22 September 2016

Hunger Strike Ends

Free Chelsea Manning!

Just two months after being driven to a suicide attempt, imprisoned transgender whistle-blower Chelsea Manning went on hunger strike to protest ongoing abuse and denial of health care in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Manning—who was sentenced in 2013 for disclosing military and state secrets to WikiLeaks—refused all food and beverage and demanded “minimum standards of dignity, respect, and humanity,” including the ability to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Her drastic plea ended after five days on September 13 when the army relented and agreed to allow her to proceed with the surgery.

Manning’s hunger strike was emblematic of the dire anguish she has had to endure during her six-year battle with military jailers. Her appeals for help have been, in her words, “ignored, delayed, mocked.” While the former military analyst was granted an official name change in 2014 (from Bradley) and hormone therapy in 2015, she has been in a relentless legal battle to receive the recommended medical treatment for gender transitioning. Being forced to maintain short hair and being held in an all male unit—which exposes her to greater risk of anti-trans harassment and assault—are examples of what Manning refers to as “high tech bullying” on the part of prison and military officials.

Grotesquely, Manning is still facing charges for surviving her suicide attempt in July, after which she was threatened with the torture of indefinite solitary confinement. She could also be hit with administrative charges related to her suicide attempt. As Chase Strangio, one of her lawyers, remarked: “She’s essentially being punished by the government for trying to die, after so many times being punished for trying to live.”

Manning may become the first U.S. transgender inmate to undergo gender reassignment surgery. But the struggle continues for the freedom of this courageous individual facing a vindictive 35-year sentence for espionage. Manning, alongside whistle-blowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, carried out a heroic service by exposing a degree of the secrecy and crimes of U.S. imperialism. As an appeal to pardon Snowden gains publicity with the release of Oliver Stone’s new biopic, Manning’s case merits a widespread, coordinated campaign for her release. Free Chelsea Manning now! Hands off Julian Assange and Edward Snowden!

In an interview last month with Amnesty International, Manning stated: “A government can arrest you. It can imprison you. It can put out information about you that won’t get questioned by the public—everyone will just assume that what they are saying is true. Sometimes, a government can even kill you—with or without the benefit of a trial.... It is very terrifying to face the government alone.” Manning helped open the eyes of many to the systematic violence and lies of America’s rulers. Marxists seek to impart the understanding that only when the system of capitalism is destroyed through workers revolution internationally will the savagery and depravity that today plague humanity be ended.

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1096, 22 September 2016)

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