Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the heroic WikiLeaks whistleblower and transgender activist currently jailed in the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, is now being threatened with “indefinite solitary confinement.”
While on active duty in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, Manning released 700,000 classified and sensitive military and diplomatic documents. They revealed details about modern imperialist wars never before made public. This included the infamous “Collateral Murder” tape of a U.S. “Apache” attack helicopter firing on civilians in Baghdad in 2007, killing 11 adults, including two Reuters journalists. Two children were seriously hurt. Manning also exposed previously hidden facts about the torture of U.S. detainees at the U.S. Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.
A U.S. military judge sentenced Manning to 35 years on charges of “aiding the enemy” — a treasonable offense under the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act. Awaiting trial, she suffered torturous conditions, first held in a cage inside a tent in the Kuwaiti desert, threatened by guards with being “disappeared” to Guantánamo. Then Manning was held in solitary confinement in the Marine Corps Brig at Quantico, Va., where she was under 24-hour guard and subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.
A valiant resistance fighter
Manning said about her release of the documents: “Once you come to realize that the co-ordinates in these records represent real places, that the dates are our recent history and that the numbers represent actual human lives — with all of the love, hope, dreams, hate, fear and nightmares with which we all live — then you cannot help but be reminded just how important it is for us to understand and, hopefully, prevent such tragedies in the future.” (The Guardian, May 27)
Manning has already suffered punishment amounting to torture for what the U.S. government has defined as a “crime.” So why the ramp-up of additional punishment for Manning now?
Military authorities give the superficial reasons of “disrespect” and “disorderly conduct.” The real reason is revealed in the “illegal” literature confiscated from her cell — the 2014 U.S. Senate report on torture, books and magazines about transgender issues, information about the “Anonymous” hacker movement and legal philosophy books in support of justice and fairness.
Using these resources, Manning continues to build powerful arguments from prison to organize against the exploitation of other countries by U.S. imperialism and the demonization of transgender people in the U.S. military and U.S. culture.
Chase Strangio, of the American Civil Liberties Union and an attorney for Manning, said of the threat of solitary: “Given the materials that were confiscated, it is concerning that the military and Leavenworth might be taking action for the purpose of chilling Chelsea’s speech or even with the goal of silencing her altogether by placing her in solitary.” (Buzz Feed News, Aug. 13)
Manning communicates regularly to the public through her Twitter account and publication of opinion pieces in the British Guardian.
Along with Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, also Wikileakers, Manning is an activist in the ongoing political and economic struggle over information. The U.S. capitalist government and military-industrial complex’s attempt to limit and control what the public knows about murderous plans for war and occupation in order to carve and re-carve the world for profits. Through its wars, the U.S.’s ultimate intent is to obliterate the self-determination of any nation resisting its economic and political domination.
Manning, the only one of the three whistleblowers prosecuted in the U.S., exposed the U.S. military’s manipulation of the “free press.” She pointed out the gap between what, as an intelligence analyst, she saw happening on the ground and what the public knew about U.S. wars. She revealed that “embedded journalists” reporting favorably on the U.S. military are given preference in covering this news and that those who are critical are prevented from doing so.
Manning has played a key role in breaking through the secrecy the U.S. has tried to impose on its continued military interventions worldwide. She has stood up for the right of nations to self-determination and has struck a powerful blow against U.S. militarism.
A fighter for transgender rights
However, Manning not only challenges the brutal exploitation of nations. The day after the imposition of her 35-year sentence, she came out as a transgender person. Identified then as Pvt. Bradley Manning, she asserted her determination to fight for her right to be “the woman I have always been.”
Gender-defiant, gender non-conforming, gender-fluid, trans* and transgender people insist on their right to self-definition and the freedom to individually determine how each one knows, experiences and lives out their unique sexes and/or gender expressions.
In her assertion of her right to define her own sex and gender, Chelsea Manning threatens one of the pillars that holds up capitalist economic and social exploitation. She challenges the arbitrary division into male and female that is imposed at birth on each child. She is resisting the lifelong enforcement of “either M or F” used to shut people up inside those assigned boxes.
This is another kind of prison in which Manning is fighting to survive and from which to liberate herself — and to offer hope of liberation to others. The U.S. military has “long classified being trans as a mental disorder,” Manning notes, and she condemns the psychology that pathologizes trans people.
Significantly, the CIA hired and paid $81 million to “contract psychologists” to establish and justify the torture program at Guantánamo and CIA prison sites abroad to create tortures that would allegedly reveal who was “a terrorist.”
LGBT support for Manning
A strong current of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer movement has rallied to support Manning. She was chosen to be the 2014 San Francisco Pride Grand Marshall. Daniel Ellsberg, also charged under the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking the Pentagon Papers in opposition to the U.S. war on Vietnam, marched with her contingent.
This year “Free Chelsea” banners flew at Pride activities from London to Los Angeles. They were joined by members of the National Organization for Women, CodePink, Haiti Action Committee, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, United National Antiwar Coalition, International Action Center, Workers World Party and many more.
Workers World calls on its readers to rally in support of Chelsea Manning, a valiant resister. WW also restates the need to support the right of nations to self-determination, to live free of imperialism, and for the right of all people to determine their own sex and gender self-definition.
Free Chelsea Manning!
Photo: Popular Resistance