Bradley Manning reviewing a document during his court-martial. (art: Kay Rudin/RSN)
Here is my reply to Bradley Manning's apology ... line by line. Bradley's words in bold.
First, Your Honor, I want to start off with an apology.
First of all Bradley, it is the court, the Army, and the American people that should be apologizing to you. We failed you, not the other way around.
I'm sorry. I'm sorry that my actions hurt people.
Your actions saved lives. You exposed war crimes, you exposed our country's "narcissistic" foreign policy. It is ironic that they tried to portray you as "narcissistic" because you exposed our how our government believes it is privileged to violate international law because "we" somehow know better.
I'm sorry that it hurt the United States.
You are a hero, a whistleblower who helped the United States. The government was unable to present any evidence that anyone died or was harmed as a result of your leaks. Even the so-called diplomatic harm as a result of the leak of the cables was really harm caused by the actions of our diplomats that you brought out in the open. The truth can be messy, but we should not punish the messenger who reveals the ugly truth.
At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing, and are continuing to affect me. Although they have caused me considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.
I applaud you for taking responsibility for your actions, and not blaming our dysfunctional society -- but again, your actions were heroic. Our society and the Army failed you, Mr. Manning. While I don't believe anyone is fit for deployment to a combat zone, there were enough warning signs for the Army to not deploy you to Iraq. I understand that you are not using that as an excuse, but the Army should apologize for putting you in a situation that you were not capable of handling. After hearing about your upbringing, I understand why you joined the military to get the funding for your education. Unfortunately there is a de facto draft in our country: many people join the military to escape poverty or poor living conditions. You need treatment, not incarceration.
I understood what I was doing, and the decisions I made. However I did not truly appreciate the broader effects of my actions. Those effects are clearer to me now, through both self-reflection during my confinement, in its various forms, and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I've seen here. I'm sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions.
More important than any perceived harm that resulted from the leaks is the greater harm that was prevented. I believe your actions helped to quicken the pace for the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army speculates as to what the consequences of the leaks were -- perhaps the real result was they will make soldiers and diplomats think twice before acting. The knowledge that they could not get away with doing wrong, and that someday their actions could become public, might lead to them to do the right thing. That is as likely as the Army's conjecture.
When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.
You were right, you helped make the world a better place. You prevented a greater harm. If our country followed international law, you would not have been on trial. You did your duty to prevent a greater harm. If you hadn't exposed the criminal actions you revealed, then you would have been guilty of being complicit.
The last few years have been a learning experience. I look back on my decisions and wonder how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better, over the decisions of those with the proper authority.
I only have one response, you did change the world for the better.
In retrospect, I should have worked more aggressively inside the system, as we discussed during the [...] statements. I had options and I should have used these options.
The "system" was and still is hiding crimes. The most effective way to address those crimes is exposing them. You did that, Bradley Manning. Don't second guess your actions, you did the right thing.