Imagine you´re Bradley Manning, the whistle-blowing soldier with worldwide fame, a hero to many and an enemy of the state to those in the highest echelons of power. You´ve spent over three years awaiting trial in an army prison, with conditions described as ´cruel, inhumane and degrading´. You have been denied visits, shackled and made to strip naked, held in solitary confinement for 11 months, and subject to treatment which most civilized countries classify as torture. Finally, your trial begins. It is conducted in secret and widely criticized for not being fair. After almost three months of court proceedings, a guilty verdict is given. You face 35 years in prison, and even your lawyer is inconsolable.
The world is waiting for your reaction. What message would you like to give the people? If the official story is to be believed, Manning decided that rather than wax lyrical about the Orwellian nightmare we are living through, the hellish conditions of army prison, the urgent need to balance freedom with security, it´s far more important to announce to the world´s media: “Call me Chelsea”. Suddenly, Manning´s shocking leaks are forgotten. The injustice of such a harsh sentence is forgotten. Amid the revelations, the urgent campaign for a pardon from Obama is half-forgotten too. Manning´s wikipedia page is hastily re-written to include paragraphs on her lifelong struggle as a woman in a man´s body, her depression, her messed up childhood, anything that discredits her mental health and diverts attention away from the police state´s terrifying treatment of its critics.
And, wait a minute- hasn´t this happened before?
In 1997, British MI5 (secret service) spy and former Sunday Times journalist David Shayler blew the whistle on a secret assassination plot of colonel Gaddafi, disclosing how Al Quaeda and other Islamic (only later re-branded as terrorist) organizations were on the pay roll of the British government. The undercover plot was carried out, but the bomb missed Gaddafi´s motorcade and instead killed several innocent civilians. Shayler also leaked documents showing how journalists are continually fed disinformation, how secret services knew of a 1994 bomb attack on the Israeli embassy in London before it happened, and how the British government was paranoid about socialists and had investigated some of its own politicians. Shayler´s shocking revelations forced him to go on the run. He was later arrested in France in 1998, serving four months in prison there and a further eight weeks banged up in Britain for breaking the Official Secrets Act, before being released in December 2002.
Suddenly, in 2009, Shayler announced he was a transvestite, re-naming himself Dolores Kane and even claiming to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ. He posed for bizarre pictures with hippy friends at his countryside squat for right-wing British newspaper The Daily Mail, proclaiming amongst other things that the world will end in 2012, cannabis could save us all, and paedophiles should be forgiven their sins. Immediately, Shayler´s leaks were forgotten and anyone who dared drop his name into a conversation thereafter was ridiculed. After all, who cares about false flags and shady assassination attempts when the dude is wearing a skirt?
Is it coincidence that the same scenario is being played out now regarding Bradley Manning´s gender re-assignment? Were Shayler and Manning were co-erced or forced into discrediting themselves, either in exchange for a more lenient sentence or to protect themselves and family members from shady threats by the powers that be? In the absence of corporate media journalists asking any questions, it´s probable we will never know the whole truth. But no matter what twists and turns happen next in this ongoing saga, the crucial point is that Manning´s gender cannot and must not overshadow his/her fight for justice. We must continue to campaign for Manning and not allow ourselves to be distracted by trivialities and gossip. Whether Chelsea or Bradley, Pte. Manning needs your continued support: please help to keep this ball rolling here.
This was first published in True Activist here