The bombing of the village of Granai, Afghanistan occurred four years ago this month--that's how long the saga of Bradley Mannings's humiliation has been going on, i.e., if you include the war crimes he exposed. In that case civilians where killed but our military covered it up. It was his first disclosure of classified documents and an answer to the arrogance of Dick Cheney's statement that after September 11th we (America, you and me) would have to work "on the dark side." So morality would be occasionally set aside for the moment and gradually, bit by bit, the country we all love--the good guys--morphed into one the conspiracies Julian Assange wrote about.
I have seen heroism up close on the battlefield. It is never a pure thing. Often it's a reaction to training and certainly to the safety of friends. Oddly, because war is a young person’s enterprise courage can arise out of a swirl of the ego of the immature ego need of young adulthood but mostly it is that crucial nexus of deciding to act.
Sure, Specialist Manning had the encouragement from his idol Richard Stallman as a new free software devotee (he inscribed his essays in a note to Brad, “fight for freedom anyway you can.”) In his disclosures and moments of bravery it all came together: his preference for the hacking community, his access to this wealth of forbidden information and his own distress in finding his place in the world.
That’s all psychological and solid but it doesn’t go far enough to describe this isolated young man’s moment of stepping into an open moment. On the one hand he read the classified documents; on the other—as an inquisitive news junkie—he compared it to the actual outcomes…civilians were killed, the Red Cross was prevented from visiting prisoners, there WAS a protocol for torture.
At the root of the word, courage, is the Latin word for heart, cor. “Hearting” into that breach for Specialist Manning was less about his personal loneliness and more about holding onto some truth that matters and lasts. This young man, who in early teen years was the only one to ride the Silver Bullet roller coaster, is braving it out again.
We owe him our gratitude and support since the Fort Meade trial will be a showcase for how much the system clutches to power yet how this 23 year old remains poised and resilient