Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Verdict on a Verdict

What made Manning's acts so intolerable to the government is that he acted out of a sense of responsibility and embarrassed powerful people. They might have offered him some mercy had his motives been greed or blood lust and his offense merely a war crime—Manning has already served more time than Lt. Calley. Notably, we tortured Manning. There was never a chance that we'd torture our own torturers. The simple fact is that it was imperatively necessary to demonstrate to one and all that the bit about not following illegal orders is just public relations.

It wouldn't be quite accurate to say that the response to this case shows that the American people has lost it's sense of right and wrong. Very few human beings, even the worst, do what they do without following some code. In all of this, we are all following our conscience. I expect that the judge in this show trial also felt like she was actually acting like a judge instead of the stooge she was. The irony, however, is that the going system of morality, which puts prudent self interest above all other considerations, makes malcontents like Manning and Snowden inevitable since no well adjusted individual would do something so stupid as act in the name of abstract principles like human rights or the public good. Since our government is acting badly and will continue to act badly with the help of the American people, there will be more Mannings and Snowdens for the foreseeable future and they will probably be marginal people.

Many people have pointed out that no military or civilian government could be indifferent to what Manning or Snowden did. This is absolutely true. No one, to my knowledge, has claimed that the whistleblowers didn’t break the law. What is also true, however, is that absent this kind of crime, the state would be acting with even more impunity. The best joke of 2013 was the suggestion that if Snowden was unhappy with what the NSA was doing, he should have complained to his superiors or perhaps written a vague op/ed.