Defending Chelsea Manning at Urban Tulsa Weekly

On September 4th, my op-ed Chelsea Manning and the State’s Abusive Transphobia was published as a letter to the editor in Urban Tulsa Weekly. The paper treated it as a “really convoluted counterpoint” to an asinine letter by Oklahoma State Senator Frank Simpson, who argued that Chelsea Manning was not a hero. State Senator Simpson consistently misgendered Chelsea Manning in his letter and echoed baseless state propaganda about the alleged “harm” caused by her disclosures of government criminality. My op-ed, published as a “counterpoint” to State Senator Simpson’s letter, primarily addressed different issues than his letter. As such, I posted a direct response to State Senator Simpson, and I am happy to say it was published as a letter on September 11th in Urban Tulsa Weekly.

To be clear, my letter was dealing largely with separate issues from State Senator Simpson’s. As such, I feel I should respond directly to his specific claims and questions.

Simpson asks: “did Bradley Manning demonstrate any attribute we would normally associate with heroism?”

Chelsea Manning demonstrated multiple attributes we would normally associate with heroism. First, she demonstrated courage and willingness to face great personal risk. In blowing the whistle on the U.S. government’s crimes, she risked death (as seen in the government charging her with a capital offense), decades of imprisonment, torture (which she did receive), and abuse from a prison system famously hostile to transgender individuals like her.

Second, she demonstrated moral principle. She expressed a commitment to truth and desire for reform as her motivations for leaking these documents. As she wrote in her chats with Adrian Lamo:

“If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”

“God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms… I want people to see the truth… because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Her courageous and principled whistleblowing, for which she has been tortured and caged, did lead to substantial discussions, debates, and reforms. Her leaks provided evidence of corruption in the Tunisian government that helped spark the Arab Spring. Manning’s disclosures also shed light on what McClatchy Newspapers called “evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence.” The outrage caused by exposure of this brutal war crime helped end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Simpson claims “Manning didn’t save anyone’s life.” This is simply false. By playing a pivotal role in ending the US military’s occupation of Iraq, Chelsea Manning prevented the deaths of both Iraqis and American troops that would inevitably have come from continued occupation.

Simpson also asserts that Manning’s disclosures “jeopardize the lives of thousands of our military personnel.” But prosecutors were unable to demonstrate that even a single person was harmed as a result of Manning’s disclosures. What does State Senator Simpson know that they do not?

It appears that State Senator Simpson is unable to recognize courage, principle, and personal risk when they are staring him in the face. It also appears that he is interested in commenting on Manning’s actions without devoting any serious study to the matter. Perhaps voters should keep this in mind when considering whether he is informed enough to hold political power over them.

Nathan Goodman

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