29 July 2016

Freedom Now for Chelsea Manning!

Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted for exposing evidence of U.S. imperialism’s monstrous war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, has now entered her seventh year in military custody. Having leaked a vast cache of military and state secrets to WikiLeaks—a valuable service to humanity—Manning was sentenced in 2013 to 35 years for violating the Espionage Act. The courageous 28-year-old Manning has already endured the most severe punishment ever inflicted on any whistle-blower. The Obama administration’s ruthless, punitive war against truth-tellers like Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange is aimed at silencing any and all who dare expose or oppose the U.S. government’s atrocities and mass surveillance.

Locked away in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Manning attempted suicide on July 5. Displaying gross contempt, the U.S. Army released her confidential medical information to the media before notifying her lawyers. After being hospitalized, Manning was cut off from her legal team and family members for more than 36 hours. She tweeted subsequently that she was “glad to be alive,” but remains under close observation. Subjected to ongoing psychological torment and physical torture since her arrest in 2010, Manning has been driven to the brink of suicide more than once. She has spent long periods in solitary confinement. Before her conviction, she spent nine months in maximum isolation in the Marine Corps brig at Quantico, Virginia, where she was subjected to daily strip searches and forced nudity. Manning recently described the “no touch” torture there (Guardian, 2 May): “For 17 hours a day...I was not allowed to lay down. I was not allowed to lean my back against the cell wall. I was not allowed to exercise.”

In May, Manning’s lawyers completed an extensive 200-page appeal brief, challenging her conviction as “grossly unfair and unprecedented.” A separate amicus brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union argues that Manning’s prosecution was unconstitutional, citing the contrast with former Army general and CIA director David Petraeus, who handed over reams of classified information to his biographer, who was also his lover. The war criminal Petraeus barely received a slap on the wrist: two years probation and a fine.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Manning recently acquired documents on the government’s “Insider Threat” program, which monitors internal communications of military personnel and civilian contractors. The program uses Manning—who is transgender and was known as Bradley in the Army—as a case study to suggest that those with “gender dysphoria” may be prone to aiding the enemy!

In prison, Manning is targeted by the imperialist rulers for her outspoken activism on government surveillance, prison conditions and transgender rights. In August 2015, shortly after starting her regular column in the Guardian and posting to Twitter, Manning was punished for possessing so-called contraband, i.e., “unapproved” reading material including the Caitlyn Jenner issue of Vanity Fair and literature relating to transgender identity. While ultimately spared indefinite solitary confinement, Manning was restricted for weeks from outside access and library use. Despite such measures, she has continued to speak out.

A couple of weeks after her suicide attempt, Manning wrote a commentary titled, “Moving On: Reflecting on My Identity,” where she made a plea: “I want to be seen and understood as the woman that I actually am—with all of my flaws and eccentricities—perhaps at the expense of what people expect me to be.” For years, Manning has been suing the government to be allowed to live as a woman while she is transitioning. Though her lawyers successfully won her access to hormone treatment, she is still in an all-male facility. As with other transgender prisoners who are usually placed in prisons against their declared gender identity, the risk of violence and sexual assault is heightened.

It is urgently necessary to continue the fight to free Chelsea Manning, whose resistance is an inspiration to those who refuse to sit on their hands and keep quiet. As we wrote in “Truth-Teller on Trial: Free Bradley Manning,” (WV No. 1026, 14 June 2013): “Lifting the veil on the U.S. war machine was a gutsy act of conscience that objectively helps the victims and opponents of the imperialist system. But the workings of this society will not change by making more information publicly available.” This system is based on the exploitation of labor for private profit, buttressed by systematic racial segregation and sexual oppression that divides the working people. The capitalist class maintains its rule through the force and violence of special bodies of armed men—the police, military and prisons. It will take a series of workers revolutions around the world to overturn the capitalist order—to which imperialist war and state repression are integral—and replace it with an egalitarian socialist society.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1093, 29 July 2016)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.