Veterans For Peace Tells US Army: Stop Prosecution of GI Whistleblower
A national organization representing thousands of military veterans is calling on the US Army to abandon court martial proceedings against Private Bradley Manning, the accused Wikileaks whistleblower. The young soldier, who has been imprisoned for 21 months, will be formally arraigned today (Thursday, Feb. 23) at Fort Meade, Maryland. Army prosecutors say they will file 22 charges against PFC Manning, including “aiding the enemy,” a crime that can be punished by the death penalty or life in prison.
“Where is the justice?” asks Gerry Condon, a Board member of Veterans For Peace. “The Army is shirking its duty to punish soldiers who have committed rape and murder. Yet they are trying to destroy the life of Bradley Manning, who has not harmed a hair on a person's head.”
In May 2010, the Army arrested PFC Manning, then 22, in Iraq, where he was working as a low level intelligence analyst. He is accused of leaking classified information, including an Army video that shows US soldiers in Baghdad shooting down unarmed civilians, including two Reuters employees, from an Apache helicopter. The video, dubbed “Collateral Murder,” has been viewed millions of times on YouTube.
Prosecutors have also accused Manning of giving Wikileaks thousands of Army diaries from its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army's own reports reveal that the killing of civilians was a regular occurrence and that the Army regularly lied about it.. The diaries also show that the Army was lying to the American people about the progress of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“It is not a crime to reveal evidence of war crimes, but it is a crime to cover up evidence of war crimes, as the Army has apparently done,” said Leah Bolger, a former Navy Commander who was recently elected the first woman president of Veterans For Peace. “The American people deserve to know the truth about the wars being waged in our name,” continued Bolger. “Our soldiers should not be asked to die for a lie, and those who tell us the truth should not be the ones being punished.”
Bradley Manning has been confined for 21 months, including 8 months in solitary confinement at the Marine brig at Quantico, Virginia, where reports of his abuse bordering on torture caused an international outcry. Manning is now at another military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and the Quantico brig has been closed down.. The US government has declined repeated requests by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, to interview PFC Manning privately about his treatment.
Private Manning's lawyer, David Coombs, has complained on his blog that most of his requested defense witnesses were denied by the Army judge, while all of the prosecution witnesses were allowed.
“This is a kangaroo court martial,” said Gerry Condon of Veterans For Peace. “It is now obvious that the US Army will not give PFC Manning a fair trial, That is why Veterans For Peace is calling on Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, and Commander-In-Chief Barack Obama to drop all the charges against Bradley Manning.”
At its national convention in 2010, Veterans For Peace awarded Bradley Manning for his courage. “If he actually did what he is accused of doing, then he is a hero,” said Mike Ferner, Executive Director of Veterans For Peace.
***Veterans For Peace is a 26-year-old organization whose mission is to abolish war through nonviolent means, and to take care of the needs of veterans and victims of war. For more information, visit www.veteransforpeace.org and www.bradleymanning.org.