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Chelsea Manning’s Column on Responding to ISIS Counterbalances Hysteria Among Pundits & Politicians

How Chelsea Manning sees herself

Chelsea Manning wrote a column for The Guardian on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and President Barack Obama’s strategy for dealing with the group. The level-headedness of the column sharply contrasted with the statements of several pundits and politicians, who have been whipping up hysteria among Americans.

For those unfamiliar, Manning is a soldier who provided WikiLeaks with around a half million classified documents which exposed details of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including war crimes like torture and summary executions. She is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth after being convicted of Espionage Act violations and other offenses on July 30, 2013.

Manning wrote, “Based on my experience as an all-source analyst in Iraq during the organization’s relative infancy, ISIS cannot be defeated by bombs and bullets – even as the fight is taken to Syria, even if it is conducted by non-Western forces with air support.”

She went on to basically argue that US intervention would make the brewing conflict worse.

“Attacking Isis directly, by air strikes or special operations forces, is a very tempting option available to policymakers, with immediate (but not always good) results. Unfortunately, when the west fights fire with fire, we feed into a cycle of outrage, recruitment, organizing and even more fighting that goes back decades,” she argued.

Manning cautioned against “direct action” or military operations, suggesting that back in 2009 and 2010 the group had “attacked civilians in suicide and car bombings in downtown Baghdad.” Because American and Iraqi forces did not or were unable to respond, their “barbarity and brutality” worked against them. However, when there was a response, ISIS ended up using their attacks to win support from the Sunni minority by claiming it was a “justified response to an occupying government” run by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia leader.

She proposed the following strategy: counter the narrative in online ISIS recruitment videos, set clear, temporary borders in the region publicly to contain ISIS, establish an international moratorium on the payment of ransom for hostages and let ISIS succeed in setting up a failed “state.” Over time, she maintained, ISIS will prove itself “unpopular and unable to govern.”

Manning concluded:

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."