In 1850, the abolitionist Theodore Parker said:
I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.
This is the quote that Martin Luther King distilled down to the more effective “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Such is one of the foundation stones of modern liberal morality, that there must be equality of justice for all, not just for the chosen few. This is enshrined in our Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment’s “Equal Protection Clause”:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
The Equal Protection Clause is the argument that resulted in the legalization of LGBTQ marriage in America as a whole. It is also the argument that enabled LGBTQ personnel in the military to receive medical treatments that had previously been denied, up to and including gender reassignment surgery.
As a liberal, I strongly support all the above, including the medical care and gender reassignment surgery that Chelsea Manning received even as she was an inmate in a DOD prison.
In 2010, Manning began the first of her contacts with Wikileaks. She soon sent Wikileaks a video of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad by two Apache helicopters that had resulted in the deaths of two Reuters correspondents. This proved that the U.S. military had not exactly been truthful about how those two correspondents had been killed, but subsequent investigations resulted in no further significant legal action.
Now if only Ms. Manning had limited her whistleblowing to the video of the two Apache helicopters attacking a group of men which included two Reuters war correspondents, the case could be made that she was a hero in the tradition of those who exposed the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.
But there’s more, much more. There’s a whole stinking, decomposing metaphorical corpse of an elephant in the living room, a far greater issue that too many of my fellow liberals don’t know or choose to ignore: Ms. Manning also released 251,287 diplomatic cables from America’s embassies, consulates, and missions around the world, and also released 482,832 Army reports.
Diplomatic cables are confidential messages, and can be classified up to and including “top secret” information. The quarter-million diplomatic cables included many names of local contacts, the “human intelligence” that are the most important part of any intelligence-gathering operation. This exposure put those local contacts (and their families and friends) in very real danger. We know of how our contacts in three nations (China, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia) were placed in danger, but given the nature of intelligence gathering, we do not and should not know where else such contacts and their families were endangered or even killed. To be sure, what Chelsea Manning did was expose our contacts all over the world, and this had a direct and detrimental effect on our nation’s ability to conduct diplomacy and influence international events.
The Army reports are by their very nature confidential, for while their release may very well include indications of wrongdoing, they also gave our enemies a treasure trove of information on how we conduct war, from intelligence gathering to combat to, well, everything that the Army does in theater from start to finish.
Even if Manning had read all 734,000+ documents that she gave to Wikileaks, it is flatly impossible for her to have known which documents were important, or to have known the consequences of their release. What she did resulted in the most serious intelligence leak in American history…at least until NSA contractor Eric Snowden took his information first to China and then to Russia.
How many good people (and their families) died thanks to Manning’s actions? We’ll never know…but it’s almost certain that some (or many) did.
Now Chelsea Manning has been put back in jail for refusing to testify about what she knows of Julian Assange and Wikileaks. It is becoming more and more apparent that Assange and Wikileaks is at least to some extent affiliated with Russian intelligence. This means that now, Manning is by her silence not only protecting Wikileaks, but is also helping Russia.
I spent the first half of my Navy career in the Cold War. I remember all too well what many younger people today would call the paranoia…but the paranoia was justified. Several times over the decades we almost engaged in a global thermonuclear exchange. It was no game. It was deadly serious. Yes, the USSR finally collapsed, but the one who is effectively the dictator of Russia today is an ex-KGB colonel who watched his nation lose to the hated capitalist Americans, and watched how his nation was shamed before the world in the years that followed.
Anyone who thinks that Vladimir Putin wants to be friends with America is beyond naive. He is our enemy, and he’s very, very smart and determined. Anyone who helps his efforts to tear down America is in my opinion a traitor. By that definition, Donald Trump is a traitor…and if she realizes that Wikileaks is connected to Russia, by her refusing to testify against Wikileaks (even after her incredibly-damaging leak of 734,000+ confidential diplomatic and Army documents), so is Chelsea Manning.
I can empathize with her journey towards gender reassignment and her decision to blow the whistle concerning the deaths of the two Reuters correspondents. I cannot now and will never empathize with her actions wherein she violated the oath that all military personnel take, and thus placed so many of our diplomatic contacts (and their families) around the world at risk and even mortal danger. There is no possible excuse.
Chelsea Manning is no hero. She belongs in jail.