Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Brave Whistleblower Chelsea Manning walks free at last

In fantastic news Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of giving classified government  material to WikiLeaks was released this morning from a Kansas military prison after serving a punishing, cruel seven years
Manning who was born  in  Oklahoma  to a Welsh mother spent part of her formative years in Pembrokeshire following her parents divorce. She attended Tasker Millward School and still has friends and family in the area. As well as her mother, she has aunts and other relatives in Wales who have been  campaigning  for her release since she was jailed. She also has many supporters in Ireland, where her granddad, Billy Fox emigrated from Dublin to Wales in 1948.
President Barak Obama had granted 29 year old Chelsea clemency on  his final days in office in January.
In 2010, the former military intelligence analyst, then known as Private First Class Bradley Manning, provided thousands of secret documents to WikiLeaks, Manning was given a 35-year sentence by a court martial. A extraordinarily punitive punishment for a crime which brought direct physical harm to no one. Much to the contrary, Manning’s act had the highly beneficial effect of providing previously-concealed information to the public, which otherwise would have been kept under wraps.
Manning for many was  nothing less than an honourable whistleblower who felt compelled to tell the world about apparent US wrongdoing in its military conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Working as a US intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning began to see documents that convinced her that the US military was committing war crimes overseas and doing nothing to bring the perpetrators to justice. Worse, it may well have been deliberately covering up such conduct.
The best-known example was the attack by two US Apache helicopters on a group of civilians in the al-Amin al-Thaniyah district of Baghdad on July 12 2007.At least 12 people were killed,when US military conduct in Iraq was highly dubious, here was vivid cockpit video and audio laying bare the callous behaviour of the US pilots. Some of their cockpit commentary includes language like: “Oh yeah, look at those dead bastards … nice. Nice. Good shootin’.”
Other documents including “after-action reports” describing US soldiers’ experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, proving that civilian deaths were far higher than officially acknowledged. The cables revealed damning evidence of official US lying, including dossiers on the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay proving that most of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.
Chelsea fulfilled her legal duty to report war crimes . She complied with her duty to obey lawful orders but also her duty to disobey unlawful orders. Enshrined in the U.S Army Subject Schedule No , 27 -1 is ' obligation to report all violations of the rule of war.'
Manning went to her chain of command and asked them to investigate  the Collateral Murder video and other "war  porn" but her superiors refused. Manning's revelations actually saved lives. After WikiLeaks published her documentation of Iraqi torture centres established by the United  States , the Iraqi Government refused Obama's request to extend immunity to U.S . soldiers who commit criminal and civil offenses there. As a result  Obama had to withdraw U.S forces from Iraq.
In a just world, Chelsea Manning wouldn’t have been jailed and tortured, but celebrated as a hero for alerting the public to the crimes of its government.
From July 2010 to April 2011, she was held under atrocious conditions at Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, much of that time stripped naked as a “security” measure. All told, Chelsea Manning spent nearly a year and a half in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, a form of detention classified as torture by human rights groups
What happened to Manning as a result of her whistleblowing is well-known.The revelations over wrongdoing (including the Baghdad helicopter attack) went un-investigated, while Manning herself was court-martialled and given the longest sentence in US history for leaking information.
This low-ranking, twenty-something was punished in such a way as to send an unmistakable message to other would-be whistleblowers. .Ahead of Manning’s court martial in the summer of 2013, Edward Snowden had exposed a previously unknown global apparatus of surveillance being run by the US’s National Security Agency.If the US authorities couldn’t get Snowden (who was granted asylum in Russia), they could certainly punish Manning.
You might think the US military authorities wouldn’t stoop to vindictiveness when punishing one of their own, but you’d be wrong.During eight months of pre-trial solitary confinement at the US marine corps base Quantico in Virginia, Manning was kept in often cruel and degrading conditions confined in a windowless 12-feet-by-six-feet cell containing only a bed, a toilet and a sink
After putting Manning on suicide watch, the Quantico authorities subjected her to a regime of draconian and demeaning rules: clothing and glasses confiscated, required to observe strict verbal commands and replies, even at one point having to sleep and stand to attention completely naked.
In an Amnesty podcast pod cast from last year Manning said;
“The conditions in my cell were far beyond what is normally associated with solitary confinement. I needed permission to do anything in my cell. I was not allowed to move around the cell to exercise. I was not allowed to sit down with my back against the wall.”
It was all clearly designed to break Manning down ahead of her court martial, and the UN believed it was part of “an effort to coerce her into ‘co-operation’ with the authorities,” possibly to pressure her into implicating others.
Manning almost died as a result of her incarcernation , having to endure long stretches of solitary confinement and the systematic denial of health care, and relentless abuse, despite this she survived and continued to use her voice to speak out about human rights. To fight against the injustices she went on hunger strike. And clinged on to an unrelenting sense of compassion and justice despite all that she had to endure.
Activists  drew attention to her through actions and protest,  rallies were held throughout the world, ads were taken out in major papers, billboards were rented near her trial and prison,petitions signed
contingents marched in solidarity with Manning during pride parades around the world, and supporters packed the military court room, even as the court martial proceedings dragged on for months. These supporters, like myself must be overjoyed currently with the news that Chelsea is now free.
Last week Chelsea released a statement saying:"For the first time, I can see a future for myself as Chelsea. I can imagine surviving and living as the person who I am and can finally be in the outside world. Freedom used to be something that I dreamed of but never allowed myself to fully imagine. Now, freedom is something that I will again experience with friends and loved ones after nearly seven years of bars and cement, of periods of solitary confinement, and of my health care and autonomy restricted, including through routinely forced haircuts. I am forever grateful to the people who kept me alive, President Obama, my legal team and countless supporters.
"I have watched the world change from inside prison walls and through the letters that I have received from veterans, trans young people, parents, politicians and artists. My spirits were lifted in dark times, reading of their support, sharing in their triumphs, and helping them through challenges of their own. I hope to take the lessons that I have learned, the love that I have been given, and the hope that I have to work toward making life better for others."
Now she is free at last , closing a painful chapter on what has been an extraordinary and thoroughly disturbing saga. 
Manning almost died as a result of her incarcernation , having to endure long stretches of solitary confinement and the systematic denial of health care, and relentless abuse, despite this she survived and continued to use her voice to speak out about human rights. To fight against the injustices she went on hunger strike. And clinged on to an unrelenting sense of compassion and justice despite all that she had to endure. Manning has kept in touch with her supporters and the outside world throughout her experience mainly through Twitter. Recently, she wrote of her pending release: “I want that indescribable feeling of connection with people and nature again, without razor wire or a visitation booth. I want to be able to hug my family and friends again. And swimming—I want to go swimming!”
With her freedom, she will be leaving behind the abuses of prison but also the life she built there. The family of other incarcerated people who kept her alive when she was cut off from the rest of the world.In February after her commutation, Chelsea wrote to her friends inside:
“I never would have made it without you. Not only did you teach me these important lessons, but you made sure I felt cared for. You were the people who helped me to deal with the trauma of my regular haircuts. You were the people who checked on me after I tried to end my life. You were the people that played fun games with me. Who wished me a Happy Birthday. We shared the holidays together. You were and will always be family.”
Ahead of Manning's release, Amnesty International called for an investigation into the potential human rights violations exposed by the soldier. 
The organization called for protections to be put in place to ensure safety for whistleblowers like Manning.  'While we celebrate her freedom, we will continue to call for an independent investigation into the potential human rights violations she exposed, and for protections to be put in place to ensure whistleblowers like Chelsea are never again subjected to such appalling treatment,' Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, said: in a statement. 
Huang added: 'Chelsea's treatment is especially galling given that nobody has been held accountable for the alleged crimes that she brought to light. 
'The US authorities' vindictive treatment of Chelsea Manning after she exposed potential military wrongdoing is a sad reflection of the extremes those in power often go to in order to deter others from speaking out.' 
We should remain critical of a government  intent  on punishing and prosecuting someone who exposed war crimes , rather than those who commit them.Chelsea's brave whistleblowing exposed  the corruption of our governments and the brutality of our wars. Thanks to Chelsea we have a clearer picture of what needs to be done. We need whistleblowers like Chelsea more than we ever have before. We have lot to learn from her. We should celebrate the strength and heroism she has shown. After her release from her ruthless ordeal she will  need the continual support from her legions of admirers worldwide, I hope she continues to get the respect and healing that she deserves as she now takes her first steps to freedom, and  works to rebuild her life.
Ahead of Manning's release, a group of musicians released a compilation album with all proceeds to go to the former soldier as she starts a new life.' Hugs for Chelsea,' here's a link:
a digital album available for a $25 donation, featuring tracks by artists known for their left-wing activism including Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and Sonic Youth co-founder Thurston Moore. 

“Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!”   – Edward Snowden

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