We don't know exactly how long Bradley Manning will spend in prison for leaking confidential government files for WikiLeaks. The military court's sentencing hearings begin tomorrow but could go on for weeks. But from what we do know — he was found guilty of six charges of espionage and not guilty of aiding the enemy, the most serious of the charges — Manning will most likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for leaking the U.S. government's military and diplomatic play books.
According to most estimates, the charges, including others like theft and fraud, will lead to about a 134 year sentence. Still, it could have been much, much worse: an "aiding the enemy" charge would mean automatic life sentence.
As Manning and his lawyers celebrate what they call a relative victory — "We won the battle, now we need to go win the war,” said defense attorney David Coombs — it's worth revisiting the debate over whether Manning qualifies as an LGBT hero.
The Army Pfc. told a cohort that he considers himself transgender, a self-identication that some LGBT people view with pride and others with disdain, as if Manning's identity somehow taints the rest of us. Here's what James Kirkchick, who believes the latter, wrote for Out last year:
"While it's true that Manning did struggle because of his sexuality, so did many other gay soldiers who once labored under DADT's onerous restrictions. The vast majority of them did not act out their emotional problems by leaking classified material to individuals with an explicit agenda of harming the interests of the United States and its allies.
"Wikileaks has caused enormous damage not only to the interests of the United States but imperiled the lives of brave human rights defenders around the world. Immediately after the first dump of cables, the Taliban announced it was drawing up a hit list and began sending death threats to individuals named in the communications.
"For centuries, gay people have served with distinction and honor in the armed forces, and it is the service of these countless veterans whom today's gays can thank for the freedom to serve openly. Bradley Manning's actions are fodder to those who have long argued that homosexuality naturally leads to treason; some on the far right have argued that his actions were intended as "revenge" over the military's then-enforced anti-gay policy. It is unconscionable that gay activists, of all people, would play into these slanders.
"Complaining that Manning"s "treatment mimics that of detainees at Abu Ghraib," Brownworth declared that the soldier's plight "demands attention, particularly by the LGBT community." Manning's situation does indeed demand the attention of the LGBT community, but not in the way that Brownworth and others of her ilk suggest. Rather than claim Bradley Manning as a hero of the gay community and campaign for his release, we should be the ones advocating most loudly that he face the strictest possible punishment for his treachery."