Information, and soon: Chelsea Manning will be free…

At any point between 2004 and 2017, a range between 400,000 to 500,000 United States Army soldiers are on active duty. In 2003, The US invaded Iraq. The largest anti war protests in global history mobilized against the war — without success. Instead, September 11 2001 marked a new golden age of mass surveillance and militarism.

A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic

Within stable countries like the US, counting the dead has proven to be challenging, regardless of whether it was perpetrated by state or civilian civilian actors. Guardian Count is the first project to document on federal scale in US, the number of people killed by law enforcement agents.

In war zones, documenting the dead can prove to be even more vexing. Such critical information can inform policy makers and move the public to question the morality and necessity of the catastrophe that is war.

Such critical information can inform policy makers and move the public to question the morality and necessity of the catastrophe that is war

Years went by, the US continued to remain largely misinformed about the original pretext for entering war and why our military was there. Something to do with freedom and 9/11 most US’ians thought. The internet was still budding and most people still received their news from mainstream television stations like CNN, MSNBC and Fox who all dog whistled war. Why am I writing this? Almost exactly 8 years ago, Wikileaks began publishing over 390,000 documents from Afghanistan War Diaries and Iraqi War Logs from an anonymous whistleblower.

That whistleblower was later caught and arrested 7 years ago in May 2010; her name was Chelsea Manning. But seeds of change were already planted. Several months later on December 17th 2010, an exasperated fruit seller; Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire, sparking the Tunisian Spring, one of many Arab Springs to blossom.

I was a teenager during these times still in high school, specifically a Modern Orthodox Hebrew day school which also meant I was discrete about my atheist beliefs and sexually in the closet. People I considered close, dropped contact with me when I came out of the closet. I knew I needed to get out. Dropping out of high school was one of the best and scariest decisions I made for myself. Every decision is motivated by inspiration, whether a person or an event. I saw a picture on tumblr, a US Marine interpreter named Dan Choi who chained himself to White House fence in protest against “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”.

Dan Choi, gentleman on the left

I had negative perception of the Iraq war, but I didn’t view the military as inherently exploitive or violent. This changed, as I learned more about their actual purpose and mission.

In 2010, along with everyone else I read about soldier who was allegedly responsible for the largest leak in whistleblowing in history. Chelsea Manning, a soldier who was arrested for publishing details of war crimes in the US. My high school teacher argued that Manning should have been shot as a traitor. The US Government wasn’t seeking death penalty but they sought a sentence anywhere from 136 years to life in prison without parole.

I am embarrassed to admit, I did not pay attention to the specifics of her arrest or really understand what exactly she was being charged with. I knew she exposed war crimes and was partially responsible for sparking the Arab Spring and that was good enough reason for me to support her. Except, I didn’t know how to.

I knew she exposed war crimes and was partially responsible for sparking the Arab Spring and that was good enough reason for me to support her.

More precisely, I just did not think at all about Chelsea’s conditions in prison or the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) as whole (which disproportionately affects people of color). She was originally detained in Kuwait, later transferred to a prison in Quantico, Virginia where she was held in solitary confinement and tortured.

I became involved in Occupy Wall Street, which drew direct inspiration from the Arab Spring. In December 2011, the notorious owner of the Wikileaks Truck, Clark Stoeckley, an artist and educator put a call out for people to

make the trek to Forte Meade, in Maryland where Manning was currently held at. December 17th 2011 was her 24th birthday. We would converge there to demand her release and show support.

As I got off the bus, I bumped into my LGBTQ hero, Dan Choi. who spoke out for her freedom.

At the time, Chelsea Manning was known to the world by a different name, her dead name: Bradley Manning.

At the time, Chelsea Manning was known to the world by a different name, her dead name: Bradley Manning.She was publicly identified as gay and regarded fondly by her supporters as a gay hero. Due to the legal and technical complexities of her three year long trial (longest military trial in history) in a transphobic military court system, Chelsea Manning did not publicly come out as transgender woman until August 22nd 2013 after she was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Long story short, the Chelsea Manning Support Network, ACLU, Eff, and thousands of other countless individuals and organizations across the globe have tirelessly campaigned, fundraised and agitated on her behalf for over seven years even when the prospects of freedom seemed dim (and they still do for me).

In just a few hours, Chelsea Manning will be a free woman. She’s been speaking for herself for several years now, but now will truly be able to share with the world her knowledge, writings and her humor from place of her own choosing. Follow her at her twitter account Chelsea Manning, her instagram @xychelsea87 and her new website: Luminairity.

Note from author: I will continue to edit this with corrections and provide greater detail on the support and journey of all the incredible volunteers who made Chelsea Manning’s freedom possible.

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