It was no surprise, but no less a crime of U.S. military injustice, that Pvt. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. And there is no reason that the movement that supports this young soldier, whose actions most of the world’s people consider heroic, should slow down its actions to win Manning’s freedom.
Thus, it is encouraging that her legal defense is already appealing for a presidential pardon, that the American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the sentence, that Amnesty International has called on President Barack Obama to commute it to time already served and that the Center for Constitutional Rights — which just won an important legal case against the racist “stop and frisk” police actions in New York City — has called for a full pardon.
Workers World calls on its readers and supporters to back all the efforts to stop punishing this exemplary soldier, who has shown the world that right in the belly of the beast, in the heart of the empire, in the very entrails of the Pentagon, the spark of solidarity with the world’s oppressed can light a fire.
It is a telling sign that even the editorial board of the New York Times found it necessary to distance itself from the harsh sentence, which it found overly punitive and based on the imperialist state apparatus’s perceived need to stop whistleblowers from exposing the crimes of the empire. It is certainly true that the sentence has nothing to do with law and justice as these ideas are taught in the universities or expounded in ruling-class propaganda, which tries to paint the United States as the pinnacle of freedom and justice. The sentence has more to do with what those in power believe is necessary to stop others from reporting the lies, crimes and murders they witness as unwilling agents of the center of world oppression and exploitation.
From the point of view of the exploited workers of the world — and all workers are exploited — who want independence for their nations and want to fight for a decent life, it is important now to fight for Manning’s freedom exactly because it will encourage others to follow the private’s example.
How encouraging it is for all who love freedom, for all who identify with the most oppressed, that a private first class, the lowest rung in the U.S. military, was able to throw a wrench into the machinery of U.S. imperialism. May Manning’s splendid example spread to tens, hundreds and thousands of those in the U.S. military, to those civilian employees of the Pentagon, the National Security Agency and other instruments of oppression; and may they too identify with the workers and poor of the world.
In another sign of the courage Manning has displayed throughout the three years of incarceration, the private — the sentence removed the “first class” from the title — announced her wish to live her life as a woman and to be called Chelsea Manning. This adds another dimension to her struggle; we salute her determination to live a life where truth is more important than personal gain, and where the injustice of seeing civilians gunned down in an Iraqi city by U.S. gunships awakens a need to resist despite the risks.
Free Pvt. Chelsea Manning!