OAKLAND, Calif. - Supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning, accused of providing Wikileaks with a video of a U.S. helicopter attack on Iraqi civilians, packed the Humanist Hall here Sept. 16 to kick off "Days of Action" in cities around the U.S.
The event, live-streamed to gatherings in some 20 other cities, heard ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former U.S. diplomat and retired Army Col. Ann Wright, and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg praise the courage involved in Manning's alleged actions, and urge support for his defense.
The centerpiece of the evening was a showing of the video Manning is accused of providing to Wikileaks, now available at www.collateralmurder.com. The classified U.S. military video of three July 2007 airstrikes on New Baghdad, Iraq, recorded by the gunsight camera of a U.S. Apache helicopter, graphically depicts the slaughter of a group of men including two Reuters journalists, after the soldiers in the helicopter claim group members are carrying arms and receive permission to fire on them.
"The true carnage of war, the carnage of innocent civilians being shot at, arms and limbs flying in every direction - Manning saw this particular footage and he said, this has to be seen," said Wright. "It summarizes so well what this war is all about, the deaths of civilians, hundreds of thousands if not millions of civilians in Iraq, and for sure hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, with the numbers rising every day."
Whistleblowers know what they are doing when they speak out about crimes being committed by the U.S. government, said Wright. "They are saying, something is wrong and we have to fix it. We are violating our own laws. And yet what happens to them? They go to jail. It's up to us to say this will not happen any more, that these wars have to end now, and we are going to hold people accountable."
Ellsberg, who over 40 years ago revealed the Pentagon Papers, a top secret study of Vietnam War decision-making, called Manning "an American hero."
"We don't know the facts, but let's just assume that for once the Army is telling the truth. Whoever was the source, and let's call him Bradley Manning, deserves our thanks," said Ellsberg, whose action is widely credited with helping to end the earlier war.
McGovern, who said during the Vietnam War he had a chance to reveal information that could have helped to end the conflict, said he feels Manning "deserves a special accolade from folks like me who didn't have the courage he had."
Manning, 22, was an Army intelligence analyst. He is now held in the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., charged with eight criminal charges and four noncriminal violations of Army regulations on handling of classified information and computers. He is also reportedly being investigated in connection with the "Afghan War Diary" materials made public by Wikileaks with The New York Times and other U.S. and international media outlets earlier this year. Manning faces a possible 52 years in prison.
Courage to Resist, which supports military resisters, coordinated the Sept. 16-19 days of action for Manning, which included events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York City, Minneapolis, San Diego, Toronto and other cities. Among co-sponsors of the Oakland event were Bay Area chapters of United for Peace & Justice, Veterans for Peace, National Lawyers Guild Military Law Panel, Grandmothers Against the War and others.
Courage to Resist spokesperson Jeff Paterson said Manning now has a civilian attorney, and the organization is raising funds to cover his legal defense. Preliminary hearings are expected this fall, with pretrial hearings in early 2011 and a court martial anticipated next spring. More information and updates are available at www.couragetoresist.org.
Photo: Daniel Ellsberg speaks at the Oakland rally, Sept. 16. PW/Marilyn Bechtel