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LETTERS – Chelsea Manning gives an example of heroic courage

This article is over 3 years, 11 months old
Issue 2696


Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning (Pic: Roger Jones/Flickr)

Chelsea Manning, released from prison last week, is a hero.

As a US intelligence analyst in Iraq between 2009 and 2011 she acknowledges responsibility for releasing a massive amount of classified information held by the US military.

That information published by Wikileaks revealed gross human rights violations by the US military. It also exposed a pattern of corruption in governments across the world allied in one way or another to the US.

For this service to humanity, Chelsea was arrested and imprisoned in barbaric conditions. She was then sentenced to 35 years by a US state determined to make an example of her. She was released in 2017 after serving more than seven years after a petition in her support reached over 100,000 signatures.

But Barack Obama, who commuted her sentence, has refused to pardon her.

Then in 2019 she was ordered to testify in a case that the US government had been secretly bringing against Julian Assange. This is the case to which he is currently fighting against extradition in the British courts.

Chelsea refused to testify.

In retaliation for Chelsea’s principled refusal to testify, the US courts jailed her again indefinitely. Her release was contingent on testifying to the grand jury against Assange. She has now been released after the conclusion of the grand jury proceedings which therefore no longer required her testimony.

But the judge ordering her release refused to cancel fines of a quarter of a million dollars, thus ensuring her punishment continues.

Donald Trump called Chelsea an “ungrateful traitor” who should “never have been released”. She is an incredibly principled and heroic fighter for human rights and justice. And she’s done it as a trans woman in the face of imprisonment and torture.

Rob Hoveman, East London

GCSEs fail the test

I am a 15 year old student currently doing my GCSEs.

I believe that GCSEs are not a productive way of accessing a student’s ability. Instead they cause anxiety, stress and mental health problems.

As I come closer to my exams, I feel the stress building up, not only for me but for my teachers.

They are under an enormous amount of pressure to make sure everybody passes.

School league tables are the main reason. If you don’t get the best grades, you don’t get students coming to your school.

Students from wealthier areas, who go to good schools, have parents in professional fields, or who have ridiculous amounts of tuition, perform better.

What does that tell us? GCSEs unconsciously discriminate and they only cater for the bourgeoise and elite.

Former education secretary Michael Gove made it harder to resit exams and scrapped coursework from many subjects. The most vulnerable students suffered as a result.

GCSEs determine your next steps. Unfortunately, if you don’t get above a grade 4 you can’t go to certain sixth forms or colleges. And if you don’t get above a 6 in certain subjects you can’t study it for an A-Level.

We need reform to our broken exam system.

More support should be given to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and we should have more mental health support in school.

Qais Hussain, Shipley

Don’t let bosses use virus to attack us

Fears about the coronavirus have raised questions about how universities should respond.

Many university managements will try and get some online teaching to take place.

But we should resist the idea that everybody’s homes can simply be turned into workspaces.

We all have different conditions at home.

And who is paying for the heating, and the electricity and the internet connections?

It would also be wrong for universities to prioritise getting students through exams ahead of looking after their health.

We are not contracted to record lectures at home, or to Skype with students.

We have to use our action short of a strike to refuse attempts to impose changes on our working conditions.

Any changes should always be negotiated with unions.

We are currently in dispute with university bosses. We shouldn’t cut them any slack by lifting our work-to-contract.

If they want our help, they should settle the dispute.

Mark Abel, Brighton

Trevor Phillips doesn’t deserve our sympathy

Much of the right wing press have been up in arms over the Labour Party’s suspension of Trevor Phillips.

So called “liberal” newspapers, such as the Guardian, have joined in.

Phillips is persistently referred to as an “anti-racism campaigner”.

Yet he has perpetuated the view that the problem lies with minorities.

He claimed in 2006 that Britain was “sleepwalking into segregation” and that poor educational performance was down to black culture.

More recently, he has claimed that Muslims constitute a nation within a nation, and blamed Muslim culture for sexual abuse.

Most galling of all, the same papers that are rallying to Phillips’ defence have spent the last four years smearing as antisemitic those who have fought racism and fascism.

Trevor Phillips deserves no sympathy.

Richard Sunderland, Cookridge

Tory taint for coronavirus

The news that Tory health minister Nadine Dorries has been diagnosed with coronavirus left me with mixed feelings.

Toxic? Without doubt. A danger to the old and vulnerable? Definitely.

Likely to push the NHS to breaking point? Certainly.

But that’s enough about Dorries.

I can’t help feeling sorry for the coronavirus for coming into contact with something so poisonous.

Sasha Simic, North London

The government has said we all need to put space between each other to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It’s easy for Boris Johnson to do that. He’s slithered off to his 115-room mansion in Kent.

Meanwhile many of us live in tiny flats and houses with no “spare room” to retreat to.

Linda Dale, South Yorkshire

This is a bit of a false dig (Tories fail to take action we need on coronavirus, 11 March).

We all need to take action. Doesn’t matter who’s in charge.

The government, NHS and ourselves have figured out how to help, but we’re all in the dark on this one.

Being left or right has nothing to do with it.

Martin Leitch, On Facebook

Let’s help each other

As coronavirus spreads it has to be met by an outbreak of community organisation.

In my area we are setting up a network of people to help each other and to look after those who are particularly vulnerable.

We can help with shopping or medicines or badgering the authorities.

Who knows? Perhaps something like this will endure after the pandemic too.

Anne Jenkins, North London

Solidarity with migrants

Deportation of the Windrush families is disgusting.

David Hickey, On Facebook

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