Socialist Alliance gay and lesbian rights spokesperson Rachel Evans spoke in Sydney on April 24 at a rally calling to free accused WikiLeaks’ source Private Bradley Manning from prison in the US, where he is being held in solitary confinement. The protest was part of an international day of protest for Manning, who faces a court martial and possible life in prison if convicted. Evans’ speech is below.
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We are one of the many groups across 14 countries around the world taking action today because Bradley Manning is, once again, being subjected to a kangaroo court — a military “pre-trial” in Fort Meade.
Twenty-four-year-old Bradley Manning is a hero to us. But he frightens the US. The most powerful nation in the world — with its war drones, nuclear arsenal, its military bases, its air force, and all its soldiers, has decided Bradley Manning is a threat.
As a soldier in the US army, stationed in Iraq from October 2010 onwards, Manning dealt with data that showed the US and their allies are war criminals and are robbing the resources of the global South. Manning is alleged to be the source of the biggest leak of US secrets in history. It is alleged he leaked this evidence to WikiLeaks.
He faces a potential life sentence.
Manning served in the US military when you could not be openly gay. Manning defied this homophobic policy — showing the same moral determination that would later assist the people of the Middle East dying under US occupation and war. In his own way, Manning rebelled against the homophobia of the US army.
It is just one reason why we salute Manning. He is a hero to all for standing up against homophobia. A prejudice that causes high rates of suicide among queer youth and should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Manning is a role model for young people standing up against bigotry.
Recently, US President Barack Obama ended the US military’s “don't ask, don't tell” policy — finally allowing working class and poor queers — many of whom join the army simply for a chance to get an education — to be out of the closet.
But Obama has not changed the core nature of that army, which has brought so much horror, war and terror to Afghanistan and Iraq, so the US can cement its economic and strategic dominance in the region.
Manning is also gender queer. From the emails between himself and the man who sold him out to the FBI, Adrian Lamo, it is evident that Manning was trying to work out if he wanted to be a woman.
Manning was stationed in eastern Baghdad from October 2009, where he accessed thousands of files which showed the US imposing its will on people all over the global South. Accessing these files for up to 14 hours a day, he questioned the role of US power in the world as he questioned his own identity.
That Manning was gay and potentially transitioning to become a woman is important. He knew what it was to be bullied. To be ridiculed. To be denied dignity. Knowing this, he also had empathy for the Iraqi people who were also being denied dignity and a normal life.
The US-led occupation, which includes Australian soldiers, has killed more than 1 million people in Iraq over 20 years of occupation. Women, children, men: all have lost their lives.
The invasion of Iraq has not brought democracy, women’s rights or freedom. The war was always about control of Iraq’s resources.
This was best articulated by an Iraqi high school student I saw speak at a Melbourne rally against the Gulf War in 1991. She said: “If my people's blood was made of oil, you would not have come to kill us.”
Manning showed human sympathy with the victims of US power in the global south. In the chatlog transcript with Lamo, Manning said he has access to "260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective”.
He also said he felt he had to take action because “it might actually change something”.
If Manning is indeed the source of leaks to WikiLeaks, then he is a hero who has helped change the world. The world will never be the same after WikiLeaks’ releases.
WikiLeaks has helped provide the anti-war movement, and democracy movements throughout the world, with the arguments and the confidence they need.
We need to continue to build such movements that challenge the US and Australian occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Australian government say they will leave Afghanistan. This is a victory for the movement and mass opposition to the occupation. But they also say they will leave special forces in the country.
But Australia and other occupiers must take all the troops out. They should leave Afghanistan, pay war reparations and rebuild what they have destroyed.
And they should pull all the troops from Iraq. The US’s so-called withdrawal from Iraq has left thousands of soldiers and private US paid mercenaries stationed in the country.
Like Manning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is also facing persecution because he dared to reveal the truth. Assange has been held under house arrest without charge in Britain for more than 500 days.
Defending Manning and defending Assange and WikiLeaks is part of building the anti-war movement today.