Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Freeing Chelsea Manning

Give credit where due and kudos to Barack Obama for doing the right thing by commuting whistle-blower Chelsea Manning's cruel and unusual prison sentence -- even if he did the right thing more out of political calculus than out of any sense of human empathy. 

Maybe some savvy reader can tell me why Chelsea Manning must be imprisoned for four more months: is it really the molasses-like military bureaucracy, or is it because Obama still wants to "send a message" that, just because a president softened up just this once doesn't mean that individuals exposing war crimes and Deep State corruption will be tolerated in the future.

Going over military heads and cutting red tape and freeing her sooner might be a tacit admission that Manning's brutal, excessive punishment -- including being stripped naked and placed in solitary confinement for over a year -- has been tantamount to torture.

 Obama is not about to admit any such thing. So it's four more months behind bars for Chelsea Manning, who had the courage and audacity to release information proving that the military lied about war crimes and deliberately conspired to underestimate the number of civilian casualties in the Iraq War. The only things she "endangered" were the reputations and careers of various culprits both in and out of uniform. Tellingly, the helicopter pilots who gratuitously shot and killed a group of Iraqi civilians and two Reuters reporters for no other reason than sadism were never brought to account. They got off on the usual "fog of war" defense.

It's also tempting to suspect that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's offer to turn himself in to US authorities in the event of Manning's commutation was an offer that Obama simply couldn't refuse. If I were Assange, though, I'd wait until Manning is safely out of sight of the prison gates before leaving the always-tenuous safety of his own de facto prison of the Equador embassy in London.

Obama is deservedly famous for being an introspective, calculating kind of guy. So he probably carefully weighed all the pros and the cons of showing a little mercy to Manning. Another factor in his decision likely was not wanting to have the eventual successful suicide of an imprisoned LGBT community member on his hands. And he knew how bad the "optics"  would have looked had he let Chelsea Manning rot in prison while pardoning James Cartright, the retired general convicted, but never jailed, for lying to the FBI about leaking classified information to the press. Obama probably weighed the feeble dissenting cackles  of war hawks against the raucous, righteous outcry of progressives -- whose votes the Democratic Party desperately needs if it hopes to regain even a small portion of the thousand elected seats that it's lost during the Age of Obama.

And above all, there's his own precious legacy for Obama to worry about. Something good has to counterbalance the fact that he is the only president in history who has been at war every single day of his tenure. As he flits off to the golf course and the hundreds of millions of dollars in book deals and speaking fees, he doesn't want to be simply remembered for never closing Gitmo and for dropping 26,171 bombs on Planet Earth in just the past year alone.

The president's admittedly good deed of commuting Manning's draconian 35-year sentence is still a comparatively feeble gesture, given that it was his administration that ensured in the first place that she would get sentenced to 10 times the incarceration of any other person ever convicted of leaking classified information. It doesn't take away from the fact that the Obama administration prosecuted more whistle-blowers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined.

But thanks, President Obama. The rarer the humanitarian gesture, the more precious it is.


Pearl said...

Karen: The explanation for the extra 4 months is to make it an official 7 years of incarceration for Chelsea Manning. Nothing like dotting the T's for a criminal offence.
I wouldn't be surprised if Obama's daughters might have had some say in his decision. Young people are very much involved in gender issues these days which have added to Chelsea's stressful incarceration in a male jail atmosphere.
Whatever, I am happy to have this poor victim released and hopefully lead a better life in the future.
In my many comments I have made in the press and on petitions, I have stated why such revenge on Manning has occurred. She revealed the true nature of the Intelligence agencies activities via torture, abuse and murder. Which, of course, continues and with clear warnings to other potential whistleblowers in the wings.
Thanks for your great column.

Jay–Ottawa said...

President Obama did not pardon Chelsea Manning; he reduced her sentence from 35 years to 7 years.

Since she was initially arrested in May 2010, her jailers are now obligated to keep her confined until the full seven years are served. Sherlock's "pound of flesh" dynamic will prevail this time around.

The military prison system can and should be blamed for a lot in her case, but the petty and block-headed resort to precise round numbers in this mislabeled "pardon" (7 even years instead of 6 plus whatever number of days to let her out now) must be blamed on the White House.

A pardon or commutation by one president cannot be undone by a subsequent president, so this is not a set-up for Trump to reverse after January 20.

The presidential pardon system is supposed to cut through red tape and pettifogging legalisms to obtain a more humane purpose. This slow motion release of Manning is not really a grand gesture done with class in the spirit of righting a wrong and comforting the afflicted, but merely a grudging one, so typical of the mincing Obama's style.

Jamie said...

Mahalo nui loa President Obama!

annenigma said...

I was just reading on Wikipedia that Manning had a possibility of parole in her 8th year which would have begun on May 17, so Obama didn't necessarily do anything the parole board wouldn't have done shortly thereafter. But he wouldn't get the credit.

Making Chelsea serve 4 more months is a final stab in the back, hopefully not fatal, because of the likely hostility from all the other prisoners who haven't received Presidential dispensation. That's Obama's final punishment for her and hopefully she survives it.

So Obama shouldn't get much credit for his anal-retentive 4-month delay of commutation to make it a full 7 years. Chelsea, 23 years old at the time, should never have been overzealously prosecuted, and Obama could have done this last year or the year before. Surely 5 years would have been enough suffering considering the gentle slap for 60 year old Gen'l Betrayus who exchanged secrets for pussy. He was said to have 'suffered enough' just by virtue of being caught because he was an older, married, honored and medaled manly-man, unlike those young, slightly-built, geeky single people they go after with a heavy, unforgiving hand to make an example of.

In another egregious example of prosecutorial overkill under the Obama regime, recall 25 year old Aaron Swartz who also faced 35 years for alleged computer crimes when he tried to liberate academic journals from the paywall of JSTOR. That young man ended up committing suicide as a direct result of Obama's U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz psychologically battering him with threats of maximum charges and punishment.

The vicious prosecution of the young for sport by the Obama regime is second only to the criminal military killing of civilians for sport which Chelsea heroically exposed. I wouldn't want to leave Omerta Obama himself with his secret, unconstitutional Kill List.

Does anyone doubt that if Chelsea was still named Bradley, she'd be serving the entire 35 years? Ed Snowden should have become 'Edie'. Obama is nothing if not politically correct and opportunistic, so I suspect his goal is to lock in future donations and the loyalty of the LGBTQ community for his presidential library and political action slush fund.

Pearl said...

From NYTimes
Op-Ed Contributor
Snowden Does Not Deserve the Threat He Faces
Obama should pardon him before a much less thoughtful president, who has spoken of his execution, takes over the machinery of surveillance.

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Mark Thomason said...

I don't know details, but I've read that she is getting medical treatment for gender reassignment between now and her release. It may work out well for her, medically. I am not certain of details though, and would like to hear from anyone who knows more.