We Are All Bradley Manning

by , March 15, 2011

The following is a speech given by Kevin Zeese in support of Bradley Manning at Bus Boys and Poets in Washington, D.C., on March 13, 2011.

His cell is six feet wide and twelve feet in length. It has a bed, a drinking fountain, and a toilet.

At 5:00 a.m. he is woken up. He will not be allowed to sleep again until 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep at any time from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards.

He will not be allowed to exercise in his cell, not even push-ups—for his own protection; too dangerous, say his jailers. If he tries, guards stop him.

He has no clothes, as they were taken away the night before. He is forced to sleep naked with a scratchy smock over him that itches throughout the night. He tried not to use the smock because it was so uncomfortable, but he was forced to do so.

A voice asks through the door: Are you all right? I need a verbal response. “Yes, I’m all right.” Five minutes later: Are you all right? I need a verbal response. “Yes, I’m all right.” Every five minutes, every day for seven months he has been asked: Are you all right? I need a verbal response.

A voice through the door orders: Get out of your bed for the morning duty brig supervisor inspection.

Still no clothes.

He gets out of the bed, shivering from being naked all night in a cold cell.

He walks toward the front of the cell with his hands in front, covering his genitals.

A guard orders: Stand at parade rest.

He puts his hands behind his back, with legs spaced shoulder-width apart. He stands at parade rest waiting and waiting until the brig supervisor arrives. Everyone is called to attention.

The brig supervisor and the other guards walk past the cell. They stop and look as he stands naked. Stare at him. Look at the room. Stare at him some more. Then they move on to the next cell. He stands waiting for the inspection of all the cells to end. When this is completed, a guard orders, “Go sit on your bed.” Sitting naked, waiting, waiting, waiting. Ten minutes later, finally, clothes arrive and he can dress. The shiver from the cold night stays with him.

This is how Bradley Manning’s day begins. The nudity has been required for more than a week, with no end in sight, but he has been in solitary in Quantico for seven months, in total for 10 months.

Charles Dickens, who spent months at a time living with the general populations of prisons and mental hospitals throughout America in the 1800s, wrote about solitary confinement: “I believe it to be cruel and wrong. … I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.”

It is torture. They are torturing him. We should call it nothing else. Long-term solitary confinement is torture. Research shows previously healthy prisoners have “develop[ed] clinical symptoms usually associated with psychosis or severe affective disorders” including “all types of psychiatric morbidity.” Many have committed suicide.

The spokesperson for the State Department, P.J. Crowley, put his career on the line to speak with disfavor against the treatment of Manning. He described Manning’s confinement as “counterproductive and stupid.” Crowley resigned Sunday, and it has been reported in the media that Obama administration did not want the division on Manning known to the public. Our pressure forced the president to call the Pentagon about Manning’s treatment. Our work getting Manning’s message out resulted in P.J. Crowley giving up his job as spokesperson for U.S. foreign policy. We are having an impact.

In our Big Brother security state, the military says it does it for Manning’s own protection. It’s a lie that does not pass the straight-face test. Once again lies become truth as a compliant press writes them down and reports them as facts. The president reinforces the lie, telling America he has talked to the Pentagon and they have said it is for Manning’s own protection. The president says this with a straight face.

Does anyone believe the president anymore? This is the president that told us America doesn’t torture. This is the president who said that Raymond Davis was a diplomat who deserved diplomatic immunity. In fact, he was a Blackwater mercenary working for the CIA who allegedly killed two Pakistanis. The president’s comments to the press were dutifully reported when the press knew he was working for the CIA. The press had been told to lie to us, not tell us the truth, and they did as the government demanded until a foreign newspaper told the truth. The president and the press need to lie to us because the truth is terrifying.

Friends, we are here today because we know, we are all Bradley Manning. A crime against one of us is a crime against all of us. We need to stand together, to stand with Brad, because this is much bigger than Bradley Manning.

We are living through a time of revolutionary change. We see it around the world, and we see it around the nation. The corporate-government media does not report the resistance occurring throughout the nation, because if Americans knew that their fellow Americans were standing up against corporate government, real change, shifting power to the people, would be more likely.

And the corporate media is threatened by what Bradley Manning is accused of. They are losing hold of their monopoly on information as WikiLeaks shows the way to the democratization of the media. We are living through the birth of a new media that will shift the power of information control from the few to the many. Information is a commodity that the corporate government has sought to control because it knows information is power. But in this new media age we can all be reporters, writers, commentators. Through email, blogs, websites, and social media, each of us can share information. We all can become part of the new media.

And through encryption technology those who work inside corrupt governments, including our own, and abusive big businesses can provide media outlets—new and old—anonymously with information that increases the transparency of these powers that control our lives. They are scared of Bradley Manning and scared of WikiLeaks, but prosecuting Manning or Assange will not stop this revolution.

If in 1450 Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, had been prosecuted, the revolution of printing would have occurred anyway. The information revolution has progressed too far to be stopped. Information will flow, transparency will increase, and media will be democratized.

Bradley Manning is paying a price because the security state is not secure. The people already know too much of the truth, and the government fears us knowing more. They know control can be lost. The rigged system is falling apart, and they are doing all they can to hold onto power. Bradley Manning must be tortured to force him to testify against Assange. Manning must be made an example of. The revolutionaries must be punished.

The treatment of Bradley Manning is about intimidating all of us. They know, as WikiLeaks says, courage is contagious. By standing together, we respond to their intimidation with strength, joy, and resolve.

For all these reasons, we must stand with Brad. We are all Bradley Manning.

If what he is accused of is true, Manning has exposed abusive governments throughout the world. The documents published by WikiLeaks worked hand in hand with democracy activists in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia, and so many more. The documents have shown the lie of Swedish claims of neutrality. In fact, Sweden’s minister of justice participated in the rendition of two innocent men from Sweden to Egypt via the CIA, where that regime tortured them. Sweden later awarded them damages for their torture. The now former minister of justice who handed these innocent people to the CIA for torture in Egypt, Thomas Bodstrom, is the law partner of the lawyer representing Assange’s accusers.

The documents have shown the truth of the largest and most powerful empire in world history—the American Empire. They have confirmed so much that we already suspected is in fact true—the U.S. is a rogue superpower that bullies, threatens, and blackmails to get its way. That works with dictators and security-state regimes—many of which are now being deposed by their people. That supports coups of democratically elected governments then tries to hide them. It shows the most powerful military in world history, a military that has failed to win a major war since World War II, kills civilians wantonly and then covers it up, arrests people without cause, and violates the law by using torture. And it shows a State Department whose diplomats are required by the order of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to illegally spy on other diplomats. No wonder that just before the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables were published Secretary Clinton said she would never run for office again. The threat of democratized information—the transparency of truth—is occurring at a time when the empire is faltering, and behind its bluster, the empire is afraid.

If what Bradley is accused of is true, he was trying to start a debate on the abusive U.S. foreign policy and create a more perfect union. That is in the preamble to the U.S. Constitution that we seek to form a “more perfect union,” and Bradley is being tortured for doing what the Constitution demands of us.

The treatment of Bradley Manning shows their fear. They know they have been exposed, that the truth of their crimes is becoming known to all. Even the corporate-government media cannot hold the truth back in a time when the media is being democratized.

But even though Manning stands for a bigger issue—a revolution of truth—he is an individual human who is suffering at the hands of abusive jailers. We are here today to work together to end his suffering and free Bradley Manning.

This week Brad’s father, Brian, spoke for the first time. He said his son was innocent. He said his son was being abused. He stood by Brad. When I saw him, and saw he was 55 years old—my age—and looked again at Brad, who is the age of my youngest son, it pierced my heart even deeper. It made Bradley even more human, more fragile, more vulnerable to their abuse.

Many people are coming to Brad’s aid. At the Bradley Manning Support Network, www.BradleyManning.org, thousands have donated to Bradley’s legal defense and enabled our advocacy for him. People are also donating to the Bradley Manning Advocacy Fund, which is making sure Bradley’s side of the story is told. In addition to making donations tonight, bidding on the many items here today, please sign up and stay involved. It is Bradley Manning vs. the U.S. government—a desperate dying empire that wants someone to blame.

Manning is now facing the potential of capital punishment or life in prison, not for selling secrets to U.S. enemies, but for allegedly sharing information about war crimes as well as other criminal and unethical behavior, to the media. The double standard of this potential punishment is seen clearly when compared to the sentences of other soldiers. Retired Col. Ann Wright highlighted the sad absurdity when she pointed to the sentence given to a U.S. soldier convicted of mutilating Afghan civilians. That soldier received nine months of work detail at his base, not even in prison. What is the message? The message is that murder, mutilation, and rape are less serious offenses than allegedly providing documents that show crimes and misdeeds of government officials.

The hypocrisy does not end there. Secretary Clinton has been lecturing the world about the need for freedom of speech, press, and association in the Internet age. At her second speech on the subject, as she was talking about freedom of speech being essential to democracy, our colleague Ray McGovern, an intelligence analyst for the CIA for 27 years as well as a military veteran, stood in silence to protest the U.S. wars and the treatment of Bradley Manning. He was brutally arrested, thrown to the floor, and then thrown in jail, where he was left bleeding. Secretary Clinton kept talking about the importance of freedom of speech as freedom of speech was thrown to the ground before her.

Both Secretary Clinton and President Obama have praised people in foreign governments who have exposed the corruption of their governments, but both have criticized WikiLeaks and Bradley Manning for allegedly doing the same here. The hypocrisy is so evident it is impossible to miss—but the corporate-government media does not even report it.

As I was thinking about Bradley Manning for this speech, my mind wandered to another injustice. The prosecution of Tim DeChristopher for boldly trying to stop or delay the sale of oil leases in Utah as Bidder 70, bidding on the lands to raise their price. Tim saw the sales as illegal and wanted to raise awareness about aggressive drilling in pristine western areas. Even though a federal judge later blocked many of the leases from being issued, on March 3, 2011, Tim was convicted and now faces up to 10 years in jail when he is sentenced on June 23. After his conviction, he came outside the courthouse and said:

“You’ve shown that your power will not be intimidated by any power that they have, and that’s the most important thing that has happened here this week.

“Everything that went on inside that building tried to convince me that I was alone, and that I was weak. Inside that building, they tried to convince me that I was a little finger out there on my own that could easily be broken. All of you out here were the reminder, for all of us, that I wasn’t just a finger all alone in there, but that I was connected to a hand, with many fingers that can unite as one fist, and that fist cannot be broken by the power that they have in there.

“That fist is not a symbol of violence. That fist is a symbol that we will not be misled into thinking that we are alone. We will not be lied to and told we are weak. We will not be divided, and we will not back down. That fist is a symbol that we are connected, and that we are powerful. It is a symbol that we hold true to our vision of a healthy and just world and we are building the self-empowering movement to make it happen. All the authorities in there wanted me to think like a finger, but our children are calling to us to think like a fist.”

So, we must stand with Brad. Bradley is not a finger. Bradley is part of a hand that connects all of us into a self-empowering movement for peace and justice.

To emphasize the point, a large group of supporters from Peaceful Uprising stood outside, and in unity they said, “We are all Bidder 70.” As Tim walked through the crowd hugging each of them, they sang:

“I will stand with you. Will you stand with me?
We will be the change that we hope to see.
In the name of love, in the name of peace,
Will you stand, will you stand with me?
When injustice raises up its fist
And fights to stop us in our tracks,
We will rise and as one resist.
No fear nor sorrow can turn us back.
I will stand with you. Will you stand with me?
We will be the change that we hope to see.
In the name of love, in the name of peace,
Will you stand, will you stand with me?”

Let us show Bradley Manning that he is not alone, and that we are standing with him. We are all Bradley Manning. Bid tonight. Donate to his legal and advocacy funds. And, join us next week in Quantico as we stand at the Marine Base where he is being illegally tortured.

Stand with Bradley Manning.

Thank you all for being here.

Information for the Quantico, Va., March 20 rally is here, and information for the End These Wars, Expose the Lies, and Free Bradley Manning civil resistance on March 19 at the White House is here.

Read more by Kevin B. Zeese