If you just looked at my Twitter feed (at right) you might think that my book is about the eponymous private that’s in the title — that all that came before, from stories of 1781 mutinies to Phil Ochs tributes, was all marshaled in support of one 24-year-old charged with treason by the national security state.
Not so. But it’s been clear, for a very long time, that the case of “the Wikileaks guy” did contain many of the elements that make this topic so compelling: the ethical challenge thrown up by dissent, the mixed motivations, the charged gender subtexts and faux-masculine performances assumed by people in authority.
This is not the blog in which I try to unpack any of that.
But this was the week in which Private Manning gave personal testimony under oath for the very first time: I had no choice but to pay as close attention as I could, even though I couldn’t go to Fort Meade and watch the proceedings.
Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, was presenting a detailed case for reducing or dropping charges against Manning due to the over-long term of pre-trial confinement and the conditions of hir confinement at Quantico, with the governmen repeatedly asserting that they’d done so for justified reasons. And for the first time, with full knowledge of Manning and counsel, the gender issue that has tormented me from the beginning was brought into the open — thus the title of this post. (Tormented for reasons of confidentiality and respect, not for any reasons of transphobia.)
The only real news this morning is that Manning’s court-martial has been delayed until March (from Feb), which means that the trial might not be decided before three full years have passed since his arrest. (Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, is speaking about it publicly this evening, broadcast on C-SPAN: I can’t wait.)
In case you don’t follow my parallel site on Facebook, here are some links to get you up to speed:
- The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson, as brilliant as they come. Her title: ““I’m Stuck Inside This Cage”: Bradley Manning Testifies.” She starts with Manning’s testimony about his Kuwait detention and makes us feel it from there.
- Alexa O’Brien at Second Sight, who tweets at @carwinb, has been there every day with sharp reporting, and shared important trial documentation as well.
- Nathan Fuller, blogging for the Bradley Manning Support Network, also kept up to date on the turns and twists of the dance between the government and Coombs and Manning.
- The absolute best journalism, I think, comes from the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington. A sample: “Bradley Manning: How keeping himself sane was taken as proof of madness.”
- At TIME Magazine, Denver Nicks reflects on what the trial means for all Americans, irregardless of Manning’s own actions: “The more conversations we have about Bradley Manning in which neither of these largely meaningless buzzwords [hero, traitor] is said, the better off we’ll be as a country.”
- Iconic dissenter Ray McGovern, who I met last year at Manning’s first hearing, breaks down what’s happening at Consortium News.
- Glenn Greenwald weighs in, taking few prisoners.
- You can Google News the rest, but props to CBS News for dispassionately reporting the decision by Judge Denise Lind to allow Manning to submit a plea in which Manning agreed to plead guilty to leaking classified info but not to aiding the enemy (among other counts).
By all accounts from the reports above, in person Manning comes off as bright, funny, and clear about what he’s done. And his jailers come off as, at the very least a little dim — naive in that sense that actually means cruel.
Again, I’m not there, and that’s more than I should likely say; these proceedings alone will continue next week. To keep updated, bookmark the links above or follow any of us on Twitter.
When three Nobel laureates issued a statement in support of Manning last month, they said something that could be my book’s epigraph: “Questioning authority, as a soldier, is not easy. But it can, at times, be honorable.” And this particular drama is a crazy-quilt mirror on the current state of American democracy.
(Image above: courtroom sketch for the Associated Press: William Hennessy.)