The military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who served 7 years of a commuted 35 year sentence in a military penitentiary for sharing classified information with Wikileaks, has launched a website outlining her extremely progressive manifesto for the Maryland Democratic Primaries for Senate.
On the Intercepted podcast in April she boldly claimed that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) is a ‘deportation taskforce that’s carrying out an ethnic cleansing’. Her policies outlined on her website certainly don’t water-down this rhetoric, promising ‘not to reform but to abolish I.C.E’.
She wants to abolish the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which acts as an ‘illusion of oversight for the rampant NSA surveillance program’, and replace it with a system which relies on district courts and courts of appeal in order to increase transparency and accountability of the massive-scale surveillance of American citizens and foreigners.
When it comes to civil liberties she demands an end to police ‘no-knock warrants’ and a complete repeal of the Controlled Substances Act with a view to diverting the warchest of the War on Drugs toward ‘drug treatment and rehabilitation’. She labels the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights a ‘licence to murder’ and a ‘get out of jail free card’, and demands that ‘officers who kill and injure people should be held to the same standard as any other citizen charged with murder or attempted murder’.
On the issue of US healthcare, Manning states that ‘Healthcare shouldn’t just be “affordable”, healthcare should be free’, demanding to change the current system by ‘replacing our flawed medical insurance system with universal single payer healthcare, making healthcare free for everyone. No exceptions.’
Former soldier Manning has no special favours for the hand that once fed her: she accuses the $696 billion appropriated to the Pentagon for 2018 of being a ‘blank check to the military industrial complex’ and the US of being a ‘the world’s biggest arms dealer’. She specifically calls out the Turkish use of US weapons against the Kurds in Rojava, the Israeli slaughter of Palestinian children and Saudi Arabia’s ‘wholesale massacre’ of 20,000 Yemeni civilians as examples of the sins of the US military export racket that she vows to end.
Not all Democrats are equal.
The Maryland Democratic Primaries – not traditionally the beating heart of global political sea change – can now present a stepladder to the American left. A safe Democratic seat at a time when Democrats are likely to take back the Senate means their choice of nomination will have huge consequences.
Manning’s opponent Ben Cardin has survived 12 years in his seat by simply towing the party line – in 2014 he was the second most loyal Democrat in the party, voting along party lines 98.8% of the time. You could replace his seat with a ‘Vote Democrat’ cardboard yard sign and nobody would notice.
It matters because time and time again the Democrats are either the architects or more often the useful idiots of hugely detrimental policies. The War in Iraq, unconstitutional and unchecked powers of mass surveillance (for a President whom they deride every day as unstable) and a mammoth military budget (of which trillions of dollars go completely unreceipted) when the US doesn’t provide the most basic social security net for its poorest; all have been given the green light by a spineless opposition party.
The battle within the Democratic Party – between a corporate, nebulous centre and a progressive left – is the fight between an actual tangible alternative to Republican Ayn-Rand-fetishising dogma, or the continuation along the acquiescing path that brought us to this metaphorical, and if Trump gets his way even literal, far-right wall.
A Chelsea Manning nomination would guarantee at least the opportunity for some Americans to vote against US military imperialism, racist immigration policies and an Orwellian surveillance apparatus. Symbolically, it would put a figure of resistance against insidious authoritarianism on Capitol Hill and amplify an advocate of anti-war views – which represent huge swathes of the US public – by making inroads within establishment political circles.
It would be a huge step forward.