felt he’d uncovered a war crime – even if he actually had, it doesn’t justify giving classified information to Wikileaks.

It doesn’t matter if Manning felt he was doing the right thing – people like Manning always think they’re doing the right thing.

It doesn’t matter if Manning felt he was serving a higher purpose – people like Manning always think they’re serving a higher purpose.

It doesn’t matter if Manning was treated poorly while under military detention.

It doesn’t matter if you think he was a hero, or a traitor.

Those things are separate issues.

And while some of those things may be legitimate mitigating factors, when it comes to Manning’s deliberate violation of his oath all of those things are nothing but excuses.

Those things might influence the military judge’s decision when it comes to sentencing, and perhaps they should, but this is not a civilian court.

By taking that oath, Manning voluntarily placed himself under the authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Manning violated his oath, deliberately and with malice aforethought and he has admitted such.

And now he’ll have to face the consequences.


  1. Only quibble I'd make about anything you said is a quibble about this:

    "...the two opposing opinions are arrayed more or less according to political affiliations, automatically taking sides in a predictable fashion."

    And I only quibble because what you describe doesn't seem to be happening. Most prominent members of both major parties have denounced Manning from the start.

    If there is any predictable divide on Manning (and Snowden) it is between those who are pro authority and those who are against it. And that divide doesn't run down the divide between parties, at all. In fact it tends to throw the extremists from both ends of the normal political spectrum together, anti-authoritarian libertarians in (a very strange) bed with the anti-authoritarian left. On Snowden at least you've got the bizarre sight of Beck agreeing with beardy anarchists.

    All the major mainstream players of both major parties have denounced both Manning and Snowden. Authoritarians are by far the ascendant group in this nation as a whole.

    1. I'm one of those Bleeding Heart Liberals you hear about. I hate war, but I think that there's no excuse for Manning's/Snowden's actions.

      I could even excuse his exposing some particularly egregious actions -- after trying and failing to get a Congressional investigation -- but just dumping a mountain of information onto WikiLeaks is a inexcusable and a crime. When a fellow BHL like Dianne Feinstein agrees, I take notice.

    2. I so agree with Anon 11:59pm-- the extremes of both sides tend to blend over issues like this.

    3. Ditto all. I too am a bleeding heart, sandal wearing, dope smoking, tree hugging hippie liberal (though not so much really on the dope sandals for hugging trees) and Manning can rot in prison for all I care.

      Maybe it's my years in and around the military but I completely agree with you, he took an oath. He then violated that oath because he just decided it was best, because he wanted to. He's no hero.

      Beth in Toronto

  2. Very seldom does any man talk that long and unequivocally say that much, and all I can think of to respond is "Yes, sir." Thank you, Chief. Well said.

  3. I read this post & experienced an eerie kind of deja vu, Jim. I've not followed the Manning affair closely, but a recent Facebook post from a page named "Opinionated Democrat" prompted me to think about it a bit & post a response. I'm copying & pasting it here to see if it gives you an eerie feeling, too.

    === start copy ===

    This to me is the most salient portion of your comment, OD : "He leaked 391,832 battlefield reports from Iraq, 75,000 reports from Afghanistan, and 251,287 State Department Cables."

    This can't be reasonably regarded as exposing a particular crime, or even as exposing a set of particular crimes. This is a mass data dump suitable only for data mining, and has easily as much potential for causing harm as it has for anything else.

    Perhaps in the midst of this massive dump was something that made it worth the offense. I can't know that; it's over my pay grade, outside my field, & way outside my personal interest zone. I may respect Mr. Manning if he was in fact following his conscience, but the sheer indiscriminate volume of this leak is to me the biggest flaw in its defense.

    === end of copy ===

    I think in some respects we said the same thing. Curious, eh?

    1. That is EXACTLY right! "the sheer indiscriminate volume of the leak[s]" That's the part that Vapid Manning & Snowden supporters don't understand & ignore.

      Whistle blowers are normally HIGHLY selective about what information they disclose. They tend to be judicious in what they expose & how they go about exposing it. Massive data dumping is not the same thing at all.

  4. Thank you Jim. You have a way with words I wish I had. I have been basically trying to explain these things to several people who never wore the uniform. Those of us who did at least seem to remember what our oath(s) meant. And, we know that there definitely is a way to report issues. We also know that Wikileaks is not that way. BZ shipmate.

  5. Speaking as someone who has not served in uniform, my general stance is agreement in principle if not in every detail, but I defer to your experience and expertise on those details. I find myself in particular agreement with Jim Price above - the sheer volume of the documents released to Wikileaks indicates a generalized action rather than a desire to expose a particular event.

    Looking at his age, education, and experience, I think he was probably in a position way over his head and had no real idea what he was doing when he did it (who doesn't think they understand the world at 21?), but that doesn't excuse his actions.

    My issue, if you will, isn't so much what has happened to Manning, as it is what *hasn't* happened to those that have been shown to have committed actual war crimes. One office, obliquely connected, held responsible for Abu Ghraib. No one held responsible for torture, "rendition", etc. A separate issue, to be sure, but I suspect we have successfully caged a rat while consciously choosing to simply ignore/dismiss the wolves not at the door, but curled up in front of the fireplace.

    1. Thank you trouvera for saying exactly what I was thinking.

      You said, "My issue, if you will, isn't so much what has happened to Manning, as it is what *hasn't* happened to those that have been shown to have committed actual war crimes. One office, obliquely connected, held responsible for Abu Ghraib. No one held responsible for torture, "rendition", etc. A separate issue, to be sure, but I suspect we have successfully caged a rat while consciously choosing to simply ignore/dismiss the wolves not at the door, but curled up in front of the fireplace."

      This is what makes me so angry about the situation. If the government can pull out the stops for Manning, why are they ignoring the much more egregious crimes? I say this as a female veteran who was in Military Intelligence.

      It seems there is one rule of law for some like Manning, and another for those whose crimes support and serve the ideologies and interests of congress members. At least from where I stand this is how it appears.

    2. Also from where I stand, anonymous. I remember being outraged when Abu Ghraib was exposed, and the only ones they came up with were an E-4 and an E-3. I was an Interrogator in Vietnam; I don't believe the crimes at Abu Ghraib were not well known all the way up the chain of command.

    3. Yes! At the end of WWII the US crusaded on the idea of command responsibility. That top commanders were responsible for what happened in their area of operations. We executed people on this theory. The idea seems to have disappeared.
      I think this is the problem a lot of people have with Manning and Snowden. Not that they are innocent, but that there is a double standard involved.

    4. We generally don't execute commanders for failing to take responsibility nowadays, but they do get held to account. General Janice Karpinsky was demoted and forcibly retired for her failure at Abu Ghraib - and no, I don't think that was entirely adequate, there were a lot of officers between her and the enlisted folks who should have gone to jail for dereliction of duty. Additionally, so far as I know, the CIA (the folks actually responsible for the crimes committed there) were never held to account - but then again, you've got a government and a significant fraction of the population who think torture is an acceptable form of interrogation (so long as it happens to people they don't like). Honestly, what did you expect?

      Allen West, former Florida Republican Congressman, was charged with violations of the UCMJ for the torture of an Iraqi prisoner, he accepted NJP instead of a court martial and was retired from service (and despite admitting that he was wrong and that he violated his oath, he received a letter from Congress signed by 90 something conservatives praising him for his illegal actions, but I digress).

      A little research will show that commanders are held to account on a regular basis (Hell, Obama has fired more than a few generals himself), maybe not to the degree you'd like, certainly not to the death penalty (at least so far) but we still do hold the ideal of command responsibility as sacred. Does that mean that a bunch of senior commanders don't get away with shit? Of course not. And sure there's a double standard, just as there is for congress. Manning probably leaked no more information than Congress itself bleeds in a year, but nobody holds them to account for it - least of all themselves.

    5. An excellent and concise read on the subject of accountability, and when 'we' apply it:


    6. I'm not arguing for the death penalty.
      Moreover, I certainly don't think Manning had a right to expect getting off unpunished.
      The military needs to smack him pretty hard or no one will feel the need to comply with their oath.

      The perception that those at the top can get away with things that the rest of us can't is doing a great deal of harm to our country. Not that it's anything new. More out in the open, maybe. That perception is probably what's fueling a lot of the empathy for Pvt. Manning.

      I'm saying, BTW, that people above Janice Karpinsky needed to be held to account. CIA, or whomever.

      So, one thing I'm not really interested in, is opening the can of worms that was the situation vis-a-vis Iraq. One thing I bet we agree on is that it could have been handled better. I'd say leave it there.

    7. Oh I agree, John, with the gist of both of your comments. I just felt compelled to point out that commanders are held to account, many of them, not all, but many.

      But rank does have it's privileges, junior folks go to jail, senior folks retire and then get offered defense contractor jobs.

      Karpinsky should have been stripped of rank and tried for dereliction of duty - as the commanding general you don't get to not know what's going on under your command.

      Worse, she and her officers allowed the CIA to give their enlisted troops orders. That's bullshit. I don't take orders from the fucking CIA - and, just for the record, this is something I'm very familiar with, I had the CIA attempt to pull the same shit on me. The difference is I sent his ass packing, I don't take orders from the fucking CIA, and I for damned sure don't let my men do so either. Karpinsky was derelict in her duty, she should have been in prison right next to her enlisted folks. And so should the goddamned CIA agents who ordered the torture and mistreatment.

      Don't get me wrong here, the enlisted folks should have gone to jail too, they should have refused those orders and reported the situation up the chain, they didn't and they brought shame and dishonor to us all.

  6. As a civilian all I can say is that I know I am not in a position to evaluate the worth of the information Manning released. I am also not an idiot and therefore I know that releasing that information to Wikileaks was wrong. Unequivocably. No excuses. And whatever oaths or promises may have come to mean in the civilian world today; i.e. conditional and malleable; in the military world they had better be rock solid. If you cannot accept that premise, you shouldn't be in the military. Just my two cents. Concise and perfectly expressed as always, Sir.

  7. I have never worn the uniform, and, thus, have never had to take the oath. And I have not had much contact with those in the military. Even so, the even handed way in which you laid out the facts in your argument, step by very clear and unemotional step, have allowed me to understand the seriousness of Manning's actions in a way no other source has done. It has also helped me to understand, to a very small degree, how seriously those in our military take their jobs, and precisely why that is so important to the safety of everyone in this country. Thank you for giving me a new perspective on so much more than just Bradley Manning.


  8. Once again Thank You. It is refreshing to see that a fellow retired military liberal can feel Manning and Snowden deserve punishment- they are no heros. I have worked in the military IC community- and I know well what the enemy garners- especially open source. As a retired commissioned officer I know about oaths- which are still binding (as are classified disclosure regs).Bradley Manning- a soldier and trained as an analyst should well and truly have know what he was doing. People have died protecting classified information- I cannot for the life of me understand what hubris compels someone to break and oath and a sacred trust for some narcissistic reason. I do think that the volumes of information Manning handed over to Wikileaks may- in an odd way- be less damaging than Snowden's- only because HOW is often more interesting than WHAT to our enemies. Yes enemies. In our convoluted world everyone spies on everyone else make no mistake about it. It is stepped up in times of war- a LOT of gathering and analysis accomplished. And outside of physical war is the cyber war- which is relentless and more insidious. While the cyber arena is less bloody it is no less damaging. Here is where Snowden should have known better- although a sys admin is no analyst. An analyst has to trust that the Snowdens of the the world keeps information and product protected in a guarded infrastructure. Because of Manning and Snowden the "Insider Threat" issue has become untenable in the IC community. Thanks Guys. Not only have you betrayed an oath or a sacred trust, spilled your guts, and let our enemies know how we operate, but your actions have made it even more difficult to get product to those who need it. For those who think the IC community should be more transparent- take it up with your elected officials. There is a reason why most people with clearances keep their mouths shut.

  9. You posted the exact same message I've been telling since Manning was arrested, you violate your oath under the UCMJ and you go to jail. PERIOD There are no if's, and's or but's about it. To this day, 99.9% of the men and women that have taken that oath still consider it to be in effect and would never dream of violate something they swore to protect with their life.
    I hope they lock up the little weasel bastard and throw away the key, it's to bad they really don't have a rock pile at Leavenworth to put him on for life at hard labor.

  10. Is this really any different than someone signing a confidentiality agreement? The root problem would be a distrust in upper management, unfortunately for both Manning and Snowden that's the US government.Courage in your convictions means willing to take the punishment and the US gov is a little less bloodthirsty than those ruling the middle east.

  11. I was always a bit confused when I would see pictures of Pvt Manning in uniform because he was always wearing almost 2 full rows of service ribbons. Made me wonder how he had earned all those in the first place.

    I found some information on a Wikipedia citation about his service career and, if the information is correct, it would seem that he probably should never have made it out of bootcamp in the first place. Somehow he did, and from there his service behavior only seemed to get worse yet he somehow eventually ended up as an intelligence analyst. What bothers me is how he could have survived any type of 'vetting process' to begin with.

    1. He was a PFC because he'd be demoted for cause, he punched a female soldier in the face during a disagreement on an intelligence watch floor.

      Which is why he has more decorations that is typical for somebody at his paygrade.

      In peace time he'd likely have been discharged, in time of war things are different.

  12. When The President of the United States, The Secretary of State, The Senate Majority Leader, The Speaker of the House, corporations like Lockheed Martin and NBC News all want to go to war, we will go to war. The American Citizen has no say. Never has never will. Manipulation of information to garner support of an ignorant populace is easy. FOX News was able to get nearly 70% of their viewers to believe Saddam had something to do with Sept 11th!

    A very large segment of the American people opposed the war, thought it immoral. It may not have been a majority, but it wasn't small. And even if it was a majority it wouldn't have done any good. Most governments around the world and their citizens opposed going to war in Iraq. It did no good.

    Blaming the American Citizen might make you feel good, but it's a cheap way to avoid assigning proper responsibility.

    Just following orders, right?

    1. Oh blow it out your ass, Anonymous.

      The American public reelected the men who took us to war, they reelected and continue to reelect the folks in congress who took us to war. They had a chance in 2004 and again in 2006 and again in 2008 and again 2010 to issue a vote of no confidence. Tell me again who's responsible?

    2. How do you enter a vote of "no confidence"? I have never seen it on my ballot. If you mean to vote for the guys who lost those elections, do you really think that if we had elected them, it would be any different? Would we be better off with Romney, or McCain, or whoever ran against Boehner? It would probably be a little different, but better? Probably not.

      Jeanne in WV

    3. Uh, no. Blow it out yours, asshole. Take responsibility for what you and your ilk did to get us into that unmitigated mess. The American Citizen did not throw anyone into the meat grinder. You and your kind did.

      Own it!

    4. Uh huh. Please be more specific, what exactly is "my kind? " Show your work.

    5. You think the American Citizen is responsible. I think the Government/Military/Corporations are.

      Where do you fall in that group?

    6. It appears to me that you think a middle-aged housewife with five kids who thinks George Bush is swell, loves Donald Rumsfeld's folksy charm, trusts Colin Powell and every anchor on FOX, CNN and NBC as they cheer on the impending invasion, you think she's more responsible then a Chief Warrant Officer. (and of course all those mentioned above.) I think it's cowardly to blame her. But maybe that's just me.

    7. Sorry. Looks like a bunch of anonymous can get confusing. I'll do as Jeanne did and at least sign off as MK.


      PS all those in this conversation other than jeanns's are mine.

    8. Ah, you're a Libertarian, that explains the ad hominem attack and the logical fallacy that is your last statement.

      Your complaint is duly noted. I think you're about done here, shove off now

    9. No. A proud liberal. Not a libertarian. I also don't believe in blaming innocent people.

      And I won't stay where not wanted.

      Just following orders.


    10. Excellent. Don't let the door hit you in the ass, be sure to take your smug self-righteousness with you.

    11. MK, so to follow your line of reasoning... the people of the United States are incapable of expressing their will through representative democracy...is that it?

      KW in CA

    12. MK, as he pointed out in the essay, the military is commanded by the civilian government. Who elected that government? That would be you, me and all the other US Citizens who voted (or didn't) during that time period. If you don't understand that then you really don't understand how the US military works.

    13. MK is the kind of Liberal that gives liberals a bad name.

      Awash in logical fallacies and faulty reasoning, MK dismisses the fact that in the US the government is the responsibility of the people, by design and by law - whether the people chose to exercise the franchise or not. Don't vote, remain ignorant, don't get involved, follow the extremists, you still choose.

      MK absolves the citizenry of responsibility and blames Corporations, the military, Government - essentially arguing that corporations (and the government and the military) are people and ignoring that those things are composed of citizens and that the government and the military are under control of the voters if they so choose to exercise their option. About 60% of them don't. Again, don't choose, and you still choose.

      MK excuses the ignorant housewife who has abdicated her responsibility in the republic and who MK thinks isn't part of the problem, and holds the Chief Warrant Officer accountable, in essence saying that my vote is more important than that of a housewife simply because the housewife is stupid and busy.

      MK seems to think that this (supposed) situation evolved spontaneously, or through some nefarious plot between government, the military, and corporations, and MK then washes his/her hands of any responsibility on the part of the citizenry that allowed it to happen - despite the fact that Constitution clearly places responsibility for the country directly into the hands of the citizens.

      Proud liberal. Right. Like I said, the kind of Extremist Liberal that gives liberals a bad name.

    14. I really don't see how voting would solve the problem. If you don't like the incumbent and want to vote him out, you may have to vote for a Tea Party member. Aaack! If a Red Pig and a Blue Pig are running for office, you're going to end up with a pig, no matter who you vote for. (That was unfair to pigs. Actually, they are nice animals.)

      So, what am I advocating? Nothing. As the human psyche changes, these behaviours will just fade away. Who is to blame? To blame for what? Why do we have to blame someone? What does that accomplish? We have an incompetent, non functioning government, and we have to blame somebody. So everyone sits around, typing furiously and posting about whose fault it is. Who cares? It is what it is. How we got to this point is not important. It's like falling out of a window into a tree. You are not going to get out of the mess by retracing your steps.

      The fear on here is palpable. If someone gives away our secrets, we're doomed. If the (Dems, Repubs, Tea Party, Obama, the congress, etc.) gets their way, we're doomed. If we aren't vigilant, evil people will take over everything and we're doomed. Oh, heck, we're doomed by global warming anyway, so F it.

      Take a deep breath, sit back and relax. Ranting endlessly about whomever you think is "responsible" for whatever you see as the "problems" we have is counterproductive. It also wears you out. Not to mention, it does absolutely nothing to change the situation.

      Jeanne in WV

    15. Enough people voted these creeps in for this to happen.

      That's why it happened.

      If you don't want it to happen more, vote the creeps out, get some control over the likes of Haliburton/Blackwater/etc, get some control over the crazy rich (all filthy rich are not crazy), and stop the stupid war.

      That's what you can do, instead of blaming people who are in the military.

    16. "The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
      Justice Louis D. Brandeis

      MK, every citizen that doesn't apply due diligence and rational thought before voting, that fails to actively monitor and paticipate in their government between elections, or that adopts the defeatist "There's nothing I can do to change things." attitude is culpable.

      Shirking responsibility by blaming entities that wouldn't have the power they do if we, collectively, hadn't allowed it, doesn't cut it with me.

      As to our military members, I thank them for being willing to follow orders and give all, if necessary. When we, without vigorous, constructive protest, allow them to be sent somewhere, the responsibility for what happens rests squarely with us, and we need to be the ones to "own" that.


    17. To be clear, I'm in agreement with the verdict in this case, for reasons noted above by Jim and others, though I do have concerns with some of the treatment reported during his incarceration to date.


    18. I think Jeanne in WV hit on a core issue in her first paragraph : the voter is often left with a choice of vermin (to give pigs the requested break) to vote for. I am entering the old fuddy-duddy stage of life myself, and I can truly say that most of the votes I have cast in my life have been votes "against", not votes "for". In other words, voting for the lesser of two evils.

      And what causes that? My choices are boiled down to the (usually) two people who were both ambitious enough and cutthroat enough to survive the political selection process. And of all the people who enter that process, I believe a large percentage are attracted to the trappings of power and respect (well, power anyway) that go with political office. So I am statistically likely to be offered a choice of egotistical, power-driven douchewaffles (thanks FB posters for that word) to vote for.

      And again, what causes that? There are many factors that contribute, but one of them is the reluctance and/or apathy of the average citizen to get too involved in politics, whether by running for office or learning about & supporting the thoughtful, ethical people who do. (to be honest, I am one of the barely involved people I just described).

      So what is the solution? I certainly don't know. Start a draft system? Apply the old adage that "Those who seek public office are automatically disqualified from holding it"? Use Franz Werfel's system in "Star of the Unborn", wherein the future Planetary President was chosen by finding the person who least wanted the job?

      Heck, if we chose our lawmakers by random lottery, we would probably be better off than we are now.

      "Hey, you! Yes, you there. Pack your bags, you're going to Washington to be a Senator. No, stop whining and get going! Sir."


    19. Where I think Jeanne in WV is mistaken is that she assumes that the choices between two pigs--one red and one blue--is the starting line. Many choices are made to get to that point. More than that that, those choices may be overcome--take Lisa Murkowski who was elected by a write-in campaign in AL. If enough eligible voters want something, they will get it--for better or worse.

      KW in CA

    20. Bruce, "the voter is often left with a choice of vermin"
      How do the vermin get on the ballot? Isn't there some citizen selection process that gets names on the ballot? Or are names only selected by the upper reaches of the major parties, the military and large corporations?

      So who is responsible for the vermin on the ballots?

      TimBo (a Canadian)

    21. KC and Timbo.
      KC, I assume no such thing. I know they did not spring full blown from the head of Zeus just before the election. They worked their way up, but not usually from city or town governments. Most are lawyers and their first elected office is often the state legislature. You don't know until they get in if they are vermin or pigs or if they are honorable people serving with integrity. The next election if they have done something awful, you can vote them out, but usually they don't do a lot and you don't know if they are any better than the next guy.

      Timbo, Who the hell cares who is responsible? It is what it is. As nearly as I can tell, Obama is responsible. Apparently, he is responsible for everything that has happened in the US since about 6 months before his election to the present. (Somebody once wrote that he was responsible for the bank bailouts)

      The question is, can we change it? I wouldn't bother to try, myself. It will change as more and more people wake up: people who are looking to improve the lot of all people, people who don't have a personal agenda and don't look on political office as a stepping stone to riches and fame, people who have integrity and respect for others.

      The fat, old, rich white men will die off and the youngsters who are coming up are less money oriented, less power oriented and are not operating from a position of fear. As the decades roll by, the percentage of people who live with integrity and love will increase in each age group until it is the norm.

      You can rant and rave on the internet, join protests, sign petitions, and really experience all the hate and fear going around, if that is what you enjoy. There is not a thing wrong with that. If you are not that into drama, you can pull up a lawn chair, get a glass of lemonade and a big bag of popcorn and watch the rest of your countrymen thrashing about. In the end, the results will be the same. What is going to happen is going to happen and it is not brought about by doing.

      Jeanne in WV

    22. "Of course the people do not want war... But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism." --German Field Marshall Hermann Goering, Nuremberg, April 18, 1946. ... quoted at the beginning of Chapter 10 of the book "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" by James W. Loewen. (A fascinating book.)


    23. Jeanne, I'm having a hard time with your world view. You seem to be implying that: (1) individuals can't really change anything and (2) things will just change naturally since young people are less fearful than old people.

      I dispute both of these points.

      First, while most individuals may not be able to change things by themselves, *groups* of individuals absolutely can and do. Major legislative change may very well require a preceding cultural change, but that cultural change doesn't just "happen". It is pushed along by the "believers" - groups of people committed to a cause. And those groups are educated, inspired, and led by individuals. Individuals *can* make a difference, either by educating/inspiring their peers, or by joining with groups that push cultural change. While sitting around and bitching about things may not help a whole lot, engaging in discussions that help you refine your opinion and educating your friends and family absolutely *could* help.

      As far as your second point, you miss a pretty fundamental fact: young people grow old. Many people who are "liberal" (in many senses of the word, not just political) in their youth become quite conservative as they age, get a job, have kids, and realize that the world *isn't* going to be handed to them on a platter after all. Just being born 30 years after your parents doesn't guarantee you a more progressive outlook than they have (and factors like religion or trauma often make children considerably *more* conservative than their parents ever were). I'm afraid I don't see much evidence that the youth of today have any more integrity or love than the previous generation had at their age. They are perhaps a little more tolerant of some behaviors (most notably same-sex relationships), but I see those as single-point cultural issues (akin to civil rights for my generation) rather than any general innate increase in goodness.

      As far as the question of how to avoid making a choice between two bad candidates, I think you have four choices: (1) don't vote at all, (2) vote for the lesser of two evils, (3) vote for the candidate you really want (even if you're pretty sure they can't win), (4) get involved where the real decisions are made (local politics, advocacy groups, primaries) and influence things from the bottom up. Just about anything is better than (1).

      Andrew in CA
      (engineer, military veteran, military brat)

    24. Don't feel bad. Not many people can understand my worldview, much less agree with it. That's ok. It's my worldview and I am happy with it.

      I know that it appears that people change things with advocacy, protests, and such, but the way I look at it, the people advocating are responding to the changes made in the consciousness of the human race. Their advocacy occurs because the time has come when humanity is ready for change. There are always people who are advocating ideas long before the time has come that the idea will actually take hold. There were people who wanted the vote for women in the 1800's but it couldn't manifest until the early 1900's. The people who talked about it and quietly advocated it in the 1800's were responding (early) to the changes in the consciousness of humanity.

      Young people grow old?! Really? After 72 years, one would think I would have caught on to that, wouldn't they? Seriously, being born 30 after your parents does not guarantee you will be more progressive than their parents, but it sure increases the odds. You're correct. Some will be even more regressive, but what individuals do is not the point. What happens overall is what is important. Many young people today support gay rights, for instance. I cannot imagine that when they turn 40, they are suddenly going to decide that they no longer support gays.

      To the older generation, priorities in choosing a career were, first, it had to pay well, and the more the better and second, it would be nice if you actually liked it. To the younger generation. The trend (that's trend, not everyone) is to find a job that you love and second, to better society.

      The trend since the United States was born has been to become more and more progressive. When it was formed, it was OK to own slaves, women had no vote and few rights, blacks couldn't vote and weren't even considered a full human being. None of these things are coming back.

      Hippies "saw the light" and became more conservative because they were the forerunners of the progressive movement. Their time had not come so they could not sustain that outlook. Again, we are talking trends, not individuals. Those that now hold progressive views are not going to become significantly more conservative as they age. Those who are wild-eyed radicals will most likely tone down, but the average young person will grow up to contribute to a much better world.


    25. I am not sure what you mean by getting involved in primaries. The people who are running in primaries for state congressional positions are either incumbents or people who have usually never held an elective office before. Incumbents often run unopposed in the primary and in a contested race, the challenger is pretty much unknown. The challengers do a lot of hollering and ranting, which primarily serves to show how ignorant they are of the realities of the office they are running for. I vote in the primaries, but again, it is like the regular elections, there is nobody there that I really want. I certainly didn't want the lady from WV who wanted to run for the US house of Representatives whose main platform was that she was going to go in and clean up the mess. Had she no idea how powerless a freshman representative is? They would have eaten her alive.

      Other than voting for self selected candidates, I don't know how I can influence the primaries. Even then, as I said, they are a sorry lot and I can't whole-heartedly support any of them.

      Local politics is fine, but you don't have many important issues. In a rural WV county, very few important decisions are left to the County Board of Supervisors. Education decisions pretty much boil down to complying with state law in order to get funds. Even property tax rates are partially mandated by the state. By the time you get down to the local level, decisions on anything really important are strongly legislated by the state.

      Advocacy? A lot of people are doing it. It seems to work, but as I said, does advocacy generate change or is it a response to change in the human psyche? I think the latter, but I have no objection to people getting up petitions, demonstrating and writing their congressman.

      Jeanne in WV

    26. Interesting exchange here.
      Absolving the American populace of culpability comes across as akin to absolving Bradley Manning of culpability- for similar reasons. Was/is that the intent?
      Do we really want to accept it-is-all-too-big-for-us-to-get-a-handle-on-or-effect-approrpriate-actions?
      The underlying arguments worry me. We cannot talk about the interplay between the individual and the community anymore? About reciprocal responsibilities and rights betwixt and between?
      We can wash our hands of all stains and throw them up in disdain and disgust ?
      Those politicos folks vote in come from school boards, assembly/board of supervisors,planning commission boards, state houses, and the like. We have ample experience with them to make decisions in the voting booths if we pay attention, but oh hell no, it is a big rigged game? Always a choice between Worst and Worser?
      I'm thinking we need to own our own complicity in the general state of affairs and that Mr Wright is correct that these verdicts are about right for the reasons stated.
      I'm not a moderate, I'm left, left, left but I am extraordinarily tired of the "big machine" argument from the left.
      I do want to know the whats and whys as regards why Bradley Manning appears to have been treated unacceptably in detention. I do not want shit like that going on in my name or the name of "security" or whatever...
      Thank you Mr Wright. This is one of the most interesting and informative essays and comment threads I have ever had occasion to read.
      Alaska Pi

    27. Jeanne, you state that "people advocating (change) are responding to the changes made in the consciousness of the human race". I would agree that is true of MOST people - but this seems to imply that those changes in human consciousness arise full-blown like Athena from the head of Zeus. That I do not agree with.
      Then you refer to people who advocate ideas ahead of their time. I would argue it is indeed those people who help cause the changes of opinion in the general society. Isn't it the people who first question the status quo who then get a few more people to question? they are the first to nudge the boulder, and regrettably they often do not live to see it start rolling.

      And to try to answer TimBo's question above: there are different processes in different jurisdictions for getting on a ballot but, in each and every case, it begins with an individual who desires to be put in a position of power.
      Now, I am NOT saying that there are no good people in politics who genuinely care about doing what is right for the community. I am saying that politics seems to be a natural attractor for those who simply wish to have power, who want to force others into their worldview, or who want to promote their own self-interest. So the proportion of vermin is skewed in that population, if you ask me.
      Maybe I'm just a bit despondent over our own gubernatorial race here in VA. The Dem candidate seems very vague to me, while the Repub wants to boldly lead the state into the 17th century. So, I will probably be voting 'against' instead of 'for' once again.


    28. With regards to voting between vermin, I've always advocated for the option of having all ballots contain the option of "None of the above" (NOTA) for each office being considered. If the NOTA option wins the election, the candidates on that ballot are barred from a follow-up election.

      Impractical, yes, but it provides more data than not voting. And it would remove the platitudes about "the people have chosen". If someone wins by garnering 40% of the vote, but there was a substantial margin of NOTAs (say 20%), it means that you'll be governing with a majority of your constituency against you. And that a good portion of that majority actually took time out of their day to make sure that the candidates knew that they both sucked.

    29. With regards to voting between vermin, I've always advocated for the option of having all ballots contain the option of "None of the above" (NOTA) for each office being considered. If the NOTA option wins the election, the candidates on that ballot are barred from a follow-up election.

      Impractical, yes, but it provides more data than not voting. And it would remove the platitudes about "the people have chosen". If someone wins by garnering 40% of the vote, but there was a substantial margin of NOTAs (say 20%), it means that you'll be governing with a majority of your constituency against you. And that a good portion of that majority actually took time out of their day to make sure that the candidates knew that they both sucked.

  13. I'm not sorry he was found not guilty on that charge; on the other hand if he falls down the stairs on the way to Leavenworth I hope somebody pays for the damage to his guards' uniforms.

    What he did reflects on who I was.

  14. I served in Vietnam for two tours of duty as a Marine. When I found myself reaching a point at which logic and conscience were at diametric odds with my oaths, I opted to apply for an early release. Fortunately for my undeveloped 23-year-old will power, I was never in a position to react to the stupidities of my C.O.'s by releasing information to the public.

  15. I would say none of it matters because he knew he was breaking the law and was willing to accept the consequences. If he thought it was a "noble" act, good for him. Bad for us. Whatever. I'm neither a lawyer nor a veteran, but isn't the time for all of the "mitigating circumstances" during sentencing and not relevant to the verdict?

    1. but isn't the time for all of the "mitigating circumstances" during sentencing and not relevant to the verdict?


  16. Totally biased and forgets that the oath does not include genocide, illegal killings and the such. Sure it's been done but it's far from moral or right. The US has a history of aggressive behavior and will continue to be that way until people like Manning bust their balls. He's still a hero in my mind.

    1. um, did you actually READ the post? Jim spent hundreds of words telling you that he was biased and then hundreds more words discussing the difference between a lawful and unlawful order. Come up with a reasonable, evidence based response, and maybe someone will agree with you.

    2. There might be genocide occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan, but if it is, it is being perpetrated by the local population. America's mission in Iraq may have been predicated on lies, and Afghanistan may have been about oil pipelines as much as Al Qaeda, and both involved war profiteering, but the American people re-elected the vast majority of politicians who allowed this to take place.

      When was the last time a bunch of politicians lost there jobs? Sadly, after the gun ban was lifted and after Health Care reform was enacted. People will vote out politicians, but unfortunately we do so for the wrong reasons. There is no doubt the media is partially responsible. There is no doubt that corporations hold way too much power. Those are separate issues from the Manning case.

      If either Bush or Obama had won with 99% of the vote, we'd be in deeper trouble than we already are. They didn't. The system is still working, but people have to stop excusing dysfunction. This means not applauding the ass-hats who are getting nothing done in Congress, as well as not over-simplifying America's foreign policy.

      I actually support the mission of Wiki-leaks, but the mission isn't for Wiki-leaks to accomplish. Our elected leaders should be able and adult enough to know what we should classify and what the American people should know. They should act responsibly and should take responsibility. They do neither, and that's all our fault.

    3. Genocide? I don't think that word means what you think it means.

      And nowhere, no fucking where, did I or any military commander or the leadership of the United States ever support "illegal killings." Those who committed such acts were charged and tried, and in fact there are several cases before the court right now.

      Nothing in Manning's actions or the information he released supports your contention. Nothing.

      Your statement is bullshit, provably so. Try again, Anonymous, try harder.

  17. Thing is, the lawfulness of Branning's incarceration, as you say, is in doubt only for those who do not know the rules, or the fact.

    But that's beside the point of Branning's actions, at this point, he's a very minor issue.

    The big, damn, point is:
    Why is the Military and/or Government hiding information that doesn't actually have a need to be classified from the rightful sovereign of the nation?
    And we all know the answer. Because if someone, like you undoubtedly do, knows the horrors of war, he won't want a war. Any war.

    If the laws are wrong, change them. Whoever broke them before they were changed, of course, will be prosecuted, as democratic principles request. There's mechanisms to fix that, too (Presidential Pardon, etc).

    Now, let me ask the following question, to which genuinely i do not know the answer, not being that knowledgeable into military matters:
    Is hiding\falsifying information to convince the citizenry into a war treason?

    1. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution:

      "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."

      Short answer: No.

    2. As a wild guess, one of the (likely) reasons the military classifies so much is what Jim already pointed out -- there is almost literally NO way to determine beforehand what may or may not turn out to be the crucial piece of information that wins or loses a battle.

      As a very crude example, in _Ender's Game_ one of the protagonist's siblings figures out that the New Warsaw Pact is planning to go back on the warpath once the extraterrestial threat is neutralized despite their having classified anything by looking at the pattern of passenger trains being canceled and deducing the cause -- they're using those tracks and wagons to move troops.

  18. When I argue this to my capital L liberal friends I noticed that they seem to be unable (unwilling) to take emotion or irrelevant data out of the case, as you just so aptly did. I actually do consider myself very liberal, but I abhor what Manning did. It doesn't serve the purpose intended in any way shape or form. As a Data Scientist myself, I understand the implications in a trove of what might appear to be unrelated data but in reality, can be mined to produce some pretty stunning insights. What is in there and what some talented people can make of it remains to be seen. But in essence I agree with the sentence as well as your commentary.

    I think a major point of your commentary, not to be lost in the other points, is that division between the couch potato types watching a war on TV or in the movies, cheering the action on, and the reality of watching people, in real life, get blown away. In my opinion every man, woman and child in the world should have to watch that video. Every single one. And each of them should be told the people in the video are actually someone they love. Because they are. Someone did. What's happening is real. It's not Rambo. There, in that situation, there are no Stars and Strips flying and no background music. There is only death. I'm not squishy enough to believe that we do not have to do these things...it's a terrible world and, mostly, they are out to get us. But 30 minutes of deep thought after watching that video should make it quite clear that some Hollywood creation and people dying are two distinct things, and further, that we only do the second when we absolutely, positively, unambiguously have to, *cough cough* weapons of mass destruction. If everyone would learn that lesson, more people would live to adulthood and more would make it there in one piece.

  19. For the record, I've stayed kinda out of the whole Manning affair, so I'm more dispassionate about it than most progressives, altho I have a different opinion of Snowdown, but the subject here is Manning and breaking his military oath ... but my question to you is thus (and it's less a question than a point of confusion, fwiw) but I'll do the best I can:

    When the military powers that be or above are informed of bad behavior or behavior that verges on breaking the law (and note, I did quite understand your point that Manning has not proven they've broken the law) or engaging in activities that perhaps they shouldn't (let's say gleefully killing civilians or each other)... when they are told this and they ignore it or cover it up, what's a low level grunt to do?

    Is your position that they basically have to grin and bear it?

    This is about Manning, I understand, but it goes a bit farther than that for me ... I'm thinking about the epidemic of rape and sexual abuse of women, which may be a strong word but I couldn't think of anything else off the top of my head, that goes uninvestigated because the process for reporting it is fraught with system errors and the powers-that-be in charge don't want to change how such things are reported...

    In that regard, the process is flawed... it doesn't work well enough to protect those that it should, and those in charge don't want to change it because, well, change is hard, I guess, or something...

    I'm using that as an example for my question and concern...

    so as a civilian, regardless Manning is right or wrong, what I'd prefer is that there be a trustworthy system to catch abuses of the kind that both Manning and Snowdown (and note, Snowdown is not a military personal) have laid claim to... and I have no idea what said system is now or how it works... you know?

    Because I'm certain abuses do happen (the Iraq prison torture thing also comes to mind) and while it's true that war is immoral, there is a moral compass for behavior from our military personnel that they are bound to via the same oath you cite (true, yes?)... there are actions that are justifiable and right and those that are not (I'm remembering the Afghanistan grunt who was forced to go out and hunt civilians with his crew in the off hours, his squad leader was a nut and he didn't feel he could disobey him) and as a civilian, I have a vested interest in that as well...

    So I'm not entirely convinced that the system, as built, works as well as it should based on the many anecdotal stories I read (and I admit that THAT is what they are and I'm not in a position of authority to know) and had Manning truly uncovered a crime, he'd still have to break his oath and commit treason to expose is, because there is no way for him to expose it unless he can talk an upper officer into embarrassing the military by exposing it, which seems unlikely... so does it work as well as it can (which I have my doubts, but I cede to your authority here) and if not, how can it work better?

    Now, did that all make sense?

    1. JJ, if Manning had uncovered an actual crime his options to have it addressed are as follows:

      1) Report it up his chain of command
      2) Report it to the Inspector General office of the military
      3) Report it to the Judge Advocate General office of the military
      4) Report it to his Congressman/woman and or Senators
      5) Report it to the Commander in Chief (Who is technically at the top of his chain of command)

      He did none of those things. Instead he went for a "look at me" glory strike and dumped everything he could get his hands on. The fact that he also was trying to peddle things to known hackers makes me believe he was going for fame in the hacker world rather than actually attempting to report a "war crime".

    2. Lucas M,

      I get that re Manning (I admitted that above)... but the issue is, does the system work as it's supposed to work and as efficiently as it's supposed to work?

      There seems to be more than a few instances whereas the chain of command is getting in the way of reporting of actual crimes, are they not? That's been my impression and I listed examples ...

      I'm asking, not stating, fwiw...

      I certainly can attest that reporting something to Congress critters does nothing 99 percent of the time (I once knew a Republican staffer who told me that his job, and all of their jobs, was to keep outside opinions away from his guy)... and if a military man reports a crime to the CIC, don't they violate the COC by doing so? And get in hot water for that?

      You jump COC, it gets handed back down, and whoever is above you says, "don't listen to this guy" and then what?

      Again, I'm asking more than telling... this is my impression of the system (and my impression has likely been negatively influenced by watching the hearings on rape / sexual abuse reporting in the military)...

  20. Thank you sir, for this essay. As someone who is quite liberal by today's standards and who has always believed war is immoral, I am not so naive as to think we don't need our military. I'm liberal, not stupid. I also have tremendous respect for those of my fellow citizens who are dedicated enough and brave to put on any uniform in service to the rest of us, some of whom I have had the privilege of calling friends and family. Every single one of them took their oaths seriously, as well they should. Unfortunately, our culture doesn't seem to encourage taking any oath seriously these days, to the detriment of us all.

    If Manning, or Snowden, honestly believe that what they did was in service to us, then they should also be willing to accept the price of those actions. Especially Bradley Manning. He was a volunteer. He asked to be allowed to put on that uniform and accept the obligations and risks associated with it. He asked us to put his ass on the line, possibly on the front lines. If he thought specific acts were war crimes, then he should have reported them through proper channels rather than dump a massive amount of classified data online about friends and foes alike.

    Regarding Snowden and the NSA, if anyone didn't already know this was happening, they have had their head in the sand since the passage of the Patriot Act. Big Brother has been watching since the days of Hoover. He gets the new technology before we do and has the experts trained in its use. And frankly, I trust our democratically elected officials of this republic more than I trust the board of any publicly traded corporation's board of directors. They are only giving the government data they already collect! At least my government uses it to try to keep the bad guys out; the corporations are just trying to get their hands into my pocket.

    1. I have been trying to make this point with people who are making Snowden out to be a hero. The degree to which corporations track our every online move seems to raise no alarms with the ConsumerSTates of America. But if you mention data-mining and gummint in one sentence, you get a very different reaction.
      Still, we should have a conversation about just how all of this data mining works and exactly how abuse of the system can be prevented.

  21. Thank you for yet another thoughtful post. While I personally might feel that America is better off with this information leaked - I'd prefer the public get reminded of the ugliness that war entails - there is also no question in my mind that Manning committed criminal acts.

    I do have a question regarding the "aiding the enemy" charge, though. I would think that when originally written, the enemy referred to a nation with which we were at war, or an agent or agents of that nation. Can it really refer to individuals who we have decided (obviously often with very good reason) are "enemies of the state"?
    Can a nation really be a war with an individual or loose affiliation of individuals? This notion has always made me very uncomfortable. I feel like different rules should apply.

  22. I can't say I really care one way or another what the judge sentences Manning to, or what he was found guilty of. Manning is irrelevant. What he did is irrelevant. His sentence is irrelevant, except to Manning, family and friends.

    It is not a question of whether what he did was right or wrong. Right or wrong is in the mind of the onlooker. What Manning did was inevitable. If not him, someone else would have done it. Manning is a symptom of what is happening, not a cause. What is happening is unstoppable.

    When the psyche of the human race reaches a point where an idea's time has come, there is no stopping it. Woe unto those who try to stop the idea whose time has come and woe to the hapless person who tries to introduce an idea before it's time has come.

    The idea we are seeing coming forth is “there will be no more secrets”. There will be no secrets for pedophile priests or football coaches, corporations, government, the military, or the average person.

    You may have noticed that over the past couple of decades or so, things that were swept under the rug for a hundred years or more are suddenly coming out. It is not that there has been an upswing in these things, but rather, they are now being seen and acknowledged.

    The Catholic church abused altar boys for probably hundreds of years. For some reason, people started to notice it in the 90's until it exploded into a horrific scandal. Nothing had changed. Priests were doing what they had been doing for a hundred years, but now it was news. The same with sports coaches. You didn't think Sandusky invented that, did you?

    President Kennedy was dicking Marilyn Monroe. The average person had no idea. The press knew and elected to keep their collective mouths shut. Can you imagine that happening today?

    I was in high school in the 1950s. One of my friends was beside herself because she was going away to college the next year. Her father had sexually abused her and she was scared that with her gone, he would turn to her younger sister. She wanted to somehow get her sister out of there.

    We told her there was nothing she could do. No one suggested she go to the police or tell a teacher or counselor. We didn't even know whether or not to believe her. You know what? For the time and place we were in, we were spot on. She could not tell a school counselor because we didn't have them then. Telling a teacher or the principal would have gotten her nowhere. They would have had no idea how to cope with it and would have managed to hush it up. In those days, if you were a sexually abused child, you just sucked it up.

    The police would not have believed her, and even if they did, there was no evidence. Nothing would have happened except she would have gone home to a really pissed off abuser and friends and relatives who would suspect that she was either lying or brought it on herself.

    We have come a long way since then and will go further. We are seeing more and more of the seamy underside of our government, and people are beginning to talk about our corrupt medical system and big corporations like Monsanto.

    The Mannings and Snowdens of the world are people who react to the changes in the human psyche, not the authors of the change.

    Jeanne in WV

    1. Jeanne,

      7 years ago I might have agreed with you about the coming day where secrets couldn't be kept easily but now I see how naive I was. The fact is that it isn't necessary to keep secrets anymore. All they have to do is cast doubt on the truth and repeat the lies loudly/often enough. It's exactly what Stephen Colbert meant when he coined the term "Truthiness". The Internet was supposed to free us by increasing the power of the nameless individuals, and it did for a little while. But while the corporations and governments may be slow, they ain't stupid. They figured out how to deal with the flood of information; just add lies and half-truths to the flood and turn it into a tsunami. That way nobody can possibly distinguish fact from fiction and no real outrage can take root unless it's the outrage generated by those wealthy enough to control enough of the information.

    2. xIntech.
      Apparently, you are assuming that you and a few friends are much smarter, more savvy, more sophisticated than 90% of the population. You can see what is happening, but the rest of us can't. Everyone will be taken in by the lies of the corporations and the government, except you, of course.

      I've got good news for you. More and more people are rejecting the lies. They reject the accepted ideas of success. What the government and corporations tell them just doesn't even interest them.

      Corporations and government are finding this out, to their dismay. Granted, both are good at disseminating lies and half truths, but less and less they are being believed. Take Kashi, a maker of "healthy" cereals, bars and snacks. They are also a subsidiary of Kelloggs. They thought they could just say they were offering healthy food and go ahead and put GMO's in it. The people who are interested in buying health food have very good BS detectors and let Kashi know that they would not be buying their products. At this time, Kashi is backpedaling, doing damage control and trying to say that their products are GMO free. Few are buying it, or their products.

      Monsanto is running scared. They have been banned in many countries and are on shaky ground in the US. They have bought the government, but they cannot buy the people. Even though they spent millions of dollars in California to defeat the initiative to require GMO labeling on food, they only won by a small margin. They would not win again no matter how much they spent. Washington state is voting on a similar measure. Once a few states require labeling, the game is up. Too many people will refuse to buy food that is labeled GMO.

      Oh, and about the outrage. The world will not be changed by outrage. It will be changed by people being the kind of person they would like everyone to be, and quietly living their lives in such a way that they better society. There will be outrage by others, but it will not change the world. The outrage, despair, hatred and fear we see is engendered by the changing of the paradigm of humanity and the reactions of people who cannot handle it.

      Governments and Corporations are stupid. They cannot see that the populace is changing and that what worked in the past will no longer work. A large portion of the population does not go along with the traditional views and values of the country. Success is not a lot of money and prestige. It is doing what you love and contributing to society. Food should be grown sustainably and without poisons. Corporations should not take advantage of workers and pay them non-living wages. These people have gone from 25% of the population in 2000 to over 40% today.

      Money is not going to be able to control the information or the people's reaction to it. Ask Kashi. If you are a company catering to these people (health foods, clothing from 3rd world countries, etc) and you lie about your sources, your product or your commitment to their values, they will find out, and you will be dead in the water. It has happened.

      You need to get your news someplace besides the mainstream media if you want to know what is really happening in the world.

      Jeanne in WV

    3. Jeanne, not to nit pick or get sideways but Kashi's decision was an economic one--I'm also confident that their shareholders like their decisions to made on that basis. As for GMO's..-KW


    4. OK, folks, this topic is fractious enough, let's save the discussion of evil Monsanto and their evil Mutant Corn of Evil and etc for another time.

      And Jeanne,

      You open with:

      Apparently, you are assuming that you and a few friends are much smarter, more savvy, more sophisticated than 90% of the population. You can see what is happening, but the rest of us can't. Everyone will be taken in by the lies of the corporations and the government, except you, of course.

      And then end up at:
      You need to get your news someplace besides the mainstream media if you want to know what is really happening in the world.

      I.e. you start by accusing another commenter of thinking he's the only one that "knows what's going on" and then work your way around to essentially declaring that you're the only one that knows what's really happening. See?

      You've always seemed like a reasonable commenter to me, but you're verging on conspiracy nut here, please ratchet it down a notch or two. Thanks.

    5. Thanks for breaking it up Jim. I do want to say that I wasn't implying that I am much smarter/savvy etc etc. I was relying upon various studies of how people recognize statements as true or false. For example: http://www.academia.edu/184612/The_Impact_of_Repetition-Induced_Familiarity_on_Agreement_With_Weak_and_Strong_Arguments

      That is a study of something called the "Illusion of Truth Effect". It basically says that the more you hear it, the more true it sounds to you. There are a number of other excellent studies on that type of thing and they all point to a general weakness in all people (me included). We have an increasingly harder time distinguishing fact from fiction the more we hear the fiction. Churches and Corporate marketing departments have relied on that for quite a while.

      Otherwise, I will shut up because, as Jim pointed out, we have strayed quite far afield.

  23. I identify as a liberal...usually, "big time liberal". But, I cannot and have not ever thought that what Manning did was in any way shape or form honorable, honest, or the right thing to do. He is no hero....I am a nurse and my life has been spent in the fight against disease. We know that our bodies have good bacteria and bad bacteria. A balance of good and bad that we're "supposed" to have. What Manning did, was akin to whiping out the entire immune system in order to purge a non-lethal pathogen. He put the "whole body" at risk in order to expose a few cells....Stupid move at best.

    Mary Ann in South Carolina

  24. Amen, Chief.
    Not only did Manning betray his oath (that which binds us together, demands our discipline and strengthens our trust in one another) but in doing so, he besmirched the integrity and reputation of every one of us who wear or have worn the uniform. His apologists do us a a great dishonor.

  25. Thank you for putting this into better words than I can. Manning is an admitted oath breaker and convicted violator of the espionage act should spend the rest of his days in prison.

  26. Thanks for the article Jim. I always appreciate your opinion. I'm not sure I 100% agree with you though and would like to add my two cents in and hope you will have time/inclination to read/answer. Please know that I have shitloads of respect for you and your opinions (which I rarely disagree with) so if I seem bitchy or snarky it's just because I'm doing too many things at once and could have chosen more polite wording. Also, I just realized what a long diatribe this is. Sorry. However, I've been reading your blog for a while now and you sure can't complain about someone running on and on. Apparently we can only post 4096 chars at a time so I have to break this one up.

    First: As for using the proper channels. Yes, you are correct, there are channels. And sometimes they get used. But the reality is that they mostly exist to make sure that certain people never have to face up to what they have done.

    Whatever Mannings reasons were for doing what he did, they don't have any bearing at all on the reality of what the information showed. What the information showed us all is that there is almost no accountability for how the civilian contractors were acting. Forget about the helicopter video if you want to. We can pretend that was a justifiable shooting; I certainly won't say that I would have done differently had I been there. Also forget about the documents showing that we were supporting a dictator/torturer (can't throw stones for that anymore, can we?). and forget about the thousands of documents that showed that corporations were really the ones calling the shots. Forget about the documents that showed that various oil companies are not only using mercenaries to fight wars, they are actually getting small countries to go to war with each other to protect oil wells. (Some of that came out in the Manning info and some in the HB Gary hack; I read both extensively but may be mixing them together.)

    What about the videos and documents showing that civilian contractors were operating with no control or oversight? Doesn't that also need to be dealt with? Shouldn't we know that they were literally driving down the road shooting at people for fun? I have known enough Vietnam veterans to know that young guys with lots of guns in a war zone often do some really horrifying things and that the military usually covers it up because the one thing the military likes less than an enemy.. is a mess.

    Not to mention the additional problem of corporations that have astonishing influence at all levels of the military and government. Do you really think Blackwater or Halliburton were going to allow the military to do anything about what their contractors were doing? Do you really believe that mercenary companies were going to allow themselves to be punished? What are the proper channels to go through to report this: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c15_1333825385 Granted, these were contractors from a British company, but we know (partly because of Brad Manning) that the US contractors were doing the same things.

  27. Third: I don't think of Manning as a hero or a traitor. To me he is just a dipshit who tried to do the right thing and ended up doing it all wrong. I seriously doubt he wanted to aid the enemy, I'm pretty confident that he didn't want to hurt anyone. I would be willing to suppose that he truly wanted to stop the U.S. from doing horrible wrongs but most of all I think he wanted to be "The Guy Who Outed the U.S. to the World" and most likely the people at Wikileaks encouraged that idea while they were trying to get the information from him. To some extent I feel sorry for Manning because I don't think he understood just how bad it was going to get and I don't think he really meant to do anything more than out the U.S. on some pretty evil shit we have been doing. But mostly I think he is just a dipshit who really should have kept his mouth shut after he gave out the information. We both know that there were enough people with access to that information that they probably would have had a tough time finding him if he had been smarter. He isn't and now he's paying the price for being stupid. Too bad stupidity doesn't cost everyone the way its costing him. Whether or not he "should" be punished, the reality is that he MUST be punished because not doing so could actually undermine national security. I may not like it and it may not be pretty but the truth is that you are correct in that there are some things that need to be kept secret. I only take exception to the idea that the ones who have the most to lose be the ones to decide. I don't know what the answer is for that but it certainly seems that the current situation doesn't work very well.

    Which brings me to the subject of secrets and national security.. You are certainly qualified to discuss this and have enumerated some of those qualifications nicely. Here is my qualification: I'm a U.S. citizen and I don't like the way the military and intelligence agencies are using national security to deflect all responsibility for all the heinous shit they are doing in my name. That's it. I'm not James Bond, I'm not even a veteran. I'm just a citizen who is sick to death of hearing about the horrors committed in my name and about the horrors that are ignored/covered up in the name of national security and corporate profit margins. At some point we have to recognize that our national security is compromised BECAUSE of the things they are keeping secret. We have to look at the idea that the people who have the most to lose if the public finds out about what they are doing being allowed to decide whether or not the public needs to know those things. Just like the problem of Congress being allowed to handle its own ethics investigations. I would rather fight Al Queso in the streets than allow our government to keep invading other nations in my name. They took my love of this country and my anger over 9/11 and used it to justify a war that will stain our national honor forever. I'm sick to death of that type of bullshit. The military-industrial complex is completely out of control and it is going to require American blood to change that. Nobody else can do it because it's our disease to deal with.

    1. "Here is my qualification: I'm a U.S. citizen and I don't like the way the military and intelligence agencies are using national security to deflect all responsibility for all the heinous shit they are doing in my name. That's it. I'm not James Bond, I'm not even a veteran. I'm just a citizen who is sick to death of hearing about the horrors committed in my name and about the horrors that are ignored/covered up in the name of national security and corporate profit margins. At some point we have to recognize that our national security is compromised BECAUSE of the things they are keeping secret. We have to look at the idea that the people who have the most to lose if the public finds out about what they are doing being allowed to decide whether or not the public needs to know those things. Just like the problem of Congress being allowed to handle its own ethics investigations. I would rather fight Al Queso in the streets than allow our government to keep invading other nations in my name. They took my love of this country and my anger over 9/11 and used it to justify a war that will stain our national honor forever. I'm sick to death of that type of bullshit. "

      THIS^^^^^^ a hundred times yes...

    2. Agreed, well put.

      But I'm suddenly hungry for Chips and Queso.


  28. You are dead right that it is very hard to know what information will be useful to the enemy. But the answer isn't to allow the military-industrial complex to keep its own secrets indefinitely. The information Manning released showed that in grim detail. Whether it was the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians or evidence of state department complicity with dictators - it isn't OK to allow that stuff to go on and we have to do anything we can to stop it. Manning may not be a hero but we sure as hell need to accept that he also isn't necessarily a traitor either. He is in that gray area between the two. He is technically a traitor for breaking his oaths. But didn't the government break its oaths first? Why isn't that an issue? The reason: because there is no way to put the U.S. military on trial. There is no way to call the CIA to the stand. Nobody has the real power to stop them. And THAT is the real point here. In the face of wrongs that are virtually impossible to correct, what do we do? We obviously can't rely on force of law (or oaths) because the people at the top aren't adhering to the laws/oaths that are supposed to keep these things from happening. How can we condemn Manning for not adhering to his? It's wrong to break your oath but when the people who you swore that oath to are oathbreakers themselves what the hell is the point of the oath?

    We can wax rhapsodic all day long about how he is bound to a different code than civilians or that in times of war things change etc etc. But the reality is that we seem to be in a perpetual war that will only end when we don't have the money to keep fighting any longer. Something is seriously fucked up and it isn't one little dipshit PFC who gave classified intelligence to the media.

    Would I prefer that he had gotten someone to vet the information to make sure nothing could be used to harm U.S. soldiers? Yes, of course. That just isn't possible. And in the face of what our government is doing in our names it seems pretty obvious that the only way to deal with it is by telling the world what they are doing loud/long enough that it has to change. Does that put troops in harms way? Yes. But so does going into bullshit wars so that oil companies can make more money or so that GWB can feel like he is doing the right thing for Jesus. Why aren't we prosecuting Bush or Cheney for needlessly putting troops in harms way? Why isn't L. Paul Bremer in jail for creating the insurgency (probably at the behest of Cheney via Rumsfeld)? Because those guys NEVER get in trouble for treason and endangering U.S. troops anywhere/time. Ever. And what was done in Iraq is nothing short of treason.

    I don't know what the answer is. But I do know that until the people who are keeping the dirty little secrets start telling what they know we will never be able to address the real problem. If you swear an oath to protect and defend the U.S. from all enemies foreign and domestic, it is your duty to do that even if it means giving away the secrets that the real oathbreakers are trying so desperately to keep.

  29. Fourth: I know what you meant when you said "It doesn’t matter if Manning was treated poorly while under military detention." but I think it's worth pointing out and saying that it sure as hell does matter that he was treated badly while in detention. Innocent until proven guilty. I know the military is different but the fact is that until he is proven guilty NOBODY has the right to punish him, least of all people who are pissed off at him. It's wrong to do what they did and nothing he did justifies it. Nothing. Even that peice of shit Ariel Castro should be treated with respect and dignity until a court pronounces him guilty. While it doesn't feel as gratifying as beating the shit out of him the whole purpose behind innocent until proven guilty is that sometimes mistakes are made and guards/wardens/commanders shouldn't be allowed to punish anyone before they tried. You know...that whole "rule of law" thing.

    Last thought: If the fucktards at Faux "News" think he is a traitor he almost definitely isn't.

    See? You aren't the only one with verbal diarrhea.

    1. Jim, while I respect the hell outa ya (and you know that) a lot of what this person wrote are things that echo my thoughts and feelings (and he / she did it so much more clearly and concisely than I did)... so again I said, THIS...

      I look forward to the dialogue.

    2. Wow. Did you have too much coffee?
      The entire military justice system is a bit different from civilian law. Read what Jim wrote again.
      And really? "If the fucktards at Faux 'news' think he is a traitor he almost definitely isn't." That kind of logic feels just like Faux News.
      Please try to follow Jim's logic here.

    3. I think xintech asks some very interesting questions. Question we all should be asking.

      I'll take a stab at answering them when I get somewhere with an actual keyboard. Later this evening.

    4. XLNTech not xintech.

      Keep in mind that I am not questioning the differences between civilian and military justice at all, nor am I disagreeing with your points on that specific issue. I am not even disagreeing with the fact that Manning broke his word and the law. I'm saying that at some point we have to realize that the system is rigged and following the rules isn't going to get us anywhere.

      I was only kidding about the Faux "News" comment. Trying to add some humor so it didn't seem too serious and troll-ish.

      One of the things I like about Stonekettle is that most of the people here seem to take the time for thoughtful and sometimes even *gasp* educated replies. If anything I have said is offensive, [get over it] I apologize for being offensive when I only intended to add to the discussion in a positive (if somewhat smartass) way.


    5. XLNTech - so much yes! I dashed off a quick response due to time restrictions, and you've articulated what I was heading toward so much more effectively. Thank-you for taking the time that I did not.

    6. "One of the things I like about Stonekettle is that most of the people here seem to take the time for thoughtful and sometimes even *gasp* educated replies."

      I think we have Jim to thank for that. He occasionally posts that which the trolls send in. I feel it safe to say we can all be thankful for his sparing us that.

  30. Jim, I like your stuff. As the man said, "he writes a pretty good stick". I appreciate hearing your point of view even, maybe especially, when I disagree, you always give me a lot to think about.

    What bothers me the most right now is that I'm not allowed to know enough things to properly understand this kind of situation/case. Someone else gets to make these decisions for me. I do understand the rationale for *why*, I even realize and admit that I'd probably agree to it if I ever did know enough to understand. But I don't know, because I don't understand. Because I won't understand. Because I cannot understand. The government/military won't let me understand. And then, the government/military says, in essence, "Trust Us". And THAT burns my arse. Because, these days, I certainly do not trust my government.

    1. Kate, indeed, and you've put your finger right on the key point in this entire thing, i.e. how can you possibly be a responsible informed citizen and be able to perform your role in the republic if you can't know what's being done in your name?

      That answer is that such situations must be strictly limited and only when absolutely necessary and when there are no other option, and there must be systems and safeguards in place to assume that duty for you. Systems and safeguards that you can trust to perform their jobs and be accountable to you - and you don't have that. Which is why people like me yelled so damned loud when those systems, like the FISA court and USSID 19 restriction were lifted via the Patriot and Protect America Acts.

      Your concern is a very, very real danger and it needs to be addressed.

    2. Jim, just read your Manning essay..both of them...I was not on FB at all in 2010..and never heard that the video occurred 2 years before the REMF* arrived on site...Had never thought about the immediacy of war and why the shooting was understandable..seriously thanks for the details...I was beside myself when the Posse Comitatus act was repealed..why should military arrest citizens on U.S.soil???..but I digress...and have had the argument about the just war with my former friend and AF Spec Ops guy Danny Prichard...It finally got thru my head...approved by Congress MADE it a legal war...and my partner..another AF vet..but not career guy..and I think one way to slow down those bumper sticker wars..would be to reinstate the draft...that way ALL mothers and sons would have a dog in the hunt...a chance to see those frag draped coffins OR Not....Have to go share your writing now...thanks again....Marilyn Ciucci..(too lazy to sign up...but have never been anonymous...Which congressmen should we bug to get this info more public???

  31. "I, (state your name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will ...” That’s where it begins and ends for me. Manning broke his oath, he is forsworn, he has given up his honor, he is corrupt and has proven that he is not capable of keeping faith with anything, in anyway, under any circumstances. I don’t believe he wanted to do what is “right”, what he did is beyond what I could ever see as “right”. Right means keeping your word, honoring your oath, no matter how hard it is to do.

  32. Our oath defines us. It is the core of everything we do. Either it is good, or it is not, there is no middle ground. This is a fact. Thank u..

  33. Anyone who thinks that G.I.s should act on their conscience need only picture a God-botherer ready to kick off Armageddon with a tactical nuke. "Conscience" isn't an unerring moral agency; it can be indistinguishable from hatred and mad as a hatter.

    1. Pretty spot on, Wiley.

  34. By this "logic" nothing, absolutely nothing soldiers do that they are ordered to do is wrong or criminal. I shout BULLSHIT..................

    1. Might need to work on the old reading comprehension there, Boob.

      That's not what I said. That's not even close to what I said. That's not even in the same neighborhood to what I said. Try again, Bob, try harder.

  35. Part of the point of "what information is useful", even deliberate misinformation, if detected, is useful, simply because then one wonders "why would they lie about THAT". Obviously this can be played many levels up and down, but information is information.

  36. Given the crazies in Congress that will jump at the first chance to use information to "bring down" our current president, I think there were plenty of other avenues that could have been used had Manning intended to do any good at all. For example, if he had told Michelle Bachmann that Barak Obama was responsible for war crimes and he could prove it, he would have gotten plenty of attention. Based on the actions he took AND the actions he did not take, it is clear to me that he was not in any way interested in being a real "whistle blower" but trying to do something to make himself noticed. Well, good job, Bradley. We noticed. Now you get to pay for it.

  37. Definitely a case where the "ends don't justify the means." Thanks for your service, Jim. Your perspective on events, especially when supported by your military experience, really gives me clarity so that I can better formulate my opinions ;)

  38. One concern you do not address, Sir. "Enemy" is supposed to be a narrowly defined set: somebody on which the United States has declared war, or somebody who has actually attacked the United States (and, remember, we declared war on Japan). And not some possible or probable enemy of tomorrow, but one of today.

    And the Founders are clear about that; Alexander Hamilton leaked Cabinet discussions to the British throughout his time as Secretary of the Treasury; the Foreign Office has the reports of Beckwith and Hammond, the men he talked to. They were a hostile power, but not enemies. (Whether Washington would have fired him, as he fired Edmund Randolph, is another question.)

    What enemy, in the strict sense, did Manning aid? The gang of air pirates that attacked us on 9/11 has been broken up (some of them may live); the government of Afghanistan that sheltered them no longer exists.

  39. Right the hell on. When I was in the military I had access to things that are now pretty much available on the internet, but I still won't talk about them, because I made a legal oath not to do so. This stuff is serious.

    I don't think Manning deserves to die for this, but even if I approved of his actions, I would still say that he must pay the consequences for them. That's what would've made this a brave choice(if brave choice it was) - the choice to reveal the information in SPITE of the consequences he would HAVE to pay. He doesn't get a pass because he thinks he's revealing war crimes.

  40. Ok my problem with the whole thing is that the US feels it has the right to go after the persons/organisation that the documents where leaked to. I have no problem with Manning being tried under the military code of justice, he BROKE THE OATH he swore he broke the contracts he signed.. But the US is out to put others on trial for Mannings fault.. Astrang has been listed as 'an enemy combatant' publically because of this.... Hang on, Wikileaks never signed the contracts, was it morally correct that they published material on active operations that could place people at risk? No not really but in the end they didn't do anything but PUBLISH the material which is exactly what Journalist and the like do.

    No where did Wikileaks sign a document saying they would not relevial information, at no time we know of has Mr Astrange signed any contract stating he would not revel US Government secrets (or Australian or British or any one elses). So in no way did Wikileaks or Astrange break the law here.

    The US can put it's own citizens on trial all it wants, but I do NOT believe and will NEVER believe that it has the right to place foreign citizens on trial for simply publishing material given to them.

    1. Manning was the thief. Assange is the fence and Wikileaks is the criminal organization that is laundering the "money".

    2. "Fence" is a corrupt analogy. Fences pay money for stolen goods. That's not the story here. Wikileaks, like them or hate them, is a publisher. Just like the New York Times. If you go after Wikileaks then you have to go after every newspaper that published any of the items.

      Mannging stole the info. He admits that. But if you start criminalizing publishers then... you kiss your hallowed right to free speech good bye. Flush it right down the crapper.


    3. A fence receives stolen goods, whether or not they pay for it.

      By definition a fence is an agency that receives stolen property and then makes those goods available for sale to other agencies who may or may not know that the goods have been stolen. A fence acts a middleman between the thief and the ultimate buyer of the goods in question. Typically a fence purposely acts to disguise the origin of the stolen property, often to fool the buyer into thinking that the property in question is not stolen or contested. But that is not always the case, sometimes the buyer knows the goods have been stolen, perhaps even by consignment.

      Wikileaks routinely receives stolen goods, it's the site's stock in trade and Julian Assange makes no attempt to disguise this. And Wikileaks then profits from those goods via donations to Assange via various agencies that benefit from the stolen information he provides. Again, this is not in dispute.

      While Wikileaks may perform some legitimate and traditional publishing functions, it is only superficially similar to a legitimate publisher, just as the Mafia is superficially similar to a legitimate business and may in fact provide some legal business services.

      When referring to knowingly profiting from stolen information as Wikileaks has done in the Manning case, fence is perfectly correct.

    4. A fence receives stolen goods with the intent to make a profit. Whatever Wikileaks is up to, making a profit is not one of their objectives.

      The Pentagon Papers were stolen goods when the New York Times published them. But you say they are not a fence. Is that because they also published Real Estate and Lifestyle sections?

      And the NYT and the Guardian and other papers have been publishing the stuff that Manning stole for months. How can you say it's okay for them, but not for others? is it the comics? I know that sound facetious, and it is, but it's a serious slippery slope point. Or a seriously slippery slope of a point.

      Just because Wikileaks publishes stolen stuff, so long as they do it with the intent to inform the public, means they aren't categorically different from the NYT. Doesn't mean we have to agree with their politics or their aims, but they are still part of the 4th estate. Try to cut them out from that herd and you will very quickly find you have killed your whole herd.


    5. Respectfully, BB, I understand what you're saying and while I agree with you in broad outline, I must disagree in the details.

      Wikileaks isn't engaged in journalism, it's a clearinghouse for stolen information. Wikileaks is no more a legitimate news organization than is Stonekettle Station. It may become one someday, true, but at the moment Assange's primary stock in trade is stolen information. I would submit to you that while Assange may claim the moral high ground and proclaim his altruistic motives as the watchdog of freedom, he still manages to make money off his stolen property whether that's his primary purpose or not. It's obvious that he has a pretty specific political agenda. His "Information belongs to the masses" shtick might make a fun debate in college philosophy classes and at hacker conferences, but in reality he's profiting from stolen property the same as any fence. His claim of moral superiority is nonsense.

      Assange is keeping secrets or trying to (his sources for one thing) same as any government that he deplores (he just thinks he has a moral reason to do so, but others don't). He's more than welcome to defend his organization's hypocrisy in a court of law, so far he hasn't done so.

      And to point out the obvious, NYT et al also claim to be making the world a better place as the watchdogs of freedom. Assange doesn't have a corner on that market or any more of a legitimate claim to righteousness than I do.

      Something else to note: Not to be pedantic or anything, but I didn't say it was okay for the NYT to publish the stuff Manning stole, though at this point it's probably moot.

      The NYT et al are professional news organizations, so yes, I guess you could say "it's the comics." The vast majority of the information they publish is obtained through legal and transparent industry standard methodologies that can be for the most part be defended in a court of law (and have been numerous times) and are protected as such under the Constitution. Now, certainly they do obtain information from questionable sources, but that is a tiny fraction of their process, and real journalism (of which there is admittedly less and less nowadays), requires independent verification of sources - something Wikileaks lacks (I know, I know. Don't bother. But this is also part of the problem, WikiLeaks' questionable business practices drives other, legitimate, news organizations to lower their standards in order to compete, it's a negative feedback loop though it's not illegal, just immoral - if that word has any meaning here).

      Am I arguing degree? Am I arguing semantics? Perhaps. Yes. But information is always about degree and semantics.

      I agree, this is a slippery slope - though I'm reluctant to allow that argument in that it can become the slippery slope fallacy damned fast. It's just as easy for the government to make the same argument, e.g. if we allow Julian Assange to go about unfettered Wikileaks will destroy America.

      Wikileaks may be part of the Fourth Estate, just as the National Inquirer is, but that's not a license to facilitate criminal activity such as Manning or Snowden's actions. And that's the fundamental difference between the NYT and Wikileaks. By that logic, evidence obtained by law enforcement via an illegal search and seizure is ok, so long as it benefits the public.

      Again, as I said, I think we are in basic agreement here. You'll note that I didn't call for Wikileaks to be shut down. But I think that Assange with malice aforethought has made himself some powerful enemies. You deliberately poke the bear, you don't get to complain about being mauled.

    6. Thanks for your considered reply. Guess I'm used to talking about issues like this in terms of legality/criminality (Manning) but now the conversation seems to have shifted to terms of sheer power relationships (Wikileaks).

      You say wikileaks isn't engaged in journalism, but acting as a clearinghouse for stolen information. I know you know what you mean when you say that, but if we try to pin down where the line lies between 'journalism' and 'stolen information' we fall into a swamp.

      How many great news stories of our lifetimes were based on information that the subject of the stories did not want published? Most, I'd say. That's basically the job of an investigative journalist: find out what powerful people, companies & countries are doing that they don't want us to know about, and tell it. If we limit 'journalism' to reporting only information the powerful are NOT trying to keep secret, then... we ain't got no more journalism.

      remember Potter Stewart's line about how to tell when something is pornography? "I know it when I see it." That line is often is used to suggest the arbitrariness of power, but the irony is, it really is true. We really do know the difference, most of the time, between a work of art and a work of pornography, even though no one yet has been able to write down a useful schematic test. Not because there is no a difference, but because the difference is extremely complex.

      I'd suggest that the line between one man's trafficking in stolen information and another man's journalism isn't so clear as you would like, not in the sense that you don't know it when you see it, but in the sense that it may be impossible to write a law that won't make an ass out of itself and us damn quick, or, worse and more likely, chill the pursuit of legitimate journalism to the bone.

      Say some daring mensch smuggled a lot of top-secret information out of North Korea. Say it was stuff the rest of the world really needed to know. Say the mensch published it on the internet, with the express intent of embarrassing Dear Leader. Would we call that person a criminal? I don't think we would; nor would he or she be guilty of crimes in our neck of the woods.

      Which all gets back to power relations. Assange -for all his dirtbagginess- ain't from our neck of the woods. Which is to say he's operating outside our jurisdiction. He sees a powerful country trying to hide information from the world, things he believes are harming the world, so he puts his neck on the line to publish that information. He is out to harm the interests that want to keep the info secret, i.e. us. As you say he really is poking the bear with a stick. And the bear, entirely predictably, wants to swat him so hard his head might just fall off.

      What's dangerous is if, in our righteous fury, we confuse what is no more than an all out brawl for a legal action. If we stretch the law far enough to make a cover for our kick-ass, then we will without doubt and without fail turn around one day and find that it no longer functions as we once relied on it to function. Civil society descends into brutality and the strongest arm wins not just when beating up Australian upstart fuckwits, but hometown newspapers and candidates for office who don't agree with the bros. Koch. We have to be very very careful what we use the law for, and I don't think we, as a country, as we extend our self-appointed jurisdiction to the entire planet, are keeping that duty of care nearly as much in mind as we ought to be keeping it.

      If you chop down the forest of laws in your pursuit of the devil, where will you stand and shelter when he turns round and the chill wind blows for thee?

      I agree that you and I are probably in basic agreement here, which is to say I believe Manning is a criminal but Assange is merely a pluperfect douchebag, and I think -I think- you might not entirely disagree with that.


    7. As I think I recall from one of your previous comments on a different post, you're a lawyer, BB, correct? In Florida?

      It shows ;)

      Concur, I think we're in basic agreement, and in point of fact I don't disagree with any particular thing you've said. I think the difference in our positions is that you're approaching it from a legal standpoint and I'm coming at it from the military side.

      ... it may be impossible to write a law that won't make an ass out of itself and us damn quick, or, worse and more likely, chill the pursuit of legitimate journalism to the bone.

      Absolutely agree. If the experience of the post-9/11 world has taught us anything about the law, it's taught us that (or not, sigh).

      Say some daring mensch smuggled a lot of top-secret information out of North Korea. Say it was stuff the rest of the world really needed to know. Say the mensch published it on the internet, with the express intent of embarrassing Dear Leader. Would we call that person a criminal?

      Excellent point.


      My problem with that, particularly from a military and most especially from a governmental standpoint, is that that sort of reasoning taken in the wrong way can lead folks like Manning (at best) or people in positions of power (such a Chaney et al) to the conclusion that the ends justify the means. Note: I'm not saying that always happens, and I'm walking the edge of the slippery slope fallacy here of course, but without strict boundaries, when military and government folks begin to believe that the end justifies the means you end up with the My Lai Massacre, you end up with torture as an acceptable form of information gathering, you end up with indefinite detention without recourse to civil protections, you end up with Major Malik Nadal Hasan.

      I know, it's a long ways to go from Bradley Manning to Waterboarding, but history shows that power corrupts absolutely, it is imperative that for liberty to survive, we don't come to routinely believe that the ends justify the means.

      If you chop down the forest of laws in your pursuit of the devil, where will you stand and shelter when he turns round and the chill wind blows for thee?

      Indeed, and I agree. But, to continue the analogy, if you fail to clear the undergrowth upon occasion, if you allow the forest to grow without bounds, you'll likely find yourself trapped in the resulting forest fire.

      Manning is a criminal but Assange is merely a pluperfect douchebag.

      Yep. But as I said above, you poke the bear, you don't get to complain about being mauled. Assange has done exactly that, he deliberately set out to make himself the enemy of some very powerful agencies, he did it on purpose, now he's all upset at the consequences. Too damned bad for him.

    8. Well spotted. Born in Florida, passed the bar there some ages ago, subsequently moved on from both. But if you can take the man out of the courtroom, you can't always take the courtroom out of the man.

      If it were me drawing lines in the sand I'd say let's do our best to keep our own house in order, but if our house leaks, then let's not pretend we have a legal right to beat up on anyone who publishes our leakage. Because we don't have a legal right. We might well have a big scary bear's might-makes-right capacity to beat up on him anyway, but we really ought to go careful with that stuff, it tends to blow up in ours, or anybody who uses it, faces.

      And I'm all for well kept forests; controlled burns are crucial. Trouble is everybody with a match thinks he or she's a forest ranger...

      However we come down on this one, I'm always pleased to find your opinions here. No matter what the issue, I like my arguments well cured and well salted. A damned rare commodity these days. Keep up the good work.


  41. I'm ambivalent about Manning only because I only heard bits and pieces of this whole thing. I agree, he should have taken his concerns through official channels, doggedly. I don't trust Wikileaks. I get an anarchist vibe off of them that will not go away until they start revealing the grand conspiracy the Koch brothers are heading. As for Snowden, he's about to be so very sorry to be in Putin's Russia.

    1. Wikileaks goes for the US and UK for the same reason that PETA only throws paint on little old ladies wearing furs rather than biker gangs wearing leathers.

  42. Excellent as always. I am impressed with your ability to see through the BS! I often wonder how you sneak into my head and make sense of the jumble.

  43. Good explanation for why nobody with any moral compunction should ever put themselves in a position of having to take an oath or having to follow orders unquestioningly.

    1. So only immoral people join the military? Charming.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Those with a moral compunction should never take an oath?

      What about an oath to uphold their moral compunction?

      You're saying that those with a moral compunction can't be in the military? Or be a Judge? Or serve as a congressman or the president? Or a fireman? Or cop? or serve on a jury or as a witness? Or be a notary public. Or be a priest ... OK, that last one is a bad example but I think I've made my point here. I would argue that a moral compunction is required to take and uphold an oath in the first place, otherwise there isn't much point in the oath is there? As I said, either your word is good or it isn't.

      And as to "following orders unquestioningly," um, no. That's not what I said and that's not what the US military demands, in fact it's just the opposite. Your military oath, at least in the service of the United States, means that you are required know when to question orders and when not to. You are legally required to know the difference between a lawful order and an unlawful order under the UCMJ. You are fully accountable for your own actions, "I was just following orders" isn't a legitimate excuse - as those soldiers who followed the illegal orders of the CIA at Abu Ghraib found out. Legally this is true under civilian law in most cases as well, a priest can't say, well, I was just following God's orders when I molested that choir boy (Well, he can but it won't keep him out of jail...).

      When it comes to the military, we don't trust the security of the nation to unquestioning robots, no matter what popular media my portray us as.

  44. Look, if Manning had a document or a bunch of documents that showed actual malfeasance, and he had gone to the press/up the CoC/called his congressperson with them, I would be standing in line to cheer him. But what he did wasn't close to that. What he did was closer to robbing a bank, and throwing the cash around and then claiming that the bank was bad so he was justified.

    1. I think what he showed was murder by a bunch of compartmentalized trained killers with little compunction for the destruction of human life.

    2. So... pretty much what we have to train soldiers to be in order to hurt people and break things in the countries we tell them to?

  45. Bradly Manning was nothing more than a whiny disgruntled soldier who wanted people to think he was either a victim or a hero or both. He was in trouble and had grandiose ideas that if he somehow convinced people that he was a whistleblower it would make all of his problems go away. We call that delusional thinking BTW.

  46. Very well put Jim Wright. Thankyou.

  47. Well said Jim, and with the greatest respect I have some disagreement. Agreed, the verdict was correct; Manning did just about everything he was charged with except "aid the enemy".

    I have the same problem with this as does Paul Anderson: what enemy, exactly? "Terrorism"? Bullshit: that is an abstract concept, not an enemy. Certainly the men and women we send abroad to kill and die for us have recognized adversaries. But have we declared war on stateless Taliban and al-Qaida? We (sorry, those warriors; my service was long ago) achieved "Mission Accomplished" in Afghanistan and Iraq ten years ago; what is our military mission now?

    There may indeed be a defined "enemy" is a legal sense, but strangely I as a citizen, one of those supposedly in charge of this whole fiasco, either am not permitted to know, or else lost track during the whole sorry stream of lies that has fed these adventures.

    On another subject, to the early commenters who referred to "Manning/Snowden": They are two different people who did different things under different circumstances. Lumping them together because they both released classified information, and are therefore (take your pick) both commendable or both execrable, does not approach any kind of nuanced discussion. This is the Manning post and not the Snowden post, so 'nuff said.

  48. Having read all of this with great interest I'm moved to suggest that there are essentially two different values brought to this debate.

    The most common view being expressed here puts primacy on the social process Manning was engaged in; the terms of his contract and oath with the military (and by extension the nation of the USA) are the letter of the law by which he should be judged. The alternative view places a higher value on the social principles Manning was engaged in; the idea that if the US military is truly the servant of the nation, then it cannot keep secret from the people the true nature of the wars it is undertaking on their behalf.

    Both views have their light and dark aspects. Commitment and loyalty to social process, abiding by an oath, setting aside personal needs to serve a greater good is an admirable thing; yet too easily this slides into authoritarianism, conformity and blind obedience. This is the stuff atrocities are made of.

    Equally history holds up as heroes those individuals who defied the weight of social process and cleaved firmly to a principle vital to them. Often these people pay a very high price for their zeal, but in doing so they are remembered for generations as vital change-bringers. But of course the dividing line between zeal and zealotry can be a fine one indeed. How many would be heroes turned out to be sad ego-obsessed attention-seekers?

    I'd strongly suggest there is a balance to be sought here. I'm willing to respect Jim Wright's view, one consolidated over decades of hard life experience, that Manning violated his social and ethical contract with the military and must accept the consequences of his actions. At the same time I see Bradley Manning as a younger, perhaps more idealistic man, who has chosen principle over process ... and I think future generations may well see him as a hero.

    No human is perfect, no prophet is honoured in his own family. We are too intimate with their flaws, their vanities their shortcomings. With the distance of time these things tend to recede and it is the broad outlines of their lives which remain. Assange, Manning and Snowden will be with some justification, discounted for now, but in the longer run I think the bigger message about the nature of state power, ubiquitous surveillance and how we cannot morally pretend away the moral depravity of war ... will stand.

    1. PhilipW, I found your comment interesting, for lack of a better word. You asked, "How many would be heroes turned out to be sad ego-obsessed attention-seekers?" I can think of one, and that would be Bradley Manning. I, like Jim Wright, was a senior non-commissioned officer in the intelligence community for 20 years. I can tell you from personal experience that there is not a single junior enlisted service-member who has the experience to make the kind of decision that Manning made.

      Over and over again, throughout my time as an NCO, I had soldiers try to tell me that they did not agree with the "way things are done" in reference to any variety of activities- not just during the commission of our intelligence jobs, but "the physical fitness test doesn't adequately judge my level of fitness," or "the promotion board doesn't show that I will be a good leader." Lovely, you don't like the process? You think it could be better? You want to change things? Well, guess what? Get promoted (if you think the process to get promoted doesn't work, then it should be a breeze to go through it and then recommend changes).

      You want change in the military- you become a policy maker. Go learn how to make the changes, learn how to change the process. This is why senior level NCOs and officers are part of that process: they have the 25 to 30 years of experience as to what works and what does not.

      A PFC with less than four years of extremely limited information and limited responsibility has NO IDEA about ANYTHING. I can think back to when I was a Private and thought certain things were stupid. Then I got promoted, I became a leader, and it was MY responsibility to enforce the rules and understand why those rules were in place. Did I agree with it all? No, not necessarily, but my personal self and my NCO self were often at odds. In the execution of my duties, my personal feelings and opinions mattered very little; my job was to keep my troops alive. That responsibility pretty much trumps my personal feelings about the moral depravity of war.

      The rules are there, especially in the intelligence world, you have a lot of very intelligent people who think they all "know better" than everyone else. You want to talk about ego driven attention seekers? Join any branch of the military in an intelligence field and you will meet all kinds.

      Thankfully, even those naïve, inexperienced MI geeks mature, get experience, lose the ego (or at least most of it), and realize that their actions can have a far-reaching affect, a sobering thought when you realize that how well you do your job can keep others from dying on the battlefield. We sit in air-conditioned (not for us, for our computers), windowless rooms, doing "secret" things, trying to catch the bad guys. We generally aren't out there, rifle in hand. We have our own role to play. Let the enemy know how we, the military intelligence guys do what we do, well guess what? They change their tactics, we can't find them, they kill our troops. So no, YOU, PhilipW, or any other average citizen, don't need to know what or how we do it. It has nothing to do with the philosophical conversation and everything to do with keeping our people alive.

      If every able-bodied citizen wants to know the "secret of the true nature of war", please feel free to join up and learn about it first-hand. It is ugly and it is brutish and very, very few of us enjoy it. War IS hell. I speak for many when I say this: we stay in and we do what we do because we love our country. The motivation for serving in the military goes beyond the steady paycheck and the college fund.

      Sincerely, AH.

    2. AH,

      "So no, YOU, PhilipW, or any other average citizen, don't need to know what or how we do it. It has nothing to do with the philosophical conversation and everything to do with keeping our people alive."

      This kind of statement deserves a little discussion. You say that we don't need to know either WHAT or HOW the intelligence services work. That is often the type of thing I hear from people who have been in the various MI services and it is a poison that needs to be leached out of our system.

      The reality is that the citizenry in a healthy republic does need to know WHAT you are doing (or have done), just not necessarily HOW you do it. Otherwise how can we possibly expect to use our elective process wisely or make any decisions about voting? How would I ever be able to vote if I have no idea what happens once that person is in office? I don't need to know what methods of torture are being used, but I sure as shit need to know that we are torturing people because I don't give a shit what the threat is, I don't want us to be a nation of torturers. I don't need to know how the NSA is collecting data, or analyzing it; but I certainly need to know what they are collecting and the big picture view of how they are using it(law enforcement or anti-terrorism).

      And I don't have to join the military to have an opinion on that or to have a right to know what is being done in my name. That is how a democratic society works.

      As for the philosophical conversation: It absolutely does have to do with the philosophical conversation and the fact that you can't see that anymore is part of the problem. The military is so wrapped up in the mission and "keeping our people alive" that they can easily lose perspective.

      It's up to us, the people, to have the philosophical discussions about WHY we are there, WHAT we are going to accomplish and let the military worry about HOW. The torture issue is a perfect example. As soon as they were given permission (secretly of course) the military(including CIA etc) went forward with torturing people. They didn't stop to ask whether or not America should become a nation of torturers. They just looked at the job they had before them and the tools available and went ahead with it. Torture was only stopped (hopefully) after the public found out about it and had a fairly loud discussion and ended up agreeing that it just isn't right. Guantanamo is another example of a need for a public philosophical discussion. That entire camp is going to stain our country and be a rallying cry for extremists for decades, possibly centuries to come. Did the military step up to the plate and say anything about indefinite detentions without trial? Did they do anything at all about CIA operatives just dropping prisoners off without any explanation of what they did? No. They just did what they were told. And without an informed populace that kind of thing would go on unnoticed forever.

      At some point we have to be proactive in our democracy and the only way to do that is by being well informed about what is being done to other people by our representatives.

    3. xlntech, I agree with you- up to a point. You make an excellent example of torture (the act of torture versus the means of carrying it out). I too do not want to be a nation of torturers- both my personal and professional selves agree on that. And I absolutely agree with knowing what our politicians are up to- they are elected representatives of all citizens and are therefore answerable to every single one of us.

      Intelligence gathering on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. You can very easily determine the means by which some intelligence is gathered simply by knowing that information. And as Jim pointed out in his post, that one small piece of information may get someone killed. That someone may be a U.S. soldier, a contractor, an informant, or an innocent bystander, or all of the above. So no, in general, I still cannot agree that specific collected information should be released until the potential for it to cause harm or reveal the means by which it was gathered is no longer there. That is why intelligence communities declassify information many years after the fact. The methods or equipment used to gather such intelligence can be reverse-engineered or gone around- lessening our chances to be successful in our endeavors.

      And please understand that I am speaking in general terms about the general process, and not necessarily the agreement or disagreement about whether our time in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else is immoral or unethical. Service-members do their job- if you think that by doing it well, that we lose our perspective, than so be it. You don't know, plain and simple, unless you've done it. It is no different than any job.

      You pretty much nailed it with "let the military worry about how." It is very easy to figure out what types of information can be useful to the intelligence community, in general terms. But in most cases, very few need to know specifics. To know specifics is to reveal procedure. (The notable exception would be torture, I really do agree that is an unnecessary means to gather reliable information.)

      (As far as Guantanamo goes- I have no answer for you. I am quite sure there are myriad people far, far above my previous pay grade who discuss it on a daily basis.) AH

    4. AH,

      Actually we seem to agree more than I thought. I probably just got a little trigger happy with the whole, "you don't need to know" thing. I truly do understand that it's a really, really complicated messy situation. There is just no way to boil it down to simple bi-chromatic statements.

  49. Anyone who thinks that G.I.s should act on their conscience need only picture a God-botherer ready to kick off Armageddon with a tactical nuke. "Conscience" isn't an unerring moral agency; it can be indistinguishable from hatred and mad as a hatter.

    <Emo Phillips>
    Die, heretic!
    </Emo Phillips>

  50. .

    In a world of universal lies, telling the truth is a crime.

    Outstanding discussion on the complexity of some of the issues (not persons). You outlined the challenges facing _people_ who have responsibilities daily. You breakdown the nuances in a readable style.

    One aspect you seem to skim over though, is, "Who is the enemy all these secrets are being kept from?" Your ‘trust us, we know what’s good for you’ arguments depend on the critical point that the government does not trust the people. Yet about the only 'players' in the game who were/are in the dark of actions of USA government, are the people of USA.

    ‘The game is fixed.’ The game is so fixed that it is against USA law to tell the USA people that the game is fixed and to tell/show how the game is fixed. All to often secrecy and secrecy laws were/are used to cover up lies, crimes, malfeasance, and mistakes. Whole legal/media/public relations industries exist to game the USA system.

    As examples, it is against the law to torture. It is against the law to order others to torture. It is against the law to pass on orders to torture. It is against the law to allow others to torture or to allow people to be tortured. It is against the law to know of another person illegal actions and to do nothing. It against the law to lie under oath to Congress. It is against the law for Congress to allow a person to knowingly lie under oath to Congress.

    Given the compromised governmental environment that existed and exists where blatant violation of USA and international law, government regulations, rules, and policy go unpunished, and the military chain of command is complicit, what does one do?

    Government officials are above the law, openly tell lies and go unpunished. Heck, laws are written to protect those who use the law for their own nefarious advantages.

    Who does the government’s law enforcement system bring to court? Those who bring the facts to light.

    In the final analysis, trust the people.

    Ema Nymton

    1. Ema, you miss the fundamental point. "The Poeple" you refer to isn't just the US citizenry. Any information released to "public domain" is automatically released to our enemies as well. Over and over I have seen the same arguments you've made above and that fundamental fact always seems to be missed or not understood.

    2. Lucas M,

      Perhaps you miss the point of why a democracy is so damn hard to make work. You are right that the public domain is risky but history has shown that secrets are far riskier. We can't maintain a nation of laws if the maintenance requires that we break the laws the nation is founded upon.

      While it may be true that freedom isn't free; the cost can't possibly be freedom itself.

    3. Ema, You are correct. I skimmed over who, exactly, the "enemies" are.

      I did it on purpose.

      I think both Lucas and xlntech have legitimate points, but I also think they missed the point I was alluding to by not discussing a specific enemy(that's not a slight, given my background I tend to carry certain baggage. This is apparent to me, but not to those that never sat in the classes I taught on military planning and the lessons from Iraq). One of my primary concerns, both while in uniform as an officer in the warzone charged with writing and executing battle plans, and now as a responsible citizen (hopefully), is that this conflict remains undefined. The objectives are undefined. If the objectives are undefined, then you have no way to compute metrics for determining your effectiveness (what the military calls Measure of Effect). Without overall strategic objectives, without metrics, there is absolutely no way to compute specific military goals (as opposed to general political or national goals). Without goals there is no way to tell if you've achieved the objective. Everything else depends from that basic cycle, objective, metrics, goals (or what Col John Boyd called the OODA Loop, Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act)i.e. what are the objectives? How do we measure them? How do we know when we've accomplished them and therefore how do we know when we've reached the end of the conflict? And what do we do afterward?

      This is why I despise idiotic general phrases such as "the war on terrorism." You can declare war on a terrorist, but you can't declare war on terrorism. You can't declare war on terror. Terror is an emotion - you're going to prevent people from feeling? Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. Declaring war on terrorism is like declaring war on flanking maneuvers or air superiority. It makes no goddamned military sense. It's an asinine statement and an nonsensical strategy. And that's exactly the problem, it's a symptom of faulty reasoning and poor leadership, and everything else falls out from that. And what you're left with, when you pull the thread, what you find is that the "enemy" is a vague shadowy undefined sinister threat. That, right there, is why the United States went into Iraq in the first place, why we ended up with the Patriot Act, and why we keep chasing our tails around and around the Middle East without getting anywhere and while we'll be right back there in ten or fifteen years.

      It's been ten years, we still haven't answered the basic questions: In the "War on Terror" who is the enemy? What do we want to do him (i.e. what are the strategic goals: destroy him utterly, take his land, herd the survivors into camps as in the Indian Wars? Destroy his country and ideology, burn it all to the ground, and replace it with a model of our own society as we did with the Nazis? Beat him into submission and then build a wall around him as we did the North Koreans? Give him a black eye and then walk away hoping he learned a valuable lesson as we did in the first Gulf War? What's the goal?) What are the objectives? How do we measure those objectives? What is the military goal? What is the political goal? What does the end state look like? How do we know when we get there?

      That's why I didn't define an enemy. And that's why the court didn't either.

  51. "information, in all its layers, is everything"

    During WWII, the allied forces, from Great Britain, dropped "agents" into Holland (by parachute). They were caught, instantly executed and their "information" confiscated by the Nazi occupying forces.

    My grandfather and a great-aunt operated in this "theater of war" as part of the resistance (they were from separate parts of my family). Nobody *ever* knew anyone, nobody *ever* knew why they carried some information ... they just knew where they got it and where to deliver it (always a "spot in a remote location").
    Knowing nothing helps you (and your fellow insurgents !) under torture.

    And then you read about the caches of data in OBL's possession and the "smart"phones full of contact information of his messengers. You wonder if they really were out to "win".

    1. Nope, they just hadn't realized what that might cost. It's a learning curve. And that is one of the biggest reasons what Manning did is criminal. He gave everyone in the world a very big data set of what exactly we are capable of. It's a how-to on avoiding US surveillance. All they have to do is look at what information we had, figure out how we got it, then avoid taking those actions that allowed us to get it.

  52. I think, in punishing Manning, the administration is punishing the messenger.

    Would we even be having this debate if administration officials had not broken their oaths? Would Manning have had anything to leak? Does anyone here really believe that President George W. Bush, with his signing statements, his secret prisons, his torturers, was keeping his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States?" And by continuing and extending many of Bush II's policies, President Obama has become a participant.

    You argue that Manning could have gone through channels. But many people have already gone through channels, done it by the book. When we voted Bush II out by a popular landslide, we were were doing it by the book. But the surveillance state and the wars just kept rolling. We've done all the right things, all the by-the-book things--not just the general public, but many military and civilian officials. And the surveillance state and the wars still roll.

    1. I think, in punishing Manning, the administration is punishing the messenger.

      Sometimes the messenger is an accomplice.

      Would we even be having this debate if administration officials had not broken their oaths?

      We wouldn't be having this debate if the portions of our government charged with checks and balances had done their goddamned jobs instead of acting like hysterical fools and slavering warhawks. Congress is willing to impeach liberals for everything from a blowjob to a birth certificate, but won't hold a conservative to account over a fucking war.

      That said, we wouldn't be having this debate if the real check on government power would do its job and stop electing religious lunatics and jingoistic extremists. But now I'm just pissing into the wind.

      You argue that Manning could have gone through channels. But many people have already gone through channels, done it by the book. When we voted Bush II out by a popular landslide, we were were doing it by the book. But the surveillance state and the wars just kept rolling. We've done all the right things, all the by-the-book things--not just the general public, but many military and civilian officials. And the surveillance state and the wars still roll.

      These are two separate issues. Manning could have gone through channels. He could have employed proper procedure. He didn't. You can't argue that those channels didn't work when they weren't employed in the first place. If Manning had called the IG, if Manning had contacted Congress, and been ignored or rebuffed, then you'd have a legitimate point.

      We voted Bush out and Obama in, along with a conservative majority and an extremist harcore spoiler via the Tea Party Caucus in the House. The Bush programs and the wars kept rolling, and then we reelected Obama and the conservative House, because a the majority of Americans wanted it that way. Voters could have changed it, they didn't. Gitmo stays open because the majority of Americans want it that way. NSA surveillance programs continue because a majority of Americans want it that way. The provisions of the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act remain in place because the majority of Americans want it that way. The TSA remains in place in our airports because most of us want it that way. Even if we claim that we don't. When it comes right down to it, no matter how Americans rail against such things, no matter how much they quote Ben Franklin's bullshit about trading security for essential liberty, when it comes right down to it a majority will trade their freedom for the illusion of security every time. You may not be in that majority, I may not be in that majority, but that doesn't mean it ain't so.

    2. Hmmmm.

      I don't think Manning was an accomplice. More like trying to turn state's evidence, only he did not believe that there was a state to turn to. What he did was illegal and a breach of his oath. But he was seeking justice.

      Manning is decades younger than you--than us. Bush v Gore, the Supreme Court decision which made Bush president, came when he was 12. The US turn towards authoritarianism came when he was 13. The Abu Ghraib revelations came when he was 17. It is, I think, hard for anyone his age to believe that official channels are effective, harder certainly than for someone my age, who remembers when despised groups sought justice from the highest court in the land, and were granted it.

      As you say, Manning did what he did and will now face punishment for it. But let's remember the backdrop to his thinking.

      To the broader issues, I have a few thoughts. I may flesh them out more on my own blog or further in comments. I suppose, in some ways, I've already written about them--maybe I can provide some links later. Two points, though, I will make here.

      1. The Republican House came later than the election of Obama, in 2010, and was voted in because people were out of work, impoverished, and losing their homes. People were voting against the economy and the corruption of finance, not for the war and the police state.

      2. I do not see how a rational political consciousness can emerge when public discourse is dominated by the mass media and the mass media are dominated by fear-mongering reactionaries. The laws and regulations of media concentration and political balance that were relaxed during the Reagan administration were put in place because of the mass media in the rise of authoritarian states in the 1930s.

    3. And I don't disagree with anything you said, Raven, in particular paragraph 2.

      I am, at heart, an optimist. But, I don't know that we can walk it back at this point. I don't know that a rational political discourse can arise out of anything but the ashes at this point. We seem hellbent on ideological civil war. Despite single digit approval ratings, congress just blatantly refuses to do its job. The extremists are perfectly willing to burn down the country rather than compromise. Eventually it's going to reach a head, unless reason is somehow restored. It's certainly possible, but it's not going to be easy.

    4. "I don't think Manning was an accomplice. More like trying to turn state's evidence, only he did not believe that there was a state to turn to. What he did was illegal and a breach of his oath. But he was seeking justice."

      No, Raven, he wasn't. If all he had given Wikileaks was the video and supporting documentation I might believe your point. Had he given over only documents which he had personally read, I might believe your point. When he dumps a total of 700,000+ documents into the hands of foreign nationals I call bullshit. When he then goes to known hackers and brags about how much he's given away and attempts to give yet more, I call bullshit. His intentions, in my opinion, was to screw over the people who he felt had "wronged" him by disciplining him for his own actions. The only "justice" he was looking for, as far as I'm concerned, was to put a thumb in the eye of his superiors.

      Jim, there are signs that a few of the Republicans are starting to see the writing on the wall. Not many of them, but some. I think they will again be shellacked in 2014, despite all their attempts to keep Democrats from voting, etc.. The real test will be when Obama leaves office. If Hillary Clinton gets the nod I think we'll have more of the same due to misogyny. If a white male Democrat were to take office and the same level of BS continue, then I might think the end is near.

    5. Lucas M, I am not sure I understand your point about a white male President. One of the first political victims of this wave of reactionary authoritarianism that has swept the country was Bill Clinton, and he was white and male. So far as the haters were concerned he might have as well have been Afro-Chinese.

      What Manning did wasn't a nationalist act at all. Manning was not an asset of any foreign government. Would it have been better if, instead, Manning had handed the documents off to a domestic version of Wikileaks? But such an organization could not exist; its members would be arrested and tried under the Espionage Act.

      What this is, is anarchic opposition to states and corporations gone mad. I am not an anarchist and it scares me. But it does not scare me so much that I don't see it for what it is. And, anarchist or not, I--and perhaps we--share common enemies with Wikileaks. I also would like to put "a finger in the eye" of the elected officials and unelected powers that are trashing my country and my world.

    6. Calarification:
      Here in Ohio we are blessed (snark) with a redistricting (gerrymandering) that won't allow voting out Republicans. The majority of the vote went to Democrats, but the Republicans are enjoying a supermajority in our statehouse. They also had no problems in most of the House districts.
      This sort of thing (subversion of democracy) is going on in the majority of our states. I think the Republicans are going to bitterly rue this (short term gain, long term pain), but for now they hold the House and a bunch of statehouses with a deathgrip. So, the voters, for once, ought not be held entirely to blame.
      It will be interesting to see how quickly demographics change in this unbalanced enviorment.

    7. (In two pieces, since comments don't accept posts this long. Some version will probably eventually be posted to my own blog.)

      A very late note: I went back through my blog, looking for relevant links, and realized that most of my remarks on this subject have been in comments on other people's blogs. The short answer, though is: controlled mass media can scare a faction of citizens into doing pretty much anything. Here's a note I put up on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog:

      "I think the thing that makes it possible to present a man as a messiah is centralized and centrally controlled mass media. That's how the totalitarians of the last century did it. There were Soviet citizens who sincerely believed that Stalin was their great savior, not their scourge, and Germans who thought that Hitler would save not just the Germans but the Aryan race. Historians seem to think that this was accomplished by some magic of rhetoric, but it does not seem to be so. Some fairly persuasive arguments, good presentation, and, above all, centralized mass media make it possible. Reagan, who began the end of the white middle class, is still seen as savior by many surviving members of that class. And such an alchemy has been worked with Paul, who is, so far as can be determined, an actual fascist."

      Add the gerrymanders John Healy has described and the undemocratic character of the Sentate to, and it is not difficult to see how insane minority viewpoints dominate our national legislature.

      What is honor, when when one's superiors are corrupt, all the way to the top?

    8. (part 2)

      I've been watching Obama press for Wall Street's poor choice for Fed chair over the objections of the Senate, and the liberal wing of his own party. I watched Obama's speech (I was at the gym, and I couldn't avoid it.), wherein he explained that the problem with the NSA was that the public was suspicious of it. "If that is the case, would it not be be simpler, / If the government simply dissolved the people / And elected another?" In these matters, Obama acts like a conservative wimp, but I don't think he is. Hoover blackmailed presidents. Why not other officers of the national security state? I don't know what hold Wall Street has on Obama, but it is profound. His administration has consistently opposed all but cosmetic regulation of the financial system.

      Whatever the reasons, this administration is deeply corrupt—not just the minor imperfections that any political system is subject to, but corrupt in ways that threaten the USA.

      But it is not just this administration.. Charles Pierce on the James Bulger trial in Boston:

      "But this trial was nothing if it was not an exercise in expiation for federal law-enforcement in the city of Boston, where a corrupt FBI office at best shielded Bulger and, at worst, continually frustrated some dedicated and courageous state cops who were trying to run this thug to ground for 30 years. And, apropos of something we discussed earlier today, if you had gone to those crooked Feebs back in the day and criticized the whole notion of running Whitey Bulger, they'd have told you how they were protecting the citizens of Boston from the Italian mob in the North End, and they would be very proud of that because they, too, were honorable men."

      The FBI's policing culture is not one that supports the Peelian principles of policing, which is the set of principles and policies that define what we think of as good cops.

      And then we have the Roberts Court and its conservative majority, chipping away at the foundations of US law. You have written about the deliberate obstruction in the legislature. And then the states. The legislatures and elections of all but the largest states can be bought out of petty cash.

      US legislative elections have a heavy majority bias. Our systems only support two parties; a majority and a large minority. It is difficult for a reform party to emerge and gain power. This puts citizens in a profoundly difficult position. The largest plurality of citizens vote on group affiliations: party and regional loyalties or bigotries. But how are they to vote when they are offered the "choice of cancer or polio?"

      We need major structural reforms. The way out is through.

    9. From which (previous two replies, which haven't cleared moderation yet) it follows that both the Tea Party Republicans and Naderites/Firebaggers/? (that faction does not have a name) are, in their condemnation of government corruption, both right.

  53. Mr. Wright:
    It looks like your opinion tracks pretty closely with what other military bloggers I follow are saying, particularly those with experience in intelligence gathering. Col. Pat Lang, who is a very different person than you, is saying basically the same thing, though he is being less generous in his personal appraisal of Manning. When pressed on what circumstances could justify violating the oaths you talk about, he cited Claus von Stauffenberg as providing a valid example; that's a pretty high bar indeed.

    Personally, I'm much more conflicted about Snowden than Manning, though I know that conflating the two is popular in some circles.

    -- Medicine Man

    1. I don't know that Lang is any less generous in his personal appraisal of Manning than I am, I just didn't dwell on that in this post since I'd expressed my opinion of Manning's character previously: False Heroes

    2. That was quite a read. I stand corrected.

      -- Medicine Man

  54. Jim, I agree that Manning is no hero and deserves punishment. I think xlntech hit it when he characterized him as a dipshit. A confused well-meaning dipshit or a self-serving glory-seeking dipshit? Kinda think the latter.

    Anonymous-MK failed to read the commenting rules and got what a dick in these discussions usually gets. But underneath the foaming-at-the-mouth certainty, there might have been a valid question. I bridled a little when the ignorant housewife got dragged into this discussion. Why you wanna go and beat up on her? Then I thought about Iraq, the 2004 election, and security moms. We all had an opportunity to change course in 2004.

    To say I paid close attention to the case being made for war is an understatement. My husband, an Army officer with 21 years in, got called up for the Iraq adventure in 2003. If he had gotten the call for Afghanistan, I would have understood that. But as you so eloquently stated, Jim, military personnel (and their families) don't get to choose. While he was thrilled to go and put all of his skills to use, I was terrified. I'd like to say I was the stiff-upper-lip, sunny, suffer-in-silence dutiful little military wife, but it all seemed so insane, bizarre, and useless that I had a real crisis. Oh, I didn't break down or attend any Code Pink rallies. On the surface I maintained. But on the inside a bitter seed of cynicism took hold. That a guy like George W Bush could send a man like you, Jim, or a man like my husband to Iraq-- well, it just blew my mind. And the American people went along with it!

    But what do they know? Indeed, what can they know? If their go-to source of information is blow-dried news readers on network or cable they will have a limited picture of the world. After 9/11, I followed a Washington Post military blogger whose name escapes me. He described in detail the visits CIA analysts were getting from administration officials, especially Dick Cheney's office-- visits that were designed to pressure CIA to produce a different "product" than they had been. We now know where that was leading and the blogger disappeared from the Post. I read Tom Ricks, Colonel David Hackworth, and Colonel Pat Lang among others.

    But in the end, I was living in an entirely different world than most of my fellow citizens. While I was reading, they were watching the expert analysis of retired military officers who strode across illuminated floor maps of the Middle East making the case for war. Their presentations were embellished with dramatic music and high-tech graphics. They were billed as independent experts with lots of serious experience. Only years later did we find out that these "independent" analysts were all handed their talking points via Secy Rumsfeld's regular conference call. And if you deviated from the accepted line you got cut out of the loop and dropped from the list of approved "experts."

    So I return to the moms. They got played. I am NOT saying I blame the media for taking us to war. There were many factions who had reason to beat the drum for invading Iraq. But much of the media did not do its job and television news stood to gain huge ratings in case of war. The moms got played along with a whole lot of other folks. I've been around military people for thirty years and I had a hard time sorting information from disinformation.

    So what sort of country are we? I hope-- yes, I still have hope buried under the cynicism-- that we are a country that is learning that war is very difficult business and a very dull tool. I hope we are a country that is developing the courage to face up to the fact that we can never be totally secure.
    When xlntech says "I would rather fight Al Queso in the streets than allow our government to keep invading other nations in my name" that hope grows a little.

    1. Nice. I hope your husband is OK.

    2. I suspect you and my wife would get along just fine, ceijai.

    3. xlntech, Thank you, I enjoyed your comments greatly. I've read them twice. I count myself extraordinarily lucky--he came back in one piece. He is a different person than the guy who went off to war-- an even better person than the excellent human being he always was. During his entire life he has loved the concept of serving the nation. He has devoted himself to the Army. What the Bush people did to the Army and this nation has been tough for him to take.

    4. After reading about your wife, I take that as huge compliment, Jim.

  55. Jim,
    Thank you so very, very, very much. It's refreshing to come to Stonekettle Station and know I'm not the only liberal who sees a turd like Manning for what he is. Being a liberal veteran is a lonely business, and I'm grateful someone like you can help offer some eloquent perspective to people on the left who (rightfully) abhor war so much they fail to grasp its realities.

    To any who read this, which I understand is unlikely given how far down the comments section it sits, know that what that Apache gunner says and does in that video are absolutely normal in war. He is not an outlier or a misfit. I served as a sniper in Afghanistan, which isn't as glamorous as Hollywood makes it seem. Every Infantry battalion has some of us. Before attending Sniper School, we undergo psychological exams and background checks and personality inventories, meaning we are all "normal" and sane and stable.

    Maybe it's training or maybe age or maybe testosterone, but no matter how sensible and compassionate you are, you cheer when you kill the people you perceive as the bad guys. Adrenaline flows like a river, and you beg people to pick up weapons and to prove you right so that you may achieve PID and kill them too. Your purpose is killing the enemy. Making him dead, so he can't shoot or blow up any of the guys in Charlie company or whoever. When you're well trained in that purpose, achievement of that mission becomes no different than scoring a touchdown. You curse, high five, celebrate the death of another human being. I'm sure it's always been that way. I'm not a violent person. I wish the firearm had never been invented. When the old man's wife dies in the movie "Up" I weep like a child. I can prove that I'm normal, because of the aforementioned psychological testing. I also hear myself in the Apache gunner's voice.

    As a grunt, I always loved the sound of close air support. Knowing that the full engineering and technical might of the wealthiest nation on earth is hovering above and raining hot metal on people who look like they wish you harm is indescribeable. I'm glad, I guess, that the guys up there didn't do a lot of second guessing. Ugly? Messy? Definitely. Gruesome? Certainly. Don't like it? Vote better, convince your friends to vote better.

    1. Josh, thanks for that. Sincerely.

      Question, did you read my previous post on Manning? False Heroes and Whistleblowers?

    2. I did, actually, from the link in this post. My post might have belonged in the comments for that article more naturally, but I read that one right before this one. I suspect my brain mashed the articles together. Either way, you're 100% correct, there is definitely a Manning in about every unit, and he's always an asshole. Some NCO whose name we'll never know failed badly letting him anywhere near anything sensitive.

      Thank you for your writing, by the way. I can't stress enough how refreshing it is to read.

    3. Some NCO whose name we'll never know failed badly letting him anywhere near anything sensitive.

      And that is the goddamned truth, right there.

  56. Another excellent comment that gave me a lift was this from skyman123:

    "I think a major point of your commentary, not to be lost in the other points, is that division between the couch potato types watching a war on TV or in the movies, cheering the action on, and the reality of watching people, in real life, get blown away. In my opinion every man, woman and child in the world should have to watch that video. Every single one. And each of them should be told the people in the video are actually someone they love. Because they are. Someone did. What's happening is real. It's not Rambo. There, in that situation, there are no Stars and Strips flying and no background music. There is only death."

    As long as CNN could show Pentagon video of cool shit blowing up in Iraq, people paid attention. When the going got really tough and it wasn't fun anymore, people switched channels. They didn't want see it anymore. CNN and the rest of news operations cut coverage and pulled personnel out. Gosh, who knew war would be such a buzz-kill?

  57. This. SO MUCH THIS.

    I *am* a fluffy, soft-hearted, probably mush-brained Liberal (although I'd chalk some of that mush-brainedness up to being a Texan and hence spending a lot of my time headdesking at my fellow Texans and less any sort of weird diet lacking in tasty bunny protein.Hell if I'm letting the assholes chase me out, though.) and ALL OF THIS is just exactly what I wish I was hearing more of!

    I haven't read quite all the comments, but so many good points raised in the ones that I did read. I guess the one question/point I want to ask/raise is - when did it become okay to break an oath? Seriously. When did that get to be so uncommon? I'm as civvie as it gets, a member of the 'me' generation, lazy computer geek, and *I* get it. That's the entire POINT of an oath. There's channels for reporting war crimes. If there are war crimes in that giant data dump that were so awful that he had to break the law to expose them, WHY did he choose not to use the channels put in place to deal with them? It's like the tinfoil hat brigade on my baby brother's facebook page who are SO convinced that he and Snowdon are acting out some political thriller movie where the 'hero' has to get the secret classified data to a reporter before his corrupt bosses can have him shot. I'm not saying our military's perfect when it comes to self-policing (Some areas are a LOT weaker than others, gotta say as a feminist with female friends who served) but it's also not a crazy conspiracy movie, either!

    Manning (and Snowdon) have done some seriously stupid shit. I hope it never costs lives. I really hope that. I don't have the background to know if that's a realistic hope or not, but as a computer person... that is a LOT of data. On top of his unwillingness to use the channels for reporting something if he really felt it needed to be reported, how could he have possibly thought that one single person could effectively evaluate that information, and KNOW BETTER than every other person or team who had handled it previously (and I have no idea how military intelligence works but I'd assume even not-that- critical stuff gets looked at by more than a single person even if it's just to determine 'yup, not critical') is just totally baffling.

    (BTW, love your blog and you ROCK. Been reading for two weeks or so and am slowly working my way through the old entries, but this is the first time I've commented. And I'm so sorry this is so verbose.)

    1. Cait (and others): I have one or two comments on the "why didn't he go through channels" question. I don't present them as excuses - my opinion of the whole matter is about 95% in line with Jim's - but I think some perspective is missing.

      First: As a veteran (enlisted), I will flatly state that it's a rare soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or officer thereof who will make a formal complaint outside their chain of command without the full knowledge and acceptance that doing so is possibly pushing the big red button marked "DESTRUCT" on their military career. (Those who don't take that consideration are either supremely confident in their superiors, or totally deluded. I've seen both.) Get it wrong, and you're screwed. Get it right, and sometimes - not often, but still far too often - you're still screwed, because you've embarrassed, inconvenienced and possibly damaged the careers of senior officers and senior NCOs in the process...and they have friends, and word gets around. If you're in a small and specialized field, it gets around that much faster.

      Second: In Manning's case, this approached certainty...with an extra dimension. At a minimum, given what ostensibly prompted his actions, any complaint through channels outside his chain of command - or within it - would have required transmission of classified information as evidence, and there is (so far as I know) NO approved means of doing so anonymously. By design, and for good reason, any classified material going out of a facility properly and legally is going via a route that identifies both the sender and the recipient, at least in a manner that the right (authorized) people can read.

      So he knew that any complaint would have his name attached to it. Add to that the extra dimension I mentioned: Manning is self-identified as gay, and this whole shitshow happened well before the Congressional repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and before the President's moratorium order on its enforcement. The various services' IG offices, and the DoD IG office, do not maintain their own investigators at ground level; they use the Army or Air Force Office of Special Investigations, or the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, depending on the branch and situation. Guess what OSI and NCIS have been known - hell, infamous - for, for the past several decades? Yep, getting rid of queers in the service. Up until a year ago, you would be hard-pressed to find a gay troop who wanted the Secret Squirrels anywhere within a mile of them, let alone by request. (And possibly not even now, since the Air Force has now prosecuted at least one officer for a DADT violation pre-dating the rescission.)

      So, by my lights, I can readily see that Manning may well have decided that if he went through channels his career would be hosed, and that he would be looking at anything from an administrative separation to a Big Chicken Dinner (given his previous Article 15), if he went the official route.

      But that would have still been better than what he's facing now. And if I had found myself in the exact same situation, I honestly believe I'd still have taken my chances with the system, and kept my personal honor intact.

  58. Thank you for this column, Jim, as well as for the previous Manning and Snowden columns. Your analysis is spot-on.

    I never served in the military. In the course of my current employment, however, I have had to sign nondisclosure agreements pertaining to particular projects I worked on. For some of them, I had access to our partners' proprietary technological information. For at least one, I had to agree not to disclose that there even was an agreement with a certain well-known third party corporation; this was absolutely required to be able to do the work I was asked to do.

    True, had I violated the agreements I'd signed, I probably would not have been prosecuted. I most assuredly would have been fired, though - and the industry in which I work is a pretty small pond. If I had done what Manning did, and had been fired for it, I would have become unemployable by virtue of everyone in the industry knowing that I was a rat who could not be trusted.

    I am also a licensed attorney, though I no longer practice. I had to take an oath to be admitted to the bar, and it meant (and still means) something to me - although it does not seem to mean so much to some attorneys (but that's not my monkey, not my circus, and I digress).

    There is something larger and more important about these oaths and agreements above and beyond the consequences for violating them; abiding by them (or not) speaks volumes as to who we are. Are we honest and trustworthy? Do we keep our promises? Most importantly, is our word worth anything at all?

    I hope that my word is worth something, and for that reason, I have never disclosed information about the projects I worked on where I had agreed not to disclose them, including the identities of parties; that is true even for projects that went nowhere, fell through, or collapsed completely as well as for those that succeeded.

    I try very hard to be an honorable person. Some days, hell, many days, it's not easy. But at the end of the day, my own honor is all that I have.

    1. But at the end of the day, my own honor is all that I have.

      Exactly that.

      Either you get that, or you don't. If you don't, I can't explain it to you.

  59. A few random remarks on a topic that is hard to write clearly and with balance.

    Manning: traitor or hero? He seems more like an incompetent whistle-blower to me.

    Citizens are to blame for actions of our politicians? Yes, at some level, but we have to acknowledge just how hard it is to be informed properly in a world of corporate-owned mass-media and the vast quantity of money being spent to keep us misinformed. Not an excuse, but you have to spend hours to penetrate the nonsense.

    I respect the military culture and values and it is a solid point that we don't want military members deciding what wars to fight or what policies to adopt. But there are occasions when you discover that you have been morally compromised and there are no good options or no time to follow the channels for reporting it. Does anyone think that reporting these problems in the official ways would have resulted in anything good coming out of it? The misconduct and problems Manning revealed were policy, not isolated mistakes.

    Hurt the US? Cost lives? Has anyone shown a direct link to this? Of course the stuff he released was going to be read by the enemy, however we define them - but didn't the enemy already know this? Wasn't a lot of this classification to hide it from the American people, not our enemies? I've read a very very tiny portion of the stuff he released, most sounded like diplomats just doing their jobs, actually. Most of the "revelations" seemed minor (and yea, that would undercut a point I made above about moral compromise) - were there any big compromises of names, ongoing ops etc?

    He's not a hero to me, because he made so little effort to get it to Congress or press and seemed so unselective in what he released. But I can't see him as some total immoral zombie, especially when most attacking him (NOT including Jim or those posting here), those at high levels attacking him seem to be doing more damage to our country than he could.

    And that is kind of sad. (so I'm slightly confused....)

  60. I read the post above and I have to agree all we have at the end of the day is our own honor and respect for that which we value. To put it short, I have to look in the mirror to shave and it is needful that I respect the person I see in that mirror. I can not think that Manning or Snowden can do that. When I can't respect the person in the mirror I will know my time has run out.

  61. Too many people, especially young people, have the idea that respect is an entitlement and that ethics are situational.

    1. Kim, I would like to say very respectfully that I don't see that in young people at all. My godchildren, nieces and nephews, and other young folks I work with have a very strong sense of morality that isn't at all situational. If they took an oath I do not think they would casually toss it a side. Bradley Manning, to me, does not represent "young people."

    2. Kim, there are people such as you have described in every generation.

      You could have gone down the first row of any of my first-year law school classes and identified them: Most Likely to be Indicted, Most Likely to be Convicted, Possessor of Slipperiest Ethics Ever, No Ethics Whatsoever.

      In a way, it was reassuring - law school did not take perfectly normal, nice young people and turn them into evil, unethical scumbags; they arrived that way fully formed. It is entirely possible that the profession attracts more evil, unethical scumbags than other professions, but that is also debatable (given what friends in other professions tell me).

  62. I'm a former Army E-6 and investigator, there's a reason E-3's don't get to make many decisions. He had no idea what he was doing and who he might compromise. Many individuals could have been hurt, and or killed and we probably wouldn't hear about them. those of us on the point depend on the REMF's to do their jobs and keep faith, as we do who sit in wet holes waiting to do nasty things to bad people.
    MPI Pgh PA

  63. I'm really glad that I have an informed opinion to go off of, since either side of this issue can make a really compelling (read: fanatical) argument.
    I can only conclude that it's egocentric, selfish, and damn stupid to potentially risk the lives of others by breaking a binding oath just to clear one's own conscience. "Weigh oath with oath, and you will nothing weigh."

  64. Jim,

    In response to your question about what war crimes did Manning expose, I have been looking around for something. I have read the "Manning Apoligist" sites (ad nauseum) and the one that seems to apply is this:

    "Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that the wounded be collected and cared for. Article 17 of the First Protocol states that the civilian population "shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect and care for the wounded." That article also says, "No one shall be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts."

    The apache firing on the guy who tried to help seems to be exactly the kind of thing that article is referring to. Is it?

    1. Additionally, what I found really disturbing is that I couldn't find any "credible" sites that have done an analysis of what he released to help determine if he actually exposed any crimes. That really bothered me. However we got the information doesn't negate the reality of that information. Just like the Wikileaks releases. The fact that we do or don't agree with how WL gathers their information shouldn't have any bearing on our reaction to the information itself. The HB Gary release was a really good example. The fact that the information came from hackers who broke into the system and stole the information doesn't make the information any less important. It clearly shows that corporate security companies are acting with impunity around the world, paying off government employees, starting investment agencies which take advantage of the inside information their security services have because of their confidential government contracts. It also shows that oil companies routinely bribe foreign governments to use their armies to attack other countries in order to secure valuable oil wells. It shows that the government is paying companies to create extremely powerful computer viruses but aren't retaining ownership of the source code. It shows that those corporations are selling those cyber-warfare assets to other corporations for use in corporate espionage and/or stopping potential leakers. All that and more. The most disgusting aspect of the whole thing is the way the HB Gary people talk about it all: like it's just another Tuesday.

      We shouldn't ignore the information we have gotten just because we don't like the messenger. You can call me a conspiracy theorist because I do believe there are conspiracies. Every day, All day. I just don't think they are all controlled by the Illuminati or any other such horseshit.

      There are so many people with so much power that there are tons of conspiracies all over the place. The Koch brothers almost definitely engineered the takeover and corruption of the Tea Party, the Citizens United ruling and the attack on American Unions. American tobacco companies certainly have done their best to tune nicotine in their products to addict people while also obscuring science and creating fake science to make it seem like there was a question about the link between cancer and smoking. Dick Cheney really did conspire to change the intelligence surrounding Iraqi involvement in 9/11. AT&T obviously made a deal with the Bush Whitehouse that allowed them to rebuild their monopoly as long as they allowed the government to tap their circuits (PRISM).

      Hopefully saying those things doesn't lump me in with the Roswellians or Obama-is-a-Kenyan-Muslim-bent-on-destroying-Jesus crowd. The only way to defeat conspiracies is by having as much information as possible AND being able to parse that information in a meaningful way. Hopefully having discussions like the ones on Stonekettle Station is a way to help move that process forward.

    2. There's a school of thought that the Koch bros and friends were in on the *creation* of the Tea Party movement, and they seem to have the evidence...

  65. The Bush programs and the wars kept rolling, and then we reelected Obama and the conservative House, because a the majority of Americans wanted it that way.

    What you mean "we", kemosabe...

    in all national elections, turnout in the United States has a history of rising and falling over time, although it has never risen to levels of turnout in most of the well-established democracies in other nations. After rising sharply from 1948 to 1960, turnout declined in nearly every election until dropping to barely half of eligible voters in 1988. Since 1988, it has fluctuated, from a low of 52.6% of eligible voters (and 49.1% of voting age population) in 1996 to a high of 61% of eligible voters in 2004, the highest level since 1968.

    Turnout in midterm elections is far lower, peaking at 48.7% in 1966 and falling as low as 39.0% in 1978,1986, and 1998 remaining below 50% in midterm elections (see Graph). Even at its highest level in 1960, the percent of eligible Americans who turned out to vote never surpassed 65%. This is still substantially lower than in almost all established democracies; turnout is 70-75% in Canada and well over 80% in most other democracies, including 86.8% in the first round of the French presidential election and 91.7% in the 2004 proportional representation election for Luxembourg’s legislature.

    And they don't mention Australia, where voting is still mandatory. My (narrow) libertarian streak itches when I say this, but I think they have the right idea. Never been a Rush fan, and for years that one line always bugged me, but ol' Geddy was right. If we choose not to decide [who our rulers will be] we still have made a choice.

    I like that one line there about how voting rose from '48 to '60, and then started to decline. As did our standard of living in America, in some fundamental ways. We went from free college educations, and working class (bodyman, in my Dad's case) Americans in the '50s being able to afford BCBS to the horrible situation we have now. And it's not that big a stretch, I think, to say we voted--or failed to--for all of it. The governor on my tractor won't work right if I stretch or compress the spring, or the internal workings get sand--or loose nuts!--in the gears, and it's the same with the big governor in Washington. The country--hell, the whole fracking world--is increasingly run for the benefit of those few at the top, and electing morons and crooks who like it that way just speeds up the process. Are we doomed? Yeah, probably. Oh, well.

    signed, Raymond O. Sunshine...

  66. I have an OPenID avatar, but it never shows up. Anything you can tinker with to change that, Jim, or is that just what we get with OpenID?

    1. Commenting is a Blogger function, I have very little control over that unfortunately. Comment Management has always been Blogger's weakness. Once Google acquired the platform I'd hoped to see some significant improvements, but so far nothing. I suspect that Google doesn't much care about Blogger.

      I do occasionally consider switching to WordPress, but there turn out to be unpleasant consequences that I'm not currently willing to deal with.

    2. @Jim Wright: My only problem is that Blogger HATES iPads. My last post here was transcribed on my Windows laptop from my iPad, because the Blogger software froze in the "preview" function.

      Hello, y'all with the big bucks - would you kindly figure out that most of us don't care about your operating systems or your corporate culture, and that we just want something that FUCKING WORKS?!

  67. Thank you, Jim. As a former member of the military (and one that held a clearance to do his job since I worked in the nuclear field), I have tried to explain how Manning was anything but a hero to numerous people that seem incensed that I am not upset about the verdict. You explained it far better than I ever could.

  68. I tried to comment the other day. I wasn't a dick I probably just did something wrong. I'm a Sons of the Legion member my father is an ex-POW from the Korean war! Sorry if this is off topic just seeing if I can comment on your awesome blog!

  69. After a few days of thought about it, I still find myself unconvinced by your arguments and more swayed by xintech, who articulated very clearly the distrust I have toward those who brought charges against Manning, whether he's a dipshit or not (and at that age, a large percentage of us just by our nature are a dipshit)...

    1. See Blackdaug below. If you don't like our country, get the heck out.

    2. @92 MOG: When I was a kid ('70s) there were a shitload of bumper stickers around reading "AMERICA: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!"

      Years later, I ran across a ('70s) piece by Harlan Ellison that suggested the far more appropriate line "AMERICA: CHANGE IT OR LOSE IT."

      We were there then. We're there now.

    3. I'm suspicious of platitudes, my experience is that most of them don't hold water when examined closely. Love it or leave it falls into that category for me.

      At first blush, love it or leave it seems contrary to nearly every principle this country was founded on, not to mention it's a pretty limited idea - you only get two choices. Love it or leave it, those are my only two options? Really?

      But what it comes down to is how you define "love it."

      If you embrace the right-wing extremist idea that America, like Christianity, is perfect and without flaw and that any criticism or attempt at improvement is tantamount to treason, then no, I don't buy into love it or leave and I'll fight you every step of the way because you are just plain fucking wrong.

      If you believe that America is a pretty great place, but not without its flaws, and that there's always room for improvement - obviously an idea supported by the Founders, else they wouldn't have included a method for amending their Constitution - and your basic premise is help us fix shit or quit bitching about it, then yeah, I'm onboard with the basic idea. Start helping fix stuff, quit your bellyaching, or by all means go join Glenn Beck in his private nation of Consevatopia. Good luck. If it doesn't work out, you can always get in line and apply for immigration back to America.

      If you embrace the far left-wing idea that America sucks and everything about it sucks because people suck and there's no way to make it stop sucking short of killing off all the sucky people and giving the world back to Gaia the Earth Mother - or - you embrace the extreme Libertarian idea of fuck it all, burn it all down, kill off all the sucky people who don't embrace anarchy and then let's squat in the ruins clutching our guns and glaring at the rest of the world - or - you embrace the Conservative Tea Party extremist idea that America would be great, but first we're going to have to have a revolution and kill off all the liberals, libertarians, progressives, homos, socialists, commies, fascists, scientists, atheists, Canadians, tree huggers, abortionists, solar panel manufacturers, non-gun owners, and people who don't love Jesus, then, yeah, fuckin' A. Get out. Get out and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Join Snowden in Russia or take your goddamned guns to Somalia or fuck right off to Newt Gingrich's Moon Base Reagan, I don't care.

      As I said in the most popular post I ever wrote: Honestly, when the patriots talk about loving America, I don't get what they're talking about because they seem to hate everything about it. Everything.

    4. @ mog
      Well, of course, I don't think I suggested anything of the sort.
      But as someone who has had that invective thrown at them (repeatedly) when they actually opposed really bad things our government was doing, it is pretty amusing to be suddenly be cast into the role of a thoughtless authoritarian bumper sticker xenophobe.
      Of course, I am sure you possess the age, authority and genuine social justice gravitas to make such distinctions.
      At least that's what I got from your drive by pot shot.
      ......or to pilfer from myself again:
      Yes, my disguise as a aging hippy, clearly wasn't enough to fool the cohort of trolls in this place.
      Just when all of our evil plans for world domination through diplomacy and statecraft were coming to fruition as well....
      ...and we would have got away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling libertarians!!

    5. @ 92 MOG

      like Jim, that very platitude always bugs the shit out me, too... you're basically positing that I can't complain about things I want to change, which A) goes completely against the idea of freedom of speech and protest, see constitution of this country you CLAIM to love and B) irritates me, because why should I be the one to leave? You don't like my complaining, you, too, can also go to another country wherein you don't have to listen to the hordes howling about govt issues they'd like to complain...

      and before you say, "BUT I'M NOT COMPLAINING ABOUT THIS COUNTRY" note that you are complaining about ME exercising my right to free speech, guaranteed by the first amendment, and ergo, you are kinda complaining about it (or rather, to be more specific, you're guilty of doing the same thing I'm doing, exercising their basic right, but the difference being that you think I should shut up and leave...

      Hell, why should be the one to leave, why don't you, if I bother you so much? I like living in a representative govt that I can vote for and, if enough of us howl loud and long enough, will also enforce needed social and political change...

      I like that I can scream about our process... they don't get to to that in other places...

  70. Pilfered from..myself:
    I keep wondering if the "Free Manning" or "Stop Persecuting Snowden" crowd, ever for one moment consider what doing so would actually mean?
    Like it or not, somewhere right now, is a low level military, diplomatic or intelligence drone, who has access to information that could lead directly to anything from derailing some long sought foreign policy effort, to the actual plans that could be used to build a nuclear bomb.
    There are simply not enough people of insurmountable character to man every low level bureaucratic or military functionary position that can be trusted to keep all harmful information safe. The threat of legal repercussions for releasing that material, is all that keeps some of those people from not succumbing to the many temptations that are presented for doing just that.
    It hasn't been that long ago, that an intelligence analyst was arrested for selling secrets to the Russians for the princely sum of $50 k.....over the course of 6 years. He could have made more with a part time job flipping burgers.
    When you start adding in those who would sell out their country's secrets for some perceived ideological difference with whoever is occupying the White House, the numbers in that group skyrocket.
    If "leakers" ..yes "leakers" not "whistle blowers" (despite the seeming oblivious nature of those who seem to have forgotten the difference) were either freed or faced no legal repercussions for their actions, this government and the society it serves would dissolve into real anarchy. (Not the cool kind....like in the movie "V" for those who just don't get it yet)
    I don't much care for the idea of anarchy. I enjoy the little things brought to us by a functional society. Access to food and shelter, drinkable water, defense from those who would do us harm, the internet.......those kind of things.
    There are places on this planet where the rule of law, imperfect as it is in its implementation, does not mean very much. They are not very nice places...and their leaders have little respect for the rights of first world, indignant, privileged white men with a recently inflated sense of moral superiority.

    1. P.S. ..and thanks again Mr. Wright for your concise perspective on that matter.
      The lefty blog world is filling up with a new breed of weird commentariat that seems to be merging with the gummit hatin forces on the right, and 2014 is looming large in the headlights.

  71. Excellent posts on Manning, Jim. I've not kept up w/news about him having written him off as a young, impetuous boy who was very foolish. I figured he'd have his head handed to him in military court & pay the rest of his life for his actions. That's life - you do the crime, you do the time.

    Comments are very interesting & impressive - in thought, tone & respect. Such a relief to know such people exist! Thanks to your readers who gave me hope for our country.

    Thanks also to whoever mentioned a 2007 movie entitled "In the Valley of Elah" which is an excellent film & acting. I watched it last night. It was based on a true story that should have been given far more news coverage, but wasn't. It conveyed what that family & thousands of other families have gone through as a result of the horrors of war - any war, only this time there are electronic devices that can bring it up close & personal. I recommend the movie.

    I am a citizen who had a husband that served on board a carrier in the Vietnam war as it was winding down. I want you to know that I did write & call my Congressional representatives to object to invading Iraq & urged them to vote against authorizing it. I was appalled at fellow citizens who were so caught up in blood lust, they would have believed anything the Bush Administration said. They certainly trusted that SOS Colin Powell would know the truth.

    There are no doubts now the fix was in - with Congress, the UN, the press - but not with all our major allies but Britain. Major allies with intel organizations who did not concur with our CIA/NSA/SOS intel, which was a BIG RED FLAG on that play. At least it was for me.

    My family & I cried when the 2008 election results were in & it was called for Obama. Our tears weren't shed because of him - we cried because it was proof that the majority of voters cared about our country as much as we did.

    Despite some setbacks in Congressional elections, I still believe the majority of voters are now far more aware & alert than back in 2004. We are the silent majority who are reasonable, thinking people & there are more of us than the fanatics who prefer loud opining on talk radio.

  72. And btw, Jim, I'm neither a flaming liberal nor an arch conservative politically. You might call me a flaming arch who is usually standing in the middle of that moderate road wishing we had a 3rd party for moderates. We already offset the extreme tips of the two wings who are not far apart, but get all the media attention.

  73. Anyone interested in a history lesson in how classified leaks to a journalist, published by the NY Times in 1975, were handled can be found in a 4-Part series by PBS/Frontline (available online):
    "Dick Cheney's Memos from 30 Years Ago"

  74. @Jeanne
    If change is not accomplished by doing, then every major social change in this country over the last 100 years somehow happened on its' own? Every suffragette, Freedom Rider and gay rights activist who endured hatred, horrible treatment and ostracism while risking their lives for what they believed in, all their courage and integrity and determination in the face of truly awful treatment by the opposition...meant nothing? I cannot and will not accept that.
    As for outrage not making a difference, all I can say is that my own personal experience with bullying in grade school (in the 80's before it was officially an issue for kids) is that when I allowed myself to be outraged at that treatment and stood up for myself, I got to watch those little cowards run away and hide. Sometimes, outrage means that you care and you intend to do something about it. And sometimes the people who feel that outrage are outed as cowardly bullies and lose their power.
    For that matter, this country was founded on outrage and doing something about it.

  75. My father was a colonel in the US Army - so I grew up in a military household and developed a good understanding of what following orders means. I've been very disturbed by people lumping Snowden and Manning together - as I see their crimes as very different. I'm not sure how I feel about Snowden--my sympathy has been very much eroded by his decision to seek asylum from Russia or China--but I'm very clear on my feelings about Manning and I think the verdict was imminently just.

    Thank you for writing so clearly about the reasons why.

  76. To 92 MOG above:

    Woodrow Wilson to Alice Paul 1917: Love it or leave it.

    Bull Connor to Martin Luther King Jr 1961: Love it or leave it.

    Police rousting gays at Stonewall Inn 1969: Love it or leave it.

  77. 35 years is a lot. I figured about 20. How much was Scooter Libby going to serve for outing a CIA agent (Grr!)? I imagine he won't serve it all. I imagine it'll feel like more. The whole thing is sad.

  78. Manning, Snowden, Libby and Jane Fonda have, in their order of appearance, brought to my mind the old WWII poster "Loose Lips Sink Ships". The difference being, of course, that now it's keyboards, and there's millions of them. I'm sincerely frightened by these our times as well as by my own ignorance. Trying to work on my ignorance, but it's a struggle.
    Thank you Jim, once again, for providing an ice berg to ride on this sea awash with flaming oil.


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