WikiLeaks whistle-blower Pfc. Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison today, an outrage that flies in the face of America’s essential ideals of accountability in government, and which seeks to instill a chilling effect on those who’d dare to expose the United States’ illegality. A heroic soldier of conscience, Manning witnessed war crimes, rampant corruption, and covert abuse while stationed in Baghdad in 2009-10, and exposed what she saw by releasing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic files to the transparency website WikiLeaks. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three years in a row. Earlier this month, more than 100,000 signatures in support of her 2013 nomination were delivered to the Nobel committee in Norway. Military judge Col. Denise Lind’s sentence is an outright injustice that we cannot accept.
“The only person prosecuted for the crimes and abuses uncovered in the WikiLeaks’ releases is the person who exposed them,” said Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg. “That alone proves the injustice of one more day in prison for (Chelsea) Manning.”
Manning can subtract more than three and a half years off of that sentence, for the time she has already served and the mere 112 days she was credited for enduring torture while detained at the Quantico Marine Brig. She will be eligible to reduce her sentence by 10% for good behavior.
The fight for Manning’s freedom is far from over. Supporters and attorney David Coombs will demand Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, Military of the District of Washington commander and Convening Authority of Manning’s court martial, to reduce the sentence, which he has the legal authority to do. The Bradley Manning Support Network will collect and deliver thousands of lesser in support of Manning’s clemency to Maj. Gen. Buchanan.
“By successfully funding Bradley’s legal efforts, and by mobilizing worldwide support, we won an acquittal on “aiding the enemy,” says Jeff Paterson, the Support Network’s director. “We move forward today on every available front to win (her) freedom.”
Mr. Coombs is applying for a Presidential Pardon, and the case will be brought to the Army Court of Criminal Appeals, to address several deprivations of Manning’s due process rights. She was detained without trial for more than three years, in violation of her Constitutional right to a speedy trial. She was only awarded four months off of her sentence for the psychological torture she suffered while in solitary confinement for more than nine months at Quantico, which fails to hold the Marines accountable for that treatment. President Obama declared Manning guilty in April 2011, more than two years before her trial began, which constitutes unlawful command influence, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Finally, Military Judge Col. Denise Lind allowed the prosecution to change its charge sheet at the 11th hour, after both the government and defense had questioned their witnesses and rested their cases.
The Bradley Manning Support Network is responsible for 100% of Manning’s legal fees, as well as international education efforts. Funded by 21,000 individuals, the Support Network has mustered $1.4 million in Manning’s defense.
<cite>The following is a transcript of the statement made by Pfc. Chelsea Manning as read by David Coombs at a press conference on Wednesday after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.</cite>
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.
Originally published on bradleymanning.org.
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