The news that Chelsea Manning will not face solitary confinement for relatively minor rules violations as she serves her 35 year term in Leavenworth prison is a positive outcome for her and her many supporters. I have some compassion for her but don’t count me among her supporters.
Before she was Chelsea she was Bradley and Bradley Manning never should have been a soldier.
Deifying Manning has become a cause célèbre but she hasn’t done a thing to merit it. Dumping over 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks isn’t heroic. Manning did it to stick it to the military so it shouldn’t come as any shock that now they’re trying to stick it to her.
As anyone who’s ever been in the military knows, all sort of Mickey Mouse shit can and will be used against you if you run afoul of the brass. That is what’s happening here, but I still don’t feel much sympathy for Manning.
Manning should have been discharged long before she stepped foot in Iraq and the fact she wasn’t is an endless source of wonder to me. This is as much the Army’s fault as it was Manning.
Bradley Manning is not Edward Snowden and he is most definitely not a hero. Let’s get that straight, for starters.
Manning is not a whistleblower motivated by either ideology or principle. Nor, despite the claims of some, is he a poster child for transgender rights being persecuted for his gender or sexual orientation. Analyses that have focused on Manning’s personal conflicts over his sexuality and the limitations it placed on his ability to serve miss the point as much as those that have declared him a free-speech martyr. He did not deliberately and methodically set out to expose a discrete government program that he had come to believe was unconstitutional. He was not sentenced for his gender preferences or how he chose to dress. He was a troubled kid looking to make a mark who simply spilled every secret he knew, the equivalent of screaming as loud as he could in the hope that all that noise would bring some attention.
When I was in the army, soldiers used to talk about, “dirtbags,” “shitbirds,” and “shammers.” We applied these cruel labels to the kids who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t hack it. Some of the “shitbirds” had legitimate personality disorders, and others seemed damaged in different ways—they were just off—too idiosyncratic for soldiering, or maybe too sensitive. The “dirtbags” lied to you when they didn’t have to. You couldn’t trust them not to go into your wall locker and steal your stuff. They were the borderline or actual criminals. Then, finally, there were the “shammers,” the troops who actively tried to get out of duty by citing injuries or hardships, real or imagined.
All of these people had their reasons for enlisting in the first place. They sought money, an escape, an adventure, a way to serve their country, or a way to prove something to someone by joining the army and going to war. For whatever reason they had enlisted, once they got to basic training, they stuck out miserably. To say they were bullied would be accurate but would miss something about the character of the army, an institution in which tough-guy power relations are the norm—even tacitly encouraged—and do not form a remarkable exception.
By some accounts, the trouble started early for Pfc. Manning. One of his fellow basic trainees described him this way: “He wasn’t a soldier—there wasn’t anything about him that was a soldier. He has this idea that he was going in and that he was going to be pushing papers and he was gonna be some super- smart computer guy and that he was gonna be important, that he was gonna matter to someone and he was gonna matter to something. And he got there and realized that he didn’t matter and that none of that was going to happen.”
At his sentencing, Manning said, “I look back at my decisions and wonder, ‘How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?'”
Good question, but apparently Manning has cultivated enough true believers to conclude a troubled, confused and lonely soldier was the best qualified person to make that call.
My distaste for Manning is not based on being gay or transgender as I support both being part of the armed forces. My issue with Manning is she is not a prisoner of conscience or anything romantic like that. Manning couldn’t get out of the Army so she tried to screw it over. Now that she is at their mercy they are screwing back.
Soldiers are not supposed to be robots. They have brains and they can make decisions, but when you dump classified information you’re not supposed to there will be consequences. Chelsea Manning is paying the price for Bradley’s bad decision-making.
Manning was not a hero then, not a hero now, and not a hero ever. President Obama should show a kindness she may not truly deserve and pardon, then dishonorably discharge Manning from the Army she was unfit for in the beginning.