“Those who attempt to mend the flaws in the human species through force embrace a perverted idealism. Those who believe that history is a progressive march toward human perfectibility, and that they have the moral right to force this progress on others, no longer know what it is to be human. In the name of the noblest virtues they sink to the depths of criminality and moral depravity. This self-delusion comes to us in many forms. It can be wrapped in the language of Western civilization, democracy, religion, the master race, Liberté, égalité, fraternité, the worker’s paradise, the idyllic agrarian society, the new man or scientific rationalism. The jargon is varied. The dark sentiment is the same.”
In case you have not heard of Chelsea Manning, Chelsea Manning (formerly known as Bradley Manning) was recently sentenced by the US government to 35 years in a military prison for revealing US war crimes and other related classified information via journalist source Wikileaks. This extreme sentence is designed to act as a deterrent to other whistleblowers and journalists. Chelsea Manning is a hero and a whistleblower. We should all be very grateful for her sacrifice but sadly her moral courage is rare today.
It was the late Howard Zinn (Historian, author and activist) who wrote in 1990:
“If patriotism were defined, not as blind obedience to government, nor as submissive worship to flags and anthems, but rather as love of one’s country, one’s fellow citizens (all over the world), as loyalty to the principles of justice and democracy, then patriotism would require us to disobey our government, when it violated those principles
Historically, the most terrible things – war, genocide, and slavery – have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.”
Yes indeed. Howard Zinn would have praised the actions of PFC Chelsea Manning had he been alive today. As Dr Cornel West said recently Martin Luther King Jr would have praised PFC Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden and supported them had Dr. King been alive today.
I am saddened by the persecution and incarceration of such a morally courageous person, one who has expressed the wish to transition from male to female at this most difficult time. Transition is another courageous act in its own right in a largely heterosexist and deeply sexist society. Transitioning from male to female or female to male is difficult enough, but Chelsea Manning is likely to spend at least some time, but most likely all of her sentence with the male prison population while she is transitioning. Her safety is of grave concern. ( For more info on concerns) Of course her ability to physically transition depends on the prison giving her permission to take hormones and that is unlikely.
The ACLU has issued a statement on the Army’s policy of not assisting those who wish to transition, saying:
In response to Chelsea Manning’s disclosure that she is female, has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and will be seeking hormone therapy as a part of her transition during her incarceration, public statements by military officials that the Army does not provide hormone therapy to treat gender dysphoria raise serious constitutional concerns.
In addition even if the U.S army’s policy changes, Chelsea Manning will be unable to undergo surgery while in prison so she will be unable to transition completely. And although her lawyer expects Manning will be released on good behaviour in 7 years, this is a long time for anyone to have to wait to feel complete. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term Gender identity disorder, I’ve been informed by those who are transgendered that being unable to transition for whatever reason (social, financial etc) is psychological torture and can result in severe clinical depression and sometimes suicide. What compounds this are the negative societal attitudes and prejudices and the very real possibility of being the target of hate crimes.
Zinna Jones writes in “An open letter to CNN on Chelsea Manning”
41% of transgender people will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Social ostracism and denial of agency can and do seriously harm people.
To say that Chelsea Manning has a most difficult and dangerous road ahead of her during her time in prison is an understatement.
Unless we are filling our lives with distractions and doing our best to deny reality, it is hard to deny that it is a difficult and disturbing world we live in today. There is (what seems to be) the United States government’s unending need for imperialist wars like the imminent war with Syria, which will inevitably include Iran, Syria’s ally. There is mass surveillance being carried out on citizens. There is automated propaganda on a mass scale. Military occupation of cyberspace has merged with everyday civilian society which means a military occupation of civilian society. Wikileaks journalist Julian Assange has stated we are “galloping towards a transnational surveillance state”. There is an epidemic of violence against women globally. There are wars in all corners of the globe including civil wars. A little known fact in a speciesist world is that we torture and murder of 300+ million land and sea nonhuman animals each day mostly for trivial reasons of palate pleasure, something that is completely morally unjustifiable. There’s a rise in all forms of discrimination – racism, sexism, heterosexism, speciesism and so forth. There is widespread preventable poverty, preventable hunger and disease. Climate change (along with the ever increasing unsustainable human population) is escalating as corporations hold government to ransom and have staged a coup d’etat over many decades. Therefore we will not see any meaningful action to address it. We are distracted by social media, gadgets, sound bite news, reality shows, celebrity, spectacle and fluff. Most of us don’t read any more and when we do, we can’t focus on anything longer than a few sentences or a tweet. We are becoming numb to violence and the suffering of others. We lack moral courage. Some people’s courage is misplaced. We turn away from that which makes us uncomfortable, hiding from what we fear. We ignore our own participation in violence as we ingest violence 3 times a day, we wear violence on our bodies and use those from other species as resources for our pleasure. We seem to prefer our palate pleasure over our own survival as our governments and green groups ignore the great contribution animal agriculture plays in hunger and climate change. We are exposed to continuous violence through a myriad of sources. Staged violence (in entertainment) is a reflection of our love of and addiction to violence. However……….. just occasionally, amidst the chaos, light and hope seeps through, and we see what standing up for one’s principles looks like, what real courage and true sacrifice looks like. On rare occasion we get to see someone who truly values the principles of nonviolence over their own safety.
And that is Chelsea Manning.
Chris Hedges wrote “War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.”
I am buoyed and somewhat in awe of the courage of Chelsea Manning. Even after Manning’s sentence was delivered she turned to her attorney to comfort him saying “It’s OK”. I’d like to share with you the following transcript of the statement made by PFC. Chelsea Manning as read by David Coombs (her attorney) at a press conference after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. You can also watch the video of the statement here. It shows an awakening and a decision to act.
“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 out any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an 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.”
So some may ask why should we support Chelsea Manning?
There’s a few reasons. The first being that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” as Martin Luther King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell. Dr. King also wrote “Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?” All humans (and all nonhumans) deserve our respect, protection and support and a rare individual like Chelsea Manning should be cherished. Manning has tackled her own fear head on in private and in public and she did what was morally right. How many of us can say we would risk our life and liberty if we were placed in the same circumstance? Due to the stripping away of civil liberties by the corporate state today we could all be in the same difficult position that Chelsea Manning finds herself in if we act on our conscience. That is why we should support her.
What are some actions we can take to support Chelsea Manning?
This may be a futile and normally I do not recommend petitions, but please consider signing this petition which urges the Obama administration to grant PFC Manning access to necessary medical treatment.
What else can we do for Chelsea Manning? Understand transgender issues. Share with social media the latest news and articles on Manning. Attend “free Chelsea Manning” rallies and protests so that the world does not forget this incredible person is languishing in prison for no other reason than she followed her conscience and dared expose the horror of imperialist war. Write to Chelsea Manning Please note there are restrictions on what we are allowed and not allowed to talk about our letters.
As Noam Chomsky said “Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it.” All wars are imperialist adventures and our governments and their armies are engaged in the most immoral acts on a daily basis. Thanks to Chelsea Manning we were privy to the Wikileaks video “Collateral murder“. It was an horrific massacre and this massacre is not an unusual event. Every time I see it aired tears well in my eyes and I have to look away. Even the sound effects of machine guns and the commentary by the pilot makes me feel nauseous. I cannot bring myself to watch it again. U.S Soldiers have stated this happens on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan. This horrific blood lust is what is being done in our name. And what are we doing about it? But the torture and murder of innocent men, women and children is what war is. War is legal murder through deception. Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and others have been victims of an unprecedented attack on our civil liberties because they dare to expose the truth.
So where do we go to from here?
It is time to build radical mass movements that defy all formal centers of power and make concessions to none. It is time to employ the harsh language of open rebellion and class warfare. It is time to march to the beat of our own drum. The law historically has been a very imperfect tool for justice, as African-Americans know, but now it is exclusively the handmaiden of our corporate oppressors; now it is a mechanism of injustice. It was our corporate overlords who launched this war. Not us. Revolt will see us branded as criminals. Revolt will push us into the shadows. And yet, if we do not revolt we can no longer use the word “hope.” – Chris Hedges
We need to rise up and engage in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience before it is too late. The time for talk is over. Nonviolent civil disobedience is our weapon. It’s all we have left.
For more information on Chelsea Manning and related issues:
Recent videos and posts on Chelsea Manning. As Chelsea Manning Announces “I am Female,” Attorney Discusses Role of Gender Issues During Trial
WATCH: Full Extended Interview With Chelsea Manning’s Attorney After 35-Year Sentence | Democracy Now!
Chelsea Manning Reveals Herself to the World: ‘I Am a Female’
What Manning revealed
An earlier event prior to sentencing and change of name to Chelsea: Cornel West and Chris Hedges discuss Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning verdict
From Breaking the Set