Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Whatsoever you do: Manning Morality

If there is to be validity to the idea of righteousness, then open the doors and set them free!
—me, this morning

I know of no code of conduct or rule of engagement that should overshadow the gift of conscience, that which informs the only reliable usage of the word integrity: personal integrity. Other applications are valid — as in when connoting the soundness of physical processes, but no other covenants with morality. Neither the Ten Commandments nor the Book of the Law, nor the US Constitution and certainly not its Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Indeed, as the UCMJ eventually reveals, these rules have to do with the integrity of a mission however vaguely defined at any given time and under any given commander in spite of subliminal service to the vaguest notions of honoring the higher moral purposes of God, country, and family. With that in mind, on the other hand, those who maintain that rules are rules or that "you knew the job when you signed up for it" don't deign to pay to anything other than what they'd like to believe is manning up.


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It matters to me zilch that the person with the legal name of Bradley Manning enlisted in the Army for the ostensible purpose of taking advantage of certain benefits bestowed upon its enlistees. For that reason, I don't need to consider potential mitigating factors in that decision, such as family pressure or the possible need for educational assistance. On the contrary, I can be as judgmental of that enlistee as I remain of myself for having done the same twenty-two years earlier, under the auspices of Commander in Chief Ronald Wilson Reagan, no less.

The deciding moment for me is when Private Manning saw murder for what it was and revealed it to the world. Fuck the chain of command. Fuck the safety of spies and diplomats in service to them. We all deserve to have any and all human activity carried out in our name brought into the harshest light of day, always and forever.

Again, I don't need to consider the mitigating factor that Private Manning's leak caused no one's death, for if it had, the UCMJ lawyers would have presented evidence of it. Fuck Judith Miller anyway, who actually "tweeted, "How many people died because of manning' leak?"  By my count, it'd be a million to zero, Miller over Manning. Though in fairness the former figure is an estimate.

So now the outgoing US President has used the power already accorded to him by one of his country's double-dealing documents to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning. For anyone reading these words who anticipates my not giving him props for doing so, I will not disappoint: It's what he should have done. That it would appear to abide in moral conscience is a paltry concession.

Consider the twice daily reliable printN'tofYT media corps, who called the commutation "a remarkable final step for a president whose administration carried out an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets."

They also noted what his critics have harped upon regarding his treatment of whistle blowers, which is that his administration has prosecuted "more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined." In qualifying the method of tabulation, they cite nine or ten prosecutions. This too is a kind estimation of his government's actions when "depending on how they are counted" takes under advisement the effect the prosecutions of "the most transparent presidency ever" had on its subject-objects.

Consider that his administration expanded American military activity such that, had it not already been the default policy of every presidency prior to his (thereby the default consciousness of the "American people") one might have thought it worthwhile to spread a petition through social media to curtail his authority over the nation's nuclear war-faring capacity.

As cagey militant chutzpah and kill-count would have it, he measures up well with Theodore Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan. As powers extended to the executive handed over to his successor go, just like his predecessor, who in this regard he had in no equivocating terms promised to break with, he is nevertheless unprecedented.

I admit that I did not expect this. Despite the reported short-listing of Manning for clemency, I imagined that the effect the leaks had had on his administration's renegotiation of the status of forces agreement in Iraq — which, contrary to what his presidential legacy'd have you believe, had been working to end the deadline for US troop presence there and extend military activity indefinitely — would mean that Manning'd remain under wraps.

Who knows, maybe instead of enabling this example of what happens when you cross military planning procedures, the President, realizing that but for Manning, he wouldn't get credit for "ending the war in Iraq", decided to give some form of credit where it was due.

Unlike those liberals who would never hold his feet to the fire in spite of his ominous admonition that he'd be a duplicitous asshole otherwise, it is the least he could have done. That he's proven better than his groupies who would've cheered just as heartily for him either way is simply a case for some twisted moral irony.

There will be plenty enough praise for President Bo Rama for this decision. And though I thank my indefinable integrity for having the capacity to hope for it, I choose to see this clemency as honoring a hero who placed herself at far greater risk than the president in stroking his pen. The one who made the real moral choice. I reserve the glory & honor for Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.