Friday, August 23, 2013

An educated mind

I have semi-followed the Manning trial and his conviction. I don’t have all the details, and I just can’t spare the time to follow everything.

However I did come across this piece from the ACLU and it makes me question how our government is treating people. We ought to debate and discuss this, without some of the offensive and ridiculous comments listed on the piece. Instead, an intelligent debates needs to take place. I ran across this quote today:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

I find too often that we refuse to entertain the notion of a conflicting thought, dismissing it at face value because of our beliefs. Conflicting things, entertaining possibilities does not detract from your beliefs. If anything, defending your position strengthens it.

As I understand it, Manning leaked documents from a variety of areas, and admitted that. It is a violation of military law to do so. He accepted that, and was willing to take punishment. However, some of his documents paint a disturbing picture of how the military has treated prisoners, it’s own forces, and sown disinformation to not only enemies, but it’s fellow US citizens.

We have whistleblower laws for a reason. There are times when the legal protections an entity has against disclosure must be broken for the greater good. Even inside the military, subordinate officers can remove superior officers from command. It is an action that should not be taken lightly, and it is a gamble. A mistake in choosing to do so means the person taking action can be punished.

In Manning’s case, I don’t know if he endangered any lives, but I’ve heard he did not. I also suspect that some of what he brought to light needed to be shown. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he ought to not receive some punishment, but we ought to debate how much, and to what extent what he did needed to be done.

I don’t have the knowledge to intelligently do that, and I think a large number of people are in my situation, yet would immediately classify Manning as either a patriot or traitor, without examining the fundamental issues disclosed by the leaks. I hope that groups like the ACLU bring enough pressure to force serious examination and review of what has happened.

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