I am Chelsea Manning

Daniel Ellsberg's Filing Cabinet

Daniel Ellsberg’s Filing Cabinet at the Smithsonian

The corporate media became fixated on an aspect of Chelsea Manning’s defense by attorney David Coombs, that he suffered from gender identity disorder, after the verdict was rendered Wednesday. It’s news that Manning read a statement titled, “The Next Stage of My Life,”on the NBC Today Show yesterday. What is getting lost in the media frenzy is what Manning did, and whether his time served is adequate punishment.

If Manning had done nothing more than release the video clips of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad Airstrikes to Wikileaks, history would have been well served. (Editor’s Note: the videos linked at these websites are graphic depictions of modern warfare, and not suitable for all audiences).

Manning also released 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables, and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs. He was a whistle blower on what he felt was, and clearly were, war crimes. In the Uniform Code of Military Justice, whistle blowing on war crimes is permissible, and encouraged, at least it was when the author was trained in the post-My Lai massacre military.

By the sheer volume of documents released to Wikileaks, all of which Manning could not have read, she showed recklessness that equates to the criminality for which she was tried and convicted. That she got caught by writing about what she did in an Internet chat room demonstrated the naivety of youth. Unlike the actions of our military, that’s no crime.

According to the Guardian, here’s where things stand:

“A court-martial sentenced Pfc. Bradley Manning to 35 years in prison for leaking government secrets. Manning is to be dishonorably discharged. He loses all pay. He is convicted of six Espionage Act violations. The sentence is expected to be appealed.

Manning, 25, is eligible for parole. He must first serve at least a third of his sentence. He has more than three years’ time served and has been credited 112 days for his “inhuman” treatment in a Quantico brig in 2010-2011. In a best-case scenario for Manning, he might be released before he turned 35.

The sentence was “more severe than many observers expected, and is much longer than any punishment previously given to a U.S. government leaker,” the Guardian’s Paul Lewis writes.

Judge Denise Lind announced the sentence in a hearing that lasted about two minutes. Manning had no visible reaction to the verdict. There were gasps from the crowd. As Manning was led out, supporters shouted “we’ll keep fighting for you, Bradley,” and “you’re our hero.”

The ACLU, Amnesty International and other rights advocates and Manning supporters decried the verdict. It is unjust for Manning to spend decades in prison when the perpetrators of the wartime atrocities he exposed go free, Manning supporters argue.”

Chelsea Manning is expected to request a pardon from President Obama, who is expected to deny it.

A 35-year sentence is harsh, as were the conditions of 1,293 days of pretrial imprisonment. Courage to Resist and the Bradley Manning Support Network provided pretrial support to Manning, and are expected to continue supporting her. The sentence won’t deter whistle blowers.

The question posed by Chelsea Manning’s actions is one we all must answer for ourselves. When there is wrong in the world do we attempt to right it? Although Manning, like every human, is imperfect, if we don’t try to right wrongs in our lives, who will? That’s why I too am Chelsea Manning.

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3 Responses to I am Chelsea Manning

  1. Ed Flaherty says:

    Good thoughts, good writing. The challenge is always ours to try to right wrongs. Thanks, Paul.


  2. Pamela Fitzgerald says:

    Thank you Paul. I admire your courage, your compassion and your wisdom. Thank you for helping me sort through my own feelings and questions. May peace be with all of us as we take action and wage it.


  3. John Ivens says:


    Thanks for a balanced reflection.

    I’m inclined to agree that “the sheer volume of documents released to Wikileaks, all of which Manning could not have read, she showed recklessness…..” ; nonetheless, ‘time served’ would have been a punishment better fitting that crime than 35 years.

    In all too many instances information is classified to shield the government from public accountability. That was the wrong that Manning put herself in harm’s way to put right.

    But there is a related problem that Manning’s case reveals. Government is classifying far too much information and granting far too many individuals access to this information. Advances in information technology make it far too easy for bad actors to gain access to and exploit this information. Manning’s recklessness demonstrated just how vulnerable we are to this peril.


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