Ninety-five degree temperatures did not deter hundreds of protesters from marching in the blazing sun at Ft. Meade, Md., on June 1 to support WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning. “Any day that we are out on the streets for justice is a good day,” said Ashley McCauley, one of the protesters.
The rally and march took place two days before the beginning of Manning’s trial on June 3. Participants included three busloads of people from New York City, members of organizations such as Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, CODEPINK and Courage to Resist, and others that came from around the country in support of Manning.
The 25-year-old Manning faces 22 charges. He is accused of releasing nearly a million classified documents, including diplomatic cables, army reports on Iraq and Afghanistan and the notorious “Collateral Murder” video showing U.S. soldiers shooting unarmed civilians in Iraq in 2007. The trial is expected to take more than two months, with more than 100 witnesses scheduled; 24 of these are secret and will testify behind closed doors.
Manning does not deny leaking the documents and has already pled guilty to 10 of the lesser charges, but maintains that he released the information because he believed it was important for the public to know, saying in online chats that he hoped to start a debate on U.S. foreign policy.
The most serious charge he faces is that of aiding the enemy. In pretrial hearings, the prosecution contended that merely releasing the documents constituted guilt, a framework that Bradley Manning Support Committee steering committee member Kevin Zeese characterized as “very dangerous for the media.” The judge rejected this, but also denied the defense’s assertion that the prosecution had to prove that Manning intended to “aid the enemy,” instead saying that the knowledge that releasing the documents would “aid the enemy” was sufficient to prove guilt.
Manning has gotten strong support from antiwar veterans. At the pre-march rally on June 1, Veterans For Peace member Ward Reilly said to the crowd, “Bradley Manning’s duty was to report what we reported. If you tell the truth in this country, you go to prison. … Bradley Manning should never have been in Iraq to begin with to see what he saw, and that is our collective failure, to not control the politicians and the war criminals. It is our job to see that those war criminals go to jail and take Bradley’s place.”
Heather Linebaugh, a former Air Force drone intelligence analyst, also spoke. “I did the same intelligence analysis as Bradley Manning. I saw the horrors of war and the needless killing every day that I served. I saw the lies that we tell people every day. I saw what really happens in war, the unjustified killings, because officers tell the enlisted: ‘That’s what you’re ordered to do, shut the hell up and do your job.’ If we tried to talk about it, if we tried to tell someone else about it, we were told, ‘It’s okay, collateral damage happens. You just have to accept it.’ We treat Bradley Manning as a criminal, when he really woke us up to something that happens every day.”
She asked for support for the whistleblowing community, saying, “There’s hundreds of other intelligence people in this country and abroad right now that would love to tell you what’s really happening, but we’re terrorized that we aren’t allowed to let anyone know the true horrors of what’s happening in the war. I ask all of you to just wake up to what’s really happening, because the drone program is not a joke. There are people behind those drones being forced to kill people for illegitimate reasons. It’s not a killing machine robot. It’s a war. There’s people dying.”