Former US Army Captain Jason Torpy, currently leading the one-man Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, recently attempted to evaluate the decision by Private Bradley Manning to call himself a “humanist.”
In an article at the American Humanist Association, for which Torpy is the Treasurer, he writes “Is Bradley Manning Really a Humanist?”
[Manning lawyer] David Coombs…made a show that Manning had ID tags with “humanist” written on them…Coombs argued, “that his actions came from his deeply held beliefs that all lives had value, Iraqi and American.” Because the defense is leaning on Manning’s humanist beliefs, this trial also calls for humanist attention as well.
Torpy apparently thinks the humanist community needs to think really hard about this.
We should ask ourselves how we as humanists should look on these actions that were taken by someone who identifies as humanist and who took action reportedly in accordance with his humanist values.
Torpy’s main beef, though, seems to be that Manning doesn’t have an American Humanist Association membership card granting use of the “humanist” label — and Manning’s lawyers haven’t returned Torpy’s calls [emphasis added]:
As for Bradley Manning’s humanism, he has never reached out to any humanist organization I am aware of. He has claimed humanist identity and in some sense may have expressed humanist values, but he has never benefited from direct involvement in the humanist community…It is unknown whether his conscience or values would be “humanist” in a way the American Humanist Association might agree with.
[Manning] has not reached out to any of our organizations, and outreach to his attorneys has not been returned.
Self-described humanists from Torpy’s own organization strongly took him to task for demeaning a fellow humanist and attempting to evaluate Manning against a non-existent philosophical standard.
Whatever Torpy may have been trying to achieve within his “community,” he seems to have failed. More likely, though, he was attempting to reach “out” — to those, say, in the media, who might be trying to delve into all things Private Manning. By presenting himself as an authority, he may be obtain a little attention for himself and his group.
As an aside, albeit an important one, former US Army Captain and current atheist Jason Torpy made this appalling hypothetical defense of Manning:
One video among the data leaked by Manning showed a helicopter firing on rescue workers. Had that been the only thing released, one could see this as honorable civil disobedience to expose and thereby prevent further shameful acts by our military or government.
As a former Soldier commenting on the actions of US Soldiers, Torpy’s commentary is repugnant. First, as a point of accuracy, the helicopter crew fired on civilians, including a Reuters camera crew — not rescue workers. Second, as discussed in depth in 2010, the crew believed the persons they were firing upon were armed (and even critics of the incident admitted they likely were) and were in or taking a firing position on US ground forces.
While the incident was absolutely tragic, it is appalling for Torpy, as a former US Soldier, to unjustly make unfounded and baseless accusations against US troops of “shameful acts.” Nothing made public in the video or the events surrounding it warrants such an accusation from anyone, much less an American veteran. As noted at the time, the actions of the helicopter crew appeared to be consistent with the Rules of Engagement and the law of war. The US military appears to have agreed, since it seems the helicopter crew was not so much as criticized, never mind charged.
Torpy ignores these simple, and public, facts, for the apparent end of sensationalizing an academic point to his cause.