OPINION – When Martin Luther, in the face of imminent death, made this statement: “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen,” he gave more than just the Bible to the masses. He gave a living and historical example of what is among the most noble among the virtues of men, the courage to stand for what is right at all costs.
That Bradley Manning, the soldier associated with releasing information to WikiLeaks from Iraq in 2010, would have done the same, we can only wish.
In an understandably calculated move, Manning’s legal team presumably had him apologizing to the court to appeal for leniency in what could be up to a 90-year sentence for him.
At first take, it could be argued that the validity of his convictions is questionable, that in light of his conviction, he now sees the error of his ways and sincerely apologizes.
Or it could be that he is simply scared, facing the certainty of his fate in spite of his actions.
Whatever the reason for Manning’s apology, I don’t accept it. He did not owe me, you, or anyone else an apology.
In fact, we owe him one.
It is said that the only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. That maxim has become quite a moving cliché to throw around in debate; but, in practicality, those who would actually endeavor to undertake the task of taking on evil quite often find themselves the accused.
It is a fundamental tryptic of the counter-intelligence community to abide three basic rules: Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.
And in the case of Manning, this is exactly what has happened.
Compelled by a sense of moral code, Manning made the naîve – and permanent – choice to, in essence, tell on some people for breaking the law.
On a side note, it is worth mentioning that at Nuremberg, the Nazis’ defense was that they were following orders. But they were not acquitted because … they were held to the moral imperative of conscience. They knew what they were doing was wrong and not even orders made it right.
This is a core tenet of American liberty, that despite any mandate to the contrary, moral code and law must be upheld and defended even from those who write and enforce the laws.
But the lawbreakers are getting away with it while Manning may go to prison for the rest of his life.
I am sorry, Bradley.
Manning along with Wikileaks, Julianne Assange, and a few others likely paved the way for Edward Snowden to come forth in like manner and possibly suffer the same fate should Russia cave to political pressure. But, something is happening.
There is a crack in the dam so-to-speak and the nature of the weight of water is doing its work. More and more, people are coming forth and calling their government to account using the very technology it uses to break the laws, to catch them doing it.
History remembers people like Manning and Snowden and often fondly.
This piece started with a quote from one of them.
At the time, Luther was likely considered a threat to the power structure of the day, but compelled by a righteous indignation that surpassed self-preservation he took them on.
Anyone remember the cowards who sought to kill him?
No, because they were on the wrong side of history.
Play this out to 50 years from now or more. Will we be living in a country completely stripped of the liberties guaranteed us in our Constitution and Bill of Rights or will we be reading about a period in history when patriotic men and women stood up to those who would not do right?
Often, liberty and freedom are interchanged words that appear to become synonymous but have different and distinct meanings.
Simply stated, freedom is the ability to do what one wants. Liberty is the freedom to do so free from infringement by another person, government, or otherwise.
Laws are enacted to protect freedoms and ensure liberty.
Benjamin Franklin was right when he noted that sacrificing one for the other or, more succinctly, sacrificing liberty for security, ensures we get neither.
People like Manning and Snowden get this. And they acted upon it at their own peril.
History will remember them well.
But history will also remember, and I would assert in a poor light, those who did nothing.
That’s us folks.
Bradley Manning is a young man whose ideals were consistent with the finest attributes of this nation and when he did the right thing, he was repaid with the loss of his life and his freedom. It does not diminish the weight of his sacrifice one bit that he faltered when facing his fate.
It points to us who let him down.
See you out there.
Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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