The heroism of Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning was recently released from Fort Leavenworth military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence for revealing classified information on U.S. war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere.

Glenn Greenwald wrote a fine tribute to her in The Intercept.

In sum, though Manning was largely scorned and rejected in most mainstream Washington circles, she did everything one wants a whistleblower to do: tried to ensure that the public learns of concealed corruption and criminality, with the intent of fostering debate and empowering the citizenry with knowledge that should never have been concealed from them.

Chelsea Manning

And she did it all, knowing that she was risking prison to do so, but followed the dictates of her conscience rather than her self-interest.

But as courageous as that original whistle-blowing was, Manning’s heroism has only multiplied since then, become more multifaceted and consequential. As a result, she has inspired countless people around the world.

At this point, one could almost say that her 2010 leaking to WikiLeaks has faded into the background when assessing her true impact as a human being.

Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration.

The overarching fact of Manning’s imprisonment was its enduring harshness. In 2010, during the first months of her detention in a U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia, I began hearing reports from her handful of approved visitors about the vindictive and abusive conditions of her confinement: prolonged solitary confinement, being kept in her cell alone for virtually the entire day, gratuitous, ubiquitous surveillance, and worse.

When I called the brig to investigate these claims, I was startled when a brig official confirmed to me, in the most blasé tones, their accuracy.

But that turned out to be only the beginning of the abuse she endured. Several months after my report, the New York Times reported that Manning was being subjected to deliberately humiliating rituals in which she “was stripped and left naked” in her cell “for seven hours,” and “required to stand naked” outside her cell during inspection.


Manning’s struggles in prison, including her suicide attempts and grotesquely cruel punishments for them, were publicly reported.

Although the military prison begrudgingly gave her some of the therapy she sought, authorities also imposed petty restrictions, including a refusal even to let her grow her hair and a failure to provide much of the support that was needed.

As one of the few people on the list of approved visitors, I spent many hours on the phone with her during this period. Her experience both in prison generally and transitioning specifically was filled with completely gratuitous challenges and difficulties caused by malicious or ignorant prison authorities.

But what is ultimately most striking about Chelsea Manning is her unyielding persistence.   In the most humble yet determined tones, she insists on following what she knows is the right path regardless of the risks and costs to her.

And in doing so, far beyond the initial acts of whistle-blowing, she became a hero to LGBTs around the world, and so many other people, by demanding the right to be who she is, and to live freely, even under the most oppressive conditions.

Source: Glenn Greenwald | The Intercept

She is still technically on active duty in the U.S. Army, but on leave and without pay, until a ruling on her appeal of her sentence.  If the appeal is denied, she will be dishonorably discharged, which means she will lose Veterans Administration and other benefits.

I think the harshness of her sentence—much higher than on other recent whistleblowers—was intended to pressure her to testify against Julian Assange of Wikileaks.

If she had testified that Assange instigated her to give Wikileaks the information, instead of being a passive recipient, this would have provided a basis for espionage charges against Assange, and probably would have resulted in a reduced sentence.

It takes great strength of character for a 22-year-old to face up to 35 years in prison rather than give in to that kind of pressure.


Chelsea Manning Is a Free Woman: Her Heroism Extends Far Beyond Her Initial Whistleblowing by Glenn Greenwald for The Intercept.

Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning is released from Fort Leavenworth military prison by Hanna Koslowska for Quartz.

The LGBTQ Movement is an intersectional fail by Andy Thayer for Counterpunch.  He accused LGBTQ groups of failing to speak up for Manning out of  fear of antagonizing their rich donors.


One Response to “The heroism of Chelsea Manning”

  1. John Pennington Says:

    Chelsea and all other whistleblowers are genuine heroes, because the establishment, whatever it might be, will punish them in every way it can.


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