by Jamison Maeda
Bradley Manning was a 25 year old intelligence analyst in the US Army, who was arrested in 2010 for leaking hundreds of thousands of confidential, government and military documents to the public via Wikileaks. Manning claimed his objective was to remove “the fog of war and reveal the true nature of 21st century asymmetric warfare.” Manning accomplished much more.
Manning was believed to be responsible for the Wikileaks release of 38 minutes of cockpit gun sight footage of an American airstrike in Baghdad in 2007. The video shows a United Sates Army AH 64 Apache helicopter killing a group of men including a Reuters journalist and photographer, and a civilian man who stopped to assist the wounded. That man’s two children were also wounded in the attack. (Preventing those who attempt to assist wounded in battle is a violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and considered a war crime.)
Also, Manning was believed to have provided Wikileaks with video of the Granai Airstrike of a B-1 Bomber in 2009, also known as the Granai massacre. Between 86 and 147 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed during the strike in the Farah province of Afghanistan. (Deliberately directing an attack on a civilian population or on individual civilians not taking part in direct hostilities is considered a war crime.)
Nearly 780 formerly secret documents known as the Guantanamo Bay File Leak, also attributed to Manning, revealed the detention of over 150 innocent Afghani and Pakistani farmers, drivers, cooks, and a 14 year old boy held for several years without being charged of a crime. There was also evidence of sexual abuse and torture. The UK Court of Appeal ruled former prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, a citizen of the United Kingdom, was the victim of “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the United States authorities” and awarded him compensation in the amount of £1 million.
Documents known as the War Logs also allegedly provided to Wikileaks by Manning showed much larger civilian casualties than previously reported by the United States. The reports from the Iraq War Log recorded the deaths of 66,000 civilians. The Afghan War Log reported the deaths of over 91,000 civilians.
In addition to the videos, the Guantanamo Bay Files and the War Logs, 251,287 diplomatic cables were leaked, exposing US spying on the United Nations as well as allied nations from 1966-2010. It was also revealed that the US State Department backed giant corporations like Nike and Nautica who blocked a proposed increase in the Haitian minimum wage in 2009, a country long ravaged by poverty and famine.
But arguably the most horrifying of the crimes leaked by Manning was the alleged involvement of US contractor DynCorp in child trafficking and providing children as entertainment for a sex party for Afghan security recruits. In multiple reports, boys between the ages of 8-15 were forced to dance for men and afterward were purchased for sex. The Guardian reported that two Afghan policemen and nine others were arrested for “purchasing services from a child.” Dyncorp faced similar allegations in 1999 in Bosnia when whistle blower, Kathryn Bolkovac, a UN Police Monitor accused Dyncorp employees in Bosnia of selling and having sex with minors. She was fired by DynCorp but filed an unfair dismissal case in Great Britain and won.
Manning was convicted on July 30, 2013 of 17 charges including espionage and theft, but acquitted of aiding the enemy. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
On August 22, 2013, Manning released a statement saying that she is a transgender person and considers herself to be a woman. She requests that she be referred to as Chelsea Manning going forward.
Within minutes American mainstream media, in an obvious attempt at sensationalism and ratings grabbing began asking people on the street if they thought taxpayers should have to pay for Chelsea’s hormone therapy. Not a single person was asked their opinion on tax payer funded torture, the detention and massacre of innocent civilians, or the sex trafficking of children. Instead, the mainstream media chose to focus on the personal life of Chelsea Manning, who as one of the over 700,000 transgender Americans now finds herself in possibly the most vulnerable group in America, second only to whistle-blowers it seems.
It is incorrigible for politicians and so-called journalists to distract the world with Chelsea Manning’s personal situation when Americans urgently need to address the issues Chelsea brought to light, and to consider the fate of the whistle-blowers whose sacrifices do not endanger, but ensure our freedom. She gave up her freedom to expose horrible atrocities upon human beings that demand investigation. And for that, she is a hero.