No, obviously Manning did not intend to “aid the enemy.” That charge was gross prosecutorial over-reach.
And no, there is absolutely no possible excuse for the torture to which Manning was subjected in the brig. Those actions will stand as a permanent stain on the record of the Obama Administration, all the way up to the President.
But when Glenn Greenwald tweets, and Katrina vandenHeuvel retweets, the claim that he’s entitled to “a medal and our gratitude,” I have to ask: Whose gratitude? A medal from which country? No government can function without officials being able to communicate to one another without having the contents of those communications published. That’s especially true when the communications include the names of foreign nationals, or Americans resident abroad, providing information or serving as agents of influence, but it’s also true of routine facts about, e.g., which foreign heads of government or senior officials are incompetent, insane, or corrupt.
Bradley Manning didn’t blow a whistle; he merely supplied a core-dump of diplomatic communications, with no assurance about how anti-Semite Julian Assange would handle them, other than the certainty that they would be used to damage the United States as much as possible. (Still looking for the Wikileaks exposes of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, or Saudi secrets. The actions of Assange associate Israel Shamir in handing over information about human-rights activists in Belarus to the local tyrant tells you what you need to know.)
No, as Manning’s (and Assange’s) supporters keep repeating, the U.S. government has not published the names of individuals killed by foreign governments or terrorists as a result of being outed by the Manning-Wikileak dump. If you want to believe that the number of such individuals is zero, be my guest. But that number seems to me like a very bad estimate.
If I were the military judge, I’d sentence Manning to “time served” and write a harshly-worded opinion stating that since his torture represented more punishment than any human being deserves, additional punishment would be superfluous.
But does Manning deserve a medal? “Our gratitude”? Not so much.