I know some of my friends who are military and ex-military who are apoplectic about this, but as an individual who never trusts power of the state, I applaud this commutation.
Manning revealed “secrets” that exposed unlawful conduct of the United States government, carried out during a time the country was engaged in an illegal war perpetrated by men who, if coming from a smaller country, would have been prosecuted for war crimes. It revealed that our government was harming its own citizens and those of innocents abroad.
Maybe he did violate his oath, and maybe it did lead to the deaths of some of our own allies and agents on the ground, but the founding fathers violated their allegiance to the Crown for similar reasons, and for that they would have been hung, or worse. Keeping an oath to protect a government that has disregarded the principles outlined in our own Constitution, or to carry out atrocities in the name of that government is a much greater cowardice than exposing them. Manning revealed to the American public information it needed to know and that it was entitled to know.
Manning exposing these “secrets” also serves as a great benefit to anyone who considers volunteering for the military. Now that they will know their government does not always represent our best interests, they may rightfully reconsider their decision to die for it. As my daughter rapidly approaches that age of decision, I see this as an opportunity to make it with all information necessary.
I do not condone Manning’s decision to funnel this information through Assange, as I don’t believe Assange cares much about the United States or its interests. However, I do think that Manning’s intentions were consistent with American democratic values. In my mind, he was defending the Constitution, which incidentally is exactly what he had sworn to do.
And as far as going through channels and reporting what he saw to his superiors, it’s already pretty well documented how useless our whistleblower laws are. The stories of these brave inidividuals being fired, demoted, blackballed, or worse, despite this law are all-too-common.
Manning served seven years, but was sentenced to a term of far longer than was considered normal for that crime. Obama, for once, did the right thing.