The Bradley Manning case is complicated. His gender dysphoria is almost a sideshow used to help paint him as “other” and therefore worthy of torture and excessive punishment. I was going to write about this in more depth at a TG forum where I post but it’s not really appropriate for there so I’ll discuss what I know here.
First, what actually happened? A crime was committed by others (which involved murder and still has not even been prosecuted let alone punished). Bradley Manning attempted to report said crime to his chain of command. His chain of command actively tried to cover up that crime. And finally, UCMJ Article 78 states:
“Any person subject to this chapter who, knowing that an offense punishable by this chapter has been committed, receives, comforts, or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial, or punishment shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.”
So Manning tried to report it as required by the military code of justice, saw further crimes in the coverup, and therefore went public with the information since he felt he had no other recourse. None of these facts are disputed by the Marine Corps. Other military vets who have watched the video have the same conclusion – the first group of people killed? That’s war. The attack on the van of civilians who were trying to move a wounded person to treatment? That’s a war crime by definition under Article 12 of the Geneva Convention:
“…Members of the armed forces and other persons (…) who are wounded or sick, shall be respected and protected in all circumstances. They shall be treated humanely and cared for by the Party to the conflict…Any attempts upon their lives, or violence to their persons, shall be strictly prohibited; in particular, they shall not be murdered or exterminated…”.
I highlighted the relevant part.
None of this is disputed by the Marine Corps or the prosecution. Now, having established that Manning tried to report a war crime and was rebuffed for it and that he was dragged into the coverup, he legally had one of two choices – report it by other means (since the chain of command had demonstrated it was corrupt) or become an accessory after the fact and subject to punishment if this incident came to light via other means.
After all of this is when Manning then began also releasing other information via Wikileaks about other potential war crimes.
John Stuart Mill once said: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Bradley Manning tried to do something and for that he will go to jail for up to 130 years. While he may deserve some punishment for what he did, I cannot see how anyone can claim that he deserves 130 years in prison while the murderers and officers who covered up these murders get promotions and continue with their careers and that Manning was effectively tortured, again in violation of the UCMJ as well as the international Convention on Torture while no action is taken against those who tortured him.
Finally, he has already been held in excessively punitive circumstances for 3 years already. In my opinion, his sentence needs to be commuted to time already served.
When I review these facts, I can only conclude that Bradley Manning’s gender dysphoria is raised by the prosecution as a means to make the public less sympathetic to him and therefore deserving of the actual torture he received. And that says a lot about how our society still views trans folk despite progress made thus far.