Bradley Manning at Fort Meade. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has said that Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning’s 32-year maximum sentence is a ‘strategic victory’ as it means the US whistleblower is eligible for parole in less that a decade.
"This hard-won minimum term represents a significant tactical victory for Bradley Manning’s defense, campaign team and supporters," he commented. "At the start of these proceedings, the United States government had charged Bradley Manning with a capital offence and other charges carrying over 135 years of incarceration."
However, the statement did warn that the incarceration is a wrongdoing of basic Western justice.
"While the defense should be proud of their tactical victory, it should be remembered that Mr Manning’s trial and conviction is an affront to basic concepts of Western justice. On Mr Manning’s arrest in May 2010, he was immediately subjected to punitive incarceration by the US government, which was found to be "cruel, inhumane and degrading" by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, and even found to be unlawful by US military courts."
Victory or not, what we are looking at here is a jail sentence longer than any other military ruling dished out by the US for crimes that would make anyone that has any moral sense feel sick to the stomach.
Take the leaked video of the Apache helicopter, with the pilots opening-up on a group of innocent Iraqis and two Reuters journalists. The voiceovers on that clip by the pilots indicate a desire to harm far more than any that might have been carried out by Manning. The pilots faced no repercussions.
What about the US forces that ran the notorious Abu Ghraib prison? The ringleader was set free after serving just six years of his ten year sentence. The harm that victims of that prison underwent was far more than the harm caused to anybody by the release of 700,000 documents.
Does Manning’s sentence, that, when faced with facts is gravely disproportionate to other military court hearings, represent a punishment driven by embarrassment and a desire to induce fear rather than a true representation of actual harm that was undergone by the US military and diplomatic interests?
The heaviest charge that faced Manning was thrown out of court: that of "aiding the enemy".
Over 30 years in the clink seems like a long time for whistleblowing, seeing as no enemy was aided, then.
I guess deterrence has played a large role in the sentencing of Manning. It’s telling other Manning’s out there that even thinking about whistleblowing will throw most of your adult life down the drain. In 2008 the US gained a president that we all might had hoped would be able to tell the difference between leaks for the public interest and leaks that committed treason. Apparently it didn’t.
Nevertheless, what Manning’s achieved has already been drafted into the history books, and the US has been shown up yet again on its diplomatic policies. I wonder what kind of United States Manning will come out to?
Assange concluded the statement by saying: "Mr Manning’s treatment has been intended to send a signal to people of conscience in the US government who might seek to bring wrongdoing to light. This strategy has spectacularly backfired, as recent months have proven.
"Instead, the Obama administration is demonstrating that there is no place in its system for people of conscience and principle. As a result, there will be a thousand more Bradley Mannings."