Over the strenuous objections of Pentagon chief Ash Carter, President Obama commuted the 35-year sentence of Chelsea Manning. She is now slated for release in May. Manning, who announced the day after she was sentenced by a military court that she is transgender, has spent the last seven years in a Marine stockade and federal male prison.
Manning was a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst in Iraq. She turned over some 750,000 military files, diplomatic cables and videos to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. One video showed helicopter crews laughing as they machine gunned several civilians in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters news reporters holding cameras.
Additional files revealed that the Pentagon counted thousands more of its civilian victims than it had revealed to the U.S. public. Still others showed that the military knew that there was no justification for detaining prisoners at Guantánamo and that the detainees had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Manning revealed pressure by Washington on other countries to maintain the infamous “rendition” torture chambers scattered around the globe.
Since Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010, she has been supported by many progressive organizations as well as the LGBTQ community. In the last few months, more than 117,000 online petition signatures were collected, calling on President Obama to commute Manning’s draconian sentence and release her.
Faced with oppression so intense that she twice tried to commit suicide, last summer Manning conducted a highly publicized hunger strike. Although her jailers punished her for that by putting her in solitary confinement, she won key demands for hormone treatments and permission to wear some makeup and female undergarments.
Manning has reported that she has not been harassed by fellow inmates at the Fort Leavenworth federal men’s prison. “I have friends,” she said.
Manning and her determined supporters had to overcome intense opposition from the imperialist establishment, the military brass and the same intelligence agencies that conducted the tortures that she exposed. House Speaker Paul Ryan called Manning’s commutation “outrageous.” Trump’s pick for deputy national security director, K.T. McFarland, called for Manning to be tried for treason and executed. (talkingpointsmemo.com, Jan. 18)
With Donald Trump and many of his advisors openly advocating attacks on civilians, torture and other war crimes, Chelsea Manning’s hard-won release is an important victory. It means that these hard-core right-wingers, despite all their forces of repression, will face exposure of their crimes by brave heroes like Chelsea Manning and, sooner than they think, will face the judgment of the workers and oppressed here and across the planet.