Last week I joined the Advisory Board of the Bradley Manning Support Network. I sought them out not only because it is a honor to join a Board that includes Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, as well as Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, and filmmaker Michael Moore, among others, but also because I believe it is imperative for as many people as possible to raise their voices in support of Manning.
Private First Class Manning is accused of being the source of the huge number of secret diplomatic cables, field intelligence reports, and at least one military video published by WikiLeaks. He was held without charge for nine months in the brig at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia, isolated for 23 hours a day in “Maximum Custody and under Prevention of Injury Watch.” I believe that the conditions of his imprisonment, including the Abu Ghraib style humiliation of being forced to strip and surrender his clothing nightly, amounted to torture. Manning’s rights were violated further when President Obama, the military’s commander in chief, declared Manning guilty. Since Manning faces a possible court martial by military officers, all of whom are under Obama’s command, this makes it impossible for him to receive a fair trial.
I have several reasons to aid Private Manning.
The first is my commitment to the concept of Freedom of Information. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned and threatened with death for providing the truth to the American people. In the words of Daniel Ellsberg: “If Bradley Manning did what he’s accused of, then he’s a hero of mine.” The free flow of information is absolutely essential to a functioning democracy. Since 2001, the burgeoning “National Security State” has made it almost impossible for voters to make informed choices.
The people’s right to know what their government is doing has been at the core of my activism for almost four decades. It was no accident that my brother and I chose to sue under the newly toughened Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) when we commenced our campaign to reopen our parents’ case in 1974. Reporters asked if we were worried that the material in the government’s files we sought would point to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s guilt rather than their innocence. We answered without hesitation that while we hoped the material would exonerate our parents, the public’s right to know was more important than the vindication of our beliefs. My brother and I spent 10 years of our lives fighting that case in the name of the public’s right to know. The attack on Bradley Manning is an assault upon this right and must be resisted.
Also, I am virtually certain that the cruel and inhumane conditions Manning was subjected to in the Marine Base brig were designed to coerce him into testifying against Julian Assange and the Wikileaks community. In other words, the government wanted Manning to become the David Greenglass of the Wikileaks case. In my parent’s case the government offered David Greenglass a deal in return for falsely testifying that my parents engineered Greenglass’s theft of what the government called “the secret of the Atomic bomb,” even though my parents did not participate in that theft and there was no such secret. Similarly, the government sought to use Manning as a pawn to spark a conspiracy trail against Julian Assange and his associates in order to expand the security state and inflame public fear that hackers threaten our national security.
Finally, it is reported that Bradley Manning may be charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917, and face the death penalty if he is convicted. That’s the same penalty my parents received for violating that act.
Under such circumstances, how could I stay away! For more information about the Bradley Manning support network go to: www.bradleymanning.org.