“Sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”
Update: In another statement released today, August 22nd, Bradley Manning announced that she is female and wants to be known as Chelsea. Manning said she’d like to begin hormone therapy immediately, though the Army prison in Ft. Leavenworth Kansas where she’s set to serve her 35-year sentence does not currently provide such care.
After being sentenced to 35-years in prison for leaking thousands of military and government documents, Pfc. Bradley Manning released a powerful statement Wednesday (transcript below) condemning the War on Terror.
The documents Manning released through WikiLeaks brought to light the killing of unarmed civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and made public years of sensitive communications from American diplomats around the globe.
The timing of the statement was poignant here in the Northwest: Yesterday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, seven Afghan citizens gave emotional testimony about the massacre of their loved ones by Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, at his sentencing hearing.
In Manning’s statement, he justifies the illegal release of classified documents, arguing that the immoral nature of the war had been systematically hidden from the public.
So what do you think? Is Manning a traitor? Or is he a hero?
“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.”
Thanks to Common Dreams for this quick transcript of the statement.