In February 2010 Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning wrote a short note to accompany her submission of Iraq and Afghan War data to prospective publishers:
“This is possibly one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of twenty-first century asymmetric warfare.
Have a good day.”
Initially ignored by both the Washington Post and New York Times, Manning turned instead to the WikiLeaks organisation, whose work and operations she had become aware of through her analyst role; personal interest thereafter spurring further contact. Manning later said of her submission:
“I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan everyday.”
An act of conscience, then, founded on unease of the prosecution of the wars and their representation in government and media narratives. Illegality, brutality, falsehoods and deceit framed the wars and compelled Chelsea Manning to action. She is serving 35 years in prison for her act of truth-telling.
(Not so) Fast-forward to the week of 4 July 2016 and threads within this story converge in cruel coincidence. On Wednesday 6, following years of legal intervention and numerous politically motivated delays, John Chilcot’s report of the Iraq Inquiry is at last made public. Chilcot’s findings damn Tony Blair and his government’s rush to war in 2003. The artificially constructed rationale to attack a non-threatening country, without pause or question, and the abandonment of duty afterwards are made clear. The senseless, bogus war, its lies and carnage connect to Manning’s observations and resonate for the people of Iraq, and for service personnel and families, to this day.
Yet on July 6 other concerning news began to emerge. Social media reports indicated that Chelsea Manning had been hospitalised the previous day and had now returned to Leavenworth prison under close supervision. Initial, unconfirmed, suggestions of an unsuccessful suicide attempt were eventually verified by Chelsea’s legal team only after a week of silence by the military authorities (see link at foot of page). More recently, Chelsea has communicated that she is positive and heartened by the many messages she has received.
The facts surrounding the military’s treatment and handling of Chelsea’s current health situation suggest a contemptible and inadequate duty of care towards her, and disregard to her family and legal representatives. It seems initial details of Chelsea’s situation, confidential of course, were leaked from inside Leavenworth to celebrity ‘gossip’ website TMZ – later picked up by CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz – whilst a scheduled, concurrent phone call to Chelsea by Nancy Hollander’s team had been rebutted by administrators at the prison. Military authorities appear to have engineered a week-long blackout both of contact to and from Chelsea, and on updates as to Chelsea’s situation and well-being. Her legal team were denied contact until 11 July. Reassuringly, Chelsea has since been spoken to by other friends who confirm she is seemingly OK and feeling loved.
One final irony underscoring the news of the week of Chilcot and concern for Chelsea is that Hillary Clinton, questioned for 3 hours by the FBI recently over security abuses and the use of a private server whilst Secretary of State, will for the time being face no sanction. Despite evidence that classified material was knowing altered and sent at Clinton’s behest, FBI Director James Corney concluded the presidential candidate had merely been ‘extremely careless’ . Different strokes for different folks, of course.
Support Chelsea Manning
Following the release of Chilcot and news of Chelsea Manning’s hospitalisation, two supporters revisited a prominent banner-drop site in Wrexham. The ‘Blair Bridge Project’ took over a footbridge above the A483, highlighting both the Iraq War’s perpetrators, and war-resisting Manning’s position as on-going prisoner of conscience.
The bridge has seen numerous prominent banner drops over the past 13 years but it seems apposite to re-stress the injustices of the Iraq and Afghan Wars, to call for punishment of the war leaders and freedom for those who suffer for opposing their illegitimate militarism. Feedback from Chelsea herself is that she is aware of such public acts of support and that they mean a lot to her.
Genny has also organised and sent a postcard of good wishes to Chelsea.
It’s clear that Chelsea is in reflective mood at the moment. She has just written about moving on with her life, wanting to break free of the defining terminology and labels that history has assigned her. If I write in a way that defines Chelsea because of her past actions, then I apologise to her. A time for reflection indeed, and for change? But right now Chelsea Manning needs our love and support, and her daily mail drop appears to really mean a lot to her. I shall be writing a note shortly, just to (hopefully) lift her spirits and give her strength.
If you want to contact Chelsea directly, the address details are:
CHELSEA E. MANNING 89289
1300 NORTH WAREHOUSE ROAD
FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS 66027-2304
- Link to official statement on Chelsea’s health by her legal team: https://www.chelseamanning.org/featured/chelsea-helath-status
- More images from the Wrexham banner drop: