You may have heard that Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest sentence handed down for leaking classified information in the military. Maybe you followed the over 700,000 documents leaked through wikileaks by military "whistle blowers." I didn't really. Sure. I heard about it, but I didn't follow it closely.
Today, as people post about Manning's heroism and the atrocity of this sentence, I had to take a look. What, exactly, did Manning leak? Apparently he leaked a few things that shine our military in a negative light. A helicopter that killed civilians, including reporters, Iraqi Soldiers mistreating detainees, and other rather disturbing instances. On the helicopter video, a soldier can be heard saying, "Hahaha. I hit 'em," and "Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards."
As civilians, we are taken aback by the seemingly outright disregard for human life. But we are not in war. We do not see our friends, the people we live with, the only connections we have to home taken out by malicious acts such as IEDs. We don't watch our neighbors suffer and scream as they realize that bloody mess laying next to them is none other than their arm or leg. We don't live in a state of knowing that we could be killed, maimed, tortured at any moment and we don't feel the fear of leaving our loved ones, a wife, a child, a parent, behind should we not take care of ourselves and our own.
I have never thought war was a good idea. I did not think we should go to Iraq. I do not believe we should get involved in every skirmish, revolution, tyrannical overthrow across the world. I just don't.
But here is what I do believe.
We have GOOD men and women that volunteer their lives for our freedoms. They go overseas when they are no more than children. Remember what you were doing when you were 18? I can tell you what I wasn't doing. I wasn't holding a gun, digging a hole in dessert, trying to determine "nice" civilians versus "civilian" terrorists, learning how to change every preconceived notion I ever had so I could protect myself and the man next to me. No. My life was quite different. I was spending my "hard-earned" money. I was partying with my friends. I was beginning college. I wasn't trying to reason in my head why it's okay to kill and why I must kill. I didn't see every one as a potential enemy. I didn't hear hate from my own country men for doing what I thought was noble. For stepping up to defend a nation I thought was great. I wasn't doing that. I was too busy learning through the American experience what it means to be free and to be American.
Is it awful that these individuals sound excited when they hit their mark? Excited at the deaths of other people's lives? Yes. It's awful. But it's also awful that we don't try to understand why they show excitement. That's their job. It's what they were trained to do. It's much more stressful than my job or your job. It's life or death day in and day out. We can't possibly now their stress.
I've never wanted to know what it's truly like to live in a country where I have to fear rape, mutilation, or bombings daily. And I never want to know what it's like to be a soldier on the front lines of any war. And I never want to know what it's like to be a soldier that comes back to a country that scorns me for protecting American shores, airways, and borders. Because they came here once. They came here with vengeful fury. They hit us hard and then hit us harder. And on that day. On September 11, there were few Americans that wouldn't have celebrated a few deaths on the other side. So let's not judge our soldiers because we don't have the experiences to judge.
So what about Manning?
I don't believe he should've gotten 35 years. That's awful steep. And I understand why people are calling him a hero. After all, we are a public that likes to be in the know. And I am not someone that likes to be in a dark. However, I also very strongly feel that I do want to be kept safe and there are plenty of people in the world that hate ME for no other reason than I reside within the United States. Just as I don't tell me children EVERYTHING, I know the US Military cannot tell me EVERYTHING. Some things need to remain confidential. Sure, bad things happen. Things that shouldn't happen. But we're also asking immature boys and girls to go fight wars. We're asking, recruiting heavily, an age group that lacks an immature brain. After all, the brain isn't fully developed until about age 25.
Disregard for human life should not be ignored. Corruption within the military should be examined and handled appropriately. However, I do not believe military personnel should divulge confidential information. Doing so and setting a precedence for doing so hinders the ability of the military to adequately protect us and our freedoms. I believe in transparency in education, but I don't know that transparency in war is such a good thing.
Just my two cents. And Yes. I did see the video.