This OpEd was originally posted here
(Second generation social activist, a health care lobbyist on Capitol Hill on behalf of patients and doctors, and independent journalist for Occupy Wall St, and Repeace International)
Veteran For Peace wearing Manning sticker, flag showing distress by Marianne Hoynes
This is a critical time in US History, when the US Government, desperate to cover up war crimes it is committing in the Middle East and Africa, are imposing the most cruel and illegal torture against members of the US military; the sons and daughters of this nation who stepped up to fight for what they believed to be wars for our freedom. The US Government lied to them then, just as the US population is being lied to now by our government, that these wars are anything other than a profit machine for a few rich men. But now we are waking up.
June third our American son Bradley Manning, after 4 years in prison, will be court martialled. That is military speak for, he will be tried and convicted for leaking war crimes perpetrated by the US military; crimes that he found to be so egregious, so disturbing in their injustice and violence, that he could not remain silent. He has been tortured, denied due process and was declared guilty by the President of the US, Barack Obama, before he ever stood in front of a jury of his peers.
Saturday, June 1, days before this trial is set to begin, Americans came from all over the US, to stand for Bradley Manning. One of the largest groups present were Veterans For Peace. These are our surviving veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. These are former "boots on the ground"; the young and the old, soldiers and officers who know the full price of war, know the rules and how warfare is waged, know how to keep troops from harm"s way, and all believe that the only justice for Bradley Manning is to set him free.
Dave Hancock, Vietnam army veteran from N.J. arrived at Fort Meade with a group called The Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War. Dave said that he had lived at Fort Meade, so this was a little bit like coming home to him.
Dave Hancock, Veteran for Peace by Marianne Hoynes
Hancock went on to say, "Fort Meade is the home of the NSA. That is why they are holding Manning here - because the home of the National Security Administration has the highest level of super security. The NSA will know who we all are before we leave here today. This bus load of people do not know what heroes they really are. "
The Americans who did come to Fort Meade were slowly circled all day long by helicopter. As this helicopter made constant, languid circles around the parade of about one thousand strong, there was much speculation among the crowd that it was probably using the latest military facial recognition technology to gather the identities of every protester there. Of course the government has many ways now of warrantlessly tapping our phones, taking all of our information from the internet without our consent, and tracking us wherever we go. The United States calling itself the "Land of the Free" is a joke, and the comedian is the US Government, from the President himself on down to the entire US Congress.
Supporters surrounded by police and military on foot and ATV,in car & helicopter by Marianne Hoynes
From a place of our now lost civil liberties, laws passed without the consent of the American population in the last years like Citizen's United and NDAA, this theater of the absurd is going to condemn a young Bradley Manning to many more years of cruel and unjust incarceration.
US Veteran Lt. Daniel Choi, no stranger to conflict, spoke for Bradley Manning on Saturday. Lt. Choi is a West Point graduate with degrees in Arabic and engineering. He served in combat in the Iraq War as a US infantry officer. He challenged America's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, when he came out publicly as a gay officer, and was discharged against his will from serving in the US military.
Lt. Daniel Choi by Marianne Hoynes
On behalf of Bradley Manning Choi had this to say. "The definition of terrorism is the threat of fear of the use of violence towards the society in order to implement political goals." Choi was talking about the Obama administration, and its use of fear tactics towards Americans who wish to speak out or act against the illegal actions of the US Government; these endless wars for profit that we are waging across the globe.
Kevin Zeese had words for the sons and daughters of America who are still being sent into harm's way, to fight the wars of the rich man for profit, while human lives are just an expendable commodity. Kevin told the sons and daughters of this nation who are now serving, "You do not have to go to Afghanistan if you have come to the conclusion that war is immoral. If you are currently serving, you can apply for a discharge as a Conscientious Objector".
Kevin Zeese by Marianne Hoynes
Jeff Paterson was the first such soldier who refused to fight in the Iraq war for this reason. He spent some time in jail but was eventually released.
Of Manning's actions, he had this to say. "If you are a 22-year-old kid from Oklahoma, and you find yourself in a dark room in Iraq, watching grainy videos of possible war crimes and actually sharing your concerns with your supervisors, and they're telling you to look the other way, shut up, your life will become miserable if you keep talking about this stuff, it's easy to see how somebody could actually look at the big picture and think maybe I could, in some small way, change the world for the better."
Jeff Paterson is now director of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and has been raising funds for Manning's defense. So far he has raised $1.25 million dollars in donations from around the world.
The protest was crawling with press from all over the world. Daniel Ellsberg, admired as a true patriot for leaking the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, explained why the treatment of Manning is so important in the eyes of the world. "Our country", Ellsberg said, " is the country that perpetrated the war crimes that Bradley Manning exposed. Manning went on record and acted on the knowledge that it is wrong for us to be killing foreigners. He was not doing it only for American Citizens, though his actions saved many American lives. Manning was concerned that the people of the world should be informed on how the first world, (we in the west) treats the third world. America has been acting for a long time as if the lives of foreigners mean nothing, not just less than American lives."
Daniel Ellsberg by Marianne Hoynes
In his own words Manning has said, "I hoped that the public would be as alarmed as me about the conduct of the aerial weapons team crew members. I wanted the American public to know that not all of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric Warfare". "Asymmetric warfare is when one army like ours, hugely overpowers in manpower, weaponry and capability, another army", explains Ellsberg.
The people of Iraq, slaughtered now for years by the US Military, have never been considered a uniformed army by the United States. Ellsberg asks the question, "How many other videos have you seen like the one Manning leaked, of Americans mowing down unarmed civilians? None. No one would have seen these war crimes except for the actions of Bradley Manning."
So on the scorching hot and humid day of June 1st, temperatures in the 90's, with the sun beating down mercilessly on Manning supporters from all over the world, Choi got everyone on their feet. "The US government is supposed to get its power from the American people, so we get to make a proclamation today. Get on your feet if you are able. Let us all stand UP for Bradley Manning. Bradley Manning is an American Hero. Bradley Manning, thank you for your service."
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