Treason or Triumph?

Chelsea Manning is an American whistleblower convicted in 2013 for violations of the Espionage Act after sharing nearly three-quarters of a million classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents with Wikileaks. These classified documents included. Originally given 35 years in prison, Manning’s sentence was commuted by Obama before he left office.

After spending the past seven years in the military prison in Leavenworth, KS, Chelsea was released yesterday. Since Leavenworth is right outside of Kansas City, we decided to celebrate accountability and transparency by joining in a small welcome home rally held downtown.

…And by small, I mean small. There were probably all of 10 people there, but they had brought a surplus of extra signs for us to hold up, so we picked a few, and went to town.

I went with two friends, and we were by far the youngest people there by at least 40 years. The local press was there, with almost more staff with cameras than there were people holding signs at the rally. My friend Carp was interviewed, telling the camera and the America public that “Chelsea Manning is an American hero….”

I asked him afterward if he realized what a controversial statement he had just made on camera. Many people see Chelsea Manning as a traitor, as a treasonous person for exposing national secrets- even if those secrets happened to be war crimes.

Carp didn’t seem to care.

We went on holding up signs and getting people to honk at us. There are mini speeches and dedications to Chelsea given while we stand with signs on the street corner and get photographed for the city paper.

A short summary of the information released by Chelsea Manning follows:


-A video surfaced showing a US helicopter crew laughing as they killed a dozen people in an air strike in Baghdad in 2007. Among the dead, who did not appear armed, was a photographer and a driver for Rueters news agency.

-Afghan war documents include details of a 2007 incident where US marines escaping an attack fired guns without discrimination and killed 19 unarmed civilians and wounded 50 more.


-Reports from Iraq that the US failed to investigate hundreds of reports by Iraqi police and soliders of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.

- Reports from Iraq that there were more than 100,000 people killed after invasion of the country, and 15,000 deaths previously unreported.


-Cables said that the US was running a surveillance campaign of the UN secretary general, and other UN representatives

-Cables implied apparent distaste for Putin’s Russia, and King Abduallah of Saudi Arabia was reported as urging the US to attack Iran

-759 Guantanamo Bay records of prisoners were exposed, revealing the fact that some of the prisoners had been cleared for release but had remained detained.

We ended the afternoon with slight sunburns, our faces doxxed for national security, and a surge of adrenaline for being one of the few to show up to the event. As we were leaving, a local anarchist group handed us little booklets to use as resources if we ever got thrown in jail.

“Don’t call that number unless you’re actually locked up,” she tells us as she waves goodbye.

It’s a crazy world we live in when the people who are trying to curb violence are the ones that are worried about potentially being locked up in jail.

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midwestern librarian, writer, activist

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