hard heads soft hearts

a scratch pad for half-formed thoughts by a liberal political junkie who's nobody special. ''Hard Heads, Soft Hearts'' is the title of a book by Princeton economist Alan Blinder, and tends to be a favorite motto of neoliberals, especially liberal economists.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011
It seems to me that the treatment of Bradley Manning represents a case where, not for the first time, the entire body of elite respectable opinion seems to have lost their minds. Whether or not Wikileaks and "radical transparency" is a good or bad thing, whether or not Bradley Manning did a bad, or at least a problematic, thing, are reasonable questions.

My personal opinion is that in this decade we were taken into a very bloody war in part on the basis of secret classified information, which seemed intimidating and convincing at the time, but turned out to be untrue, and in parts fabricated. In an environment like that, more transparency seems more good than bad, though online leaks probably are not the best way to bring that about.

But that's only question 1. Even if you believe Bradley Manning did a bad or problematic thing, the next, absolutely vital, question, is How bad a thing is it? This is where elite respectable opinion seems to have lost their minds, their bearings, their morality.

Is what Bradley Manning did worse than what Andrew Warren did, who got 5 years for sexual abuse? Is what he did worse than what Charles Graner did, who got 10 years for leading the Abu Ghraib abuses? Clearly, unequivocally, absolutely not. Yet we have the prosecuting authorities, treating Bradley Manning not only worse than they treated Warren or Graner, but much, much worse, and threatening him with a much longer sentence. What on earth are they thinking?

A reasonable outcome to the Bradley Manning case, if you take the view that his whistle blowing was too broad, would be a charge of mishandling classified information, and some sort of reprimand, similar to the soldiers who tried to cover up the circumstances of Pat Tillman's death, burning not only his uniform but his diary as well. i.e. bad conduct, but forgivable bad conduct. Instead, he's been subjected to treatment that is more extreme than that given for a violent criminal.

The only justification the elites have given for their actions is that Bradley Manning has the blood of US soldiers on his hands. I don't believe it. The extravagant claims for the Wikileaks classified docs are similar to the extravagant claims made for the Wen Ho Lee case & Saddam's WMD. I think we'll find they have a similar relationship to the truth.

My thanks to PJ Crowley for speaking out, confirming that there are people in the US government with good judgement, good sense and humanity, and I'm sorry for what happened to him as a result of it.

Glenn Greenwald - WH forces P.J. Crowley to resign for condemning abuse of Manning

I see Jack Shafer claiming that the treatment of Bradley Manning is for his safety. I'd assume that Shafer hasn't been following the story. What safety justification could there be for not allowing him to exercise in his cell, or for deliberately stopping short of suicide watch, because suicide watch would involve calling in actual psychiatrists, who would confirm Manning is not at threat for self-harm? The concern for Manning's safety is a cover story, not the truth.

Will Bunch

"I don't want to have people who just agree with me. I want people who are continually pushing me out of my comfort zone."

-- Barack Obama, June 18, 2008.

. . .somebody -- a good man, a decent man, and a respected spokesman for the U.S. State Department -- pushed Obama out of his comfort zone this week. And so what happened? -- the Obama administration forced him out of his job. Apparently Obama does just want to have people who agree with him. . .

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