WIRED has just released the full transcripts of the conversations between Manning and that snake Adrian Lamo – meaning that everyone that cares about Manning, thinks him hero or traitor, has no way of not knowing about the gender issues. They’re mesmerizing reading, though I agree with Gawker that Lamo turns out to be even more unethical than we knew before (and as much of a scumbag as Glenn Greenwald has said all along.)
And here I just got my letter from David Coombs, basically refusing to discuss it – and I was trying to figure out if that was a coded request to honor what was left of his client’s privacy. Now, I feel that writing about this respectfully is the only way to show that respect. What do you think?
More later when I’ve finished reading the transcripts: comments sorely requested. Was it Hemingway who said, “The writer’s job is to find out the truth and then write it. But that can be very difficult.”?
Image: New York Magazine
About Bradley Manning, I mean. Among what he reveals: most of those folks holding “I am Bradley Manning” masks don’t know what the hell they’re saying.
Ever since the story began to break, I’ve felt more and more drawn to it as a writer and, yes, as a queer person (any way you want to hear that). As I told someone this morning on Facebook, Manning in so many ways encompasses so many of my themes, from PTSD to gender to whistleblowing, that I sometimes think I made him up.
This has especially been the case with gender stuff — in which dimension I’ve walked very gingerly. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my friends who’ve undergone gender transitions, it’s that only the person in question is entitled to talk about it. Period. Manning was out as gay, but relatively few pursued the clues pointed out by Gawker last year, such as Manning’s chat log saying that “my CPU doesn’t match the motherboard” or that he feared media exposure “as a man.” Without Manning saying anything of the kind in public spaces, we all steered away from it, even though military intelligence didn’t seem to be (why else have the boy sleep naked in front of other soldiers?).
I didn’t even say anything after I watched the clip from PBS Frontline above, and told my wife that “the way Manning stands in that party, that’s a girl.” Only to my wife: it wasn’t mine to say. Still isn’t in some ways.
But now there’s this breathtaking piece in New York magazine, Bradley Manning’s Army of One. Steve Fishman, the journalist, seems to be in about the same place I am with Manning, and traces what I call in my book the “this is for fighting, this is for fun” gender wild card – but in the process, he violates all my rules on respect for gender transitions. In the process, he limns what I can only suggest – that even as in years past to even BE female OR gay in the military was inherently subversive, Manning’s outsider-self may have catalyzed a more profound kind of dissent.
I know this blog has been silent for so many m0nths: more than six! How can it be? But I didn’t feel like I could keep writing here until I had the book actually delivered to the publisher.
That has now happened, and I’ll say more about it later. But right now, I wanted to talk about the clip below, in which Lt. Dan Choi is unapologetic in his support for whistleblower Bradley Manning. (At right, the March rally in which Daniel Ellsberg and Ann Wright were both arrested, protesting Manning’s treatment at Quantico.)
“A soldier who lived up to the mandate of the soldier.” That’s elegant. I now wish I’d managed to interview him directly, before including him as one of the major figures of my final chapter. Manning, of course, is a far more major figure, embodying at least three of Ain’t Marching’s core themes. And the first change suggested by my editor, when she read the book, was in its title: it’s now I Ain’t Marching Anymore: Soldiers Who Dissent, From George Washington to Bradley Manning. I couldn’t say it better than Choi above, though I certainly did at greater length.
Like Choi and almost everyone else expressing an opinion about his case, I’ve not had the opportunity to speak to Spc. Manning, or even to his attorney or best friend. I’m trying not to project onto him my own ideas about dissent, or whistleblowers as mavericks, or the inherent challenge thrown at militarism by its gender issues. I’m hoping to be able to cover his court martial this fall, and perhaps to offer some somewhat more direct observations.
But right now, it’s both true and poetic that the whole Wikileaks scandal has punctured anyone’s ability to make conventional assumptions about our foreign policy. And if that’s not dissent, I’m not sure what is.4
What do you think?