Today marks six years since Chelsea Elizabeth Manning (then known as Bradley Manning) was arrested in Iraq for blowing the whistle on war crimes on suspicion of having passed classified material to WikiLeaks, including videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike and the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan; 250,000 United States diplomatic cables; and 500,000 army reports that came to be known as the Iraq War logs and Afghan War logs.
It was the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public, exposing imperialist crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. As an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army, Manning saw U.S. war crimes and took the courageous steps necessary to blow the whistle on human rights abuses. Manning was arrested and held in solitary confinement from July 2010 in the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, causing an international outcry. Outrageously, Manning is serving a 35 year prison sentence. This extreme sentence is designed to act as a deterrent to other whistleblowers and journalists. Chelsea Manning is a hero and a whistleblower. We should all be very grateful for her sacrifice but sadly her moral courage is rare today.Chelsea manning has always claimed she acted in the public interest, hoping to spark a meaningful debate on the costs of war, specifically on the conduct of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. However she was not permitted to present this as evidence at her trial, and was only allowed to explain her motives at the sentencing phase. Before her conviction, she had already been held for three years in pre-trial detention, including 11 months in conditions which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture described as cruel and inhumane.
The US army intelligence analyst, who has appealed to reduce 35-year sentence, has endured the most severe punishment ever given to a whistleblower.
I am saddened by the persecution and incarceration of such a morally courageous person. Chelsea was born in 1987 in Oklahoma to an American father and a Welsh mother. When her parents divorced at an early age, she moved with her mother to Wales. She moved back to the US to live with her father in 2005, and got a job with a software company in Oklahoma City..She spent her schooldays down the road from me in Pembrokeshire. She went to school in Tasker Milward , Haverfordwest where she is remembered for his integrity and intelligence . His mum, aunts and uncles still live in Pembrokeshire.
Chelsea is being held in the military brig at Fort Leavenworth. in Kansas, where she is involved in separate legal action relating to her desire to transition as a transgender woman. Transition is another courageous act in its own right in a largely deeply sexist society. Her safety is of of grave concern.Athough her lawyer expects Manning will be released on good behaviour in 7 years, this is a long time for anyone to have to wait to feel complete.To say that Chelsea Manning has a most difficult and dangerous road ahead of her during her time in prison is an understatement.
Here is a transcript of the statement made by PFC. Chelsea Manning as read by David Coombs (her attorney) at a press conference after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison. You can also watch the video of the statement here. It shows an awakening and a decision to act.
“The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.We simply can't forget this honorable individual.On Monday May 9th, Chelsea Manning was honored for her heroic actions at a London ceremony hosted by Blueprint for Free Speech, a non-profit dedicated to supporting freedom of expression for all individuals and seeking improved government transparency. Chelsea received this year’s Blueprint Enduring Impact Whistleblowing Prize along with fellow whistleblowers John Kiriakou and Dr. Raj Mattu. In times like these we need brave people like Chelsea and others to hold the government accountable for its actions at home and abroad that can give us hope in the possibility of standing up to make the world better, safer, and more just. The fights for accountability, transparency, and justice continue. Hopefully through Chelsea’s actions and the brave actions of others we can continue to be informed, while individual acts of bravery and defiance can help open eyes and inspire people to follow their own conscience,
I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.
Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.
As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”
I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.
If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.”
We still need to support Chelsea in prison , maximise her voice, and continue the call for a Presidential pardon.
Find more about Chelsea Mannings case here :-