Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Three soldiers that are worlds apart

The Gazette editorial Published: June 10, 2013

On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal in the case of Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, another branch of the federal government began its case against another soldier from Oklahoma.

Behenna, of Edmond, and Pfc. Bradley Manning, of Crescent, grew up in towns a few miles apart. But their circumstances are worlds apart.

We've never made the case that Behenna is a hero, but he has served enough time for the unpremeditated murder of an Iraqi with terrorist ties. This happened in a war zone, but the military concluded that Behenna had surrendered his right to self-defense, a point the Supreme Court won't consider because it refused to hear Behenna's case. So the officer will continue serving time at a military stockade in Kansas.

Meanwhile in Maryland, prosecutors began their case against Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents. Manning is seen as a hero by his supporters, which include the usual suspects with anti-American, anti-military sentiments. Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame sees Manning as a political prisoner.

Behenna and other members of the so-called Leavenworth 10 could rightly be termed political prisoners. The excessive prison term given Behenna relates to the political atmosphere in 2008, when Behenna shot and killed Ali Mansur. This was at a time when the U.S. was negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government and needed to prove that America wouldn't tolerate aberrant behavior by its soldiers.

Thus it was that Behenna was sentenced to 25 years (since reduced to 15) in prison while the key figure in the My Lai Massacre served just 3 + years under house arrest for the premeditated murder of 22 civilians in Vietnam.

Manning faces life in prison for leaking documents that were published on a leftist website. His lawyers portray him as a "young, naive but good intentioned" soldier, a gay man who struggled to fit in and felt compelled to share what he knew "to make a difference in this world." Manning's age, naivety or sexual orientation is irrelevant. In the words of prosecutors, he "systematically harvested" information that was used to aid and abet an enemy that was killing U.S. soldiers who (unlike Manning) had the courage to enter combat zones. Those soldiers aren't heroes in the view of Manning's supporters but Manning is.

Playing the gay card is only part of the strategy to paint Manning as a victim rather than a perpetrator. Manning was willing to take a figurative bullet by pleading guilty to lesser charges. The military pressed ahead with a court-martial on more serious charges.

Behenna was a young officer who made a mistake. He's no hero, but Manning is definitely an anti-hero. His cold, calculated "harvesting" of classified documents has earned him the undying support of people who hate this country and its military apparatus.

To them, what Manning did was for America's good.

If you believe that, you might also buy the defense claim expected to be offered by another former Army officer scheduled to go on trial soon - Fort Hood shooter Nadil Hasan. Speculation is that Hasan will claim he killed 13 people to protect his fellow Muslims when Fort Hood soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan.

Only in the far corners of insane radicalism does this make any sense. Manning's defense doesn't make sense either. Yet for their devotees, Manning and Hasan are heroes and Behenna is a murderer.

Rational and fair people know that this is an inversion of reality. Neither Manning nor Hasan deserve to be freed in their lifetimes.

Behenna? He's done his time and should be let go. - The Oklahoman

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