Chelsea Manning will finally be set free, but she should never have been locked up in the first place [OPINION]

Chelsea Manning
Tom Coburg

Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s aunt once said of her that she needed a miracle to get her out of prison. Now, that ‘miracle’ has happened. US President Barack Obama has commuted Manning’s 35-year military prison sentence. The US military whistleblower will leave prison on 17 May after seven years’ incarceration. But Manning should never have been jailed in the first place.


The news of Manning’s impending release soon went viral. Twitter comments came from: film-maker Michael Moore, whistleblower Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks, journalist Jeremy Scahill, and many more.

One of the most moving responses was from Icelandic MP and WikiLeaks supporter Birgitta Jónsdóttir:

WikiLeaks researcher and activist Sarah Harrison commented:

Obama may well have just saved Chelsea Manning’s life… Chelsea deserves her freedom, and the world’s respect, for her courageous, inspiring actions in 2010. Chelsea’s releases through WikiLeaks helped bring an end to the US war on Iraq, galvanised Arab Spring protesters and inspired subsequent truthtellers.

Worldwide campaign

After sentencing in August 2013, Manning said to her lawyer, who was crying: “I’m going to be okay. I’m going to get through this.” Manning then made a very moving statement to the court.

The decision to commute the sentence followed years of campaigning for a pardon. And more recently, a petition with over 100,000 signatures. Manning also applied for clemency [pdf] in November 2016.

And it was only a few days ago that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange agreed to extradition to the US if Obama granted clemency to Manning.

Multi-award winner

Manning won the The Guardian’s Person of the Year 2012, a 2012 Human Rights Award, and the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Prize.

Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire – spoke out in support of her. And Corrigan-Maguire also nominated Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

A video in support of Manning, meanwhile, featured ‘celebrities’ and journalists including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Roger Waters, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Moby, Molly Crabapple, Russell Brand, Chris Hedges, and Michael Ratner.

Other prominent people who voiced support for Manning included Prof Noam Chomsky, author and social commentator Ralph Nader, journalists Glenn Greenwald, John Pilger and Kevin Gosztola, and Michael Moore.

War crimes

Media outlets around the world benefited from Manning’s leaks. The Guardian, The New York Times, Der Spiegel, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and the BBC all published material sourced by Manning. The Guardian published the ten main war crimes Manning revealed.

Manning had sourced a video of a US Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 opening fire on a group of men. The helicopter crew fired on civilians, including a Reuters photographer and his driver. The crew also fired on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men. The driver of the van was taking his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed, and his two children badly injured.

Manning will be free not just because of Obama. But also because of the thousands of supporters around the world who did everything they could to see her released. It is an indictment of the US justice system that saw Manning charged and jailed in the first place.

Justice has finally been done.

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Featured image via Courage Foundation

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