Bradley Manning? What can we do here in Wales to support him?
In brief, Bradley Manning is a young man, aged 23, an intelligence analyst with the US Military. He stands accused of unauthorised disclosure of US classified information, including the Collateral Murder' video and the 'Afghan War Diary'. These disclosures confirm what most of us already knew: that the invading and occupying forces in Iraq have killed civilians in unprovoked attacks and have lied about these attacks to cover their backs; that the war being waged on/in Afghanistan is an unmitigated disaster.
He is further suspected of releasing hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables which, amongst all the trivia, demonstrate how the US operates across the planet - as a serial bully intent on full spectrum domination.
Currently held in Quantico military jail, Virginia, in solitary confinement and with little or no access to daylight, fresh air or exercise, "tortuous conditions that are proven to cause mental deterioration" [US Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons], he has been subjected to these cruel and unusual punishments for over seven months now, but has yet to be tried or convicted of any crime.
Irrespective of whether he actually carried out the acts he is suspected of and irrespective of whether he is ultimately convicted, he is a casualty of the typically repressive treatment of whistleblowers everywhere, designed to discourage others from speaking out in the face of injustice and cover-up. For instance, Mordechai Vanunu, who blew the whistle on Israel's nuclear weapons programme, was jailed for 18 years, spent 12 of them in solitary confinement and is still not free to travel or to communicate with the outside world. Such treatment is designed to let us know that we live in a world where honesty, openness and integrity, particularly when it exposes things the imperial powers would prefer us not to know, will be severely punished. There have even been calls from right-wing Republicans for Bradley Manning’s execution. He is likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars, unless such a groundswell of public pressure and outrage at his incarceration makes a lengthy detention politically impossible to sustain.
Bradley Manning's mother is Welsh. He lived in Wales for three years when a teenager and was educated at a local high school. His mother and extended maternal family still live in Wales.
A bit of Welsh history
Here in Wales, there is a long tradition of peace work and antimilitarism, social justice movements and international solidarity. 150+ years ago, there was Henry Richard of Tregaron, whose work included an organising role in the Worldwide Peace Congress in Brussels in 1848 and persuading Gladstone’s government to accept a motion that it was the duty of His Majesty’s Government to recommend a reduction in Europe’s armaments. Then there was George Maitland Lloyd Davies, one-time Wrexham bank manager and Welsh Fusilier, who was subsequently elected to Parliament as a Christian Pacifist and later became a Presbyterian minister. He was sent to jail as a conscientious objector more than once during the First World War and played a part in early peace talks with Ireland, acting as a bridge between de Valera and Lloyd George.
Cymdeithas y Cymod, the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales, has protested the forced removal of the residents of Mynydd Epynt since 1940 when the land was seized from the locals by the War Office, and is now protesting against the testing of drones in the airspace above the evicted land. It was women from Wales who established the Greenham Common peace camp following the ‘Women for Life on Earth’ march from Penarth to Greenham organised by Anne Pettit, and another Welsh woman, Helen Thomas, who lost her life there in 1989 after being hit by a police vehicle. Activists from Wales, some of them elderly, were sent to jail in the 80s for failing to pay fines imposed for their symbolic acts of resistance at nuclear installations during the 'Snowball' Campaign. There is a Temple of Peace in Cardiff and proposals for a Welsh Peace Institute to be established. There are strong international solidarity campaigns in Wales including Palestine Solidarity campaign, Cymru-Cuba and Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign. There are still many active local peace and justice groups across Wales.
What can we do?
In the tradition of peace, justice and support for the oppressed, we are surely capable of mounting a solidarity campaign for Bradley Manning here in Wales. Responsible for the Wikileaks disclosures or not, he is in prison for anyone who has ever protested US wars of aggression and British (and other countries’) complicity in these wars, questioned government cover-ups or argued for openness, transparency and accountability. He is there, likely for the long term, in all our names and we need to speak out for him wherever we are. Exposing war crimes is not a crime!
My suggestion is that, in the first instance, we ask performers, preachers, politicians, poets, writers and anyone else we can think of in the Welsh public eye to make statements in support of Bradley Manning. If you know anyone who fits the bill, please talk to them about Bradley and his Welsh connections, send them some background information and ask if they will make a statement to the press, on their blog or website and forward a copy (with a link to the original) to firstname.lastname@example.org (Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum) where I will collate them.
People can also donate to Bradley Manning's defence fund.