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What next, the guillotine for Whistleblowers?

By       Message Eugene Elander     Permalink
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Learning of the gross miscarriage of military justice (apparently, an oxymoron) in the case against whistleblower Bradley Manning, who was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for providing embarrassing federal documents to Wikileaks -- documents which  Americans have every right to see and consider -- leads one to wonder what is next in America: the guillotine?

Lest anyone think that this comparison is overstated, think again: the French revolution started with the highest of hopes, but ended with the infamous Reign of Terror instigated by a horrid Committee of Public Safety which ordered the arrest of some 300,000 citizens, of whom about ten thousand died in prison and some seventeen thousand were executed.  Nearly all of those executions were beheadings by guillotine, the infamous device unique to the French Revolution.  Ironically, Robespierre, leader of the Reign of Terror, was himself guillotined; nobody was safe.

Fast forward to August, 2013, and to the case of whistleblower Bradley Manning, now being given a dishonorable discharge from the United States Army.  The use of the term whistleblower is intentional, as that is clearly appropriate to this case, given that the attempt to charge Manning with treason was rejected by the military court hearing the case.   Indeed, Manning is clearly a classic whistleblower, whose conscience dictated that he provide documents which the American government was trying to hide from its own citizenry, who had every right to know the truth.  Recall that, when he was running for President, Barack Obama promised the most-transparent administration in American history.  Instead, we have what may well be the most opaque administration ever.  Obama has broken his word once again, and Bradley Manning and many others now pay the price.

Compounding the sins of Bradley Manning, as the military and Obama administration see it, is his providing those documents he believed Americans really needed to the infamous Wikileaks. To our authorities, then, the real abuse by Manning was one of effectiveness -- documents were circulated all over the world, and so such incidents as the killing of an unarmed Iraqi for sport became public. Had Manning not chosen involvement with Wikileaks and the notorious Julian Assange, another fugitive from the long arm of American punishment for offering us freedom of information, the military authorities prosecuting Manning might well have been a lot more sensible than they were.

Had the military judge not thrown out the charge of aiding the enemy -- a silly charge, unless the enemy is defined as the American people, for that is whom Manning was aiding -- he might have been sentenced to life in prison.  Even so, a sentence of thirty-five years may well amount to a life sentence for the frail Bradley Manning, who has already been abused by months of solitary confinement.  True, it is not the guillotine, at least not yet -- but some might think that the guillotine would have been much quicker and much kinder than the actual sentence of Bradley Manning -- for being a whistleblower who was following the dictates of the Nuremberg trials of key Nazis in 1946.  There it was established that all of us have a duty to refuse orders which violate basic principles of human rights, such as by withholding information we all need to know.  To me, and many others, Bradley Manning is a true patriot.


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Author's Biography Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)

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