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These Teachable Moments

The Manning Show Trial

by THOMAS L. KNAPP

I’m shocked — shocked! — that Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge who ruled in February that Bradley Manning could be tried on  various charges even after being held prior to arraignment for more than five times the absolute longest time specified in the US Armed Forces’ “speedy trial” rules, has now also ruled that Manning can be convicted of aiding an enemy that does not exist.

Yes, you read that right: There’s only an “enemy” to aid, in any legal sense, if the United States is at war, a state created by a congressional declaration. There’s been no such declaration since World War II.

Lind had only one legal duty as judge in this case: To dismiss all charges due to the government’s failure to meet the “speedy trial” deadline. If the United States was, as John Adams put it, “a government of laws, not of men,” that’s exactly what she would have done.

Lind’s superiors had a clear duty as well — to remove her from the bench after that first illegal ruling and charge her under Article 98 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

“Any person subject to this chapter who –

“(1) is responsible for unnecessary delay in the disposition of any case of a person accused of an offense under this chapter; or

“(2) Knowingly and intentionally fails to enforce or comply with any provision of this chapter regulating the proceedings before, during, or after trial of an accused; shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”

No, I’m not really shocked that none of this happened. It’s par for the course. Laws, including the “supreme law of the land,” aka the US Constitution, are for us little people. The US government doesn’t need or want them, except for use as camouflage. It does whatever it wants to do (or rather whatever the ruling members of the American political class tell it to do).

The only reasonable takeaway from the Manning trial is that American “rule of law” is a sham. The US government doesn’t operate within the Constitution’s constraints on state power, nor does it honor that Constitution’s list of enshrined individual rights. It never has done so absent extreme compulsion and it never will do so on anything like a regular basis.

The corollary: If the US government isn’t bound by its own alleged rules, why on Earth would anyone else be?

Thomas L. Knapp is Senior News Analyst at the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org).