Held in a military prison for men and denied necessary medical and psychological treatment, the thirty-five year sentence of Chelsea Manning was commuted by President Obama on Tuesday, 17 January 2017. Thank you, Mr. President, for saving her life.
Manning confessed to leaking military incident logs and diplomatic cables, and later apologized for her offences. She had hoped to bring reform to things like the treatment of detainees held without trial.
Prior to the commutation, both Edward Snowden and Julian Assange–whose enterprise, Wikileaks, rose to global attention with the documents Manning provided access to–offered to surrender to the judicial process if Manning was released. So far, though, ‘all is quiet on the Western front,’ as neither has stepped forward to honor their offers, which perhaps points us in the direction of what is truly at stake in the case of Chelsea Manning: courage of conviction.
Manning was stationed in Iraq when she decided to try to spur a global conversation about civilian deaths and military abuses in war zones. When caught, she acknowledged her actions and faced a military tribunal. At the time, she was suffering psychologically, if not physically, struggling to come to terms with her gender identity and often, it is reported, becoming catatonic mid-sentence in conversations, which should have signaled a need for immediate care and treatment to her superiors and fellow soldiers. Instead, she continued working with no intervention.
Whatever our individual political persuasions or views on her actions, in mind and heart it seems, she believed her choices would lead to a kind of soul searching on the part of the human family.
Instead of condemning a woman who has already served a longer term than anyone else convicted in recent history of similar offenses, or a President whose compassion may well have spared her a virtual death sentence, perhaps we should use this moment to search our hearts and minds for our most deeply held convictions and ask ourselves what price we are each willing to pay to make our world a more honest, open, safe and mercy-filled place.
The Global Justice Institute