A prominent journalist who spread lies the U.S. government used to sell the war in Iraq—which led to the deaths of an estimated 1 million-plus people—implied that whistleblower Chelsea Manning has blood on her hands for exposing U.S. atrocities in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Manning, who has been serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, had her prison sentence commuted on Tuesday, January 17, after years of pressure from grassroots activists and advocacy groups. She will be released in May, significantly earlier than her original 2045 release date, which rights groups argued was draconian.
In response, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller tweeted the following:
Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning. How many people died because of manning' leak? https://t.co/WrijBtp4fo
— Judith Miller (@JMfreespeech) January 17, 2017
Miller, whose reporting for the Times was notorious for uncritically echoing U.S. government lies about supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, implied that people have died because of Manning's leak. The fact of the matter, however, is that Manning's leak has not led to any deaths, according to the U.S. government's own research.
In 2013, the U.S. counterintelligence official who led the Pentagon's investigation of the impact of WikiLeaks' releases acknowledged that they were unable to find a single example of someone who was injured because of Manning's leak. The official said as much during Manning's sentencing hearing. Moreover, a review by the Associated Press rebuked unsubstantiated claims by the Obama administration that WikiLeaks' disclosures were life-threatening.
Manning is the only person whose health has suffered on account of her whistleblowing actions. During her time in prison, Manning has attempted suicide twice and gone on a hunger strike to protest her treatment by the prison system and the U.S. government, which she said "bullied" her.
Numerous studies have found that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died in the U.S.-led war Miller's reporting helped the government sell—a war the United Nations explicitly said was illegal. A report by Nobel Prize-winning group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War found that the war in Iraq led to the deaths, directly or indirectly, of more than one million Iraqis. This is a conservative estimate, the report notes. Moreover, this figure only accounts for the death toll of the occupation itself. It does not factor in the thousands more Iraqis who have died at the hands of ISIS, the genocidal group that has flourished in the vacuum created by the American and British invasion.
Responding to Judith Miller's tweet, writer and TV producer Harley Peyton asked: "How many people died because u funneled lies and propaganda into The NY Times?"
Miller, who has repeatedly defended her past distorted reporting, replied, "not lies or propaganda, but Intel estimates that proved wrong. Big diff." She suggested that critics read her book The Story: A Reporter's Journey.
In 2015, the New York Times, Miller's former newspaper, published a review blasting her book as "sad and flawed."
Manning's materials exposed potential war crimes committed by the U.S. in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2010, Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, leaked more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks. Among them were videos showing American pilots killing more than 100 civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Video of an attack in Baghdad on July 12, 2007 captured pilots in two U.S. helicopters killing more than a dozen people, including two children and two Iraqi war correspondents working for the news agency Reuters. Footage of another atrocity in Granai, Afghanistan, on May 4, 2009, showed the pilot of a U.S. plane massacring scores of civilians. The Afghan government said 140 civilians were killed in the attack.
Manning was convicted on 21 charges for her leaks. The U.N. special rapporteur on torture said in 2012 that she had been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. Manning endured nearly a year of solitary confinement, which rights experts say is tantamount to torture.
After receiving her sentence, Chelsea Manning, who was formerly known as Bradley Manning, announced she wished to identify as a woman. She asked to begin hormone therapy to complete her transition, a request the military denied. The U.S. Army did not approve Manning's hormone therapy until 2015 after she filed a lawsuit.
Legal groups and grassroots activists have spent years calling for Manning's release. In the lead-up to the commutation of her sentence, she garnered a groundswell of popular support, buttressed by major human rights groups like Amnesty International.
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