The Magic of Chelsea Manning

In perusing various definitions for “magic” I happened on one from Wikipedia that struck a cord and that I am using as an excuse to connect this week’s writing to Chelsea Manning. This definition implied that for many, in the West in particular, the primary purpose of magic is personal spiritual growth.

I have always felt, whether or not one believes in any sort of deity, that the coming out process for all LGBT people to a greater or lesser extent is a spiritual journey. These spiritual journeys most often I think involve growth and along with that growth often comes great change and often major life-impacting insights. Our worlds, and how we have been told since the cradle how our lives should look, are often turned upside down by this journey and then the amazing thing is we realize the world looks OK often from an upside down perspective.

Though coming out remains in some respects quite the daunting spiritual journey, perhaps in some ways more so than thirty or forty years ago, for all LGBT peoples I think it is particularly so for our Transsexual brothers and sisters. In this age of high queer assimilationist politics, and not only in the areas of marriage and the military, I feel that it is our Trans-comrades who are truly in the vanguard of queer change these days.

Having said that I want to share, as much for the record, the statement that Chelsea Manning made to the judge before her sentencing last week. This statement was recently made public by her defense counsel. Her sentence was for 35 years and this follows three years of imprisonment that included torture, in the form of solitary confinement and forced nudity, and that is what happened once she reached the U.S. I shudder to think of those first few months in a military brig in Kuwait! For a little perspective on Manning’s sentence remember that a military trial and conviction of William Calley for the massacre of anywhere from 347-504 unarmed civilians in 1968 at My Lai, Viet Nam resulted in the end with his serving only three and half years of house arrest and then a full pardon from Richard Nixon in 1974. There are many other examples of minimal to little punishment for what can really only be described as war crimes on the part of the U.S. government.

Chelsea Manning’s Statement to the court follows. Why this statement is not much more vitriolic or perhaps based on what she has experienced at the vindictive hands of the United States government a total capitulation is remarkable and I think a great testament to this woman’s admirable resilience.

Published on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Sometimes You Have to Pay a Heavy Price
to Live in a Free Society

The following is a rush transcript by Common Dreams of the statement made by Pfc. Bradley Manning* as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday following the announcement of his 35-year prison sentence by a military court:

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 our 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.

*(Subsequent to this statement on the following day, Manning announced, via legal counsel, the desire to be regarded as a woman and to be called Chelsea, a request Common Dreams intends to honor moving forward.)

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