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Michael Moore

Michael Moore is an Academy-Award winning filmmaker and best-selling author

July 30th, 2013 4:56 PM

What Bradley Manning's Sentence Will Tell Us About Our Military Justice System

Today Bradley Manning was convicted on 20 of 22 counts, including violating the Espionage Act, releasing classified information and disobeying orders. That's the bad news. The good news is he was found not guilty on the charge of "aiding the enemy." That's 'cause who he was aiding was us, the American people. And we're not the enemy. Right?

Manning now faces a potential maximum sentence of 136 years in jail. When his sentence is announced, we'll all get a good idea of how seriously the U.S. military takes different crimes. When you hear about how long Manning – now 25 years old – will be in prison, compare it to sentences received by other soldiers:

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the senior officer present the night of the murder of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi, received no jail time. But he was reprimanded and fined $8,000. (Pappas was heard to say about al-Jamadi, "I'm not going down for this alone.")

Sgt. Sabrina Harman, the woman famously seen giving a thumbs-up next to al-Jamadi's body and in another photo smiling next to naked, hooded Iraqis stacked on each other in Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to six months for maltreating detainees.

Spec. Armin Cruz was sentenced to eight months for abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib and covering up the abuse.

Spc. Steven Ribordy was sentenced to eight months for being accessory to the murder of four Iraqi prisoners who were "bound, blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal" in Baghdad in 2007.

Spc. Belmor Ramos was sentenced to seven months for conspiracy to commit murder in the same case.

Sgt. Michael Leahy Jr. was sentenced to life in prison for committing the four Baghdad murders. The military then granted him clemency and reduced his sentence to 20 years, with parole possible after seven.

Marine Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich received no jail time for negligent dereliction in the massacre of 24 unarmed men, women and children in 2005 in the Iraqi town of Haditha. Seven other members of his battalion were charged but none were punished in any way.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jerry Shumate and Lance Cpl. Tyler Jackson were both sentenced to 21 months for the aggravated assault of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, a father of 11 and grandfather of four, in Al Hamdania in 2006. Awad died after being shot during the assault. Their sentences were later reduced.

Marine Lance Cpl. Robert Pennington was sentenced to eight years for the same incident, but served only a few months before being granted clemency and released from prison.

Marine Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III was sentenced to 15 years for murder in the Awad case but his conviction was soon overturned and he was released.

No soldiers received any punishment for the killing of five Iraqi children, four women and two men in one Ishaqi home in 2006. Among the U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by Bradley Manning was email from a UN official stating that U.S. soldiers had "executed all of them." When Wikileaks published the cable, the uproar in Iraq was so big that the Nouri al-Maliki government couldn't grant any remaining U.S. troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts, thus forcing the Obama administration to abandon its plans to keep several thousand U.S. soldiers in Iraq permanently. All U.S. troops were removed at the end of 2011.

My guess is Bradley Manning will spend more time in jail than all of the other soldiers in all of these cases put together. And thus, instead of redeeming ourselves and asking forgiveness for the crimes that Spc. Manning exposed, we will reaffirm to the world who we really are.

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