Bradley Manning (aka Chelsea Manning) is now less than 24 hours away from his early release from prison. Manning was to have served 35 years behind bars, but shortly before leaving office, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence.Manning has been in US custody since 2010.
Bradley Manning’s story is both a tragic and heroic one.
Born in the United States in 1987, Manning moved with his mother to Wales where he faced bullying at school. In 2007, he enlisted in the US army after working some menial jobs back in America.
It was his time in the army that forever changed his life.
The horrors of war that Manning witnessed turned him from a confused, traumatised individual into the world’s most famous, important and ill-treated whistle blower.
In 2010, Manning started passing information about American war crimes in Iraq to the then fairly new publisher Wikileaks.
Wikileaks published the material which changed many people’s minds about just what horrors the US was capable of. Many will remember stories from Vietnam about the misconduct and outright criminal acts committed by US troops. However, by 2010, this was a memory of some and a forgotten memory for many others.
Using 21st century technology, Manning’s leaks brought home just how bestial American troops were behaving in a war that most Americans had all ready lost faith in by 2010.
“These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realise that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives—with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them—then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are”.
In 2013, Manning was found guilty of espionage and multiple military infractions. However, he was acquitted of the most serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy’.
Manning’s release had been called for by multiple human rights organisations as well as by Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.
Manning who wants to live life as a woman, is clearly a deeply troubled individual. The road ahead is anything but clear, but in providing the world with the information he did, Manning has done the world a great service, one for which he paid a totally unfair price.