Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

Chelsea Manning was sentenced on July 31, 2013. As Juan Cole states in his article on Manning’s contributions, she was found guilty of 20 counts, including violation of the Espionage Act.

Manning is now serving a 35-year-sentence for an act that I perceive as only noble and brave: releasing information to the public that they deserved to have. Her sacrifice was enormous.

In his piece, Cole enumerates the various contributions Manning made by releasing to WikiLeaks the information she accessed as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. Just a few examples:

  1. Manning revealed the full extent of the corruption of Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidin Ben Ali, adding fuel to the youth protest movement of late 2010, which translated the relevant US cables into Arabic.
  2. [She] revealed that then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered US diplomats to spy on their United Nations counterparts… foreshadowing later revelations of extensive US spying on even allies like Germany via the NSA.
  3. [Her] leaks show that then Senator John Kerry pressed Israel to be open to returning the Golan Heights to Syria as part of a peace negotiation.


But how many people were paying attention? Many government and military officials in our country and beyond were furious. They couldn’t not pay attention; it was so relevant to their careers and lives.

The information Manning released, however, was no less relevant to the general public. From what I remember of the reactions to her sentencing, people were polarized: either she was a hero, rebelling against the government; or a traitor, an insult to American patriotism.

I’m as guilty of ignoring this important information asanyone else. When all of this was happening, I had just turned 18 and was graduating high school. I wasn’t paying attention, but that’s no excuse/

The specifics of classified, leaked documents are what make them so powerful; when information is at your fingertips, it is imperative to use it in substantiating your opinions. For example: there’s a general consensus that U.S. foreign policy is pretty supportive of Israel. Kerry’s pressure on Israel to return the Golan Heights area is huge, and it’s not discussed. Why? Whether one thinks Manning is a traitor or not, what she shared is all out now. It would be completely unfair for the work of Manning, and so many others, to go to waste.