“If you look at the context of what he’s done and the enormous damage he did to national security and our prestige around the world, throughout most of history someone like that would be executed,” former Defense Department spokesman J.D. Gordon said of Pfc. Bradley Manning on Al-Jazeera this week.
Gordon’s five-minute defense of the government’s aggressive prosecution of Manning provided the basis for a round-table discussion on the subject. Participating were Chase Madar, an attorney and author of “The Passion of Bradley Manning”; Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director at the Government Accountability Project; and Joe Glenton, a British army veteran of Afghanistan, writer and filmmaker.
“What is this about for the Obama administration?” Al-Jazeera host Shihab Rattansi asked Radack. “Why do they have such little regard as to what perhaps Manning actually revealed in the documents?”
Cases like Manning’s “are all about politics and nothing about justice,” Radack responded. “This is incredibly politicized because the Obama administration has embarked on a war on whistle-blowers who’ve revealed some of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration—and with Bradley—of the Obama administration. ... It’s the most chilling of messages that you can send, and it’s just overkill. I think what was so rich in the introductory statement, was the idea that this would damage American prestige. That speaks for itself because it shows us behaving like a bunch of barbarians and shooting at civilians as if we were playing the video game ‘Call of Duty.’ ”
Rattansi asked Madar whether soldiers should be encouraged to follow their own “moral code” after signing an oath of loyalty to the military.
“There is that fundamental question that the judge herself raised, Chase,” Rattansi said. “To paraphrase her, it was something like: ‘You can’t have every soldier ignoring commanders in favor of their own moral code.’ And that’s in the end what this comes to. Bradley Manning did sign his oath. It can’t be left up to the individual soldier to decide what is in the public interest.”
Madar ridiculed the idea that the military is governed absolutely by law. “I have very bad news, I’m afraid, for everyone who thinks that the rule of law is the highest value in the military,” he said. “Violations of Uniform Code of Military Justice have been wanton and rampant throughout the Iraq War, throughout the Afghanistan War. They’ve resulted in many, many civilians getting killed, and yet there have been very few repercussions on those soldiers who have committed war crimes. On the other hand, in the case of Bradley Manning, the damage done is, even at this late date three years later, still purely theoretical, purely speculative. Yet they are throwing the book at him. You know, military law is not the highest value in a free society. It is a value, but it is not the highest value in any country where you would want to spend more than a few days in, much less live in.”