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'
"Government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal"
Senator Barack Obama, 2008
February 23rd marked the 1000 day anniversary 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 commented:
‘We owe him a great debt… If he is found to have been the source there will be statues of him in Tunisia, in Egypt, I think. Just like [there will] probably [be] a statue of Mohamed Bouazizi, who gave his life, burned himself to death, to protest what was going on [in Tunisia]; another critical link in that chain of events.'
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 the 'Pentagon Papers'- 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 another 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 5 am for a physical examination.
The authorities sought to justifiy this degradation by arguing Manning was a 'suicide risk'.
According to his defense lawyer, Daniel Coombs, he 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 of this year. 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'.
Supporters of Bradley Manning are encouraged to sign the petition organised by Daniel Ellsberg for his release
Sean Ledwith is Lecturer in History and Politics at York College, where he is also UCU branch chair. He is a member of Counterfire and York People's Assembly. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books.