“The quality of mercy is not strained; / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest; / It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
Portia, Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice,” Act IV, Scene 1
As his last pardon before leaving office, President Obama granted mercy to Chelsea Manning. OK.
But the sad irony is that Obama’s own Justice Department was merciless, getting an absurdly long prison sentence of 35 years for Ms. Manning. The average sentence for a leaker of classified information is just one to three years.
Manning, who has already served seven years of the sentence, will be released May 17. Why not immediately? Good question. What’s the point of keeping her in prison four more months? Only the half-merciful Obama can answer.
Another question. Why didn’t Obama pardon Edward Snowden? He leaked huge amounts of top-secret information.
As the New York Times pointed out in an editorial, Ms. Manning and Snowden “acted in the spirit of whistle-blowers.” They released information about U.S. chicanery that benefitted the American public. The disclosures led to significant debate and reform. They never harmed the United States.
Snowden, former intelligence contractor, is living in asylum in Moscow, a “safety house” that Russia has now extended to 2020.
The Obama White House argued that the documents Snowden revealed were “far more serious and far more dangerous” than Manning’s disclosures. If so, that makes the Manning sentences even more absurd.
Ms. Manning, a low-level Army intelligence analyst, leaked more than 700,000 classified documents. They included diplomatic cables and military-incident logs given to WikiLeaks, which shared them with news organizations.
The Times, publishing the excerpts extensively, had a powerful impact with the disclosures.
Bradley Manning was her original name. But the switch to Chelsea Manning had a terrible psychological impact on her life. Twice she tried to commit suicide. (The transgender woman is imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.)
The Obama administration carried out what the Times called “an unprecedented criminal crackdown on leaks of government secrets. It prosecuted 10 such cases, more than were charged under all previous presidencies combined.”
As Bradley Manning, he soldiered in Iraq and Afghanistan.
MILITARY JUSTICE A SHAM
Josh Earnest, then White House spokesman, drew a distinction between Manning and Snowden: “Manning went through the criminal justice system, was found guilty and sentenced for her crimes. But Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, a country that recently tried to undermine our democracy.”
Bosh. In any case, presidential and military justice are shams.
Russia supposedly hacked the U.S. presidential election in November to give Donald Trump the victory. The Russians may have tried to break into U.S. computers but it is hard to fathom how they could win the election for Trump.
Moreover, it is even harder to see how such alleged hacking, as pundits and media news stories lamented, was “a direct threat to American democracy and U.S. national security.”
U.S. MEDDLING IN FOREIGN ELECTIONS
Be that as it may, the savvy social critic Noam Chomsky recently wrote a long article for online Truthout blasting the United States for “blatant interference in many foreign elections. The methods include financial support to preferred parties, the circulation of propaganda, assassinations and the overthrow of democratically elected regimes.
“The U.S. has a long criminal history of meddling in the political affairs of other nations spanning more than a century and extending into all regions of the globe, including Western parliamentary countries.”
Chomsky calls a spade a spade: “The United States is an expert in foreign-election interference. Much of the world must be collapsing in laughter.”
He ironically concedes one difference: “By U.S. standards, the Russian efforts are so meager as to barely elicit notice.”
Foreign intervention included: in Asia, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Indochina and Japan; in Europe, Greece, Italy, France and Germany; in Latin America, Guatemala and Bolivia.
Perhaps the most sensational U.S. interference in foreign affairs was engineering the coup that overthrew Iran’s Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953.
Chomsky: “There is evidence of CIA involvement in a virtual coup that overturned the Whitlam Labor in Australia. The CIA apparently feared that Whitlam might interfere with Washington’s military and intelligence bases in Australia. Large-scale CIA interference in Italian politics has long been public knowledge.”
Chomsky concludes that the highly praised Marshall Plan was “a tool for consolidating capitalism and spreading business rule throughout Europe after World War II.”
“The French ambassador had warned U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall “of grim consequences” if the communists won elections in Europe: “Soviet penetration of Western Europe, Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East would be greatly facilitated. The dominoes were ready to fall.”
Chomsky has given the America people a valuable history lesson.
Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor from the University of Nevada, Reno. (firstname.lastname@example.org}