According to Margaret!

The Manning Case

Forum member Margaret Pepper tells us what she thinks (no she really does!) about the stories surrounding Chelsea Manning’s leaking of classified documents. Disagree with anything? Why not write your own views about the subject down in an article and send to forum.admin@camdenlgbtforum.org.uk. Perhaps you will occupy our new blog spot – Responding to Margaret!

 

THE MANNING CASE by Margaret Pepper

 

The case of Chelsea (previously Bradley) Manning has been in the news recently, and I thought that I should comment. As usual if you disagree – write in to the Forum – it would be great to have the other side. But if no one writes it – it won’t go up!

There are several aspects of this deeply concerning case.  I notice people don’t seem to be able to analyse it dispassionately.  I have read several comments posted on websites about this case, most of which are highly emotional, which is not at all helpful.  This attitude is typical of those who take every trans issue as a personal issue, it may be to them, but not to me.  This is not the way that I approach this. As a Trans woman, am I supposed to defend every Trans person who breaks the law?  NO.   If I am going to defend anyone, it is because they are innocent, no other reason.  I believe that this case has to be seen from a longer perspective.  Lets separate the issues.  Firstly, we have a young man in the armed forces of the United   States deliberately leaking potential secrets to an enemy in time of war.  Secondly we have a young man with psychological/ gender issues.  Thirdly, and by no means unimportant, the effect that this case has had on the entire LGBT community worldwide.

Right, first the argument about the leaking of (potential) secrets in time of war.  Make no mistake, we are at war. We are in what I would describe as the 4th state of war.  We had World War 1, World War 2, The Cold War, and now we are fighting a global war. It is a war between extreme Muslims and the rest of the world and fought without mercy.  This is not a war against a state, which would be far easier, but against splintered groups of fanatics.  But this is not a war on paper, we are in a real shooting war here and now. This is a war being fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, Nigeria, etc.   It is also being fought in London, Paris, New York, and indeed Moscow, and China. This is a war, like many wars between ideas, hearts and minds. It is unclear whether or not we are winning. In this scenario Manning was a intelligence office in the US military in Iraq, and leaked 700,000 documents. The point here is that Manning was an intelligence officer, that constitutes being in a special position. Not a soldier likely to be concerned in house to house searches, but someone at the back analysing the overall situation.   Manning could not possibly have read all those 700,000 documents, so this was a highly irresponsible action whatever the reason.  Had this been 1917, Manning would have been shot as a spy. Leaking secrets is treason,  whatever the reason, cannot be condoned in time of war. Manning compromised agents in the field as well as betraying his comrades in arms by giving potential foes information on battle and contingency plans.  Totally inexcusable.  Those documents and the information thy contained will probably be read in Moscow, Peking, and possibly the Taliban in Pakistan and any other potential enemy. Manning could not possibly have known the effect leaking confidential information might result in at a later date. It wasn’t Manning’s position to determine where his countries secrets should be made public knowledge. If he had leaked one document that was bad enough, but he transmitted 700,000 to an organisation which might be a possible “front” for a foreign power.   If he had qualms about military action, Manning should have gone to his commanding officer.  Manning was lucky to get 35 years.

Secondly, we come to gender issues.  Why wasn’t he assessed by a psychologist before being sent to Iraq.  Iraq was and still is a war zone.  It is a place of blood and killing.  Killing is what an army is designed for. We (all countries) don’t have an army to build factories, we have an army to fight a war. Young men join up voluntarily, perhaps they cannot cope with civilian life, but whatever the reason they all know that their main job is to fight a war if necessary. From what I have seen from young recruits they are usually fairly macho whatever else, so Manning should have stood out a mile. Perhaps in the future all recruits will be assessed as to how they perform under extreme stress. We have been in Iraq since 2003, so all concerned knew that Iraq is an extremely dangerous place to serve.

Now we come to the third aspect of this case, and by no means insignificant to the LGBT community here in the UK, but also in the US, and the outside world generally. In my opinion every member of the LGBT community and especially the Trans community has a duty to act responsibly with regard to how we are perceived by the larger outside world.  We are all ambassadors in one way or another.  I was slightly taken aback when I logged on and the headline I saw on the BBC website was “Manning – I want to be a woman”  Every time a trans person does anything, it seems to get on the news.  This time for all  the wrong reasons.  If one person acts badly, then all are in some way tarnished by the same brush.  I know it’s annoying, but that’s how minority groups are perceived.  Because of Manning, every member of LGBT in the armed forces here and elsewhere will be glanced at, and wondered at, will their loyalty be suspected ?   Will they break under extreme pressure?   And I have no doubt at all that there are several thousand LGBT members serving in this and other countries armed forces, and wondering how the repercussions of this case might affect them.  You might think that this is unfair, but life is unfair.  Some of you may recall the case of Roger Casement in the first world war. His homosexuality as exposed in his diaries was used by the authorities to convict him of treason and he was hung.  You could say we live in different times, but war then and now is basically the same. Just fought under greater spotlight.  Now because of the modern media every death is reported in depth.  That’s television and the internet age for you.

Where does this leave us?

Manning broke under extreme pressure. Understandable in an intense war zone.  Transmitting a document via the internet to an organisation dedicated to exposing our secrets to all and sundry. Manning must have known as an intelligence officer that any information could have been redirected to security organisations in Russia or China or Pakistan or anyone else by the click of a button.  Collating and transmitting 700,000 documents must have taken some time. In any court of law this shows PREMEDIATION, therefore not a sudden decision.  That’s why Manning was found guilty.  Gender issues cannot be used as an excuse.

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