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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Bradley Manning's Court Martial begins

On the first day of Bradley Manning's court martial yesterday, he was portrayed as two different people.  The Prosecution said he is a traitor who "craved notoriety" and the Defense said he was "naive but good intentioned."

When three major news outlets made the decision to publish classified Afghanistan and Iraq documents on Julian Assange's WikiLeaks - The New York Times, the UK Guardian and the Germany's der Spiegel, the world saw the shocking video of US helicopter pilots killing what appeared to be innocent civilians, including two Reuters photojournalists.

While ex hacker Adrian Lamo was pretending to be Manning's friend, the 5ft 2in soldier told him "I'm scared, I have no one I can trust, I need a lot of help."  Lamo told him he was a church minister and a journalist and promised him that his identity would never be known.  And then he blew the whistle.

Manning has pleaded guilty to 10 of the 22 charges against him but has consistently denied that he aided the enemy of his country, even though some of the information he gave WikiLeaks turned up at Osama bin Laden's hideout.  One of the Navy Seals involved in the raid found documentation that proves that bin Laden was in possession of the Afghan war logs and other crucial information released by WikiLeaks. This looks bad for Manning.

Manning's civilian lawyer, David Coombs, yesterday told the military judge that his client lives by a philosophy that values life and has the word "humanist" inscribed on the back of his dog tags.

He told the court that Manning was very young when he went to Iraq and believed what he was told - that he was going to help make it a better and safer place.  He became disillusioned after a roadside bomb exploded beneath a car full of civilians that had pulled over to let their military vehicles pass.  After the incident, his lawyer said he struggled.  "Unfortunately in his youth" Coombs said "he didn't think we (the US) always did the right thing.

Manning said he initially contacted the Washington Post and the New York Times with the information but when he wasn't taken seriously, he offered it to WikiLeaks.

Aiding the enemy carries the death penalty and although the US government will not seek the ultimate punishment, Manning still faces a maximum sentence of life in a military prison with no chance of parole.

It's hard not to feel sorry for this small soldier who wouldn't hurt a fly and one wonders how he got into the armed forces in the first place. The head says he's guilty, but the heart says let him go.