The Justice Party of PA hosted a fantastic event this past Saturday, June 15th: Free Bradley Manning Music and Activism. The event was at the Independent Space in Kutztown, PA and featured an amazing band, Real West (Crime Jazz, Latin Lounge, A Jazzadelic Freakout!). Guests of all ages showed up to discuss Bradley Manning’s leak of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks, his imprisonment, and his current trial. Since the turnout was so great and the lively and active group discussion was even greater, JPPA has decided to work on an event series: Music and Activism. More to come on that in the near future!
“If you had free reign over classified networks… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?”
That’s a quote from PFC Bradley Manning regarding his leak of thousands of classified documents to the website Wikileaks. Right now, Bradley Manning is standing trial for those leaks at Ft. Meade in Maryland.
In 2007 Manning joined the Army and he was deployed to Iraq just 2 yrs later in October of 2009.
About 6 mo later, the Collateral Murder video was released by Wikileaks. The video is one of the most significant of Manning’s leaks and shows Americans in a US Apache helicopter shooting and killing 11 individuals in Baghdad in 2007 who do not return fire. Among those killed are two Reuters journalists, Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver Saeed Chmagh. When a van arrives and a man jumps out to help the wounded, the helicopter opens fire on it, wounding two children inside. When Reuters called for an investigation in 2007, they were ignored and no charges were filed.
In Manning’s own words regarding the CMV: “The most alarming aspect of the video to me…was the seemly delightful bloodlust the Aerial Weapons Team seemed to have. They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote-unquote “dead bastards,” and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seemed similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.”
After the CMV was released, a flood of other documents soon followed. The Afghan War Logs were released, revealing how hundreds of civilians were killed in unreported incidents by coalition forces, how Taliban attacks have soared during the occupation, and how the U.S. has escalated its use of drone warfare.
The Iraq War Logs which documented 2004-2009 in Iraq were even more gruesome. Details include MORE THAN 15,000 civilian deaths previously unreported in Iraq, upping the known body count to 150,000 – of which roughly 80% were civilian. They also documented hundreds of reports of prisoner abuse by U.S. and coalition forces – including torture, rape, and even murder. Prisoners were reportedly shackled, blindfolded, and hung by wrists or ankles and then whipped, punched, shocked, peed on, and even had holes drilled into their bodies with an electric drill.
Then there were the reports of child trafficking when Manning’s leaks revealed that Dyn Corp, a defense contracting firm that makes billions per year in revenue from the U.S. – threw a party for Afghan security recruits that featured boys purchased from child traffickers as entertainment.
Manning’s leaks also contributed to the Arab Spring – starting with the uprising in Tunisia. The U.S. had been a vocal supporter of the Tunisian president Ben Ali, however diplomatic cables that Manning released showed that the U.S. WOULD NOT support him in the event of a popular uprising. When the people of Tunisia finally realized that the U.S. would NOT back the regime if they staged a popular uprising, it provided the necessary conditions for them to take to the streets in opposition to their repressive government.
I could go on and on. This is only a fraction of what Manning’s leaks revealed and how they effected global change – uprisings, protests, dialogue – that otherwise would have remained in the shadows. And this – this dialogue – was part of what Manning had intended for these leaks. He said,
“I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crewmembers. I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare. After the release I was encouraged by the response in the media and general public who observed the aerial weapons team video. As I hoped, others were just as troubled—if not more troubled—than me by what they saw.”
I want to state as well that NOT A SINGLE PERSON has been harmed by the release of these documents. NOT ONE. Yet despite that fact, Manning is being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – starting with his initial arrest on May 29, 2010. On mere suspicion of leaking these documents, Manning was arrested and placed in pretrial detention in Kuwait.
He was then charged and moved to Quantico, VA where he was held in max. security solitary confinement for ten months. For TEN MONTHS Manning was denied social interaction, meaningful exercise, sunlight, and at times forced to stay completely naked. These conditions are ILLEGAL under U.S. military law and amount to pre-trial punishment. The whole presumption of INNOCENT until PROVEN GUILTY was completely ignored in Manning’s case. The UN Spec. Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, called Manning’s treatment cruel and inhumane.
What’s more – it took OVER THREE YEARS for Manning to stand trial. Three years spent in prison on mere suspicion of leaking documents – documents that did nothing more than expose war crimes, waste, and the horrible truth about war, as Manning called it, asymmetrical warfare.
So now that brings us up to the present – Manning’s trial began on June 3rd (it only took 3 years) and he is being charged with a slew of things but the harshest of charges is AIDING THE ENEMY, which carries life in prison and in some cases even death. We’re told that the prosecution won’t be seeking a death sentence but it isn’t exactly off the table. Basically, the claim for this charge is that Manning released information to a journalist, who released the information to the public, and in the public are some bad people – enemies of the state, terrorists – that can read that information and THEREFORE, Manning released the information to the enemy.
So now we have the government prosecuting Manning for lifting the fog of war and exposing these terrible atrocities carried out in the U.S.’s name. Think about this: Manning – a whistleblower, a truth-teller – is being prosecuted by the United States government – the very same people that have overseen an 11 year war in Afghanistan, oversaw a decade-long war in Iraq, set up torture prisons in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Djibouti, and other black sites around the globe, who have bombed countless wedding parties in Iraq and Afghanistan, who have dropped drones killing civilians, children, pregnant women, who have droned and killed four of its OWN civilians abroad, who do not even prosecute rape within their OWN RANKS, a growing issue in the U.S. military, who is surveililng its own population, who won’t put war criminals on trial and if by chance one IS put on trial, their sentence is less than anything Manning is facing. So basically, we have war criminals putting Manning on trial for exposing their war crimes. That’s the twisted state of affairs in this trial.