Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier released from military prison this year after serving seven years for leaking documents to WikiLeaks, laid into the president Wednesday for banning trans people from the armed forces.
The former Army private who was serving out a 35-year sentence before President Barack Obama commuted her sentence, scornfully tweeted, “So, biggest baddest most $ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35?” Manning tweeted after Trump’s announcement, adding, “Sounds like cowardice.”
Trump’s Twitter announcement cited the “tremendous medical costs” of having transgender people in the military; Manning pointed out the incongruity of using that as an excuse given the cost of the F-35 fighter jet program.
According to Bloomberg, the F-35 is “already the most expensive weapons system the Pentagon has ever fielded,” pegging the cost of the program at more than $406 billion. That number does not include the cost of operations and maintenance, which Bloomberg reported, would cause that estimate to eventually soar to more than $1.1 trillion.
A 2016 RAND Corporation study, by contrast, found that “medical care for gender transition would only increase military health care expenditures by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million” annually, per Scientific American.
Manning’s response to the announced ban continued throughout the morning, including a reference to how “militaries, esp. U.S., have always been a social experiment just as much as a fighting force.”
When a troll tweeted at Manning, “You belong in prison,” she had a comeback at the ready.
“So, not only do you want to ban trans people,” she replied. “Now you want to throw us in prison? Sounds familiar.”
Just before leaving office, Obama commuted the sentence of Manning, who was convicted under the Espionage and Computer Fraud and Abuse Acts for releasing the documents. Manning was called a whistleblower and patriot by supporters and denigrated by critics as a danger to national security.
In a statement Wednesday, the Log Cabin Republicans, an LGBT political group, condemned the Trump ban, saying “Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it.”
LCR President Gregory Angelo said Trump’s statement “does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era.”
July 26, 2017, 12:44 p.m.: This story has been updated.