‘Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price’

Bradley Manning

The following is a transcript of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday after an Army judge sentenced Manning to up to 35 years in prison for leaking classified information.  I think it is worth reading and putting on record.

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.

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 our any logically based dissension, it is usually the 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.

For background, click on Bradley Manning to request pardon from Obama over 35-year jail sentence by Paul Lewis for The Guardian.  The article explained that Manning will get credit for time served, and an additional reduction for the abuse he suffered while awaiting trial.  The remainder of the sentence could be reduced by as much as two-thirds for good behavior.  But to my mind, that doesn’t mean he is getting off lightly.

Hat tip to Laura Bruno’s Blog.


I think the fact that Manning is gay, and that he thinks of himself as a trans-gendered person known as Chelsea Manning is interesting, but has nothing to do with the rights and wrongs of his court-martial.

[Update 8/23/13]  Actually the fact that Manning is gay and transgendered has a lot to do with his court-martial.  Almost anybody sentenced to prison in the United States is in jeopardy of rape—especially if they are young, small, physically frail, white or gay, and Manning is all of these.  Trans-gendered inmates are in the worst jeopardy of all.

Bradley (or Chelsea) Manning deserves all the more credit for refusing to do the one thing that might have saved him—making a plea bargain in return for implicating Julian Assange of WikiLeaks in his testimony.

Here are some relevant links

LGBT people in prisonon Wikipedia.

Identity Behind Bars: Some Experiences of Trans-Gendered People in Prisons by Chamonix Adams Porter for Broad Recognition magazine.

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3 Responses to “‘Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price’”

  1. EthnicKonflict Says:

    Sometimes you have to pay a high price. RIP Bradley Manning.


  2. Chamonix Says:

    Thank you for writing this article (I wrote the Broad Recognition article about transgender people in prisons which you referenced). I think that it’s very important that you change the names and pronouns in this article to reflect Chelsea Manning’s recent announcement. One way that we can all be more respectful of her and support her work (as well as just treat every person with respect, regardless of if we agree with her actions or not) is to speak about them using the correct names and pronouns.

    Thank you!



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