Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison for releasing United States government information to WikiLeaks, issued a statement highlighting what she called a “substantial disconnect” among those who support what she did. Specifically, it related to an award, the 2013 Sean MacBride Peace Award, which retired Col. Ann Wright, a prominent Manning supporter, accepted on her behalf.
The letter sent on October 7 to The Guardian, “I had absolutely no idea I received this award, let alone accepted it. In fact, I first found out about the award when I began receiving mail containing quotes from Ms. Wright’s acceptance speech.” But it appears Manning misunderstood what had happened, as a blog post from her lawyer, David Coombs indicates.
Manning did know in July that she would be receiving the award and Wright would be accepting it:
I had a phone call with Chelsea this morning. We discussed the letter that she sent to the Guardian. I reminded her that we spoke about the Sean MacBride Peace Award on three separate occasions: once when she received the award; once prior to Col. Wright accepting the award on her behalf; and once when the award was delivered into my physical possession and I informed her that the medal was made out of disarmed and recycled nuclear weapons systems. After being reminded of these conversations, Chelsea indicated that she did, in fact, remember the award and our discussions about it. She told me that she got confused when she recently received mail about the award, and assumed that people were writing to her about a new award. Chelsea told me that she has been feeling isolated and out of touch with the outside world during the indoctrination period at the United States Disciplinary Barracks, which is what led to her confusion over this issue. Due to this confusion, Chelsea said she felt the need to write her letter. She told me that she is sorry if her letter caused any offense to the International Peace Bureau, Col. Wright, or her supporters.
In fact, Wright, who is on a speaking tour in South Korea, told The Guardian, “My intention was to reflect in an appropriate way Chelsea’s views drawn from her statement to court and her previous comments. I deeply apologize to her.”
Wright has engaged in tireless activism on her behalf so, hopefully, they exchange some letters. It would be unfortunate if there was any fallout between Manning and Wright.
The feeling of isolation is understandable and probably not unusual. While it probably would have been better for Manning to inform her lawyer that she was going to send a statement, it does show that Manning will continue to be willing to speak out from Leavenworth prison if possible. And one section of her statement was actually pretty important: