Chelsea Elizabeth Manning is known around the world for her part in one of the most significant and controversial information leaks in history.
Despite the criticisms leveled against her, Manning’s actions displayed not only bravery but also a commitment to truth and transparency.
This essay argues that Chelsea Manning should be regarded as a hero and that her prosecution was unjust.
Chelsea Manning, born on December 17, 1987, is an American activist and former intelligence analyst for the United States army.
In 2013, Manning was convicted by a military tribunal for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and unclassified documents to WikiLeaks.
As of 2021, Manning resides in the United States, following her release from prison. Manning could have been released from prison sooner but chose to not flip on Julian Assange in order for the sentence to be commuted faster.
Manning’s motivations for releasing the material were rooted in a commitment to human rights and truth. She believed the public had a right to know the details contained within the classified documents – information that provided insight into controversial aspects of the U.S. military’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Some praised her actions, describing them as a significant act of whistleblowing, while others criticized them as dangerous to national security. However, it is crucial to understand that Manning’s actions were not thoughtless but rather calculated measures based on a set of principles that prioritize the right to information and transparency.
Manning’s leaks revealed incidents of civilian deaths and torture by Iraqi and U.S. forces—a stark and unvarnished look at the realities of war often hidden from ordinary citizens. She demonstrated the courage to risk her freedom for the sake of unveiling the truth, and for that, she should be celebrated as a hero.
The punishment meted out to Manning is widely regarded as excessively harsh and punitive. She was held in pretrial detention for over three years, often in solitary confinement, and subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison.
This treatment is seen by many as unfair considering Manning’s motive – to inform the public about war crimes and human rights abuses. Despite the laws broken, there is an argument to be made that Manning should never have been punished at all.
Manning’s actions disrupted the status quo, sparking debates about government transparency, the public’s right to information, and the repercussions often faced by whistleblowers.
Cognitive dissonance makes it easy to vilify Manning, with easier acceptance belonging to those that fit neatly within our societal norms. Manning, with her principled stand and subsequent gender transition, exists outside of these norms and has paid a harsh price for it.
Chelsea Manning’s actions, while controversial, highlight her bravery and steadfast commitment to truth and transparency. It is imperative that society begins to regard individuals such as Manning, who put everything at risk in the pursuit of justice, as the true heroes they are.
Furthermore, the severity of Manning’s punishment reflects a misplaced societal value, prioritizing national security over human rights and transparency. Manning’s narrative calls for a reassessment of our society’s values and the need for protective measures for individuals brave enough to expose the truth.