I don’t know the details of the Bradley Manning case. I know he was a military person who leaked the video of US troops killing unarmed civilians, and that it was his responsibility as a citizen to make sure that citizens knew of it and held the military accountable for it, but, I am also aware that the video was just a part of a great many intel items that he leaked, and that therefore his motives are at best unknown. I’m vaguely aware that he did not sell the intel, and that he was not a spy, he was simply someone who for some reason decided that he would not respect the secrecy of military secrets for some reason.
The debate about his case led me to consider the following. It may be outlandish, I don’t know. I am just considering it:
Countries have laws. Organizations have rules. Organizations like the military should not have the right to imprison citizens for life, and certainly not the right to execute people for infractions of its rules. I could maybe go along with the idea that the military could imprison someone for the length of however many years their obligation to the military was — but not beyond that duration. Beyond that, they should have to prove their case in a court of law. But granted, that kind of reform won’t happen in time for this. Still, it is the kind of reform that is needed when the military’s desire to hide its mistakes from the citizens of its own country (as in, the killing of civilians) may be influencing its prosecution.
But this defies a tradition that has existed since the formation of this country, and which was reaffirmed during the pinnacle of the Cold War in the early 1950s — that the military is granted special rights to treat its rules like laws. But despite that tradition, it still seems odd somehow.