Author Topic: Chelsea Manning: birthday messages from Edward Snowden, Terry Gilliam & more  (Read 3206 times)

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Offline jujyjuji

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Dear Chelsea Manning: birthday messages from Edward Snowden, Terry Gilliam and more

The jailed whistleblower turns 27 this week. Supporters including Joe Sacco, Vivienne Westwood, JM Coetzee, Michael Stipe and Slavoj Žižek sent her letters, poems and drawings. Luke Harding introduces their work

Alan Moore, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Edward Snowden, JM Coetzee, Joe Sacco, Lupe Fiasco, Michael Stipe, Molly Crabapple, Peter Tatchell, Billy Martin, Saul Williams, Slavoj Žižek, Terry Gilliam, Vivienne Westwood, Luke Harding

Tuesday 16 December 2014 17.23 GMT

On Wednesday, Chelsea Manning – heroine, whistleblower and inmate – turns 27. She has been behind bars for four years and eight months, ever since her arrest for leaking ­classified US documents. There isn’t much prospect that she will be released any time soon. Manning is serving a 35-year sentence, with the earliest possibility of parole being in 2021. She has appealed to Barack Obama for a pardon. It seems unlikely he will grant it.
It is against this gloomy and unpropitious backdrop that leading writers, artists and public figures from around the world are today sending Chelsea birthday greetings. Their contributions include letters, poems, drawings and original paintings. Some are philosophical – yes, that’s you, Slavoj Žižek – others brief messages of goodwill. A few are ­movingly confessional.
All send a powerful reminder: that for millions in the US and beyond, Chelsea Manning is an inspiring moral figure who deserves our continued support. Her leaks, published in 2010, at a time when Manning was unhappily stationed with the US military in Baghdad, revealed the true nature of America’s twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also ­illuminated the gulf between Washington’s private thinking and its public diplomacy.
Edward Snowden sums up the mood of collective ­gratitude: “I thank you now and forever for your extraordinary act of service and I am sorry that it has come with such an unbelievable personal cost. As a result of your courageous act, the American people are more informed about the ­workings of our government as it positions itself for endless war ... For this we all thank you. Happy birthday, Chelsea.”
For the moment, the attitude of the US ­administration ­towards whistleblowers is ­unrelenting. Snowden faces ­indeterminate exile in Moscow. And yet several contributors argue, persuasively in my view, that future White Houses will celebrate Manning and Snowden. Writing from his home in Adelaide in South Australia, the author and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee praises Chelsea “for the steps you took in the service of democracy – that is to say, of the right of people to govern themselves”.
Coetzee adds: “I myself am in my 70s so don’t expect to be around when you regain your freedom (unless your ­president comes to his senses and offers you a pardon), but I want you to know that I am confident there will come a day when your image, and the image of Edward Snowden, will appear on postage stamps of the US Postal Service.”
The traffic is mostly one-way – sent to Chelsea’s current postal address, Fort Leavenworth military prison in Kansas. But we do get a glimpse of her life through her correspondence with the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. (Westwood’s birthday card is a striking green-red print with the slogan: “What’s good for the planet is good for Chelsea.”)
On 8 December, Manning wrote an article for the ­Guardian, recounting her struggle to be recognised as a “young trans woman”, fighting against an implacable US court and ­government system. Two days later, she tells Westwood that her days are busy. “I am working a lot, studying, ­working on the appeal and a lawsuit on fundraising, ­writing articles and ­trying to stay healthy.” Chelsea admits she gets too many ­letters to answer them all but promises to “try harder”.
Not a bad message for all of us. Happy birthday, Chelsea. Luke Harding