The Manning Mess

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Bradley Manning who joined the United States Army in 2007. One of the reasons he joined the Army was that he was suffering with gender dysphoria and had hoped that being in the Army would help with that struggle. He began basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, and would later disclose that he was not mentally or physically up to the task of being a soldier.

Eventually Bradley, whom you might now know better as Chelsea, became an Intelligence Analyst with a Top Secret clearance, and started self-destructing by describing the inside of a Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF) on YouTube. A reprimand was given, and PVC Manning, who eventually became Specialist Manning, and then was busted back down to being a Private, went on to Baghdad in 2009. This proved to be a disaster, both for Manning and America, and the mess is by no means cleaned up.

There were mental health concerns that showed up often, outbursts of anger and destruction of property, but the decision was made to keep Manning in because there were so few intel analysts. Eventually Manning leaked what became known as The Iraq and Afghan War Logs to Wikileaks, was found out and arrested. Suicide was continually considered in part for reasons that began long before Baghdad, and sometimes was attempted.

Manning was eventually convicted of espionage and the prosecution chose not to seek the death penalty. While in prison, Manning was given hormone treatments beginning in 2014, and also had gender reassignment surgery. Of that experience, Manning says, “After almost a decade of fighting, through prison, the courts, a hunger strike, and through the insurance company—I finally got surgery this week.”

The mess continued to mount. In 2017, Harvard University named Manning a visiting fellow who was hired to be someone who would be, according to Wikipedia, “Broadening the range and depth of opportunity for students to hear from and engage with experts, leaders, and policy-shapers (which) is a cornerstone of the Institute of Politics. We welcome the breadth of thought-provoking viewpoints on race, gender, politics and the media.” Harvard said Manning would visit for a limited number of events meant to spark campus discussion, and in particular would engage students in discourse on “issues of LGBTQ identity in the military.” According to online newspaper PinkNews, this marked “the only LGBT-related fellowship in Harvard history.”

Due to the espionage conviction, the nation of Canada will not allow Manning into their country, but the nation of America allowed Manning to run for the U.S. Senate representing the State of Maryland. Manning actually got almost 6% of the vote. In addition, since getting out of prison, Manning has worked as a security analyst for a bit-coin type of company, and has also taken up being a DJ again, something that had been done before.

What do we say to all of this? Well, clearly times have changed. By contrast, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of passing secrets to Russia and were executed in 1953. Manning became a fellow at Harvard and from time to time is a DJ. Oh, and you may be interested to know that until certain aspects of the court-martial trial are finally decided, Manning has been reassigned to “active duty” in the U.S. Army at an undisclosed location due to privacy and security concerns. In a word, it’s a mess.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner