Today, the sentencing phase of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning’s court-martial begins: Manning faces up to a maximum 136 years in prison. The sentencing follows Manning’s conviction yesterday by a military court (justice is to military court as generosity is to selfishness) on nineteen of twenty counts.

whistle blower

"Whistle Blower" by Ben Sanders. Credit: Ben Sanders/National Accountant Magazine, Australia.

Yet what Manning did was to reveal information that should have been available to all Americans in order for us to know the illegal acts of our government, including in one instance the videotape of American military personnel laughing as they shot down innocent civilians who were coming to take away the bodies of others that these same military men had just killed. Instead of prosecuting the military murderers, the Obama administration is prosecuting the courageous hero who at huge personal risk revealed this information to the rest of us.

This past Sunday the Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun purchased a small ad in the New York Times calling upon President Obama to stop prosecuting whistle-blowers. It was paid for by donors to the ad. Now that Manning is facing sentencing, you might want to add your name, donate so we can send an even larger ad to other media, or at least just read the ad. You can do so at:

Edward Snowden was similarly courageous in revealing information that proved that the NSA is spying on millions of Americans, and that the denial by the head of the NSA about this under oath to a Congressional Committee was perjury. There is no plausible reading of the U.S. Constitution that would empower the U.S. government to spy on its citizens or kill innocent civilians abroad – so both Manning and Snowden are true American heroes, while the Obama administration and its supporters are destroying American life and liberty supposedly in order to save it (bringing to mind the general directing the war in Vietnam, who said of a suspected Viet Cong hideout in a village, “we destroyed the village in order to save it”).

Too many Americans have bought into the “national security” excuse that the Bush and now the Obama administration use to cover one illegal and civil/human rights-destroying act after another. Many of us who have never done anything to subvert our government may find ourselves being similarly accused, jailed, assaulted, or our passports withdrawn (as happened to Snowden without any judicial process) as future governments accelerate this war against the American people that Obama has (probably unintentionally, but nevertheless morally culpably) started. If you wish to preserve American freedom, you need to stand with our Network of Spiritual Progressives, not only by signing and donating to the ad, but also by joining our network.

Among the charges, Manning was found guilty of the theft of more than 700 U.S. Southern Command records, the possession of records pertaining to Afghanistan; the theft of State Department cables and the possession of classified Army documents.

Wikileaks called the conviction of Manning “a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism.”

“It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed,” the group said in a statement released Tuesday. “It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage.’”

We don’t agree with Wiki Leaks on this point. Leaking information on how to make atomic weapons or other weapons of mass destruction and the names of secret intelligence operatives should not be allowed and might reasonably be punished. But punishing someone who has revealed secrets about how our government is telling lies to the American people, or acting unconstitutionally, or engaging in acts of murder, is unacceptable. These whistle-blowers must be protected, honored, and rewarded!

Instead, by going after Snowden and Manning, the Obama administration is sending a message to all whistle-blowers: don’t tell the public what the government is doing wrong, lest you risk being severely punished, accused of being a traitor, and finding yourself hunted, jailed, and hurt in many ways. Don’t think that because you trust Obama, things will never get out of hand. The precedents now being set by the Obama administration will be used by future and potentially more fascistic presidential administrations and military commanders. We need to tell the administration that we unequivocally oppose its approach to these issues. So please sign the ad:

Code Pink has pointed out that Major General Buchanan still has the ability to reduce Manning’s sentence. Email him and/or call him (202-685-2900) now to say Manning should only be sentenced to time served.

But ultimately, it is President Obama who – as Commander in Chief of the Army (in the case of Manning) and president with the power to pardon (in the case of Snowden) – has the power to stop all this. That’s why it makes sense for you to sign the letter to Obama and to donate to get it put on other media in full form (it was very small in the New York Times). At least read the full letter, developed by Rabbi Arthur Green and me, and signed so far by several hundred people from around the world. It’s at Stop this craziness!

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