Private Bradley Manning: The Quantico Protest


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Daniel Ellsberg speaking outside the Quantico Marine Corps base

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“One person can make an enormous difference,” said Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg before speaking to some 400 protesters on Sunday outside the Quantico Marine Corps base, where he was stationed in 1954. Today, Private Bradley Manning, who is accused of providing WikiLeaks with classified U.S. government documents, is being held in solitary confinement at Quantico despite not having been convicted, or even tried, of a crime.

Sunday’s demonstration followed Saturday’s action outside the White House, on the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, which saw the arrest of 113 activists who were protesting Manning’s treatment. Both events come on the heels of a high level resignation over statements regarding the 23-year-old alleged whistleblower.

The New York Times said, “Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman, committed the classic mistake of a Washington mouthpiece by telling the truth about Private Manning to a small group (including a blogger): that the military’s treatment of Private Manning was ‘ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.'”

Ellsberg said, “The government… [must prove] beyond a reasonable doubt the charges that they’ve brought, and that’s right to put that on them… But I’ll make the judgment and give the credit to Bradley Manning, that he did do what he’s charged [with], which makes him the hero in my eyes.”

“Bradley Manning was the one who showed that he had the courage and the conscience to carry out his oath to support the Constitution and to reveal the torture that we were doing, the torture that he is now experiencing in this country, again giving lie to President Obama’s claim that he has ended torture, which is simply false.”

The Washington Post noted of Sunday’s protest, “[An] impromptu sit-in led to a tense standoff between demonstrators and Manassas, Prince William County and Virginia state police, who were in riot gear and on horseback, with some carrying automatic weapons.”

Zach Choate, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace, went down the line asking one black-clad officer after another, “Can you look at me in the eyes?” Behind their shields and under their heavy armor, only the officers’ eyes revealed their vulnerability, their youth. Each of the officers averted his gaze, unable to maintain eye contact with Choate, a Purple Heart recipient.

“How do you feel about what’s going on today, [about] the fact that peaceful protesters right now are about to get arrested for telling the truth?” asked Choate of the officers. “Nobody is armed [yet] I see [your] weapons. I see gas masks, handcuffs, all ready to take violence on all us peaceful protesters.”

In all, approximately 30 protesters were arrested, several of whom were treated roughly. One individual was partially dragged by his neck by police and retired Colonel Ann Wright screamed in pain as she was taken away.

“Bradley Manning, if he was the source, can well feel that he was one critical link in the chain of actions and events that led to the downfall of the dictators in Tunisia and in Egypt,” said Ellsberg. “I don’t know of another revelation… that has [had] such an immediate and immense effect in the direction of human rights and democracy. We owe him a great debt… If he is found to have been the source there will be statues of him in Tunisia, in Egypt, I think. Just like [there will] probably [be] a statue of Mohamed Bouazizi, who gave his life, burned himself to death, to protest what was going on [in Tunisia]; another critical link in that chain of events.”

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