One of the few things that we can be sure about in today’s United States is that if President Obama does something, the Republicans are going to hate it. It won’t matter what it is, they will hate it because he is the one that did it. Forever and ever Amenalenadingdong.
Today the big news out of the White House is President Obama commuting the rest of Chelsea Manning’s prison sentence. Predictably, the GOP are screaming themselves silly over it.
Chelsea Manning, for those of you who don’t remember, is the soldier who leaked a crap ton of classified and sensitive diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks in 2010. She was convicted of Espionage in 2013 and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Many believe that Chelsea is a hero to be admired and even emulated. Others insist she is a traitor of the worst kind. I? I…don’t know.
I have mixed feelings about Chelsea Manning. On the one hand, I do believe that her actions put many in harm’s way. There is no doubt, though, that her actions have also likely saved many more. I know that I think far higher of her than I do of Edward Snowden or Julian Assange.
However I feel about Chelsea Manning and what she did, I do know that I am glad that President Obama commuted the rest of her sentence (provided Our Lord and Miser Fake n’ Bake doesn’t try to revoke it in a few days). I am glad she is going free. And though this will likely make many of you angry, I am also glad she was not fully pardoned.
That probably sounds harsh, but look: whether or not we like them or agree with them we are governed by a set of laws. And the military’s code of law is incredibly strict for a reason. Chelsea Manning knew what those laws were and she broke them. Was she brave to do so? Absolutely. Was what she did necessary for the protection of the greater good? Probably. Was her heart in the right place? Totes.
It’s easy to sit here in our bubbles and say that Chelsea should have been offered the same compassion and understanding that is offered to other people who break the law and aren’t sent to prison because their intentions were to serve the greater good, and to wax poetic about Kohlberg and the Heinz Dilemma.
A) Chelsea Manning was not tried in civilian court where the Heinz Dilemma could come into play.
B) Even if she was, war is not as simple as a broken window.
In moral/ethical cases the question is not only whether the ends justified the means but whether the ends outweigh the means. There is no doubt that a life is far more valuable than a window, as a window is easily replaceable and a human life is not.
War is not a broken window pane that can easily be replaced. Blasting out information to millions of people who don’t have the necessary qualifications or background to understand it properly is irresponsible and dangerous. In saving many lives Chelsea also put many lives at risk and likely ended quite a few, too. She knew that lives could be lost because of her actions. She took those actions anyway. She deserved to face some sort of consequence.
I do not think, however, that she deserved to face the consequence she was served. 35 years in a men’s prison because of a system that hasn’t yet caught up to science could be argued as extreme (and likely even extremely prejudiced). Forcing her to stay in that prison even after multiple suicide attempts? I’m pretty sure that’s considered cruel and unusual. And I’m glad she will soon be free.
Commuting the sentence might not seem like much to those who believe she deserves a full pardon. But hopefully if that’s how you feel you can take some comfort in knowing just how badly it pissed off the other side. Remember: they didn’t get their way, either. Personally I’m a fan of the solution that found the middle ground between the two extremes–and does so with respect to the law, not just how something feels.
I’m really going to miss having a President who cares about how all this stuff works.