Chelsea Manning: pardon, Mr President, but I was only telling the truth

In August 2013 Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning – a recipient of the “People’s Choice Award” by Global Exchange and of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize by the International Peace Bureau – was convicted to 35 years in prison. Her crime had been, literally, to tell the truth – leaking details of US war crimes. During her three years in military custody awaiting trial Manning, as attested by the UN Special Rapporteur, was subjected to torture. At the time of the trial three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel – issued a statement in support of Manning and many ‘celebrities’ also stated their support via a video campaignEarlier this month fifty ‘celebrities’ and leading intellectuals, writers and artists – including Viggo Mortensen, Susan Sarandon, Terry Gilliam, Ken Loach, Noam Chomsky and Russell Brand – also issued a statement in support of Manning. Meanwhile President Obama has delegated a review of the appeal for clemency – i.e. early release – for Manning to the Department of Defense. But, with less than two years to go before the end of his office, if Mr Obama, also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wishes to prove to his detractors that his liberal credentials are not sham, then what better way of doing that than to directly intervene in Manning’s fate. How? By issuing Manning, as requested by Amnesty International, with a Presidential Pardon.

Manning’s motives for doing what she did and how she was tortured while in custody were not fully taken into account at the sentencing stage of her trial: both could be major determinants in her early release, either as a result of the clemency appeal or as part of the pardon process. Either way, this is an opportune time for the campaign to see Manning released early escalated.

Below are 1) links to Iraq War atrocities, much of which were revealed by Manning; 2) the text of a letter by Manning to President Obama; 3) a full list of those ‘celebrities’ and intellectuals who in November 2014 stated their  support for Manning (and other digital trailblazers) as well as their statement; and 4) statements from other ‘celebrities’ on receiving news of the sentence made against Manning.

Note: Currently there is a separate appeal underway with the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals in which Chelsea Manning’s attorney will highlight the prosecution’s and the judge’s misconduct during the trial.

1. Iraq War atrocities:

Much of what Manning revealed – and published by newspapers around the world – was about the untold horrors of what was happening in the war in Iraq.  For that she was convicted to 35 years imprisonment. By contrast, former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, who started a war of aggression against Iraq in 2003 that led to the deaths of over 125,000 civilians, 4,486 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi and other fighters on all sides, face living the rest of their lives in freedom as multi-millionaires. Likewise, all upper-level US government officials who presided over the bloodbath that was the US occupation of Iraq, including the years of 2004-2009 covered in the documents exposed by Manning, will face no punishment of any kind.

On October 22, 2010, WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs, a series of nearly 400,000 classified military records, also known as “SIGACTs”. Analyses of the Iraq War Logs for the period up to and including Manning’s revelations can be found here:

Iraq War Logs: Context
Iraq War Logs: What the Numbers Reveal
Iraq War Logs: The Truth is In the Detail

Many incidents were highlighted by these logs. These include:
24 civilians killed by US Marines in Haditha US Marines involved in a massacres of civilians in Haditha in November 2005. One marine was convicted of a minor offence (for which he served no gaol time) and the rest were quitted or had all charges dropped.
The infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ incident. ‘ US helicopter pilots gunned down at least ten civilians, including two Reuters journalists and a father of two children who stopped to try to help the wounded.

Here are more examples:
Ala’ Sabr Hamad Hulu Al Batuti, a refinery employee shot dead in Basra in November 2009.
Luai Nadhum Al Karkhi, shot dead by Iraqi soldiers in Khanan in July 2007.
Ahmad Saddam Sharif, killed in his home by US troops during a house raid in Baghdad in June 2009.
Mesh-Han Ibrahim Faris, killed by US troops on a road near Ramadi in September 2005.
Sheik Ali Hadi Khoder and his son and cousin, killed in Tal Afar in August 2005.

2. Manning’s letter to President Obama:

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 that (in) our efforts to meet the 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 dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order 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, and the Japanese-American internment camps–to mention a few. I am confident that many of the 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; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent 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 a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

To see an Amnesty International interview with Manning, click here.

To see Manning’s statement in court on why she takes full responsibility for passing on information to Wikileaks, click here.

3. The November 2014 statement by ‘celebrities’, intellectuals, writers, artists, film makers etc:

We stand in support of those fearless whistleblowers and publishers who risk their lives and careers to stand up for truth and justice. Thanks to the courage of sources like Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, and Edward Snowden, the public can finally see for themselves the war crimes, corruption, mass surveillance, and abuses of power of the U.S. government and other governments around the world. WikiLeaks is essential for its fearless dedication in defending these sources and publishing their truths. These bold and courageous acts spark accountability, can transform governments, and ultimately make the world a better place.

Udi Aloni, Pamela Anderson, Anthony Arnove, Etienne Balibar, Alexander Bard, John Perry Barlow, Radovan Baros, David Berman, Russell Brand, Victoria Brittain, Susan Buck-Morss, Eduardo L. Cadava, Calle 13, Alex Callinicos, Robbie Charter, Noam Chomsky, Scott Cleverdon, Ben Cohen, Sadie Coles, Alfonso Cuaròn, John Deathridge, Costas Douzinas, Roddy Doyle, Bella Freud, Leopold Froehlich, Terry Gilliam, Charlie Glass, Boris Groys, Michael Hardt, P J Harvey, Wang Hui, Fredric Jameson, Brewster Kahle, Hanif Kureishi, Engin Kurtay, Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, Nadir Lahiji, Kathy Lette, Ken Loach, Maria Dolores Galán López, Sarah Lucas, Mairead Maguire, Tobias Menzies, M.I.A., W. J. T. Mitchell, Moby, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, Viggo Mortensen, Jean-Luc Nancy, Bob Nastanovich, Antonio Negri, Brett Netson, Rebecca O’Brien, Joshua Oppenheimer, John Pilger, Alexander Roesler,Avital Ronell, Pier Aldo Rovatti, Susan Sarandon, Peter Sarsgaard, Assumpta Serna, Vaughan Smith, Ahdaf Soueif, Oliver Stone, Cenk Uygur, Yanis Varoufakis, Peter Weibel, Vivienne Westwood, Tracy Worcester, Slavoj Zizek.

4. Other statements in support of Manning (issued in the immediate aftermath of sentencing – hence the references to ‘Bradley’ and male pronoun);

“The news of Bradley Manning’s sentencing is devastating. If our own can’t speak up about injustice who will? How will we ever move forward?”  Lady Gaga – Aug 21, 2013

“Lets hope this mans [Bradley] courage and dignity and patriotism is contagious”  John Cusack (actor) – Aug 21, 2013

“Manning does not deserve prison time.  He is one more casualty of a horrible, wrongful war.”  Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers whistleblower) – Aug 21, 2013

“This is a sad day for Bradley Manning, but it’s also a sad day for all Americans who depend on brave whistleblowers and a free press for a fully informed public debate.”  American Civil Liberties Union – Aug 21, 2013

“Bradley Manning’s sentence today wasn’t about him. The government doesn’t care about him at all.  Manning’s sentence today was aimed at thousands of soldiers & government workers who know about terrible crimes & are wondering what to do.”  Michael Moore (filmmaker) – Aug 21, 2013

“Bradley Manning should be shown clemency in recognition of his motives for acting as he did, the treatment he endured in his early pre-trial detention, and the due process shortcomings during his trial. The President doesn’t need to wait for this sentence to be appealed to commute it; he can and should do so right now,” Amnesty International Senior Director of International Law and Policy Widney Brown  – Aug 21, 2013

“35 years is far too long a sentence by any standard. In more than two weeks of hearings, government lawyers presented vague and largely speculative claims that Private Manning’s leaks had endangered lives and ‘chilled’ diplomatic relations. On the other hand, much of what Private Manning released was of public value”  New York Times Editorial Board – Aug 21, 2013

“The aggressive prosecution and harsh sentencing of Manning not only contrasts sharply with the total impunity of former senior US officials for torture and related abuses, but also far exceeds the sentences most democratic countries impose for public leaks of sensitive information.”  Human Rights Watch general counsel Dinah PoKempner – Aug 21, 2013

“It is a travesty of justice that Manning, who helped bring to light the criminality of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, is being punished while the alleged perpetrators of the crimes [s]he exposed are not even investigated.”  Center for Constitutional Rights – Aug 21, 2013

“I think he should be released now, that he has done us a great service by letting the people know the truth. [He’s] a whistleblower” Ron Paul (political figure) – Aug 22, 2013

“Clemency is the next call for Bradley Manning by his legions of supporters from all political backgrounds. He has suffered enough.” Ralph Nader (political figure) – Aug 21, 2013

Should President Obama Pardon Bradley Manning? 88% of UK Guardian readers say yes.  UK Guardian – Aug 21, 2013

“Bradley Manning is still my hero.”  Moby (musician) – Aug 22, 2013

“It is the position of the Government Accountability Project (GAP) that this sentence, though not the 60+ year sentence that the prosecution had requested, is intended to be a message to all whistleblowers, present and future. Further, the sentence is excessive and unjust“  Government Accountability Project – Aug 21, 2013

“There’s a famous statement that military justice is to justice as military music is to music. Manning should be praised for letting citizens know what their government is doing in secret.” Noam Chomsky (philosopher and academic) – Aug 23, 2013 

“Manning uncovered torture, abuse, soldiers laughing as they killed innocent civilians. Now he’s headed to prison” Huffington Post Politics – Aug 21, 2013

“In terms of international law, Mr. Manning should be celebrated as a hero. He should spend no time in addition to the three years that he’s spent, including the 112 days that the judge says that he should be spared from because of ill-treatment in Quantico. He should be released forthwith. And he should be celebrated.”  Vijay Prashad (historian, journalist and commentator) – Aug 24, 2013

“Bradley Manning got 35 YEARS and Rumsfeld/Cheney still walk free…oh wait, it’s Opposite Day. My bad.”  Patton Oswalt (comedian) – Aug 21, 2013

“I look at what happened to today as a kind of process, and a very depressing process, whereby not only civil liberties are shredded, but finally any capacity for the investigation and uncovering of the abuse of power is effectively thwarted. So, yeah, it’s part of a larger picture.”  Chris Hedges (former NYT war correspondent) – Aug 21, 2013

“I just think it’s a sad day when a fellow citizen reveals lies and crimes of the U.S. government and he’s the one who ends up being treated like a criminal. And so for me, just one day’s too much for him, and I’m just here to be with him, stand in solidarity with him. We gotta keep fighting.” Cornel West (academic and author) – Aug 21, 2013

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One Response to Chelsea Manning: pardon, Mr President, but I was only telling the truth

  1. Pingback: Chelsea Manning: presidential pardon imperative in wake of CIA torture report | UndercoverInfo

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