Army private Bradley Manning goes on trial today charged with the biggest leak of classified information in United States history.
At issue is not whether or not Private Manning leaked information, for he has admitted doing so. The imponderable question is – given the rot that his actions exposed – whether he should be regarded as heroic whistle-blower or villain.
Manning has confessed to sending vast quantities of information to the website, WikiLeaks, and has pleaded guilty to charges that carry a 20-year prison sentence. However, the US military is pursuing charges of aiding the enemy that carry a life sentence.
Much of the information leaked by Manning was of a nature that called into question the integrity of the United States military. The effects of his actions were to hold to account powerful people with selfish motives who preferred to remain unaccountable and anonymous. In February, Manning told a military judge that he leaked the material to expose the US military’s alleged bloodlust and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an ideal world, based on equality and justice, it would be unnecessary for nations to keep their actions secret. This is the world for which we should strive.
While Manning’s actions violated US military policy they cannot be separated from the context of a larger failure of justice: The questionable strategies and tactics pursued by the US over the past 10 years in fulfillment of its self-appointed role as global policeman.
I do not believe sentencing Manning to life imprisonment will serve justice.
This statement was issued for the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation by Oryx Media.