Today (Thursday, February 3) the Bradley Manning Support Network, an ad hoc, international grassroots effort to help Bradley Manning, the private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, is holding a National White House Call-in Day. The group says it is holding the Call-in Day because the Obama Administration has pretended not to know anything about the case.
Kevin Zeese, a leader with the group, spoke to WL Central about Manning and the Call-in Day.
"The reason we decided to go to the White House is Robert Gibbs was asked about Manning at a press conference and gave a kind of we don't know anything about it answer," explained Zeese.
A press release for the Call-in Day suggests the White House has no concern for "Bradley Manning's extreme confinement conditions, or the fact that recent pre-approved visitors of Bradley's have been detained and interrogated by military police in order to block their scheduled visit."
Zeese described the work of the network, explaining it started shortly after Manning was arrested and then detained about eight months ago. The group's first task was to "raise money for his legal defense, and thanks to tens of thousands of donors" the group raised around $125,000. Manning was able to choose the military lawyer he wanted to represent him, David E. Coombs.
The group's next task was to "generate support for Manning: when his conditions of confinement came out, that became a key issue." It was an opportunity for the group to discuss his case and make people consider whether he was a patriot or a traitor.
Zeese suggested that the “necessity” defense, which came out of the Nuremberg Trials, could be part of his case. Following orders, since then, has been no excuse for being complicit in war crimes. Much of the network thinks Manning was a soldier in the military who saw war crimes being covered up, didn’t want to be accused of war crimes himself, and so decided to get information out to the public.
The support network’s advisory board includes: Medea Benjamin of Code Pink: Women for Peace; Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, board member for the National Whistleblower Center; Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Kathleen Gilberd, Co-Chair of the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild; Mike Gravel, former United States Senator (D-AK); Kimber Heinz, War Resisters League; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Member of the Icelandic Parliament; Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and activist; Michael Moore, documentary filmmaker, author and activist; Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans against the War and Ann Wright, US Army Colonel (retired).
It enjoys the support of professor Noam Chomsky, journalist Scott Horton, and, in addition to Code Pink, a number of other peace groups.
Photo by Bill Hughes
Toward the end of last year was when this movement around supporting Manning really began to develop. Letter writing, phone calling, demonstrating and petitioning all became tools for increasing the public's understanding of Manning's arrest and detention. And, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the group held one of their most successful demonstrations yet at Quantico Brig, the Marine base where he is being held.
Zeese recounted the demonstration saying supporters were told to stay off Marine property but went ahead and marched up to the entrance. They blocked the entrance for a few hours and slowed traffic. The group was very proud that they were able to take this stand, however, Zeese suggested it is exactly these demonstrations of support that are pushing military on the base to increase the strict conditions of Manning's detention. For example, after the demonstration on MLK Day, Manning was put on suicide watch, even though his psychiatrist said that was not necessary.
Many in the group find that Manning's act was intended to start a debate on US foreign policy. The group has raised the fact that Manning "did not sell the documents and make himself wealthy, he did not take the documents to Iran or China or another competitor of the US. He did not even conceive of doing these things. " Manning can only be alleged to have leaked the documents for no charge to the media, to WikiLeaks. And so, the group largely concludes that he wanted to draw attention to US foreign policy
Zeese illuminated how the contents of the WikiLeaks cables released thus far support the idea that Manning wanted more debate.
"WikiLeaks documents really lay out in the language of US diplomats how we are behaving like a rogue nation: that we bribe foreign officials, threaten foreign officials, we spy on foreign officials, that we work with dictators and loyalists unelected, that we work against democratically elected leaders in coups," explained Zeese. "Hillary Clinton's turned the State Department into a nest of spies. All of this has come out in these documents."
Zeese added, "The United States needs to debate that foreign policy and Bradley Manning if he did this is responsible for starting that debate. That's a patriotic act, trying to make us a better country."
On some of the news regarding Manning that has come out recently, Zeese said the stories on "mental health" should be regarded as a "counter-attack in the propaganda war." He suggested the stories are part of a "character assassination" campaign by the Department of Defense. On Manning possibly being a citizen in UK, he said the group is working with people in Wales (Manning’s mother lives in Wales). And, on reports of no link between Julian Assange and Manning, he said “that was very important” because “there were some early analysis of Manning's pre-trial punishment as really a way to get him to testify against Assange.”
Today, Thursday, February 3, the group hopes to build on all the work it has done so far by convincing a number of Americans to call the White House and indicate their concerns over the way Manning has been treated.
To participate in the Call-in Day, here is the call-in information:
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011
White House switchboard: 202-456-1414
(or White House comments: 202-456-1111)
The Bradley Manning Support Network has posted some talking points worth raising when contacting the White House.