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Workers Vanguard No. 1122

17 November 2017

Ruling-Class Vendetta Against Chelsea Manning Continues

In May, the courageous truth-teller Chelsea Manning was released from prison after being tortured by the Obama regime for seven years for exposing U.S. imperialist war crimes. We have defended Manning since the start of her ordeal and welcomed her release. For Obama, commuting her sentence in the dying days of his presidency was a cheap and cynical move to burnish his “legacy.” Half a year later, the vindictive American ruling class has made clear that it’s not done with her yet.

In September, Harvard University invited Manning to be a visiting fellow at its Kennedy School of Government and then rescinded the invitation the very next day. Manning was disinvited after CIA director Mike Pompeo, calling her an “American traitor,” cancelled an appearance on campus and former deputy CIA director Michael Morrell resigned his own fellowship in protest. Manning responded on Twitter: “This is what a military/police/intel state looks like the @cia determines what is and is not taught at Harvard.”

Indeed, the CIA, NSA, FBI and military are deeply intertwined with Harvard, the most prestigious think tank for U.S. imperialism and training ground for the children and trusted agents of the bourgeoisie. Harvard, like most of the country’s top universities, has a long history of educating, hiring and honoring Washington’s torturers and war criminals. When Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School opened its doors in 1966, its first honorary associate was Robert McNamara, secretary of defense under presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Other Harvard luminaries include Professor Louis Fieser (the inventor of napalm), Henry Kissinger (like McNamara, an architect of mass murder in Vietnam) and Professor Richard Hernnstein (co-author with Charles Murray of the racist tract The Bell Curve). The surprise about Manning’s brief fellowship was not that it was cancelled but that it was offered in the first place! CIA, military off campus!

Manning’s crime in the eyes of the capitalist rulers? In 2010, she leaked files that cast a spotlight on the war crimes of U.S. imperialism in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most well known of these is the graphic aerial video, dubbed “Collateral Murder,” that shows a U.S. Apache helicopter gunship massacring at least twelve civilians in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters staffers, while the pilots gloated over the carnage.

Soon after Harvard disinvited Manning, the government of Canada, Washington’s junior imperialist partner to the north, barred her from entering that country, stating, “If committed in Canada, [Manning’s] offence would equate to…Treason.” On October 8, the liberal New Yorker magazine joined the post-prison vendetta against Manning during its annual festival in New York City. Manning’s fight for transgender people’s rights has earned her a huge following. She featured prominently in the festival program and the venue was filled with admirers.

New Yorker staff writer Larissa MacFarquhar, who conducted an interview with Manning, was tolerant of her as a transgender activist, but sought to reduce her exposures of U.S. imperialist barbarity to a question of “transparency in government.” The gloves really came off when MacFarquhar began channeling the military prosecutors at Manning’s kangaroo court. She badgered Manning with implications that she had supposedly endangered lives by leaking a trove of war logs and diplomatic cables to Julian Assange.

Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is still trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he sought asylum in 2012 after Swedish prosecutors demanded his extradition on bogus accusations of “rape”—in fact allegations of unprotected sex in what were by all accounts consensual relations. Despite the Swedish authorities dropping the case in May, London police have said they will arrest Assange for violating his bail if he leaves the embassy. The risk is high that Britain would extradite him to the U.S.

Liberals like MacFarquhar have long considered Assange dangerous because, unlike “legitimate” bourgeois mouthpieces like the New York Times, he refuses to redact the material WikiLeaks publishes. Democrats have come to despise Assange even more after WikiLeaks released a trove of emails last year—hacked by “the Russians,” so the story goes—from the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which supposedly helped Trump win the presidency.

Manning batted back the verbal barrage from MacFarquhar and gave as good as she got. When the journalist accused the former military intelligence analyst of releasing government files without knowing what was in them, Manning angrily objected: “I did know what was in them. I worked with this information every day.” Her interrogator persisted: “But the 250,000 documents, did you not fear that it might hurt someone?” Manning shot back: “Absolutely not.” Signaling to the audience that MacFarquhar was retailing the government frame-up against her, Manning retorted that the leaked files show “people dying and people getting killed and people suffering, and on a massive, incredible scale.”

Manning’s path to her courageous act of self-sacrifice was a long and winding one. Before joining the Army, Manning explained, she struggled with being transgender and even thought that joining the military might make her “not Trans.” Seeing the violence in Iraq on television, she decided to join up, hoping to “make a difference.” It was wishful thinking, she said, but she was only 18. Manning was trained to do statistical data analysis, but the data became real people when she deployed to Iraq. She graphically described the horror, and the normality, of it all: “It was like drinking from a firehose,” a firehose of “death and destruction and mayhem just every single day.”

Elements of Manning’s personal history parallel those of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is in exile in Russia. Inspired by Manning, in 2013 Snowden released documents exposing the sweep and scope of the global electronic spying activities of the U.S. and its allies. Both Manning and Snowden started out as my-country-right-or-wrong patriots. Over time, each was compelled by conscience to risk everything by taking a stand to expose crimes routinely committed by the U.S. government. By unmasking the bourgeoisie’s everyday lies, intrigues and wanton slaughter, brave individuals like Manning, Snowden and Assange, while far from being revolutionaries, have done a great service to workers and the oppressed throughout the world. Hands off Assange! Drop all charges against Snowden!

Manning has a keen appreciation of the stark social inequalities in the U.S. As MacFarquhar warmed her up with softballs before pressing her to admit to treason, Manning revealed that she is not enamored of the fact that nowadays there is so much focus on marriage equality. She asked rhetorically: how is marriage equality going to help homeless gay and transgender people? How was it supposed to help Manning herself when she was homeless on the streets of Chicago? A puzzled MacFarquhar asked: “What would have helped you in that situation?” Manning shot back: “Housing!

Chelsea Manning is a fighter and a hero. Working people and the oppressed internationally are in her debt for revealing details of imperialist machinations. But, despite the revelations by Manning, Assange and Snowden, U.S. imperialism by its nature will continue to commit atrocities on a daily basis. The whole system of capitalist exploitation and war must be swept away through workers socialist revolution.


Workers Vanguard No. 1122

WV 1122

17 November 2017


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Ruling-Class Vendetta Against Chelsea Manning Continues