Let’s pretend for a moment that you are an intelligence analyst in the US military deployed in Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. You have access to files upon files of classified information and happen to stumble upon a video showing the US military murdering two American reporters, up to 10 Iraqi citizens, and injuring two young Iraqi children, all of whom were completely innocent. Now you have a choice. You can keep your job, pretend you never saw the video, and look the other way or you could choose to release the video and show the world the crimes that were committed. What would you do? Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning
has been accused of choosing the latter and has been charged with over 22 offenses including “Aiding the Enemy.” The handling of Bradley Manning’s case has been an atrocity in itself that has violated UN conventions and the US Constitution. If Bradley Manning did what he has been accused of then it is my and much of the world’s opinion that he is not a criminal who should be imprisoned for life and treated poorly, rather he should be regarded as a hero that the United Nations needs to get behind.
The most serious charge against Bradley Manning is violating the Espionage Act of 1917
which could result in his death. Anti-Manning supporters would argue that he should be punished severely for his “act of treason” because he knew exactly what he was doing when he leaked the information, thus violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice
. This is where right and wrong according to US and World law gets hazy. Yes, Bradley Manning violated the Military Justice Code if he leaked this information, but was the leaking justified by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)? The UDHR
is a law that was formed and enacted by the United Nations that states: “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people…Now, Therefore The General Assembly proclaims This Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms.” The decision needs to be made about which code or law is more important to obey. Should one follow the code of his or her country’s military, or should one follow the law that has been formed by a union that your country actively is a member of? It is my belief that the law of the United Nations stands far superior to that certain code of the US Military, not only because the UN is more encompassing of the entire world, but because I believe in Thoreau's philosophy of governing with one's conscience which the UN law does.
Whether a person likes it or not, we are part of the United Nations and if we as a country decide to be a part of that union then we need to respect and obey the laws that are set in place to make our world a better, more peaceful global society. The video that Bradley Manning has allegedly leaked shows heinous acts against blameless humans that have infuriated the conscience of many. If the revealing of this video is not covered by the UDHR then I have no idea what would constitute coverage. What Bradley Manning allegedly did was a bold and courageous act that should be applauded rather than condemned.
Opposition to Manning says that what he released was a threat to National Security and he should be punished for what he did. However, the video and documents that Bradley Manning has purportedly leaked has not put anyone in danger. Similar to the Pentagon Papers
that were released by Daniel Ellsberg the release of this information was groundbreaking and helped people around the world understand the terrors of war better. Bringing to light a video
of our troops murdering guiltless citizens is not a crime, but how the US has treated Bradley Manning is and they should be reprimanded by the UN for doing so. Whether Bradley Manning is convicted of the crimes he is being charged with or not, he has inspired a generation with his bravery and drive to show the World the disturbing truths about war. No matter what happens, there no doubt will be another Bradley Manning out there waiting in the wings to show the next injustice that has been classified in order to protect our country’s precious prestige.
In the words of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, “Courage is contagious.”