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Chelsea Manning’s torment at the hands of the state continues.
She has already attempted suicide and was punished by being placed in solitary confinement. Shortly after launching a hunger strike to protest prison conditions and the denial of gender confirmation surgery, Manning appeared to go “missing.” According to members of the Manning Support Network, Chelsea Manning missed numerous scheduled phone calls, prompting serious concern. Those concerns were thankfully alleviated when the Manning Support Network recently received a phone call from Manning.
What is happening to the military whistleblower can be seen in the examples of Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, William Binney, John Kiriakou, Jeffrey Sterling, and numerous others. The state is launching both a covert and public campaign to execute the human conscience. Whistleblowing and other acts of flexing the human conscience will invite an onslaught by the state.
Manning, like many young Americans during an age of economic tumultuousness, joined the military in an attempt to attain enough money to enter college. Similar to most young Americans who enter the military, Manning had hoped to serve her time and return home and retreat into academic courses in the hopes of using her earned degree to achieve a better life.
Still, on the battlefield, the young Private First Class could not even think about any monetary benefits from her service when she witnessed several disturbing incidents occur in real-time. When Manning witnessed fifteen Iraqis civilians being jailed with backing from American forces for the only crime of disseminating pamphlets that criticize their own government, she was shocked. The Iraqis had no known ties to any terrorist organization. At Manning’s eventual trial, her defense would point to this example as the moment when she decided to upload more than 700,000 documents to the Wikileaks website. Each document explained in painful detail the various operations that the United States implemented outside of international law.
In a bit of irony, as I had read that the Manning Support Network had not received any phone calls from Chelsea Manning, I had just finished rereading J.M. Coetzee’s Nobel Prize Winning book “Waiting for the Barbarians.”
Coetzee’s insightful piece of literature tells the story of an unnamed Magistrate who works for a powerful Empire. His daily tasks are to operate the affairs of a frontier settlement that’s primary function is to suppress the “barbarians” of the surrounding area. Just as how Manning revealed through the various cables that torture was still occurring at various military instillations, the unnamed Magistrate describes the screams of torture that are being inflicted on the barbarians that have been imprisoned at the settlement. From his tone, he appears to have grown callous to their suffering:
Of the screaming which people afterwards claim to have heard from the granary, I hear nothing. At every moment that evening as I go about my business I am aware of what might be happening, and my ear is even tuned to the pitch of human pain.
As the story progresses, the unnamed Magistrate begins to develop sympathy for the barbarians. Especially after he invites a female barbarian back to his quarters. There, in his quarters, he clothes her, feeds her, and even sleeps with her. More importantly, similar to Manning, intense feelings of sympathy for the people of the land arise in him. He feels compelled to bring attention to the law breaking of the Empire who employed him. When the Empire’s military returns with more barbarians to be imprisoned, the unnamed Magistrate runs to the center of the encampment and bellows out to the crowd:
“Look!” I shout. “We are the great miracle of creation! But from some blows this miraculous body cannot repair itself! How-?” Words fail me. “Look at these men!” I recommence. “Men!”
Those in the crowd who can crane to look at the prisoners, even at the flies that begin to settle on their bleeding welts.
As punishment, the unnamed Magistrate is beaten and then abandoned by the Empire. As the Empire and its forces leave the settlement, out of fear that it about to be overtaken by the barbarians, they also leave behind the Magistrate.
Just like the fictional Magistrate, Manning has felt the wrath of the state for the crime of having flexed her human conscience. The state is hoping that Manning will be forgotten as they continue to peel away at her psyche through solitary confinement. As one of the Magistrate’s detractors taunted him:
You want to go down in history books as a martyr I suspect. But who is going to put you in the history books? These border troubles are of no significance. In a while they will pass and the frontier will go to sleep for another twenty years. People are not interested in the history of the back of beyond.
Many self-proclaimed liberals have abandoned Manning in the name of careerism or worshiping at the altar of the state. They have rejected what the Magistrate said towards the end of the story:
“When some men suffer unjustly,” I said to myself, “it is the fate of those who witness their suffering to suffer the shame of it.”
It now falls upon a tireless and restless minority to assist Manning. Only through dedicated mobilization and peaceful activism can Manning be saved. For what is at stake is not just Chelsea Manning, but the rescuing of the human conscience from repeated government assault.
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