Thoughts on Manning

I’m not that familiar with the details of the case, but it abstractly raises some issues that I consider worthy of reflection.

The first thought is about the “Aiding the Enemy charge”.  What right does anyone have, to impose their definition of an enemy on an individual? Every individual should, indeed must, be able to look beyond a label, see a human being and treat that person with dignity and respect.  Do enemies really exist?  Can individuals not change? One might even go so far as to argue that it is organized allegiance that is problematic, and not any given individual who is not immediately coercive or threatening.  In such a case, would not a more ethical approach be to respect life, and work to disorganize the coercive allegiance?  Do we allow ourselves to form allegiances that disrespect the values of life, health, education, families, children, happiness?

Moving on to other charges about leaking sensitive information that one has taken an oath to protect, under situations of ethical qualms.  A leak can reflect stress in these situations.  There are obviously other possible reasons for leaking information. One can also build systems of security around leaks, in which case, the individual does not bear the entire burden of a leak alone.  I would think that any individual privileged enough to have access to secure information would, in such a case, maintain enough discipline to leak in such a way that life is not endangered – that is small, discretionary leaks designed not to embarrass, influence, or pursue an individual agenda, but rather to correct an internal ethical problem.  And that problem should not be one that would normally be a private matter – that is affairs, homosexuality, alcohol or drug use, mental illness, divorce, thoughts, opinions, areas that are normally outside of the realm of public or organizational influence.

So, to consider the military problem more deeply.  Suppose the military were infiltrated by nonviolent activists who refused to harm the “enemy”, who seeing information gathered using unethical means, reflected that information back to the “enemy” to let them know that it had been gathered from them.  I would consider such individuals acting within ethical realms. That is, possibly, with later recognition that the organization’s values were not compatible with their own. Therefore subject to discharge, with noise, but certainly not accountable for more than any lives they took or saved with their actions.

On the other hand, if one leaks information, with the intent to provoke violence, death, or war in volatile situations, especially where efforts are otherwise being made to peacefully negotiate the situations (that is nonviolent alternatives exist), then that person bears more responsibility than simply “openly declaring information” because they have knowingly done this to a potential mob…

I don’t know if any of this relates to the Manning case, but if it does, then it is worth some consideration in his context.

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