Friday, August 23, 2013

Salute Bradley Manning, victim of the secret state

The front pages are full of a statement by Bradley Manning that he will try now to live as a woman, reconciling what he explains has been a lifelong personal difficulty. They lasciviously reprint the picture that was introduced into his trial.

But if his lawyers thought that would win the sympathy of the court they were truly whistling in the dark. The US state was always planning to make an example of Manning, just as they would do with Edward Snowden if they could get their hands on the ex-NSA computer specialist.

Now Manning faces 35 years in a military prison, and daily challenges one fears are too horrible to imagine. This is a brutal world where a gentle person like him is condemned for decisions made "out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in", as he said in his statement to the court (which got one tenth the coverage of his more recent statement).

Manning joined up agreeing with the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq but when he was reading secret military reports on a daily basis he realised that, as he eloquently put it, "we have forgotten our humanity”. His statement added:

"Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.
 "In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.
 "Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears [forced relocation of native Americans], the Dred Scott decision [1857 Supreme Court ruling that African Americans could not be US citizens], McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps — to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light."

He concludes: "If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society."

And his lawyer, Lt.Col David Coombs, did not mince his words either, saying that a country in which “you are faced with a death-penalty offence” for the simple act of disclosing information to a journalist “is not the America that I would hope that we live in.”

Manning joins an honourable list of US citizens prepared to risk everything to expose their country's secret state, which breaks every law –  American and international – in its pursuit of “national” – aka corporate – interests. 

- Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who released "The Pentagon Papers" that showed that the US State Department knew the US could not win the war in Vietnam and carried on knowing there would be thousands more casualties.

- Philip Agee, former CIA agent who exposed the agency's active support of murderous regimes in South America, that sent oppositionists to torture and death.

-         Jesselyn Radack, Department of Justice official sacked and then hounded out of her next job because she told Newsweek the department lied about the interrogation of John Walker Lindh, a US citizen captured in Afghanistan.

And that is to name only a few - there is a list of whistleblowers going back to the 18th century here which shows that there are always women and men ready to risk their lives and freedom to expose illegal actions by so-called democratic states.

Manning may be ridiculed by those who have no human feeling, but we salute his courage and look forward to the day when the prison gates are opened and he is set free.

Penny Cole

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