OPINION: Chelsea Manning is no hero

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Chelsea-Manning for web.jpg

Chelsea Manning voluntarily took an oath, broke it and endangered lives as a result. There is no excuse for that.

I’m sorry, but I am an Army brat who takes a rather dim view of traitors, no matter their background or intentions.

Ms. Manning was an enlisted soldier serving as a low-level intelligence analyst for the United States Army in a combat zone when she downloaded tens of thousands of classified documents and forwarded them to the international whistleblowing group, Wikileaks. She was caught, court-martialed, and sentenced to 35 years in prison for her actions.

What Ms. Manning did was dead wrong. She put lives in danger worldwide by her actions and got put into a steel cage as a result. At best, she was misguided in her reasoning. At the very least, she did something dumb enough to warrant long spell in Fort Leavenworth. Either way this young lady has a lot of atoning to do outside of a military prison.

Her recent pardon by President Obama and scheduled release by late spring was likely an act of compassion for her current mental state. It was the correct decision to make, but it does not excuse her crimes. I am well familiar with the majority of Ms. Manning’s personal problems related to being transgender. Been there, done most of that…bought the ugly t-shirt. She has real health problems, and I do feel sympathy for her backstory, but she gets short shrift from me for knowingly endangering lives.

Gender dysphoria and its horrible effects on your daily life is no excuse for criminally negligent manslaughter if someone was killed as a result of your actions. If you willingly endanger the life of someone who is defending your freedom to be yourself someday, I'm going to have a problem with you no matter who you are or what noble feat you claim to have been trying to accomplish.

I have problems with the current secrecy culture, too—and military culture in general. The latter cost me a childhood spent in military school as a direct result of perceived homosexual inclinations and a lot of young adult pain. But I never ever thought about doing something to potentially endanger someone’s life just because I was upset with the system or how it treated LGBTQI people.

Her crimes are comparable to others who needlessly endangered American citizens in the name of sacred causes. I am a loud and proud Jewish trans woman, but there is no excuse for what Jonathan Pollard or the Rosenbergs did either. If you leak critical government secrets because you think your agenda is more important, I am not going to cut you a break just because you are a fellow member of either tribe.

We keep most secrets “secret” for a good reason. In the wrong hands, a military-grade secret can kill people very quickly. Secrecy is not always about covering up and screwing people over. That does happen and is to our nation’s shame. But military secrets especially are more often used as a tool to help keep people alive, especially those who defend our freedom. The enforcement of many of them kept my own dad safe while working in hostile lands to defend my right to be a open trans woman in a free country. The “X-Files” was great television…that's all.

Ms. Manning’s actions have needlessly called into question the loyalty and stability of transgender people, at the very least, to serve in this nation’s armed forces in any capacity. Her damage to our full community’s hard won reputation for reliable service in employment requiring access to classified knowledge will take a long time to repair and give ammo to bigots.

I very much hope she gets the help she needs and finds her peace as a fellow transgender woman in this sometimes unforgiving heterosexual world. But she is not a hero. Her disloyalty to those whom she served with and helped protect her freedom to be Chelsea Manning will take forever and a day for her to apologize for.

— Julie Chase