This is not justice; never could this be justice. The verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.
The alleged act in respect of which Bradley Manning is charged is an act of great conscience -- the single most important disclosure of subjugated history, ever. There is not a political system anywhere on the earth that has not seen light as a result. In court, in February, Bradley Manning said that he wanted to expose injustice, and to provoke worldwide debate and reform. Bradley Manning is accused of being a whistleblower, a good man, who cared for others and who followed higher orders. Bradley Manning is effectively accused of conspiracy to commit journalism.
But this is not the language the prosecution uses. The most serious charge against Bradley Manning is that he "aided the enemy" -- a capital offence that should require the greatest gravity, but here the US government laughs at the world, to breathe life into a phantom. The government argues that Bradley Manning communicated with a media organization, WikiLeaks, who communicated to the public. It also argues that al-Qaeda (who else) is a member of the public. Hence, it argues that Bradley Manning communicated "indirectly" with al-Qaeda, a formally declared US "enemy," and therefore that Bradley Manning communicated with "the enemy."
But what about "aiding" in that most serious charge, "aiding the enemy"? Don't forget that this is a show trial. The court has banned any evidence of intent. The court has banned any evidence of the outcome, the lack of harm, the lack of any victim. It has ruled that the government doesn't need to show that any "aiding" occurred and the prosecution doesn't claim it did. The judge has stated that it is enough for the prosecution to show that al-Qaeda, like the rest of the world, reads WikiLeaks.
"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people," wrote John Adams, "who have a right and a desire to know."
When communicating with the press is "aiding the enemy" it is the "general knowledge among the people" itself which has become criminal. Just as Bradley Manning is condemned, so too is that spirit of liberty in which America was founded.
In the end it is not Bradley Manning who is on trial. His trial ended long ago. The defendent now, and for the next 12 weeks, is the United States. A runaway military, whose misdeeds have been laid bare, and a secretive government at war with the public. They sit in the docks. We are called to serve as jurists. We must not turn away.