12 October 2012

Free Bradley Manning!

U.S. Army private Bradley Manning, currently detained at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, awaits a February court martial on nearly two dozen charges that include “aiding the enemy,” identified as Al Qaeda. The 24-year-old Manning, who was stationed in Baghdad as an intelligence analyst in 2009-10, was detained in May 2010 under allegations that he gave WikiLeaks the much-publicized video of an Apache helicopter gunning down two Reuters journalists and the Iraqis who tried to rescue them, with the pilots gloating over the carnage. Manning is also accused of distributing more than 250,000 State Department cables as well as military reports detailing the torture of Iraqis and documenting the killing of some 120,000 civilians in imperialist-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces penalties of up to life in military custody or even execution.

On July 27, Manning’s attorney David Coombs filed a motion to dismiss all charges on the grounds of unlawful pretrial punishment. During his prior nine-month detention at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, Manning was placed in solitary confinement under “prevention of injury” (suicide watch) status despite repeated protests by brig psychiatrists. He was forced to sleep with a “tear-proof security blanket” that caused rashes and rug burns while not protecting him from the cold. Forbidden from exercising in his cell, he was granted only 20 minutes of sunshine daily, during which he was shackled.

When Manning pointed out the absurdity of the suicide watch restrictions, he was vindictively forced to repeatedly stand naked at parade rest in view of multiple guards and suffered other penalties. Finally, in April 2011, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, where he is allowed to socialize with prisoners, walk around unshackled and keep personal and hygiene items in his cell.

By the time Manning reaches his February trial, he will have spent 983 days in pretrial confinement, awaiting “his day” in a court that has essentially declared him guilty while banning evidence that may prove his innocence. In July, the court refused to admit government “damage assessment” reports that would help him to refute the inflammatory charge that the WikiLeaks postings aided Al Qaeda. At the same hearing, the court refused to admit United Nations torture investigator Juan Méndez as a witness, the latest move by Manning’s persecutors to cover up the fact that his confinement has amounted to torture.

In a September 26 speech streamed into a UN panel discussion from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange described Manning’s time in captivity, emphasizing that this is part of the U.S. government’s attempt “to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me.” Assange denounced the White House for “trying to erect a national regime of secrecy” by targeting whistle-blowers as well as the journalists to whom they pass information.

Indeed, the Sydney Morning Herald (27 September) reported that declassified U.S. Air Force documents confirm that the military has designated Assange and WikiLeaks as “enemies” of the state—the same legal category as Al Qaeda. The documents reveal that any military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or its supporters may be charged with “communicating with the enemy,” which carries a maximum penalty of death. Assange’s U.S. attorney, Michael Ratner, stressed the danger his client faces: “An enemy is dealt with under the laws of war, which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial, etc.” The Obama administration has brought criminal charges against six government and military whistle-blowers, more than all the previous presidents in U.S. history combined.

If Bradley Manning was indeed the source of the leaks, he performed a valuable service to the working class and the oppressed worldwide by helping lift the veil of secrecy and lies with which the capitalist rulers try to cover their depredations. By persecuting Manning and WikiLeaks, the White House is sending the message that any such exposure will bring the most severe punishment. This only underscores that it is in the vital interests of the working class, in the U.S. and internationally, to take up the fight for Bradley Manning’s freedom. 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 1010, 12 October 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.