August 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm EDT | by WBadmin
Bradley Manning: gay soldier as role model


During the second week of July 2012, Pfc. Bradley Manning endured a sixth round of pretrial evidentiary hearings in preparation for his eventual trial for allegedly leaking information to Wikileaks. The most famous gay soldier in the U.S. military, Manning faces a possible life sentence, or even execution. Physically unimposing — standing barely five feet tall and 100 pounds, this young gay soldier was joined in the hearing room by a handful of committed supporters, but shamefully, no one from any LGBT advocacy organization.

Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010, after a government informant reported a series of Internet chats with someone he identified as an American soldier in Iraq, “BradAss87.” The military has asserted, without verifiable evidence, that Manning is BradAss87. In chats with the informant, BradAss87 indirectly took credit for leaking the so-called “Collateral Murder” video to the whistleblower website Wikileaks.

The graphic video footage shows American soldiers in Iraq laughing while gunning down civilians on a Baghdad street — including two Reuters reporters and several children. Based on these chat logs, Manning was taken into custody while on duty in Iraq. Subsequent leaks to Wikileaks of thousands of politically embarrassing U.S. diplomatic cables were later attributed to Manning. Despite administration statements that the cables and the video had no national security impact, Manning was charged with aiding the enemy, among other offenses.

Manning has remained incarcerated for the ensuing two years, with months of further imprisonment before he will be tried. For the first 10 months of incarceration in 2010-11, the military subjected him to torturous conditions in a maximum-security brig. Manning was held under constant video surveillance, 23 hours per day in solitary confinement. For much of this time, he was forced to appear naked at “parade rest” in front of his cell for morning “inspection,” his legs spread and genitals displayed in full view of officers. This sexually humiliating treatment, rife with homophobia, is similar to reported practices in the infamous American prison camp in Iraq, Abu Ghraib.

The military’s treatment of Manning is undeniably a hate crime. He has been singled out for abuse — what the United Nations has characterized as “cruel and inhuman treatment” — for his alleged whistle blowing, yet the perverse sexual humiliation and degradation inflicted upon him is inextricably linked to his sexual orientation. In an attempt to “break” Manning, to get him to divulge information about Wikileaks (which he likely does not possess), the specialized torture regimen focused on isolation and sexual humiliation.

When the mainstream media cover the Manning case at all, reports tend to highlight his sexuality and paint him as unstable and weak. PBS’s “Frontline” special on Manning devoted significant time to Manning’s coming out struggles. Similar reports appeared in the New York Times and The Guardian. New York magazine emphasized Manning’s gender identity struggles, describing him as “disturbed” and unstable. The link between Manning’s sexual orientation and his alleged offenses is presented in virtually all mass media accounts as pathological. It is somehow inconceivable that Manning could have any motivation beyond psychological weakness for releasing to the world massive evidence of the U.S. military’s lawlessness.

While the national LGBT advocacy organizations shamelessly shower President Obama with praise for allowing openly gay men and lesbians to enlist in the military, their complete silence on the Manning case is indefensible. This is particularly true in light of Obama’s repeated endorsements of the brutal and homophobic treatment doled out to Manning. But the persecution of Manning is a “gay issue” not simply because his abuse at the hands of the military and the mass media has been decidedly and viciously homophobic. If Manning did in fact leak information to Wikileaks as he is accused, he has displayed enormous courage. He is a role model for how gay and lesbian service members should behave in the face of violations of the U.S. Constitution by the government entrusted with defending it.

As more gay men and lesbians enter the military, they will encounter the same kinds of horrors Manning saw in Iraq, witnessing episodes of torture, murder and unchecked violence against civilians. Their responses will reflect their own moral principles, in part shaped by a heightened sensitivity to oppression as a result of their own experiences. In the new era beyond “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” Manning is a model of what a strong and proud gay soldier should be, but he has yet to receive the support of the broader LGBT community he deserves.

Beginning Aug. 27, Manning will have another series of pretrial hearings at Ft. Meade, Md. At long last, the Washington-Baltimore LGBT community should show up in force to support him and demand justice for one of our own.

Philip Fornaci is a D.C.-based civil rights attorney who has attended many of the Manning hearings at Ft. Meade. Reach him at

  • This is the most disgusting piece I have ever read in the Blade. As an initial matter, Manning is not gay. He is self-identified trans. The ever-so politically correct Mr. Fornaci misgenders his “hero.”

    More importantly, Manning betrayed the trust of everyone with whom she served. She is a liar. She released hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables without even having read them. This wasn’t a case of a leak of specific information to right some specific injustice. It was a data dump to cause injury and chaos. 99+% of the cables had nothing to do with any war or any wrongdoing.

    Manning made it more difficult for this nation to practice diplomacy. His act was not anti-war; it injured the best alternative to war. Whether the leak caused informants be put at risk we don’t know, but it doesn’t matter to Manning’s guilt or innocence. If a criminal shoots at his victim, he gets prosecuted even if he misses.

    Even if this self-absorbed buffoon had been gay, he would in no way represent the tens of thousands of active duty LGB servicemembers or the millions who have served honorably since 1776. The Blade should be ashamed of itself for printing this garbage.

    • Your comment ‘If a criminal shoots at his victim, he gets prosecuted even if he misses.’ couldn’t be more cynical, considering the actual killers in the Collateral Murder video were never punished for their actions, killing innocent people as if they were playing a video game. The US military could have had a much better response to the outside world than capture and torture the man who (supposedly) leaked the video and then set the actual killers free. If this video caused (more) anti-Americanism around the world, it is mostly due to the fact that the US prefers cover-ups than to persecute its own war criminals. The world desperately needs more Bradley Mannings, people for whom morality prevails over blindly following an order.

    • Yes, Manning betrayed the trust of people, they trusted him to be quiet, to conform, to hide evil and protect evil doers. It seems to be unthinkable to Americans that the day is coming when some of them might one day be charged with war crimes. History will view him as an hero.
      Those who argue or bring up his sexuality just show how lost and superficial they are

  • Steven Roth, you receive a gold medal for your comment.

  • Manning failed the test of being a Soldier. As far as being a role model for how “gay and lesbian service members should behave”. I have no way of responding to that since there are no adjectives to the noun “Soldier” when it comes to military service. The word is a standalone description of a person who has chosen to do more then their neighbor. To say one is a “black Soldier”, a “latino Soldier”, a “straight Soldier”, or a “gay Soldier” demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the concept. To make this a gay vs straight issue is a slap in the face of all service members, gay or straight, who put on their uniform each day to defend drivel like the article Mr. Fornaci chose to produce.

  • Mr. Roth I unequivocally agree with you. I am proud of the fact that Servicemembers United, OutServe-SLDN and HRC have not characterized PFC Manning as a hero. I’ll go even further to say I question the judgment of any military member, gay or straight, who does. As a gay military officer I am insulted by Mr. Fornaci’s frivolous use of the term. I’ve met gay military heroes …PFC Manning isn’t one of them…not even close.

  • Manning does not identify as trans. Therefore I stopped reading the first comment after that line. See also the Blade piece on this point:

  • Thanks for your comments, but I respectfully disagree. A “good soldier” is not one who blindly follows orders but is rather one who respects the U.S. constitution and the laws he is bound to protect. The proper response to torture, to murder of civilians, to blatant war crimes, is not to obey illegal orders but to respect our laws. What would you do in the face of criminal conduct up the chain of command, when no one in that chain will respond or stop the murderous conduct? Your version of patriotism is authoritarianism. Watch the “Collateral Murder” video and decide which orders one must follow under the circumstances. Gay men and lesbians (and trans-people) know oppression, and we hope for better from our community when faced with war crimes. Sorry you feel otherwise. Finally, the State Department, the CIA and numerous government officials have testified that no one was injured or killed by the release of diplomatic cables. If you have real information, you might want to produce it. What has resulted is massive embarrassment for U.S. State Department officials. Why did Hillary Clinton demand that her staff steal credit card numbers and other personal data from diplomats at the UN? Why did the State Department prop up autocratic dictators and generals across the globe under the guise of “diplomacy”, as documented by Wikileaks? These are questions that should be considered by the American people, not hidden away in the name of “patriotism.” Openness in government is democracy. Blind obedience to authority if fascism.

    • Philip, your entire argument is based on the assumption that Manning was acting for the greater good. The counter point is that he was a messed up kid who should have been pulled from his job long before he started dumping, without forethought, information he was privy too. (Something his chain of command has to answer for). That his information may have caused little or no harm is besides the point. That’s like arguing that a drunk driver shouldn’t get a DUI if they make the drive home without hitting anyone. He’s no hero. He’s a kid who made a stupid move with very adult consequences. Tying all this to his sexuality, and then making him out to be an example for others to follow is insulting at best.

      Your real beef is with what you feel is a lack of transparency in government. If this is something you wish to affect then perhaps you should consider a better cause célèbre. Manning is a tragedy, for many reasons, but he is no hero.

  • Manning is a hero AND a role model Exposing war crimes is not a crime, its an obligation of a US soldier. It is the US military that should be ashamed of their behaviour including the war crimes Manning exposed and their torture of Manning in Quantico.

  • Bradley Manning is stronger and has more,”guts” than any of the, “I was just following orders” dupes in uniform.

  • Manning is a true modern day hero. He exposed evil and was punished for it. How many otther pussies and wimps in the armed services saw the evil and didn’t have the courage to expose it? Thousands. Thousands and thousands of service men and women saw what was going on and turned a blind eye.

  • Manning is a true modern day hero. He exposed evil and was punished for it. How many otther men and women in the armed services saw the evil and didn’t have the courage to expose it? Thousands. Thousands and thousands of service men and women saw what was going on and turned a blind eye.

  • Steven Roth,

    Those backing Manning (from the perspective of his sexual orientation) are the LGBT community, which has notoriously banded together in a unified fight for equality. Splitting hairs over someone’s gender identity in no way…means anything here, although I appreciate your transparency in exposing your intolerance for the LGBT community by pointedly and repeatedly referring to HIM – he is a him, increasingly twisted knot in your undies notwithstanding – as “she.”

    Then, later, you switch sides, attempting to side with the LGB(T) community at the bottom of your comment, when you suddenly think it serves you at that instant. Be consistent in your values if you want people to seriously consider your assertions.

    If you, Steve, are “AGAINST ‘injury and chaos,'” yet are a firm advocate of the United States military, I don’t know what to think. You either believe everything your TV tells you without investigation, or you are a few sandwiches short of a full picnic. You may oppose injury and chaos, or you may support it, but you may not both oppose and support it, picking and choosing at which times you find it conducive to the furthering of your own inconsistent views.

    Additionally, you never even reference the video (one of the hardest forms of evidence) of American soldiers gunning down civilians – and, in a sudden burst of genius brainpower, 2 Reuters reporters – while laughing on the streets of Baghdad. I daresay it was far more important to you to take a jab at someone’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity than to look at the facts, clarify that you DO (somehow???) find such acts reprehensible despite opposing Manning’s whistle blowing, or accept the truth about our military’s agenda, which is, at this point, tough to miss.

    Incidentally, this speaks volumes about your own agenda in life, as well as your inability to see to the heart of the issue. What matters is that THESE HORRIBLE THINGS ARE HAPPENING. I haven’t the foggiest how anyone could possibly miss that for a nanosecond – much less issue an entire misguided, muddled, intolerant, and inconsistent rant about how 1) no one should tell on the military no matter what it does, and 2) how you’re magically the authority who chooses the gender with which each transgendered individual must identify….all without even mentioning the tragic incident spurring the whole debate. You, sir, have missed the point by several light years.

    Since you feel Bradley Manning doesn’t represent the LGB members of our military, and I feel there’s no reason to make distinctions between “LGBT” and “all non-LGBT individuals” except when actively endeavoring to equalize everyone’s rights, I’ll leave you with some thoughts from someone who probably CAN speak on behalf of most of our servicemen and servicewomen. That someone is Smedley Butler, U.S. Marine Corps Major General, who was the most decorated U.S. Marine in history at the time of his death, and he said:

    “If only more of today’s military personnel would realize that they are being used by the owning elites as a publicly subsidized capitalist goon squad.”


  • As we can see from Reitman’s essay, the issue of orientation is obviously arguable here, and I don’t pretend to hold the perfect answer. But Mr. Fornaci deserves our thanks for having the courage to speak up for Bradley. The disparaging comments are predictable, even understandable. I don’t blame people for feeling angry after reading an essay that tackles such a controversial topic. I do blame the administration for the cruel treatment of a soldier who was shocked by outrageous human rights abuses and decided that the information he learned was too terrible and too important to keep hidden from the rest of us. I am a Democrat who canvassed for Obama in 2008 and will most likely vote for him again this year, but the handling of Manning’s case is an embarrassment at best and responsible citizens need to know about it. You don’t need to agree with every article, but Mr. Fornaci and the Washington Blade are performing a public service by doing what they can to make sure more people are learning, thinking, and talking about Bradley Manning’s ordeal and trial.

  • Manning isn’t a gay soldier, he is a soldier, period, and a real one at that too at least in my eyes.
    IF the phrase ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’ is true, then what does these powers that be have to fear?

  • I do not understand how Bradley Manning’s sexuality has anything to do with his crimes or treatment by the military authorities. The OP is also discounting Manning’s behavior in the comments by saying that he needed to vomit national secrets indiscriminately to protect the Constitution per his enlistment oath. The OP neglects to read the part of the oath which says “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of officers appointed over me, according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

    The bottom line. Manning broke the law. He did not break the law to protest GLBT injustice in the military, and even if he did, it wasn’t relevant to the fight against DADT and DOMA. It was simply a cheater’s shot at glory.

    I think we, as a community, would do more service by challenging the mass media’s assertion that Manning did any of this because he is fighting for GLBT rights, rather blindly support a criminal because he is gay.

  • Philip Fornaci: I completely agree. The Nuremberg defense is highly suspect.[URL REMOVED] gives a reasonable summary of the situation where soldiers are told to commit war crimes. Very difficult area.

  • Bradley Manning is a hero. He had the courage to take a stand against evil rather than blindly following orders – I’d rather have soldiers like that fighting for our freedom than soldiers who gun down innocent children (those should be the ones on trial, but where are they? probably lauded with medals).

  • Gay or not he exposed an ugly truth that no one wants to, or even really can, admit. That America is just as vicious, deceitful, and psychotic as the “terrorists” we fight. These documents showed just how horrific our soldiers are acting when they are supposed to be protecting the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. Acts so degrading that our government has to persecute US citizens in order to cover it up. And as far as being a good soldier, he stood up for the rights he has been entrusted to live and die for. If the documents referenced acts on Americans how would you all feel? Doing the RIGHT thing and the easy thing defines a person, and Bradley Manning has defined himself as “leader”.

  • What have all the remarks and opinions on Bradley Manning sexual preference got to do with anything of relevance? The hatred espoused in comments here is palpable and offensive. I thank Bradley Manning for his integrity and humanity in exposing the crimes carried out by American Forces in Iraq (assuming it was him who released that video footage of the air crew who not only mowed down unarmed civilians, they laughed about it showing absolutely no respect for human life at all, and what also shocked me is the appalling exchange of `info` over the speakers … disjointed, uncollaberated, decisions made to take live with out any checks and balances … appalling to think that that is the standard of command in the forces). And finally, WIKILEAKS is very mindful not to make public any document or information to anyone that will put others in the field in danger or compromise national security. Bradley, you have my heartfelt thanks.

  • I support Bradley Manning!

    He is ROLE MODEL , because he exposed our government`s war crimes against humanity

  • Bradley Manning a hero. He actually did something to try and help his country. He was successful.
    It takes courage to expose the truth considering how dangerous it is to be a whistleblower in this country. It is a shame more organizations and individuals have not come forward to support him. They are afraid of being harmed themselves by ignorance and hate.

  • “If Manning did in fact leak information to Wikileaks as he is accused, he has displayed enormous courage. He is a role model for how gay and lesbian service members should behave in the face of violations of the U.S. Constitution by the government entrusted with defending it.”

    Based on this Mr. Fornaci has a very different view of courage than I do. Clearly Manning’s behaviour is no model for either gay or straight soldiers. He is no hero! He should get a fair trial but beyond that our LGBT advocacy groups are correct to have nothing to do with him.

    Mr. Fornaci has a right to his beliefs but he shouldn’t claim they have anything to do with someone being gay or not.

  • I’d like to state one cold fact. Every soldier here has taken an oath to uphold a few principles. One: You are innocent until proven guilty. Get that into your thick military heads. Two: You have the right to a speedy trial under the UCMJ – that should be no more than 180 days. Bradley Manning has been in jail for 2 years. Three: You had better report WAR CRIMES. If you don’t, you are the traitor. GET THAT?

  • Manning has made a positive change in the world forever. Exposing war crimes is a BIG deal. Manning is a hero of liberty, and he has given us all a little more of that due to his actions.

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