The subject of the email was "My problem.""I've had signs of it for a very long time," Bradley Manning wrote. "It caused conditions within my family. I thought a career in the military would get rid of it. ... But it's not going away, it's haunted me more and more as I get older."There was a photograph attached. Sitting in a car, looking anguished, Manning stares into the camera's lens. He is wearing a blonde wig and makeup. --Matt Sledge, the Huffington Post, 8-13-2013
In my post on July 31, I argued that the chain of command was largely responsible for the entire debacle ending in the release of documents. It appears based on testimony that not only was I right, it was worse than I thought. Those of us who were in leadership roles during that era and did not want to engage in witch hunts found the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy not that easy to enforce. This was a problem with a lot of issues by the way -- people engaging in private behavior that the overall society was willing to accept, but that violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. When a soldier came in to talk to me for some "personal problem," I didn't always begin with reading them their rights but I had the card handy just in case. But, while it did not happen, I knew exactly what I would do if someone came in and announced that they were gay--I'd make certain that they knew that by telling me they were in fact asking to be discharged, and then I'd be on the phone to the CSM and the legal clerk to start the paperwork. Nothing personal...I didn't care, but the rules were pretty straightforward. And, in my leadership roles, I wasn't dealing with a lot of soldiers who had clearances above Secret.
Bradley Manning, while on active duty, at a Washington DC Pride march, summer 2009
So, if I had been anywhere in Manning's chain of command, when I was shown a picture of my soldier in drag along with a note telling me about my problem, thoughts of "oh, we're short handed, how will we survive?" would have been immediately sidetracked to a couple of choice four letter words. According to testimony in the Mitigation and Extenuation phase of Manning's sentencing, Manning not only made no attempt to hide his orientation, he was actively seeking help to resolve it, even though the only resolution in 2009 would have been a discharge. Generally, we all know that is a branch is noticeably weak without stress, adding more stress will cause it to snap. Manning was insubordinate, yelled atshoved, hit and kicked superiors, beginning in Basic Training. Yet, in a bizarre example of social promotion, he got through training, and then the time at Fort Drum, and then went to Iraq. Where he snapped -- Manning is a lousy soldier. However, he appears to have been forthcoming about his situation and the Army had lots of chances to say, "Yeah, you're right; this was a bad idea," and showed him to the door. Instead, they kept trying to snap superglue on the no longer merely broken but splintered branch. The kid went so crazy in a counseling session that he overturned a table and headed for the weapons rack but a Warrant Officer got him in a full Nelson to get him calmed down. Then, it get's really strange...
Before any of those leaks was transmitted to WikiLeaks, during a counseling session in December, Manning flipped a table with two computers on it and allegedly headed for a weapons rack."I grabbed him and put him in a full nelson," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua Ehresman, who testified prior to Adkins on Tuesday. Ehresman and others told Adkins about that dramatic incident, but Adkins did nothing. Adkins also did not react to the chair-flipping incident, nor did he inform his superiors about the April 2010 email with the photo in drag attached.
I have to say, this is starting to look worse for the leadership of Brigade than better. If a soldier throws over a computer table and is wrestled to the ground by an officer, word gets around fast. Not a lot goes on in a headquarters besides gossip and BS: Stuff like that doesn't stay buttoned up. Then MSG Adkins, now SFC Adkins, wouldn't have had to report it to his superiors; they'd already know before he could have gotten to him. So, somebody far higher in the Brigade chain of command must have decided that this was just someone acting out, or worse, from their exalted seat upon their own ass, decided that Manning was "just faking it. So, suck it up and make the little pansy perform!"
Just so we're clear, if you have an ethical decision to make, the one that is most expedient is usually the wrong choice. Yeah, getting rid of Manning would have caused some computer-nerd related problems; and, by 2009 there was a lot of emphasis on not discharging people under Don't Ask, Don't Tell..." Were they afraid that they might yelled at for dropping to C3 on a USR? Or that Manning would go on Rachel Maddow and she'd make them all cry?
Well, Sergeant Adkins has lost a stripe over this; but I'm guessing there are a lot more stripes to be lost, and it would be interesting to know how far up in the division this form of rot might have spread. It seems pretty obvious to me that the Defense has made a pretty good case for extenuation and mitigation, and the Prosecution had problems with this one. F. Lee Bailey wrote in The Defense Never Rests that given his experience as an Air Force legal officer, he'd rather be tried by a court martial than a civilian court. The court martial would be fairer, more interested in the truth and far better informed and able to understand the case than a civilian panel. Having been on a few and observing a lot of both, I tend to agree. I think Manning made a mistake in his decision to have his case heard only by the judge. A panel could have included a First Sergeant or Sergeant Major, and would probably have been tilted more in his favor by the abysmal failure of the Chain of Command to respond to the guy. However, the Judge may well have heard enough to sentence Manning to something reasonable; I'm guessing 10 years and a DD at this point and possibly less. For justice's sake, let's hope so.
...Bad habit of pulling back the curtain and showing that not only does the emperor have no clothes, he's not the fucking emperior.: --Graham Nash