Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Obama's Commutation of Manning's Sentence Triggers Anger from the Right

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst who was imprisoned for leaking military and diplomatic information to WikiLeaks, will be free this spring. According to the New York Times, President Obama commuted all but four months of Manning's 35-year prison sentence. Huffington Post reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange agreed to accept extradition to the U.S. if Manning received clemency, but only time will tell if he keeps his promise.

Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning) announced that she was transgender in 2013 shortly after her sentencing, and her struggles while transitioning at the Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas have been well-documented. LGBTQ equality organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and the National Center for Transgender Equality expressed relief at her commuted sentence. Unfortunately, Manning's struggles are not over. USA Today reports that Manning will lose her military health care benefits (including access to gender transition care at military medical facilities) under the terms of her dishonorable discharge.

Conservative commentators have criticized President Obama's clemency decision, and unfortunately, several have made no attempt to hide their transphobia. For example, National Review columnists David French and Andrew McCarthy, Charisma News writer Bob Eschliman, and American Conservative commentator Rod Dreher dead-named Manning and referred to her with masculine pronouns. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama) repeatedly referred to Manning as "Mr. Manning" and "he" in a January 18th appearance on Family Research Council's Washington Watch. Bryan Fischer of American Family Radio did so as well in a January 17th Tweet, adding later that, "Bradley Manning will be a he until the day he dies. Ask any geneticist."

Other commentators used the Manning decision to belittle the LGBTQ rights movement. In a January 18th commentary piece, Family Research Council staff repeatedly used masculine pronouns in reference to Manning and claimed that her transgender status was a factor in President Obama's decision. The piece accused President Obama of pandering to "trans-activists" while neglecting national security.
"And anyone who suggests that Manning's sexuality had nothing to do with the decision hasn't been paying attention. If it didn't, the president would have commuted the sentences of others. After all, there's Robert Hannsen, who's serving 15 life terms without the possibility of parole for selling secrets to the Soviets. So is Aldrich Ames. And what about Jonathan Pollard, who served 28 years for giving helpful information to Israel, a U.S. ally? Maybe if they suffered from gender confusion, their sentences would have been commuted too! In the end, this is nothing but Barack Obama solidifying his legacy as the most LGBT-obsessed administration in U.S. history. Even halfway out the door, he's determined to give trans-activists another victory at the expense of American credibility and security."
Writing at Breitbart, Neil Munro claimed that President Obama's clemency decision and other "disastrous pro-transgender policies" was due to "the influence of gay-advocacy groups"  who have undertaken "social-engineering tasks". Commuting Manning's sentence was a way for President Obama to "cement his alliance with wealthy gays" for little political cost, Munro insisted.

During a conversation with Alex Marlow on the January 18th edition of Breitbart News Daily, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council used the Manning commutation to bemoan women and transgender persons in combat. At the 1:47 mark, Boykin whined that "social experiments" like integration of women and transgender people force soldiers to endure horrors such as sitting in classrooms.
MARLOW: And you attribute this to political correctness toward the social justice warrior mentality that has really dominated the left-wing agenda of the Democratic party in recent years. You think it's purely to pander to that crowd of people?

BOYKIN: I think it is. I think it is absolutely associated with that. I think that the social experiments that we have seen forced on our military which have in all cases have degraded readiness, and they've degraded readiness because of all the training that goes with these things. When you, for example, put women in infantry units, you know, those warriors that are supposed to be training to win wars are forced to sit in hours and hours of classrooms on a repetitive basis, going through things like tolerance, integration of women, integration of transgenders, white privilege, and all of those kinds of things which just take away precious training time, when our young men and women should be preparing for war.
I will not speculate here on whether Manning's incarceration was just, nor will I discuss the merits of President Obama's decision. I will, however, condemn these commentators for their bigotry. Using Chelsea Manning's situation to promote transphobia is hateful and tasteless. Manning's incarceration, and all the suffering that came with it, sparked a national conversation about the plight of transgender people in detention facilities. Her struggle reminds us that transgender prisoners face unique struggles behind bars and are entitled to dignity and humane treatment. Using her commutation to mock transgender people and LGBTQ activists is disgraceful.

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