Would Manning commit the misconduct again? (This was the only moment that bordered on President Obama's much-beloved looking forward.) I don't know, was the answer.
If in the future he saw something that violated his sense of morality would he take action again? Well, he's been pretty consistent with his principles.
Before Manning reversed his principles on the stand, there was one other witness to testify: Manning's older sister. Her testimony was stunning. I nearly cried. A number of people did openly cry. She described a family in which both parents were alcoholics. Her and Bradley's mother was drunk every day, and a mean drunk at that. Their father was nearly as bad. Manning's sister, 11 years older than he, raised him more than anyone else. Their mother drank through her pregnancy with Bradley. He was tiny and underfed. And things got worse as the parents split up, the mother became suicidal, the sister fled. If this testimony were aired on television, people would discuss it -- in tears -- for many months. There would be endless discussions of each tangential topic, including alcohol, fetal alcohol syndrome, child abuse, rural isolation, divorce, older sisters, and -- of course -- whether traitors can be excused because they had bad childhoods.
And yet, I wanted to scream out: Why aren't we analyzing the people who had better or worse childhoods than Manning and all failed to do what he did? What about their mental health? What about their Blind Obedience Disorder?
Manning's sister said that he had calmed down and matured during the past three years. No mention of his naked isolation cell. No mention of the existential threat hanging over him. No mention of how clear-minded and principled he appears to have been back when he was supposedly immature.
Then, Manning made his sworn statement. He said he was sorry his actions had hurt people, despite no evidence having shown that they did. He said he was sorry his actions hurt the United States, whereas clearly his actions benefitted the United States, allowing us much greater access into what our secretive government is doing in our name. Manning questioned how he could have possibly believed he knew better than his superiors.
It's an interesting question. Manning went into the Army in hopes of receiving money for college. He was entering a hostile world. Loyalty to buddies did not overpower loyalty to humanity, in Manning's case, because the Army wasn't his buddies. So, Manning looked at the horrors of war and said to himself: I can shine a light, and that light can fix this. We can, Bradley Manning believed, have a peaceful government of, by, and for the people.
The next and last witness was Bradley's aunt, who told a very sympathetic tale paralleling Bradley's sister's. She concluded by asking the judge to consider Manning's difficult start in life, and the fact that Bradley thought he was doing the right thing when he was not thinking clearly at all.
I never screamed.
I took off my "TRUTH" shirt.