Saturday, August 24, 2013

Chelsea Manning and Ecuador

Three and a half days ago Col. Denise Lind sentenced Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to 35 years imprisonment for releasing information to the public, which exposed war crimes, massive wrongdoing and knowledge of deep-seated corruption of regimes our government long supported. There was of course the famous Apache Helicopter video from Baghdad, dubbed "Collateral Murder," but there was also State Department cables such as the one about the severely corrupt ruling family in Tunisia which helped spark the Arab Spring, as well as information on Guantanamo prisoners, most of whom are still being held in this gulag despite being cleared for release, and more accurate civilian casualty counts from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq than had ever previously been released. Much of this information was indeed embarrassing to the U.S. government, but no one was directly harmed by the releases, despite the prosecution's best efforts (even in closed door sessions from what Manning's attorney David Coombs has indicated) to suggest.

35 years was close to the prediction I formulated in my mind, having attended 12 days of the trial. There were many who attended far more of the trial than me -- some predicted a longer sentence, others predicted shorter hoping against hope that Lind, who is being promoted, would show mercy to this young, courageous, deeply ethical humanist who was disturbed and disgusted by the dehumanization of people on the other side of the globe we have been told we were somehow "liberating" by destroying their infrastructures, and bombing their communities. Chelsea wanted to spark meaningful debate and hoped for some reform within the heart of the U.S. Empire. And now we must demand a pardon for her after a three and half year pre-trial prison term she has already served. There is a petition requesting President Obama quickly issue a Pardon for Manning. Hopefully more mainstream Democrats will get behind this campaign, in part launched by Amnesty International and now endorsed by media darlings, The Young Turks.

I do think the struggle to liberate Chelsea Manning will continue. It is surprising how many Americans have not heard, or have forgotten about political prisoners in the U.S. such as Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. Well now we have another prominent political prisoner, probably the greatest U.S. whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg. And while the U.S. Empire spends time and resources (although Obama has at times tried to downplay this effort) trying to track down and arrest Edward Snowden, another great whistleblower, Manning will be in the military prison in Ft. Leavenworth. Although some liberals seem to praise Snowden and condemn Manning, I would like to say that Manning showed more courage and honor, by pleading guilty, a.k.a. accepting full responsibility for 20 charges filed against her at the beginning of the trial. But I don't blame Snowden, I would have also left, having seen what happened with Manning, especially during her stay at Quantico.

If you want to learn more about Manning's case, please watch this in-depth interview of defense attorney Coombs conducted by Alexa O'Brien.

Speaking of leaving, in one week my friend Debbie and I will be in Ecuador. We will be touring the beautiful Andean city of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and making plans for the future. I have heard wonderful things about this city and its people. Also, we like President Correa and it's pretty awesome that this small South American nation kicked out the U.S. military in 2008. We are excited about our trip, and I'll be taking many pictures.