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Life Arts    H2'ed 11/7/22

Chelsea, Manning Up

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Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning
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First published in Couterpunch magazine on October 28, 2022.

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Chelsea Manning's just released memoir, README. txt is an outstanding account of the quest for identity and validation in a world so 'nasty, brutish and short,' qualities counterintuitively amplified by our age's relativism and over-democratized social media milieu, that some of us them feel the need to resort to gimmicks -- like LGBTQIA+ -- to bolshevize their rejection of the status quo, vis-a-vis gender orientation. So they occupy the alphabet; the plus sign telling us the struggle continues until all the letters are there, in your face, and the only one left without a chair in the end are the tsarist snobs whose heads must roll anyway in the coming revolution. John Lennon would be proud of this movement (queers are the N-words of the world, if you don't believe me look at the one you're with), although, in my humble O, it's a bit over-written.

Bolshy and frank, README. txt is all that. The memoir sandwiches Manning's need to discover who s/he is in this crazy, unstable world around layers of meat (military war crimes) and vegetable (the poli-morphous perverts who occupy Congress) and cheese (the MSM smile and massage) with salt and pepper and collateral damage dressing thrown in. The first 100 pages or so of README. txt is about Manning's sexual/gender journey, and the book's last few dozen pages is an enthralling and beautiful realization of his new found freedom to be she, ironically come to fruition by means of new hormones, in Fort Leavenworth, where she was doing hard time for assisting Julian Assange in getting the word out about The Man and his fascist shenanigans in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The first thing I wondered about was the title, ReadMe.txt. Kind of odd, cryptic. Was it a wink? Dems that knows, knows, and dems dat don't, don't? That kind of thing? I'm a keen reader-response theorist so I wanted to be sure. All I could think of was how, back in the peer-to-peer days (way before the snore of the Z generation complacency era), people (and they were people -- not robots) would torrent an expensive piece of software they could not otherwise afford and in the zip file (I'm told) would be a README text file that told you about the craic (whatever that is), which was important to understand before you installed the shareware (I'm told they called it), because, you know, they were sharing it.

This had me thinking of hackers, for some reason, and Assange and Ed Snowden in particular. Assange has yet to put out a memoir of his early days, but enough has been written to suggest that he had a wildly disrupted childhood that saw him attend dozens of schools and I'm sure he graduated. But he seems to be some kind of genius. Snowden was a drop-out who earned his GED and MCSE and Bob was his uncle, as the Aussies say. Manning finished school, but her days as a he were fraught with contradictions and despair and rejection that recalled the Steve Buscemi's cameo lipstick scene in Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore. That's right, Manning, Assange and Snowden were (are?) ethical hackers. Assange cut his keys hacking the Pentagon. Snowden went after Los Alamos. Manning "accidentally" discovered such skills in the Army. On joining he said he liked computers and set him up with an intelligence job and a $25,000 bonus. He knew nothing solid about computers really. He tells us, "Mostly I learned about computers by f*cking around, hacking."

This sets us up for one of the more humorous bits in the book: The time that he messed up a router that led to a highly classified database. He tells us of an exercise:

I executed the command to export the database, intending to use a router as a "demilitarized zone" for the transfer of the large file, disaster struck. I'd made a typo somewhere along the line. I'd fucked up the router, and it turned out that it wasn't a local one: this was the router that ran the military's classified networks for the entire southeastern region. Several thousand people, and a few of the ongoing training exercises, immediately lost access to the network. The video feeds from unpiloted aircraft, and information from line units transferred from radio into the text feeds of the commands"all gone. Poof, disappeared.

Bradley thought that "he" was fucked and that his "typo" could lead to trouble. But they brushed it off and a few months later he was approached by "DC" men. He goes, "My stomach started to go funny." But they weren't there to pillory him; they're there to offer him a job at the new Army Network Warfare Battalion, which would operate out of Fort Meade, Ed Snowden's old marching grounds. (And young Snowden had been offered a job after his hack of Los Alamos.) Young Assange gave himself a job: Wikileaks.

A quick plot outline of README.txt goes something like this: Awakening sexual and gender identity consciousness, and sad family life, and early sexual hijinks and love affairs; his politics before and after Proposition 8; joining the Army to escape poverty; before and after seeing lives lost during his tour in Iraq; Assange and the Collateral Murder, and his waking to the damage of the military's propaganda; the Granai massacre in Afghanistan in 2009; the information passed to Wikileaks; his brutal first imprisonment; his trial and later imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth; his I Shall Be Free moments when he is released from prison a new woman. Chelsea, his new name, is derived from the location of his favorite gay bars in Manhattan.

There are quite a few before and after moments in the memoir. Life before and after he 'comes out' to his parents (his sister already knew and loans him clothing). Life before and after Proposition 8 results. His testosterone levels before and after the Army. His conscience before and after the Iraq murders and the Granai massacre. Male to female. Sometimes the narrative itself seems to have two voice -- one where we are told for dozens of pages about "his" dating habits and gay bar hustles that are primed with romance ovel elements, including suggestive but not lewd hand movements and kisses; and, the other, straight-shooting narrative that skips the gay mythopoesis for 'just the facts, ma'am' telling that honors the points he is making about the Army's war crimes and governmental (Obama) unconcern with atrocities. Tellings sober and sauced. It's a curious blend of profound and profane, but it works because the story is about Manning, the person, with his personal struggles, more than Manning the co-conspirator of Julian Assange, and political symbol of resistance to the deep state.

Manning spends dozens of pages painting a childhood that is just awful. Both parents drink heavily. He describes a scene from a typical day:

Dad drank cheap beer. He left stacks of aluminum cans in the trash"Mom drank vodka and rum, with shots of Absolut or Bacardi in every drink. She started every morning with liquor poured into a mug of hot English tea.

At the same time, his parents are clearly people he loves dearly, and this depressing scene is partially rehabilitated by features he absorbs. He says of his Welsh mother:

During my childhood, my mother was disarmingly gentle, and had a simple, warm smile.

And:

He cared a lot about fitness, about looking good, and so he'd run and do sit-ups, push-ups, and pull-ups every day, religiously.

Throughout the narration of his life, Manning will demonstrate both his mother's gentleness and desire to love and be loved, while also keeping super-fit, even in Leavenworth he is last man standing in one exercise program he shares with other inmates.

It's clear that his battle to be gender-oriented according to his needs takes up the greater portion of his early life. Though his older sister, Casey, is entirely supportive of his ontology and readily accepts his gender orientation, it's difficult with his parents, especially his Dad who can't handle his femininity. "He told me that I needed to go outside and do 'boy stuff,'" Manning tells us. He tells us that Dad "filled my room with military toys: model fighter jets, G.I. Joes with plastic tanks and rifles. Even my coverlet was military themed, decorated with drawings of F-14s and F-16s." But Casey helps him counterbalance this wrong: "I put Casey's hand-me-down Barbie in G.I. Joe's uniform and sent her on missions." Bolshy.

At school, it's more unacceptance and towing the line of orthodoxy among his putative peers. The little schmucks (and each of us knows who they are) would call out nasty sh*t. Manning relates, "Gender roles in Oklahoma were as hard and fixed as the land, and I didn't fit in. 'Girly boy! You're such a girl"why?' kids would say. 'Are you bent or crooked?'" His Dad wanted him to go south with some knee and up top with some snot locker action, but, early on, Manning was responding like his Madonna (not that one) Mom, all 'why can't we get along" looks, suffering under the oppression of mediocrity in charge. He reminds the reader that "'Homosexual sex' was a criminal offense in Oklahoma until 2003." Ouch.

He also reminds us that growing up in Oklahoma when he did had traumas that bit as deeply locally as 9/11 did nationally years later. First, there was the siege at Waco, just across the border in Texas. There was anger at the government's response to the situation:

The words Waco, David Koresh, Janet Reno, and ATF left most of us with a bitter taste. Our community shared a pervasive fear of the feds coming in again and interfering in our lives, taking away our firearms, going from house to house and forcing a new way of life on conservative, working class people.

Conservative and working class is a meet description of Manning's early worldview. It raises the Woke fact that gender orientation issues are not politically aligned. There are conservative and liberal needs to be free as a real self in another body. And just because Manning wants to be a fem, doesn't mean he wants to be a Dem, even though, paradoxically, it might be lefties who support his urge to be free.

A second major trauma that consumed young Manning and his community was the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, two years after Waco, which destroyed so many families, and, tragically, was seen by some as a response to the over-reach in Texas. Manning's Dad's "libertarian" view probably prevailed:

Dad's strong anti-authoritarian stance drove his preoccupation with a vast and dangerous government invading our homes and interfering with our lives.

If anyone was paying attention, the bombing may have seemed similar to that which occurred in Riyadh later that year in November, when Usama bin Laden was said to have organized a "message" to the American military about any ideas of occupying any part of the Kingdom, and when they didn't get it, the Khobar Tower blast the next year killed even more Americans [The Secret History of al Quaeda by Abdel Bari Atwan (2006), p. 168-9]. Waco and Oklahoma City would later be instructive memories when Manning got around to uploading the "Collateral Murder" video to Wikileaks.

But the marvel of the book, especially in the first 100 pages or so, is the grappling with identity, which doesn't leave him alone; it constantly eats at him, with a hunger fed by the rejection by others in the binary world. His mother and father divorce and he eventually moves with her for a short period to Wales, where a girl hits him up at school and takes him out back and is grabby with want-some, but Bradley can't meet her needs, he doesn't see that way; he just wants to be friends. He writes,

She kissed me, and I froze: Where do my hands go? What should my tongue do? Why doesn't this feel good? I tensed my whole body, and she stopped. "I'm gay," I said. Where did that come from?...What I wanted more than anything was a relationship, stability, someone to connect with, confide in, depend on, and trust.

And though the move back home helped his Welsh mom, Manning felt insecure as an American in his community. While there was supposedly worldwide support for GW Bush's 'fer us or agin us' posture after 9/11, Manning same to experience a different reality:

I was in Wales in 2003 when the invasion of Iraq began; I watched the post-9/11 world unfold from outside America, which gave me a different perspective. My classmates put the weight of American foreign policy on me; I got blamed for anything the George W. Bush administration did. All you Americans are the same.

Eventually, Wales wears on him and he moves back to the USA in 2006.

His section on Chicago does at times seem racy. Manning is determined to be himself, lewd and proud. He tells us,

I headed straight to Boystown, the "gayborhood" near Wrigley Field. It was a different world. Men held hands and kissed on the street, and a whole economy had sprung up to serve them. From my point of view, it was as close to liberation as I could imagine.

Then he tells us he's living in his car on the streets, his hygiene a constant issue as it is for all homeless people. He smelled and it cost him a job. He tries to me cleaning up part of his one-night-stand routine, showering at the homes of strangers. Using their soap. Not ideal. And, in addition to the gay bar hustle scene, he finds himself getting high regularly:

In Chicago, I was able to see myself as desirable, and to be comfortable in who I was. The freedom and the music enhanced each other, and the whole experience was further enhanced by the unrestrained attention of men, and the drugs that were sometimes on offer at the clubs. I tried cocaine, but the thing that defined my experience of those clubs that summer was ecstasy.

But it's not a sustainable lifestyle, not a career. Soon, poverty made him miserable. And, like Dylan sings in "Subterranean Homesick Blues," Join the Army if You Fail. He was failing. His father joined the navy during the Vietnam conflict. Writes Manning, "He always credited the navy with giving him structure, a path in life." And so, Manning rationalizes upping.

For many people, 9/11 marked a Before and After moment in their lives. In Snowden's memoir, Permanent Record, he has chapters 9/11 and 9/12 to mark the occasion. It was a moment that changed everything and he rushed to sign up to fight in the ensuing War on Terrorism. It would directly lead to the circumstances that work eventually see him reveal what his government was "really up to," laying down a massive global surveillance network with the cooperation of other nations that sucked dry the details of everybody's personal details to create dossiers on everybody (that's what the title of his book means). Assange's value as a publishing agent of radical government transparency doesn't happen without 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed -- and Manning's uploads of atrocities and other primary documents describing in detail war crimes, on the battlefield and at black sites and at Guantanamo.

But, originally, 9/11 didn't appear to be a huge motivating factor in Manning' s life choices. He writes that he put a flag up at his locker at high school and worried "about the consequences of our new heightened fear of Islamic terrorism" and "about whether this militant jingoism would end up leading to martial law or restrictions on freedom of speech." 9/11 hadn't motivated his activism. The 'radical' doesn't come out in Manning until after he's serving in the Army and a catastrophe takes place on election night in 2008:

For a lot of people my age, that November was a hopeful, earnest moment like none they'd ever experienced before. They bought into the ideas of "hope" and "change" following the two terms of President George W. Bush. Not me. I was disengaged from American politics, and thought of myself as a bureaucrat, doing my job within a system that would continue to be more or less the same no matter who was in the Oval Office.

It wasn't America's War on Terror that deep stater Manning was most worried about, but its war on Queers. While cheery tears of promised land joy erupted at Fort Drum when Obama won, Manning wept for different reasons -- the passage of Proposition 8 that defined marriage as between a male and female exclusively. He describes his response:

I felt overwhelmed in a way I didn't recognize. This was my worldview shattering. My whole life, I'd been told that things were always going to get better, that the system was set up with checks and balances ensuring this was the case, that liberal society meant slow but steady "progress" toward democratic inclusion. This idea was in all the philosophy I'd read, in all the lessons I'd gotten in school. Prop 8 wasn't just a repudiation of that promise, or that vision of our system. It wasn't even just a national tragedy. It was a personal rejection of me, and millions of other queer people, as human beings"My body was reacting as if my literal foundations had crumbled. I sat on the shower floor and let the water run over me for two hours, weeping. I didn't care if anyone heard.

No fellow soldier asked why he was crying and he didn't tell. For him, it became a life before Prop 8 and after Prop 8. (Journalist Glenn Greenwald, holed up in Rio, was equally devastated by Prop 8 and vowed to remain a militant expat until same sex marriage debuted back home.) America's false promises had reached their breaking point for Manning. He was radicalized. He says, "I found Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. I wanted more." So he reads Free software, free society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman. Zinn had lit a kindle fire under my causes, too, so I could relate to that extent. I never got around to Stallman -- probably too late now, what with Moore's Law and all.

Manning goes into protest mode, removing his uniform (legally) and taking a Trailways bus from Fort Drum to Syracuse to participate in his first political uprising. It's a modest gathering, some 400 people, but probably democracy itself started that way. But it had plenty of cathartic value:

We had rainbow flags and posters that read no h8 and married with pride. I carried a sign that said, in rainbow lettering, equality @ the house, @ the workplace, @ the battlefield. Seeing other people feeling just as hurt as I did restored my sense of being recognized as fully human.

It's important to be so recognized as a human. So, I applaud. (But, at the same time, I note that the memoir makes no reference to Black Suffering or to BLM, although after the Obama ascension one GI grumps that "the country was increasingly run by 'blacks and foreigners,'" That's it.)

Anyway, now fully radicalized by The Man's shortcomings, awake from his sleeping cell, armed with his Zinn zen, Manning is ready to take on the world. It's 2010 and Manning just isn't prepared to put up with any more sh*t. He tells himself (and us):

I lit one cigarette after another and decided that this was going to be my decade. It was 2010, I was twenty-two, and I was ready to do some sh*t. I didn't want to be stuck any longer. I didn't want to be dysphoric for the rest of my life. I wanted to figure out if I was ready to transition. I wanted to start making the things happen that I believed in. Cheesy as it sounds, I looked up at the stars and decided that I wanted to see if I could change the world, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the things I found awful about it.

This is the start of every activist's credo. Shut up and do something. Just stay calm and, like Lennon said, Don't go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao. There's nothing to get hung about anyway. And though you feel as if you're in a play, you are anyway. And marry someone, if you can, who paints Yes on his/her ceiling. Affirm, affirm, affirm.

So by the time the deep state Army intelligence officer comes across files that move him into righteous criminality (go with it: think later, 'necessity defense') Manning is ready to roll up his sleeves and change some world. Manning didn't like the way the war was being reported back home by the MSM. He realizes that part of the reason the reportage is so shabby is because of Obama's overclassification policy. Everyone was complaining about it. Secretly. He writes,

The number of classified documents had expanded exponentially after 9/11. Before that day, there had been around eight million documents per year marked as classified. By the time we deployed in Iraq, the number of classified documents was reported to be more than fifty million.

He tries to play Deep Throat for the Washington Blade, the nation's premiere LGBTQ news source, contacting a source there and telling him:

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of these reports that, when taken as a whole, comprise what must be one of the most important document collections in our history. It encompasses all the different types of data points in one complete story. From the quantifiable: dates, times, to the unquantifiable: emotions, basic lives, from the mundane and banal minor incident reports finding weapons caches, to the horrifying and brutal, violent attacks, death, night missions gone wrong. And yet it's stamped with all these quite ridiculous and often unnecessary classification markings.

But the reporter doesn't pick up on his implied desire to reveal the details of these reports to the public, to join the fight to open up government Stallman style. And after a breakthrough horror incident he's involved in upsets him further, he decides he'll have to settle for Wikileaks. The incident involves an IED removal operation he was assigned to in which US GIs would have been seriously harmed during an explosion had it not been for the accidental presence of local Iraqi vehicles that take the brunt of the explosion. The reaction to the event by his soldierly comrades horrifies him. He writes:

The reaction inside my unit gutted me. Instead of being upset at the random death of an onlooker, my fellow soldiers were elated: Thank goodness OUR people weren't killed. And hey, look, even our vehicle was minimally damaged! The dead and injured Iraqis, who had nothing to do with this battle, weren't even spoken about as collateral damage. They were talked about as human armor for us. It's a good thing those civilians were in the way, they said"except they casually used a slur to refer to Iraqis. We should just surround our vehicle convoys with them all the time. [emphasis by Manning]

Wait until Wikileaks hears about this! he seems to say. He uploads the material and hears nothing back. He then uploads a document about doings in Iceland, a text file that says README and that's a Bingo, to quote Christoph Waltz, as Wikileaks publishes his document and he now knows that his cache of SIGACT files (later known as the Iraq War logs) has been received. It'll be regarded as the largest disclosure of government secrets ever when it is finally published in October 2010, and gets immediately picked up by the MSM.

The response of GIs to the incident is similar to what one hears on the "Collateral Murder" video. Soldiers in choppers having fun killing others and justifying it later under the rules of engagement protected by the Geneva Convention. Then he offers up an amazing admission:

At first, I thought it was just another piece of war porn, another light-'em-up video, something we could pass to one another and say "Watch these f*cking guys get wiped out." People in combat love watching war-porn videos: sh*t blowing up, mostly.

When Manning includes himself in the glee of gore it's a bit confronting, I must own. It doesn't help much when he adds, "But this one was different. Other analysts debated whether the incident had violated the rules of engagement." The debate sees Manning look into the incident further and determines that the government had processed the incident falsely and it infuriates him. The People just aren't being told the Truth. The video shows an incident that killed eleven people"two of whom were Reuters journalists. Reuters is unable to obtain a copy of the video. When Manning watches the video over and over again, he draws the conclusion that "The crew appears to enjoy the sight of a vehicle driving over the dead bodies strewn on the ground." Indeed, a casual listen picks up Joey Gallo's humor and laughter. Manning can't stomach it, his butterflies are set free:

This response troubled me; they didn't want Reuters to see what had really happened. So did the bloodlust of the American soldiers, the dehumanizing way they reacted, especially to the children and to the wounded man crawling to safety. It reminded me of the cruel detachment of a kid torturing ants with a magnifying glass.

I say to myself, that's true, but the I wonder why you would laugh, as he has, at an atrocity of war, just because it seems to be covered by the Geneva Convention, which he mans up to. And also, the war is illegal. The WMD justification for it was a lie. F *ck Geneva. And F*ck a limp-dicked UN unable to prevent the sh*t they were set up to prevent. No wonder "we" don't pay them any dues. I'm thinking. Now I'm furious.

From there, it's Uploads Galore from the wo/man who would make 2010 his year to the world's benefit. Later will come an even bigger yuck festival war-porn upload when a B-1 bombing of civilians in Afghanistan supplants the griz of "Collateral," with around 100 civilians killed, in an incident known as the Granai massacre. Assange "alleged that the video 'documented a massacre, a war crime.'" From here on, it'll get nasty. The State department goes to work, and Peter Thiel, a darling of the right-gay, and CEO of PayPal, agrees to shut off fund transfers to Wikileaks, bringing to life the Frankensteinian concept of corporations acting on behalf of the government for political purposes and hurting people. Ouch.

What's interesting at this point in the memoir is that the relationship between Assange and Manning is never established beyond a doubt, as Manning works with a handle in an IRC. He writes of his correspondence with the handle that is presumed to be Julian Assange,

I never knew for sure who the real person was behind the "Nathaniel Frank" handles. Over time, and from the role he played in the chat room, I came to understand this was an important person in the group. I guessed it was likely Julian Assange, or maybe Daniel Schmitt (now known as Daniel Domscheit-Berg), another central figure in WLO. Or else it was someone representing them. To this day, I can't say with absolute certainty who it was; that's the point of having a handle online, of course.

This seems crucial for the defense of Assange -- handle to handle -- means Manning was dealing with Wikileaks, but it remains open who within the organization he was dealing with. And, perhaps, most importantly in the memoir, there is no mention of Assange -- or a handle -- helping Manning crack a password for anything. Manning seems perfectly at ease "breaking in" to files that are barely protected ("In our supposedly high-security office, people kept the passwords to laptops containing government secrets stuck to those same laptops, written on Post-its.")

So, we know that Manning then gets arrested and man-handled by thuggish brutes who probably longed to become interrogation officers at Gitmo (where a new Mickey D's and KFC had been recently installed; you can imagine for a moment GIs raising Quarter Pounders to hungry-eyed Cubans drooling on the other side of the perimeter fence dividing cultures). Manning provided plenty of details of that initial pretrial period when he was detained without visitors in a cage. He goes, "I was in a f*cking cage." For a year. He adds, "I didn't know what my action had set in motion, what had been on the news. I thought that everything had failed, that I hadn't succeeded in bringing anything to light." Which made him suicidal. (Wouldn't you?) The f*ckers wouldn't even give him a pen, as punishment "after the suicide attempt." F*ck Geneva.

But then he's transferred state-side and is the celebrity inmate at Quantico. It's a new start after all the gratuitous cruelty:

My first day at Quantico, a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant giddily informed me that I was his first "celebrity." "You're all over Fox News!" he said, as though I already knew. While I'd been caged, in utter solitude, the world had been talking about me, about what I'd done. The things I'd wanted exposed were no longer buried.

This is, of course, gratifying. His plan to change the world starting in 2010 is still in play. You thought you'd tilted and now find to your ding-ding delight that pinball is still reacting all over the place.

The end of the book sees Manning back where he started, yearning to be free of his gender constraints. He sums it up succinctly:

For me, at least, being trans is less about being a woman trapped in a man's body than about the innate incoherence between the person I felt myself to be and the one the world wanted me to be.

He is also back to being hassled by a**holes in the prison milieu. Grade school sh*t again. One bully won't stop. Manning snaps. Whatever else he is, Manning's no 'p*ssy.' He beats his taller and more muscular tormentor with some quick moves 'douchebag' couldn't have seen coming. But the best bit is the humiliation tough guy feels in front of his peers as they won't stop reminding him he got clocked by a 'f*g'. He earns respect. A later incident sees him inviting a 'mouth' into the ice room for a little heated cold war action. All along his many watchtowers, Manning keeps himself svelte and physically attractive, like Daddy.

By the time the memoir gets around to the court martial the tension has been released. Manning pleads. Before he's sentenced he makes a statement about what he was trying to achieve, pushing the obvious but forgotten point that the public has a right to be well-informed about what its government is getting up to. Probably not even Alan Shore of Boston Legal could have saved his ass from wrath. The judge ignores him:

"Guilty," read Judge Lind. "Guilty, guilty." She went down the sheet of charges, repeating the word for seventeen of those twenty-two charges, six of which fell under the Espionage Act. The severity of my sentence and the fact that I had spent years in prison before being convicted for unauthorized disclosure under the Espionage Act were unprecedented. After all, I'd disclosed information to the public rather than spying. A precedent now existed; a chill had been created.

35 Years. Take him away. Let that be a lesson. Don't go carrying pictures of Julian Mao.

But Manning's a chipper little dandy. As soon as the trial ends he's back to the journey to Selfhood. Rocky at first as s/he deals with a cruel fate: "A life without freedom until I was in my fifties, a life doubly restricted, an outcome impossibly cruel and unusual, because I would be forced to live as a man." But s/he immediately seeks to redress this. Manning proudly tells us, "At the Leavenworth County Courthouse, immediately after the trial, I legally changed my name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning." And then it's on to hormone therapy. And a happy ending.

README.txt is an excellent read. It is refreshing to hear an honest and genuine account of one person's struggle to be free of the chains of arbitrary detention that gender orthodoxy represents. On that account, the memoir is a huge success. As far as how it may help Assange's impending trial in the US under the Espionage Act remains to be pondered by pundits and legal eggheads in the coming months ahead. Indeed, years. I highly recommend the book.
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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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