Chelsea Manning has issued her first statement since being sentenced to 30 years in prison for leaking troves of classified documents to Wikileaks and revealing her request to be identified as a woman, explaining she's not the pacifist people make her out to be.
Manning took issue with an acceptance speech given by Ann Wright, a retired US army colonel and prominent peace activist, on her behalf for the 2013 Sean MacBride peace award, an award given by the International Peace Bureau. (Wright also occasionally writes editorials about Manning and serves on the Advisory Board for the Bradley Manning Support Network.) In the statement, given to The Guardian, Manning contends she never knew about the award until she received letters in jail:
In that speech, Wright suggested that Manning was “overwhelmed” that the Sean MacBride award had recognized “her actions as actions for peace.” Yet the former soldier insists that she has never perceived her actions in transmitting more than 700,000 classified US classified documents to WikiLeaks in 2010-11 as an act for peace.
“I don’t consider myself a ‘pacifist,’ ‘anti-war,’ or (especially) a ‘conscientious objector’,” she writes. “Now – I accept that there may be ‘peaceful’ or ‘anti-war’ implications to my actions – but this is purely based on your [Wright’s] subjective interpretation of the primary source documents released in 2010-11.”
"It’s not terribly clear to me that my actions were explicitly done for ‘peace’" Manning continues. a position that shouldn't surprise anyone: she was a private first class at one point, after all. But Manning argues transparency is what really drove her to leak. "I feel that the public cannot decide what actions and policies are or are not justified if they don’t even know the most rudimentary details about them and their effects."
Wright told The Guardian she never meant to misrepresent Manning's beliefs: she tried to form her speech around other statements Manning gave to the press. "My intention was to reflect in an appropriate way Chelsea’s views drawn from her statement to court and her previous comments. I deeply apologise to her," she said. We feel for Wright in a way. Accurately portraying someone's emotions who spends most of her time in solitary confinement was a tall order.