Monday, June 25, 2012

Bradley Manning Support Network » Bradley Manning, military resistance, and

Bradley Manning, military resistance, and the left | Jun 22nd 2012

The Brecht Forum’s third ‘Manning Monday’ event discussed Bradley Manning’s role in the broad U.S. antiwar movement, and how the left can better rally around Bradley as he is prosecuted in Ft. Meade.

By Nathan Fuller. June 21, 2012.

This week, Manhattan’s Brecht Forum hosted another Manning Monday event, the third in a four-part series examining Bradley Manning’s case and its nuances and implications. The first event, “Being Bradley Manning,” debunked myths about the Army private and reviewed his most recent legal proceedings. In the second, “Bradley Manning, Wikileaks & Some Dangerous Data,” Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Alfredo Lopez & Trevor Timm discussed government transparency in the Internet age. Next Monday, June 25, the series’ will conclude with “Manning, Motions, and Media,” will feature the Support Network’s Emma Cape, CCR lawyer Shayana Kadidal, The Nation’s Greg Mitchell & CMJ’s Betty Yu.

This Monday’s event, entitled “Bradley Manning, Military Resistance, and the Left,” focused on Manning’s role in the wider antiwar movement, with Tod Ensign and Kimber Heinz. We screened ‘Grounds for Resistance,’ a documentary about fledgling coffeehouses outside military bases for war resisters, conscientious objectors, and other former soldiers seeking aid that the military wouldn’t provide. Objectors and resisters run the coffeehouses and coordinate with groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War, opposing America’s current wars and helping soldiers in need.

Following the film, Ensign and Heinz opined on Bradley Manning’s place in the context of these resisters and the broader antiwar movement. Some see Bradley as another in a long line of resisters, but Bradley not only conscientiously objected to what he saw in Iraq – he actively sought to stop it. Charles Davis explored why, as he feels, many liberals and even some in the antiwar movement haven’t fully rallied around the accused whistle-blower:

“[Bradley] didn’t settle for working within a system explicitly designed to thwart the exposure of wrongdoing, through a chain of command that callously ignores concern for non-American life. Having access to evidence of grotesque crimes no one around him seemed to care about, he engaged in direct action, exposing them for the benefit of the world and those paying for them, the U.S. taxpayer.”

Ensign recalled Dr. Howard Levy from the Vietnam War, who stopped treating victims in protest of how the U.S. government was using medicine against the Vietnamese. He noted that the antiwar movement rallied around Levy then, whereas Manning has been left to fade from their focus.

“That’s not his fault,” Ensign said. “It’s ours.”

Part of the problem is the weakened state of today’s antiwar movement, divided under a Democratic president and seemingly afraid to challenge America’s wars of aggression, now that they’re fought more with drone strikes than with occupying forces.

But Heinz also suggested that the antiwar movement, at least among these resisters, was more about building up networks of veterans. She said the IVAW is “about leaders in various networks,” inspiring resisting soldiers to each have their own “Manning moment.”

While this bodes well for the resistance movement and may help breathe new life into antiwar coalitions, it lacks the urgency required to save Bradley Manning now. Ensign observed, “It’s easy to sit in forums and call for [Bradley’s] freedom, but the reality is there’s lots of work left to be done.” Indeed, we who wish to free Bradley from his unwarranted chains have under five months before his court martial trial, in which prosecutors aim to send him to prison for life without parole. Bradley’s case raises scores of issues in the abstract, but we must remember that Bradley Manning the person faces very real punishment for believing his fellow Americans deserved to know what their government does in secret.

The anti-NATO protests were a heartening signal that Bradley remains in the minds of the antiwar left and civil liberties advocates from across the political spectrum. Hundreds of Manning signs and posters pervaded the rallies in Chicago, with some observers claiming Bradley was the “poster boy” of the protests. Many remember Bradley is credited with helping end the occupation in Iraq and providing information that supported democratic uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

We need to convert that energy into even stronger support out at Ft. Meade.  While Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has made exemplary efforts to defend him in court, the military judge thus far has largely sided with the prosecution, denying motions to dismiss even the most egregious charge of “aiding the enemy.” So we cannot rely on the legal fight alone to save Bradley from life in a cage – we must make it a political burden to prosecute him at all.

We have some indications our work is already having an effect. At recent pre-trial hearings in May, the prosecution’s deliberate stalling tactics became even too much for the judge to ignore. Some of us wondered whether the intentional delays weren’t designed to force the court-martial to be pushed back after the election. Sure enough, later that week, we discovered that Bradley’s court-martial start date had been moved from September 21 until a few weeks after Election Day. Perhaps Obama’s campaign realized that their retaliation was already becoming an unpopular political liability?

Bradley recently thanked his supporters for their consistent efforts, saying he was grateful for those who’ve come out on his behalf for these two long years. In these last few months we have left, we need to redouble our efforts to secure justice for Bradley, for putting his future on the line in the interest of transparency, peace, and an informed democracy.

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