‘We have forgotten our humanity’
On Wednesday, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Following the announcement of the sentence, the following statement from Manning was read at a press conference by his attorney David Coombs.
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 dissensions, 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.
Portrait of Pfc. Bradley Manning, by Robert Shetterly.
UPDATED 9:25 AM: Bradley Manning is now Chelsea Manning.
“As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me,” Manning said in a statement read during an exclusive TODAY show interview with lawyer David Coombs. “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way I have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible.”
While Fort Leavenworth, the prison where Manning will serve her sentence, does not offer hormone therapy, Coombs told host Savannah Guthrie he would fight to ensure his client received the medical treatment she needed. He also said he and Manning had not discussed sex reassignment surgery, and that getting her access to the needed hormones is his priority at this time.
Asked why Chelsea Manning had not made a statement about her gender before the trial was over, Coombs said, “She didn’t want this to be something that overshadowed the case.”
Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for the largest leak in U.S. history, a sentence that could set the tone of future prosecutions of those who leak classified information. The 25-year-old was convicted of 20 criminal counts, including espionage and disobeying orders, for providing 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Coombs and the defense team cited Manning’s struggle with shame and confusion over her gender identity as a mitigating factor during sentencing proceedings. Her identity as a trans-woman first became a topic of discussion in the case after chat logs with government informant and hacker Adrian Lamo featuring statements about gender were leaked to the public.
The defense introduced a photo Manning emailed to her supervisor, Master Sgt Paul Adkins, with the subject line “my problem.” It showed Manning in a blonde wig and wearing lipstick. Clinical Psychiatrist Michael Worsley, who treated Manning in Iraq, also testified about how the military’s “hypermasculine environment” and hostility towards LGBT soldiers could have contributed to Manning’s depression and sense of isolation
Dr. David Moulton, the forensic psychologist assigned to review Manning’s case, said that Manning was suffering from gender identity disorder, a diagnosis supported by a military sanity board.
The United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth responded to Manning’s announcement in a statement. “The Army does not provide hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery for gender identity disorder.” Citing a policy of non-discrimination based on race, rank, ethnicity or sexual orientation – but not gender identity – the the USDB statement said that, “All inmates are considered soldiers and are treated as such with access to mental health professionals, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, social workers and behavioral science noncommissioned officers with experience in addressing the needs of military personnel in pre- and post-trial confinement.”
Despite the challenges ahead for Chelsea Manning, “The ultimate goal is to be comfortable in her skin,” Coombs said.