21-year-old Bradley Manning is a gay man imprisoned for one year awaiting trial for allegedly leaking the trove of U.S. diplomatic communications published by Wikileaks - leaks which exposed the rampant cynicism of American foreign policy, regardless of administration, and the United States' intimate relationships with brutal dictators and human rights abusers around the world.
Despite vehement protests by Secretary of State Clinton and others that the leaks "threatened lives," not a single case of injury or death has been linked to the disclosures. On the contrary, the leaks are widely credited with helping spur the "Arab Spring" of rebellions across North Africa by exposing the dirty dealings of close American allies in the region.
Manning's other "crime" was his alleged release of a U.S. military video showing the July 12, 2007 slaughter in Iraq of two Reuters journalists and several other civilians. Despite clear evidence of a war crime comparable in its brazenness to the infamous My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War, no U.S. military personnel were disciplined, let alone put on trial for the Reuters incident... aside from Manning himself.
If indeed he committed the "crimes" of which he is accused, he should receive a humanitarian award, not punishment. Daniel Ellsberg, the renowned whistleblower of the Vietnam War who leaked the so-called "Pentagon Papers" to the New York Times and Washington Post, recognizes the immense public service done by the Wikileaks revelations and despite his advanced years, has become among Manning's most ardent champions.
Shooting the Messenger (Again)
Until recently, Manning was imprisoned at a U.S. military brig in Quantico, VA under conditions internationally recognized as torture by human rights activists. He was often stripped naked overnight, subject to harassment and sleep deprivation, and held in solitary confinement in a cell for 23 out of 24 hours each day.
It doesn't take a conspiratorial mindset to see these outrageous conditions of imprisonment as designed to break Manning's spirit through isolation from his supporters -- a brazen attempt to ring a false "confession" out of him.
Indeed, even White House spokesman P. J. Crowley in March condemned Manning's manner of confinement was "ridiculous, counter-productive and stupid." And for this truth-telling did Crowley get a Nobel Prize? No, Obama fired him.
While the conditions of Manning's imprisonment have recently improved considerably - thanks to the international protest which prompted Crowley's remarks - he is still facing a potentially very long prison sentence and perhaps the death penalty.
Much of Manning's short life has been a living hell - growing up in a rural town as an isolated gay youth, divorced parents, a closeted gay man in the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military, witnessing the barbarism of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and now, imprisonment at the age of age of 21.
It is the duty of gay rights activists -- indeed human rights activists of any description - to demand the release of Pvt. Bradley Manning.
It is outrageous that he is imprisoned while demonstrable war criminals -- such as former President Bush and other well-connected bureaucrats who gave us approved torture and the illegal war on Iraq -- go free. Rather than prosecute these major-league criminals, President Obama has chosen to continue their crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, thereby pinning upon himself the war criminal label.
To help call attention to these serious justice issues, the Gay Liberation Network is proud to be participating in a national demonstration on Saturday, June 4th at Manning's new place of imprisonment, Fort Leavenworth, KS, and are organizing transportation to it.
We are renting a "mega-van" to travel over that weekend to the protest and as we have a few seats left, we invite you to join us. Your share of expenses would be $30 for the van, $20 for motel Friday night, plus paying for your own meals. For details, please contact us at LGBTliberation@aol.com.