By Jacob Richards
And so after three long years Bradley Manning’s trial has come to a close and he has been convicted on five counts of “espionage charges”. He was acquitted on the most serious of all charges which was that he had “aided the enemy”. Yet with the acquittal aside Manning will still face the prospect of being jailed for up to a maximum of 130 years when his sentencing begins at Fort Meade today.
Besides the obvious torment and abuse that Manning has and will now continue to face, there are obviously some much wider implications to the judgments of Army Col Denise Lind yesterday. The most obvious is that a precedent has now been set for which other potential whistle-blowers can look to and potentially face in the United States. It would seem that Manning is an example to be shown for all those who dare to shine a light on the practices and behaviour of the state while giving access to information the general public deserves to know. Undoubtedly Edward Snowden and Julian Assange would face the same prospects should they ever be extradited to the States.
The United States Government is clearly intent on eradicating the role of ‘whistle-blowers’ in society and unfortunately it would seem our own government is following that lead. In recent days and months we have seen our own establishment shun and marginalize whistle-blowers for taking a stand. This obviously comes to mind with the treatment we saw given to members of the Gardai who lifted the lid on allegations that senior members of the force were writing off penalty points for friends and associates in a widespread fashion. In blowing the lid one of these Gardai was forced to retire having been marginalized and left in a position where to carry out the day to day duties of his job had become impossible.
We see another example surfacing in Ireland at the moment where IBM is attempting to silence a former employee for alleging that the company sales records contained millions of euros worth of discrepancies. For bringing these allegations to light she now faces potential jail time for refusing a high court order to hand over the data purported to hold the information. Of course these cases may pale in comparison to the severe treatment we have seen given to Bradley Manning but never the less they illustrate the attempts of western establishments to silence dissent and critique.
The reality is that whistle-blowers, however big or small, serve an important role in society and should be championed and celebrated for what they offer to the general public and indeed democracy. People like Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have given so much to the world at large by the disclosure of war crimes, Orwellian surveillance and state torture to name a few. It is people like these who give the public across the world a chance to be informed and debate issue of tremendous importance that would otherwise escape the public conscience. In essence they are the champions of true democracy. An so when we see the Bradley Mannings of this world sentenced for taking a stand and blowing the lid on monstrous crimes such as the killing of innocent civilians, we must understand that a war on democracy is being waged by those governments who do the prosecuting. For as long as we are content to stand idly by and watch such treatment and marginalization of whistle blowers, corruption, malpractice, torture, deceit and terror can thrive. As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.