‘Bradley Manning scares US government’

April 16, 2011

Below is an abridged version of a speech by NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge in Sydney on April 10. The action was part of an international weekend of solidarity calling for an end to the persecution of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.

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First, I'd like to acknowledge that this is Aboriginal land that we are standing on. It always has been, always will be Aboriginal land. And in fact sovereignty has never been ceded over this land that we are standing on here today.

Why is this 23-year-old US private the focus of an organisation as powerful as the United States government? Why has the US government, with all of its warships, its air force, its massive resources, its police, the CIA, the FBI, why has it focused on this one man?

It is because they are frightened of him. It is because they are afraid of him. They are afraid of what he stands for, which is a new openness in information on planet earth. Because that is what Bradley Manning stands for: open information on Earth.

In fact, when you look at what the Obama administration has been doing in its relatively short term in office you realise that the US government and governments associated with it are deeply frightened of this openness and this sharing of information that we are seeing now as the internet matures and becomes an understood tool for organisation.

In the 40 years before President Obama took office, there were only three high-profile prosecutions in the US for leaking of state information. One of those was the Pentagon Papers.

Since the Obama administration has taken office, there have already been six in that short period of time.

The most high-profile is the prosecution of Bradley Manning. What are they frightened of with Bradley Manning? Well the allegations against Bradley Manning are that he gave the information to WikiLeaks. Of course, Bradley hasn't admitted to that, and nor would you if you were facing something as "friendly" as the US government, and possible capital punishment.

What is he alleged to have done? First of all, the "Collateral Murder" video, that many of us have seen and millions of people around the world have seen, actually put a face to war.

It put a face to the US war machine. It made what was happening in Iraq real for many of us, because you saw through the lens of a camera; you saw what those engaged in war do. They callously kill people. They very often callously kill the wrong people, like journalists, like civilians, like children.

That is what Bradley Manning is alleged to have shown the world: the actual true face of war.

This delegitmises war. Because the more we know about it, the more we see it in action, the more we say "Not in our name". That is what Bradley Manning has given us the capacity to say as a society: "You are not doing this war in our name."

Just last month the editor of the Guardian, which was one of the newspapers that published much of the WikiLeaks information, said that, in his opinion, the information that was released through WikiLeaks in the Guardian, the New York Times, and then around the world on the internet, delegitimised US support for a number of corrupt regimes in the Middle East.

It actually made it impossible for the US to stand up with those dictators and say "We'll stand by you".

That is the power of information. That is the power of WikiLeaks — it delegitimises those corrupt organisations.

One of the remarkable things we have seen in the last few months is that the US administration and the US army did not come in and stand behind those corrupt regimes in the Middle East, and that was in many ways the real underpinning of the so-called Jasmine revolution.

Previously, the US could, in a relatively open way, stand behind those corrupt regimes and say "We are for market-based structures and stability in the Middle East."

They could no longer do that, because now the information was out that the US government knew these regimes were corrupt, knew they serially violated the human rights of individuals, they knew that even the US diplomats didn't support them.

So when the people in the Middle East challenged those regimes, there was no longer a legitimate way for the US military to come in and stand behind and support them.

And we have seen a flowering of liberalism and a flowering of democracy in the Middle East because of WikiLeaks and the likes of people like Bradley Manning. So all strength to them.

So when you see the biggest organisation on the planet, the US government, mercilessly attack a 23-year-old private, you must realise that man had something pretty special about him.

His project and the project of WikiLeaks, the openness of information, is a special and new development in international relations. The US government wants to stop it. The Australian government, the establishment here, does not want open access to information because they know that open access to information directly challenges existing power relationships.

We want the information, we want access to all of that secret government information because we want to be able to stand up and say "You are not doing that in our name".

So all strength to you for coming here today and we will need to continue this fight, because this ongoing persecution of Bradley Manning is going to be months and years in the making. And when we stand up for him, when we stand up for his basic rights, we are standing up for the rights of all people to have open information.


Manning knew the obligations that his security clearance came with - if it is proven in a court that he did not abide by those obligations, then he deserves the harshest penalties. His other option was to resign, get out, and then speak out. If he chose betrayal as his option, well, what goes around comes around. Regardless of whether you believe he should have done it, he has alledgedly done it and that comes with consequences.

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