by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
As the long trial of Bradley Manning gets underway this week, I want to add my voice to the millions who stand with him and the thousands who protested his imprisonment over the weekend in thanking him for his brave act and urging that all charges against him be dropped. Releasing information on war crimes, as the saying goes, is not a war crime. He should be released immediately.
Manning faces decades, perhaps life, in prison for allegedly leaking a video of a U.S. helicopter attack that killed at least 11 Iraqi civilians to WikiLeaks. Two Reuters reporters were killed and at least two children severely wounded. Manning is also suspected of leaking tens of thousands of U.S. reports about its war in Afghanistan, explicitly describing civilian deaths and cover-ups, corrupt officials, and U.S. collusion with warlords.
Manning was horrified by the killing of civilians and believed war crimes were being covered up, so he took action. That does not make him a war criminal.
“I believed that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information … this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general,” Manning said in court, according to the Financial Times.
“I felt I accomplished something that would allow me to have a clear conscience,” he testified in February…