[Pnews] Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 24 10:50:12 EDT 2019


  Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like

by Kollibri terre Sonnenblume 
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/gx6td6a111/> - May 24, 2019

Throughout history, human civilization has been cursed by tyranny. Time 
and again, power is concentrated in institutions that rule by coercion 
and force. Humans have suffered through totalitarianism, dictatorships, 
and fascism repeatedly. Untold suffering and death have occurred.

But such times have always been marked by resistance. Courageous 
individuals and movements have fought back with a variety of tactics 
from open revolt to furtive sabotage. The rate of success in 
overthrowing particular tyrannical institutions has been mixed (though 
none of them ever last forever anyway of course) but that is not the 
only way to weigh the value of freedom fighters. Is it not worthy, in 
and of itself, to strive on behalf of life?

Here in the USA, we are living through a time of increasing tyranny. 
Certainly, the entire experiment has been tyrannical from the start, 
given the genocide and slavery that founded the nation, and the brutal 
militarism that wrought its imperium; however, the last few decades have 
seen a ramping up of assaults against our individual rights and 
collective liberties that seriously contradict the idea of a “free 
country.” Under the auspices of fighting “terror,” the amendments in the 
Bill of Rights have been getting crossed out like items on a grocery 
list. Since the ascendancy of Trump to the White House, these trends 
have accelerated. What was once characterized as “creeping” fascism is 
now “leaping” and it’s a bipartisan affair. The attacks on leftist 
journalism since the 2016 election, for example, have been coordinated 
more by Democrats and their allies than by Republicans. (See my 
“Cowardly New World: Alternative Media Under Attack by Algorithms.” 

This is definitely a moment when we need resistance. And I mean 
/real/ resistance, not the /faux/ hashtag Resistance(TM) of Democratic 
partisans who, had Hillary been the winner, would “be at brunch now.” 

What does “real” resistance look like?

Chelsea Manning just showed us.

On Thursday, May 16th, the famous whistleblower was put in federal 
prison. Her offense? Refusing to testify before a federal grand jury.

As reported by the Real News Network 
she declared to the judge who inflicted the punishment on her: “The 
government cannot build a prison bad enough, cannot create a system 
worse than the idea that I would ever change my principles. I’d rather 
starve to death than to change my opinions in this regard. I mean that 
quite literally.” When the judge countered with, “There’s nothing 
dishonorable in discharging your responsibility as a US citizen,” 
Manning retorted: “I believe this grand jury seeks to undermine the 
integrity of public discourse with the aim of punishing those who expose 
any serious, ongoing, and systemic abuses of power by this government.”

That’s called “speaking truth to power,” and in this instance it was not 
merely symbolic. The consequences of this choice could keep Chelsea 
behind bars for 18 months.

What’s more, the judge upped the ante monetarily. After 30 days, Chelsea 
will be fined $500 per day while imprisoned, and after 60, $1000 per 
day. If she is held for the maximum period, the total would be around 
half a million dollars. This is not typical. According to a statement 
from her lawyers 
“While coercive financial penalties are commonly assessed against 
corporate witnesses, which cannot be jailed for contempt, it is less 
usual to see them used against a human witness.”

Chelsea had previously been jailed for two months for refusing to 
testify to another federal grand jury, and had been free for just one 
week on May 16th. She had been released only because the previous grand 
jury’s term had ended. They are currently limited to a maximum length of 
18 months, but this new grand jury is virtually identical and is 
essentially a continuation of the first.

So, what are grand juries and why is Chelsea opposed to cooperating?

Though the government presents grand juries as instruments of justice, 
their methods fall outside normal legal processes and deny participants 
rights they would otherwise have. Here is a great summary from 
grandjuryresistance.org <http://grandjuryresistance.org/grandjuries.html>:

    “Unlike the ‘/petit/‘ jury, which is used to determine guilt in a
    trial, a grand jury consists of 16 to 23 jurors who are not screened
    for bias. The purpose of the grand jury is not to determine guilt or
    innocence, but to decide whether there is probable cause to
    prosecute someone for a felony crime. The grand jury operates in
    secrecy and the normal rules of evidence do not apply. The
    prosecutor runs the proceedings and no judge is present. Defense
    lawyers are not allowed to be present in the grand jury room and
    cannot present evidence, but may be available outside the room to
    consult with witnesses. The prosecutor and the grand jury members
    may not reveal what occurred in the grand jury room and witnesses
    cannot obtain a transcript of their testimony.”

Wow, that’s an intimidating setting, even if you’re not guilty of 
anything. At the risk of being cliché, it seems appropriate to call it, 

On May 6, while still imprisoned during the first grand jury, Chelsea 
released a statement about her insistence on non-cooperation that read 
in part 

    “After two months of confinement, and using every legal mechanism
    available so far, I can—without any hesitation—state that nothing
    will convince me to testify before this or any other grand jury for
    that matter. This experience so far only proves my long held belief
    that grand juries are simply outdated tools used by the federal
    government to harass and disrupt political opponents and activists
    in fishing expeditions…
    “The way I am being treated proves what a corrupt and abusive tool
    this truly is. With each passing day my disappointment and
    frustration grow, but so too do my commitments to doing the right
    thing and continuing to refuse to submit…
    “I can either go to jail or betray my principles. The latter exists
    as a much worse prison than the government can construct.”

On May 16th, before going before the judge, Chelsea told reporters 
“In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my 
principles. I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team 
continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am 
prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

She also said 
“Jails and prisons exist as a dark institution. And despite that, it 
doesn’t frighten me or disturb me. I’ve already been to jail, I’ve 
already been to prison, so attempting to coerce me with a grand jury 
subpoena is just not going to work… Ultimately, this is an attempt to 
place me back in confinement. I think that the questions are the same 
questions I was asked at the court-martial seven or eight years ago. 
They’re not asking anything new.”

Why are the powers-that-be harassing Chelsea like this?

First, both Chelsea and her lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, see this as 
part of the Trump administration’s desire to reverse as much as possible 
of Obama’s legacy. Obama commuted Chelsea’s original 35 year term to 
seven years, which led to her release in May 2017. Trump is on record, 
in a tweet of course 
<https://www.rt.com/viral/375157-trump-manning-ungrateful-traitor/>, of 
calling Chelsea a “TRAITOR.” As far as Chelsea is concerned 
the Trump administration’s treatment of her is way for them “re-litigate 
the court-martial.”

Up until now, presidents have respected the pardons and commutations 
made by their predecessors, but Trump is different. It’s definitely too 
bad for Chelsea that she got trapped in what amounts to a pissing match.

Secondly, Trump aside, the ruling class resents Chelsea’s exposures of 
the workings of the US military and the government. Here is historian 
Vijay Prashad addressing this topic on journalist Chris Hedges’ show, 
“On Contact” <https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=51kKQcnBjnk>:

    What they are really going after [Julian Assange] for is the leaks
    that came through Chelsea Manning. Because what Chelsea Manning—who
    is in fact an international hero and should not right now be in
    prison—what Chelsea Manning showed us was, of course, as I said, the
    ‘Collateral Murder’ video—but much more than that, she deeply
    embarrassed the United States government for the way its diplomatic
    corps was operating during, for instance, during the Arab Spring.
    …It also showed you, and this is very important—for a keen reader of
    the State Department cables it showed you how the ambassadors were
    no longer actually running policy. So you saw the ambassadors in
    Yemen, the ambassadors in Egypt, write letters back to Washington,
    DC, and saying that, you know, Defense Department officials are
    coming here, national security advisors, and they are sidelining us…
    For an American citizen, that should be very chilling, that
    diplomacy—we see from these cables—is no longer being run in a
    political way by the State Department, but diplomacy is being run by
    the Defense Department, and even more dangerously, by the anonymous
    national security state. And I think that’s something that the US
    government doesn’t want out there in the public. …To have the
    evidence for that is very significant.

I suspect that Obama’s commuting of Chelsea’s sentence was considered 
inappropriate by many in corporate/military oligarchy. Honestly, I was 
shocked by Obama’s choice at the time, and felt like it was arguably the 
best thing he did while in office (though the list of his positive 
accomplishments to choose from was certainly short). These grand jury 
summons provide an opportunity to the oligarchs to renew punitive 
measures against Chelsea, and that sucks.

Third, this is about attacking the press.

Because grand juries are secretive, we don’t know the whole story, but 
it has been publicly revealed that these relate to Julian Assange, and 
that Chelsea’s testimony is wanted for making a case against him and 
WikiLeaks. (So don’t expect many—if any—Democrats to speak out on 
Chelsea’s behalf, because they all hate WikiLeaks and Assange too.)

As Meltzer-Cohen put it 
“The American government relies on the informed consent of the governed, 
and the free press is the vigorous mechanism to keep us informed. It is 
a point of pride for this administration to be publicly hostile to the 
press. Grand Juries and prosecutions like this one broadcast an 
expanding threat to the press and function to undermine the integrity of 
the system according to the government’s own laws.“

Strict control of the press is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. 
However one feels personally about Assange, it cannot be denied that 
WikiLeaks has done no more than play the traditional role of publisher. 
No less a figure than Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz (hardly a 
radical) has stated that he believes 
<https://thehill.com/opinion/judiciary/438578-alan-dershowitz-is-julian-assange-another-pentagon-papers-case> “there 
is no constitutional difference between WikiLeaks and the New York 
Times.” Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to that 
newspaper of record in 1971, unequivocally stated that 
<https://www.truthdig.com/articles/daniel-ellsberg-why-there-arent-more-whistleblowers_julian_assange/> “the 
truth is that EVERY attack now made on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange was 
made against me and the release of the Pentagon Papers at the time.” 
Ellsberg also warned 
“This is the first indictment of a journalist and editor or publisher, 
Julian Assange. And if it’s successful it will not be the last…” “None 
of them have been put on trial up till now. But in this case, if that’s 
all it takes, then no journalist is safe. The freedom of the press is 
not safe. It’s over. And I think our republic is in its last days, 
because unauthorized disclosures of this kind are the lifeblood of the 

So with this grand jury the stakes are high, not just for Chelsea 
personally, but for press freedom and an open society generally. We 
should all be grateful that she is not cooperating. It is in the 
interest of the public at large that this grand jury fails in its goals.

Writer Kenn Orphan put it well 
<https://kennorphan.com/2019/05/20/the-belligerence-of-empire/> (as 
usual) when he recently wrote that the members of the ruling class “know 
how dangerous Chelsea Manning is to the daily workings of the death cult 
that is American Empire. She stands to expose the sham for what it is. 
And without working class kids to act as cannon fodder to protect the 
wealthy’s booty abroad they would be lost. /They fear Manning’s courage 
because they can neither plumb its depths nor navigate its landscape. It 
is an alien to them/” [my emphasis].

Chelsea’s act of resistance is public and her motivations are clear. She 
is providing an example of a tactic—dedicated non-cooperation—that if 
followed by enough people in enough ways, would lead to dramatic, 
widespread, systemic change. Put in her position, I have no idea if I 
would be so principled. But if I ever do find myself there, and I am 
able to stand strong, I will have Chelsea to credit, in part, for 

/*To donate to Chelsea’s legal defense fund, go here 

/*Kollibri terre Sonnenblume* is a writer living on the West Coast of 
the U.S.A. More of Kollibri’s writing and photos can be found at Macska 
Moksha Press <http://www.macskamoksha.com/>. /

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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