Two Oklahomans. Two soldiers. Two crimes. Two potential martyrs. And two support groups formed along ideological lines.
What Pfc. Bradley Manning and 1st Lt. Michael Behenna are accused of doing were serious crimes. Manning's is especially egregious because the leaking of secret documents potentially puts every American at risk.
Behenna, of Edmond, was court-martialed for a 2008 unpremeditated murder in an Iraq combat zone. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, a sentence that was reduced to 15 years and remains on appeal. Manning, of Crescent, was arrested in 2010 after the intelligence officer was accused of downloading and transmitting secret documents.
To the anti-war community, Manning is a hero. The crime he's accused of committing is viewed as an act of bravery. Nonsense. It was cowardly and deserves the maximum punishment. The crime is subject to the death penalty, but prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment instead.
Behenna has his own support group, generally one at odds with the views of Bradley's fans. The former officer could get a break because judges on the military's highest appeals court have expressed concerns over instructions given the jury regarding Behenna's claim of self-defense. Behenna confessed to killing Ali Mansur, detained for suspected links with terrorists in Iraq. The man was subsequently released and died while under Behenna's supervision.
We don't know Behenna's reasons for doing what he did. Life in a combat zone is stressful but not a blank check for murder. If Mansur attacked Behenna, the claim of self-defense is mitigating.
Politics and political correctness have been part of the Manning and Behenna stories from the beginning, making it more difficult to arrive at justice. The U.S. is determined not to appear soft on soldiers who brutalize Muslims.
Manning is celebrated for efforts to expose government secrets. Behenna's plea for leniency should be taken seriously. Manning has no defense for what he's charged with doing.