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Bradley Manning

Except for the sentencing hearing, Bradley Manning’s court martial is over. Here are some remarks published in The Jeffersonian on New Year’s Eve, seven months ago. Let’s start with comments about Ray McGovern at Free Republic, a conservative site, and move from those to the end of the December 31 post:

Ray McGovern is a noted leftist and activist. …McGovern is a scumbag.

Ray McGovern is pure filth, here’s something to give you an idea…

Brief remarks given at the rally for Bradley Manning earlier this afternoon [August 8, 2010] in Quantico, where he is imprisoned. The rally was sponsored by Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and The Courage to Resist.


That’s it: for evidence that Ray McGovern is pure filth, the commenter links to a speech McGovern delivered at a rally to support Bradley Manning. From the commenter’s perspective, a list of the rally’s sponsors demonstrates the truth of his judgment. People who speak for Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and The Courage to Resist must be “pure filth.”

Stop and think for a minute, folks. We all face a power that has demonstrated its ability – and willingness – to remove our freedoms, to do whatever is necessary to keep us in line and protect itself. We can only regain our freedom if we act with some degree of unity. Judgments about fellow citizens based only on their political affiliations won’t get us where we want to go. We need strength and encouragement to address our sense of fear, helplessness, and isolation.

Yes, lining up with fellow conservatives to label a leftist pure filth can lend one a sense of tribal unity. In the end, though, conservatives and liberals want the same thing. They may use different language to identify different threats to liberty. Nevertheless, we share an in-built desire to live our lives peacefully, to be left alone in our pursuits. We can’t attack one another because we don’t like another person’s pedigree.

The introduction to Ray McGovern’s speech about Bradley Manning contains some hopeful thoughts:

We are living in a liminal time, that is to say we live on the threshold. So much that we have taken for granted is passing. In times like this we must be careful to keep our bearings, lest we come to love the chaos that passes for reality. This is why we need to honor our brother Bradley Manning. He was not afraid to face the unknown; not afraid to resist the seduction of conformity; not afraid to follow his conscience, and not afraid to give us the wherewithal to distinguish truth from lies so that we, too, can follow our conscience.

“In times like this we must be careful to keep our bearings…”


I’m not sure why Walter Russell Mead refers to himself in the first-person plural here, but I suppose when you write as much as he does, you can refer to yourself and your staff any way you like:

The 25 year-old Manning seems to us to be a naive young hothead who got himself into much deeper trouble than he understood. We have some compassion for him and his family, and we think it’s for the best that he was acquitted of the aiding the enemy charge. Unfortunately he really did stir up more trouble than he knew or expected, and the US government has to show it takes breaches of diplomatic secrets very seriously. That means Manning will have to serve some real time, but if his sentence is excessive, we would favor clemency at some point.

That shows just the right amount of condescension, don’t you think?

We would say Bradley Manning knew exactly what he was doing. Let’s take him at his word in the lengthy statement he delivered when his court martial opened. There he explained why he acted as he did, what he wanted to accomplish, what ideals motivated him. It’s a quiet assessment of an act he knew violated military rules, and that he could expect would land him in trouble. Bradley Manning’s statement shows he is not a “naive young hothead,” but someone who thought and still thinks clearly about his act of civil disobedience.

Right now, acts of civil disobedience are the only weapon we have against the state. They require a lot of courage. Let the United States military sentence Bradley Manning to “serve some real time.” Let the state make an example of him. Edward Snowden pointed to Bradley Manning as an example we all should follow. Which example will you follow in your own thinking: the government’s attitude that Bradley Manning is a traitor, Mead’s temperate view that he’s a naive young hothead who deserves some clemency, or Snowden’s view that he is a hero?