Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chelsea Manning's Emotional Letter of Thanks to Her Fellow Inmates

by Nomad

Chelsea Manning Letter

In January this year, President Barack Obama commuted the 35-year sentence of Chelsea Manning Under the President's order, Manning's sentence will expire on May 17, 2017.
As a soldier in the US military, Chelsea Manning, (formerly known as Bradley) was court-martialed for leaking secret military and government documents to WikiLeaks.

His release will hopefully bring to a close a sorry chapter for whistleblowers around the world. Given the current administration's attitude on hunting and eliminating leakers, the Manning saga is especially troubling.


The material leaked by Manning included the Baghdad airstrike video "Collateral Murder", which showed two American helicopters firing on a group of 10 men in the Amin District of Baghdad. As Wikipedia notes:
Two were Reuters employees there to photograph an American Humvee under attack by the Mahdi Army. Pilots mistook their cameras for weapons. The helicopters also fired on a van, targeted earlier by one helicopter, that had stopped to help wounded members of the first group. Two children in the van were wounded, and their father was killed.
Manning was also responsible for the "Cablegate" leak of 251,287 State Department cables, written by 271 American embassies and consulates in 180 countries, dated December 1966 to February 2010. The leaks, which revealed the private thoughts of those handling international relations, were considered at the time to be damaging to America's international image. Here is a top ten list of bombshells found in the leaked documents.

In his testimony before the court, Manning apologized for his actions saying
"I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry that they hurt the United States. I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people. ... At the time of my decisions, I was dealing with a lot of issues."

In fact, as Human Rights Watch observed, Manning had no chance to argue at her trial that they were in the public interest or exposed wrongdoing, and the government never had to prove that the leaks did serious harm.

Chelsea Manning

Clemency Long Overdue

According to EyeSpy Magazine,
The decision [to free Manning] was not welcomed by Pentagon and intelligence heads, but hailed by friends, family and supporters of Manning. One intelligence official speaking on the grounds of anonymity said the “intelligence community was shocked by the decision and considers it an inexplicable use of executive power.” 
Barack Obama called his decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning  “entirely appropriate” and that justice had been served. The president said:
“Let’s be clear: Chelsea Manning has served a tough prison sentence..The notion that the average person who is thinking about disclosing vital classified information would think that it goes unpunished … I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served.”
Indeed, many thought that there was more than a little cruel and unusual punishment involved in the way Manning's sentence was carried out.
While Manning was incarcerated, he spent long periods in solitary confinement which shocked and outraged many clinical experts and mental health practitioners who warned that such treatment risked further aggravating the soldier’s vulnerable state of mind.

Numerous studies over many years have shown that even short spells in a solitary confinement cell can dramatically increase the risk of suicide in both civilian and military prisoners.
In one study of California’s prison system, researchers found that from 1999 to 2004 prisoners in solitary confinement accounted for nearly half of all suicides.
It was hard not think this was the primary intention, especially since Manning was subjected to solitary confinement following suicide attempts.

Regarding the president's clemency, Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA said:
“Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the U.S. government for years. President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project representing Manning said:
“Since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement — including for attempting suicide — and has been denied access to medically necessary health care. This move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life, and we are all better off knowing that Chelsea Manning will walk out of prison a free woman, dedicated to making the world a better place and fighting for justice for so many.”

Manning's Letter

Due to circumstances explained in the letter, Manning was unable to properly thank the people who were her lifeline, the other prisoners.

To those who have kept me alive for the past six years: minutes after President Obama announced the commutation of my sentence, the prison quickly moved me out of general population and into the restrictive housing unit where I am now held. I know that we are now physically separated, but we will never be apart and we are not alone.

Recently, one of you asked me "Will you remember me?" 
I will remember you. How could I possibly forget? You taught me lessons I would have never learned otherwise. 
When I was afraid, you taught me how to keep going. When I was lost, you showed me the way. When I was numb, you taught me how to feel. When I was angry, you taught me how to chill out. When I was hateful, you taught me how to be compassionate. 
When I was distant, you taught me how to be close. When I was selfish, you taught me how to share. Sometimes, it took me a while to learn many things.

Other times, I would forget, and you would remind me. We were friends in a way few will ever understand. There was no room to be superficial. Instead, we bared it all. We could hide from our families and from the world outside, but we could never hide from each other. We argued, we bickered and we fought with each other.
Sometimes, over absolutely nothing. 
But, we were always a family. We were always united. When the prison tried to break one of us, we all stood up. We looked out for each other. When they tried to divide us, and systematically discriminated against us, we embraced our diversity and pushed back. But, I also learned from all of you when to pick my battles. I grew up and grew connected because of the community you provided.

Those outside of prison may not believe that we act like human beings under these conditions. But, of course, we do.

And we build our own networks of survival. I never would have made it without you. Not only did you teach me these important lessons, but you made sure I felt cared for. You were the people who helped me to deal with the trauma of my regular haircuts. You were the people who checked on me after I tried to end my life. You were the people that played fun games with me. Who wished me a Happy Birthday. We shared the holidays together.
You were and will always be family. For many of you, you are already free and living outside of the prison walls. Many of you will come home soon. Some of you still have many years to go.

 The most important thing that you taught me was how to write and how to speak in my own voice. I used to only know how to write memos. Now, I write like a human being, with dreams, desires, and connections. I could not have done it without you. From where I am now, I still think of all of you.

When I leave this place in May, I will still think of all of you. And to anyone who finds themselves feeling alone behind bars, know that there is a network of us who are thinking of you.

 You will never be forgotten.

President Donald Trump has called Manning as an "ungrateful traitor" and said that she should "never have been released."