Treacherous Chelsea Manning Should Neither Be Silenced Nor Honored by Harvard

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Posted: Sep 15, 2017 1:15 PM
Treacherous Chelsea Manning Should Neither Be Silenced Nor Honored by Harvard

If you're a late arriver to this controversy, feel free to catch up by quickly skimming Cortney and Matt's posts from the last two days. The former piece describes how Harvard University touched off a national firestorm by inviting Chelsea Manning -- who was convicted of betraying America and violating her oath, prior to receiving an Obama commutation -- as a visiting fellow at the Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics (IOP) this fall.  The latter post marks the culmination of the contretemps in which the school has rescinded Manning's "fellow" honorific, following an intense backlash that entailed a high-profile resignation and a splashy withdrawal from a pair of former and current senior US intelligence officials.  Here is the Dean's statement explaining the process by which Manning was first invited, admitting that conferring the "fellow" title upon her was a mistake, and revoking it:


Senator Ben Sasse, a Harvard alumnus who was critical of his alma mater's initial decision, seems satisfied by the balance that has been belatedly achieved:


It appears as though a serious error has been acknowledged and rectified, so the situation has been resolved.  Disclosure: The primary reason I've felt compelled to weigh in on this at all is to address the modest barrage of texts, emails and social media inquiries I've received over the past two days about this subject, generated by the fact that Mary Katharine Ham and I also happen to be visiting fellows and Harvard's IOP this semester.  We are scheduled to spend a week in Cambridge next month to discuss and explore the themes of our book -- with a special emphasis on freedom of thought, speech and expression on college campuses.  Until Chelsea Manning's inclusion was announced publicly, we were not aware that she was even under consideration for the position.  As committed free speech advocates and opponents of disinvitation culture, but also as Americans who also hold Manning is profoundly low regard due to her crimes against the country, this unexpected scenario presented a challenging set of facts with which to grapple.  Mary Katharine does so thoughtfully in a post at The Federalist today:

[Manning] was found guilty in 2010 on 20 of 22 counts in the biggest leak of classified records in history...Manning indiscriminately downloaded and leaked some 250,000 government documents as an Army intelligence analyst in Iraq. Seven years into a 35-year sentence, Manning received a commutation from President Obama. During the trial and sentencing, Manning’s lawyers blamed Manning’s gender dysphoria for leading to his crimes, and in 2016 then-Bradley Manning declared in a commutation application, “I am Chelsea Manning, a proud woman who is transgender and who, through this application, is respectfully requesting a first chance at life.” Since then, Manning has been feted by elite society as a symbol of trans heroism and overcoming hardship. The announcement of Manning’s Harvard fellowship came on the heels of an Annie Liebovitz photoshoot for the September issue of Vogue...

I wrote a book about free speech and regularly bemoan the limits placed on it, especially on college campuses. That is, in fact, the subject of my contribution to the fellows program at Harvard. I think bright lines about what speech students can hear should be few and far between, but giving a prestigious title to a convicted traitor seems a pretty logical one to draw, and I’m glad Harvard is belatedly observing it. I want Manning to get very tough questions at Harvard, and I’m hopeful this controversy encourages campus dissenters to be there and offer them. Manning was the first trans person to be given the title of Fellow. There is no doubt trans status played a part in both Manning’s commutation and continued whitewashing of the crimes committed. But if we’re serious about treating trans people equally, Manning’s crimes should be treated seriously, not diminished or even celebrated because of one’s status as a transperson. Tolerance of Manning’s status does not require public honor and celebration. And surely there is some other trans activist, or even trans veteran, who could offer perspective to students as a fellow without a conviction for betraying the country.

The bolded portions of that second highlighted paragraph above get to the heart of the issue.  In light of the nature of her established treachery, Manning's invitation was highly questionable in the first place; her designation as a Harvard fellow was indefensible.  Those who engage in anti-American, life-endangering espionage should be in prison, not in positions of honor at Ivy League institutions.  Thanks to her identity politics-driven reprieve from President Obama, Manning now walks free, and her voice will not be stifled on campus in the coming weeks.  That's fine, but make no mistake: She is no hero.  She is the opposite of a hero.  She should be prodded and challenged as such in an open forum.  I'll leave you with Manning's juvenile and preposterous response to the effective demotion, which underscores how she is a reactionary moron in addition to being a traitor: