United States: Manning's 1000 days that shame Obama

Protest in support of Bradley Manning, Melbourne, February 22. Photo from BradleyManning.org.

Bradley Manning read a 35-page statement to a US court on February 28, in which he explained and defended his decision to leak hundreds of thousands of secret US documents to WikiLeaks. Manning explained he felt the information leaked, which detailed serious war crimes and cover ups, deserved to be made public. Manning pleading guilty to all charges, except for "aiding the enemy".

In the article below, Sean Ledwith looks at the significance of Manning's actions and the response by US authorities. It is reprinted from Counter Fire.

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February 23 marked the 1000th day of the detention without trial of Private Bradley Manning, accused by the US government of leaking thousands of confidential documents to the whistleblowing WikiLeaks website.

Around the world on that day, thousands of his supporters took to the streets to demonstrate that — despite the best efforts of the US state and mainstream media — he has not been forgotten and is instead regarded as a hero. Many of them carried banners declaring, “We are Bradley Manning”.

Daniel Ellsberg spoke for millions when he said: “We owe him a great debt … If he is found to be the source of there will be statues of him in Tunisia, in Egypt, I think”.

Ellsberg is referring to the widely argued claim that Manning's actions played a role in both Obama's grudging decision to pull US troops out of Iraq and the triggering of the Arab uprisings.

Ellsberg is well qualified to make such a judgement. He was a military analyst at the US Defense Department in the 1960s who leaked a series of documents that exposed the secret terror operations of the Nixon administration during the Vietnam war.

Ellsberg was subjected to a cynical smear campaign by the US government of the time. In hindsight, it is unsurprising that such an infamously corrupt president would supervise such a devious operation. Manning, however, has been subjected to degrading humiliation by an administration led by a former Lecturer in Constitutional Law at Chicago University.

The humiliations inflicted on Manning have plumbed a new depth for a state that is now synonymous with the abusive facilities of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and others.

Shortly after his detention in May 2010 he was transferred from his posting in Iraq to the military jail at Quantico, Virginia. He was held in solitary confinement in a small cell without a pillow or bedding. A guard would shout at him every five minutes — day and night — to check if he was “ok”. He would be forced to spend the night naked and then made to stand up at 5am for a physical examination.

The authorities sought to justify this degradation by arguing Manning was a “suicide risk”.

Manning's defence lawyer Daniel Coombs said the whistleblower was in reality being punished for his sarcastic responses to the brainless questions of his guards: “In response to PFC Manning's question, he was told that there was nothing he could do to downgrade his detainee status and that the Brig simply considered him a risk of self-harm.

“PFC Manning then remarked that the POI restrictions were 'absurd' and sarcastically stated that if he wanted to harm himself, he could conceivably do so with the elastic waistband of his underwear or with his flip-flops.”

Manning's trial date has now been pushed back again to June. The 1000 days of degradation he has endured already will be added to between now and then as the authorities continue to subject him to relentless questioning and psychological pressure.

The most serious charge he faces is “aiding the enemy”, an offence that potentially carries the death sentence.

The military judge in the case, Colonel Denise Lind, has already stated Manning cannot use the “whistleblower's defence”, despite an acknowledgement from the Pentagon itself that: “We have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents.”

It is glaringly obvious that the US state is pursuing a punitive and merciless policy against a courageous individual who has dared to expose the malevolence that lies beneath Obama's veneer of “hope and change”.

Sign a petition organised by Daniel Ellsberg for Bradley Manning's release.

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