Predictably, Bradley Manning was found guilty on most of the charges brought against him by his government including espionage last week. He is facing about 130 years behind prison. I’d like to take this post and compare his crimes with another individual. Compare his case with that of Liu Xiaobo, the 2010 winner of the Nobel Peace [sic] Prize. If you look at many of the critics of Liu’s imprisonment (he was sentenced to 11 years of house arrest), you see that they criticize the Chinese government for jailing Liu despite the fact that Liu broke PRC laws. But in the case of Manning (and Edward Snowden), many of their detractors seem to focus on the legality, framing the discussion in terms of what they had supposedly violated (US laws).
So violating laws even when it is in defense of people’s human rights (such as our 4th and 1st Amendment rights) are not acceptable when they are perpetrated by someone violating US laws (despite the fact that those “laws” are illegal in the first place). But violating the PRC’s laws are perfectly acceptable to many US pundits and media mouthpieces.
There are large moral differences between these cases. The moral motive is different and the actions are drastically dissimilar. Manning tried to expose US atrocities (war crimes) and thereby try to stop or curtail an illegal and immoral war (which he was obligated to do even under US military law). Snowden tried to expose massive violations of privacy that victimizes literally billions of people around the world.
Liu, the Nobel Peace laureate, was imprisoned by the PRC for advocating wars, occupation and colonialism of his own country and others by western countries (especially the US). He has been advocating that the US overthrow the Chinese government and colonize mainland China (much as Britain did for Hong Kong but for at least 300 years, twice as long as the Brits colonized HK). Liu has been advocating wars for many many years. He has condoned or endorsed the first, second, US-Iraq wars, the US-Afghanistan war and the Vietnam war. He is also an vehement supporter of Israeli brutality against the Palestinians. No surprise that the Norwegian committee decided to award him their “Peace” prize (all of the committee members are part of the Norwegian parliament and all of whom supported either the Iraq or Afghan wars (which Norway provided troops). Let’s not forget the other war criminals (Kissinger and Obama among others) that have won this “peace” prize.
There could not be a larger moral difference between the respective actions. In the case of Manning and Snowden, you might make a good case for civil disobedience, their actions motivated by peace or the protection of people’s rights (and reasonable evidence suggest they are producing some of the intended effect). Their plight was just when they fought against injustice. However, you’d have to be a scoundrel or gullible idiot to think that Liu’s actions just and peaceful.