Showing posts with label how the us supports its troops. Show all posts
Showing posts with label how the us supports its troops. Show all posts

1.18.2017

chelsea manning will be free!!!!

This is the best news I've seen in a long, long time.
Chelsea Manning, the US army soldier who became one of the most prominent whistleblowers of modern times when she exposed the nature of warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who then went on to pay the price with a 35-year military prison sentence, is to be freed in May as a gift of outgoing president Barack Obama.

In the most audacious – and contentious – commutation decision to come from Obama yet, the sitting president used his constitutional power just three days before he leaves the White House to give Manning her freedom.

Manning, a transgender woman, will walk from a male military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May, almost seven years to the day since she was arrested at a base outside Baghdad for offenses relating to the leaking of a vast trove of US state secrets to the website WikiLeaks.

Nancy Hollander, Manning’s lawyer, spoke to the Guardian before she had even had the chance to pass on to the soldier the news of her release. “Oh my God!” was Hollander’s instant response to the news which she had just heard from the White House counsel. “I cannot believe it – in 120 days she will be free and it will all be over. It’s incredible.”

. . . Human rights groups welcomed Tuesday’s decision. Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said: “Chelsea Manning exposed serious abuses, and as a result her own human rights have been violated by the US government for years.

“President Obama was right to commute her sentence, but it is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
I could post about a million more links. I'm relieved and overjoyed that Chelsea Manning will finally be free.

11.11.2014

11.11: honour the dead by committing to peace

Robert Fisk, in The Independent:
But as the years passed, old Bill Fisk became very ruminative about the Great War. He learned that Haig had lied, that he himself had fought for a world that betrayed him, that 20,000 British dead on the first day of the Somme – which he mercifully avoided because his first regiment, the Cheshires, sent him to Dublin and Cork to deal with another 1916 "problem" – was a trashing of human life. In hospital and recovering from cancer, I asked him once why the Great War was fought. "All I can tell you, fellah," he said, "was that it was a great waste." And he swept his hand from left to right. Then he stopped wearing his poppy. I asked him why, and he said that he didn't want to see "so many damn fools" wearing it – he was a provocative man and, sadly, I fell out with him in his old age. What he meant was that all kinds of people who had no idea of the suffering of the Great War – or the Second, for that matter – were now ostentatiously wearing a poppy for social or work-related reasons, to look patriotic and British when it suited them, to keep in with their friends and betters and employers. These people, he said to me once, had no idea what the trenches of France were like, what it felt like to have your friends die beside you and then to confront their brothers and wives and lovers and parents. At home, I still have a box of photographs of his mates, all of them killed in 1918.

So like my Dad, I stopped wearing the poppy on the week before Remembrance Day, 11 November, when on the 11th hour of the 11 month of 1918, the armistice ended the war called Great. I didn't feel I deserved to wear it and I didn't think it represented my thoughts. The original idea came, of course, from the Toronto military surgeon and poet John McCrae and was inspired by the death of his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, killed on 3 May 1915. "In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row." But it's a propaganda poem, urging readers to "take up the quarrel with the foe". Bill Fisk eventually understood this and turned against it. He was right.
Read the whole piece: Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?

I'm the only person in my workplace not wearing a poppy. This is when I appreciate the Canadian quiet live-and-let-live attitude and aversion to potential conflict. I'm sure the absence has been noted, but no one says anything.

No white poppy for me, either. It has no meaning to me.

I just wear my peace button on my jacket as always, and wait for the collective brainwashing to blow over. When our masters give the signal, everyone can take off the fake poppy - made with prison labour - and create a bit more landfill. And another annual ritual of war glorification comes to a close.

Meanwhile, in my country of origin...

David Masciotra, in Salon:
Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.

It has become impossible to go a week without reading a story about police brutality, abuse of power and misuse of authority. Michael Brown’s murder represents the tip of a body pile, and in just the past month, several videos have emerged of police assaulting people, including pregnant women, for reasons justifiable only to the insane.

It is equally challenging for anyone reasonable, and not drowning in the syrup of patriotic sentimentality, to stop saluting, and look at the servicemen of the American military with criticism and skepticism. There is a sexual assault epidemic in the military. In 2003, a Department of Defense study found that one-third of women seeking medical care in the VA system reported experiencing rape or sexual violence while in the military. Internal and external studies demonstrate that since the official study, numbers of sexual assaults within the military have only increased, especially with male victims. According to the Pentagon, 38 men are sexually assaulted every single day in the U.S. military. Given that rape and sexual assault are, traditionally, the most underreported crimes, the horrific statistics likely fail to capture the reality of the sexual dungeon that has become the United States military.

Chelsea Manning, now serving time in prison as a whistle-blower, uncovered multiple incidents of fellow soldiers laughing as they murdered civilians. Keith Gentry, a former Navy man, wrote that when he and his division were bored they preferred passing the time with the “entertainment” of YouTube videos capturing air raids of Iraq and Afghanistan, often making jokes and mocking the victims of American violence. If the murder of civilians, the rape of “brothers and sisters” on base, and the relegation of death and torture of strangers as fodder for amusement qualifies as heroism, the world needs better villains.
The essay: You don’t protect my freedom: Our childish insistence on calling soldiers heroes deadens real democracy.

10.17.2014

a war resister connects the dots: canada, is this the war you want to fight?

A U.S. war resister in Canada writes in this NOW Magazine.
Very soon you will begin to hear about Canadian planes sending “humanitarian aid” of food and medical supplies to those affected by the fighting. . . .

And now ISIL is touted as the new enemy from the darkness as if their emergence was not foreseeable. In reality, ISIL is just the latest incarnation of a very old xenophobic sect of Islam, the Wahhabi movement, finding new breath in the aftermath of yet another war. Our bombs have only made them stronger, just as they always have.

The Harper Conservatives are hoping you are not engaged enough to notice its hopes of attaining a new casus belli for Canada. But if Harper gets his way, you’ll soon be spending money you don’t have on a war that’s making you less safe, not more.

And what about the long-term costs for the soldiers who do come home? How will Canada be able to take care of them? Large numbers of Canadian veterans from the war in Afghanistan have already become homeless, jobless or committed suicide. They have yet to receive care from a resource-strapped Veterans Affairs Canada. How will VAC be able to meet the needs of even more veterans?

Please understand that I don’t mean to forgive the barbarity that ISIL has clearly committed. As an American soldier, I witnessed first-hand how war makes monsters of us all. Everyone with a gun in a war zone thinks themselves “one of the good guys,” but the idea that anyone in a war acts in accordance with international law is a myth.

Once I realized this, I decided I could not participate in a war of aggression (the Iraq war of 2003) launched against people who had not committed any crime. I found taking part in this war a violation of both international law and basic moral behaviour, to such a degree that I could not have any further part in it.

Many others made the same choice I did, and a good number of us came to Canada seeking refuge. We have experienced first-hand the lasting effects of a war in Iraq started under false pretenses. We would implore you to be thoroughly informed, Canada. If you decide to go forward into this war, you should at least do so with all the facts.

Almost all who desert the U.S. military are simply administratively discharged without jail time. But without exception, every American war resister in Canada deported into U.S. military custody has faced significant jail time when evidence was presented of how we spoke out to people like you. The American government wants to jail me not just for leaving the military, but for having the audacity to shed light on war crimes we were asked to commit.

Is this the kind of war you truly want for Canadians? If you do, I will leave quietly.
A number of resisters living in Canada have seen recent movement in their cases after years of silence from the government. The immigration minister’s personal attention to our cases is made clear by Operational Bulletin 202, directing all our files to his desk for review instead of using normal procedures.

I will go to the cell that awaits me in the U.S. for having spoken loudly about the injustices I was asked to abide. I do not believe I deserve to be punished for speaking out, but perhaps I do for not having spoken out loudly enough.
Read the essay here. Then sign a letter to help stop the deportations.

10.14.2014

u.s. war resisters in canada are at serious risk. here's how you can help.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is facing an unprecedented crisis. Since war resister Kimberly Rivera was forced out of the country in September 2012, there had been no movement on any war resister’s case.

Then, within one month, five war resisters received notices that decisions have been made in their cases. Two of these have been given removal dates (i.e. they have been told to leave the country by a certain date). We expect similar negative outcomes in the other cases – and we don’t know who else will receive a notice tomorrow or next week.

The Campaign has shifted into high gear, challenging the decisions in court while we help families prepare for worst-case scenarios. There are two ways you can help.

You can send a letter to Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Chris Alexander, Minister of Public Safety Stephen Blaney, and your MP in support of U.S. Iraq War Resisters. Click here to send a letter.

You can donate to the Campaign. You can donate online through the GoFundMe.com/LetThemStay or by cheque or money order (details here).

Please read and share these recent statements by Iraq War resisters: Dean Walcott, Joshua Key, and a joint statement by all U.S. war resisters in Canada. If you share these with your own networks, please include the GoFundMe link.

3.19.2014

march 19, 2003: don't call it a failure. it was a huge success for so many.

Eleven years ago today, the US invaded Iraq.

This unprovoked invasion of another country that had not threatened the United States was justified by the pretense of finding weapons of mass destruction (which the US knew did not exist), and as payback for 9/11 (which the US knew Iraq had no part in), and by ridding the world of Saddam Hussein (who was trained and financed by the US). Many such rationales were advanced, including a Christian crusade against Muslims.

None of the stated rationales for the invasion mentioned the massive profiteering that would reap trillions in profits for a long list of corporations. The names of those companies are not household names, but they are well known to Dick Cheney.

Canada did not join the merry invasion, as the United Nations refused to sanction it. Had Stephen Harper been Prime Minister at the time, Canadian Forces would have gone to Iraq, and would have died there.

No one knows, and no one will ever know, the full extent of the death and destruction that this invasion and occupation caused. One highly reliable source puts Iraqi deaths at about 175,000 and Iraqi wounded at 250,000. 4,489 US servicepeople were killed in Iraq, and at least 100,000 wounded. Many of those wounds would lead to permanent disabilities. These figures do not include more than 3,480 suicides.

We have no idea how many Iraqis, Americans, and Brits suffer from PTSD and other psychological and emotional illnesses from having been exposed to, and participated in, so much violence. The US has mostly turned its back on these casualties, leaving families and private charities to struggle with the consequences.

There is, of course, another side to the story. The Halliburton Corporation enjoyed more than $39 billion from the Iraq War. Halliburton is but the most famous of the many war profiteers.

Not one positive thing came out of this war. Not one. If you believe that deposing Saddam Hussein was somehow a silver lining, consider that your belief may be based on your privilege of being unscathed by the war. Consider, too, that the US supported Saddam Hussein's regime for decades, and financed the chemical weapons that were notoriously used against both Iranians and Iraqis, and were subsequently advanced as an excuse for both the 1990 and 2003 US invasions.

Many thousands of US soldiers quietly refused to participate in the war against Iraq, once they learned the truth. A small number of these soldiers spoke up about their opposition, and some of those came to Canada.

The Canadian Government of Stephen Harper turned its back on those brave men and women. But the Canadian people have not.

12.17.2013

today is chelsea manning's fourth birthday behind bars

Private Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley Manning), who risked her freedom and her life so that people would see the truth about the US occupation of Iraq, is spending another birthday in prison. This is Manning's fourth birthday behind bars. She was held in solitary confinement (a recognized form of torture) for 10 months, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison for releasing the video now known as Collateral Murder and other information to Wikileaks. Not one person was harmed as a result of the information becoming public.

On the other hand, the men who cooked up the highly profitable invasion of Iraq continue to live in luxury, commanding high fees for speaking engagements, protected by President Barack Obama, never answering for their crimes. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, and untold numbers of people wounded and families destroyed, because of their deceit and greed.

Until there is justice for Chelsea Manning, let's not forget her. You can write to Private Manning at this address:

Pvt. Bradley E. Manning
89289
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Ft Leavenworth KS 66027-2304
USA

Please address the envelope to "Bradley Manning," or it will be destroyed. In the letter itself, you can address Manning by her preferred name, Chelsea, and use "Ms." instead of "Private". Please be sure to write on plain paper, and send a letter only.

You can also donate to the ongoing fundraising efforts on Manning's behalf. If you give now, your contribution will be doubled by an anonymous matching donation.
Your year-end tax-deductible contribution will help Chelsea to:
• Receive more visits from her mother and aunt, who are themselves of limited financial means
• Pursue all legal avenues for possible reductions in sentence including clemency applications and appeals based on prosecutor misconduct
• Enroll in college courses and pursue a degree
• Receive medically appropriate treatment for her gender dysphoria, in particular Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and a legal name change, things which she has desired for some time and which doctors believe would help her to lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

We have raised $26,000 so far of the $40,000 needed to sustain these projects. As we approach both her birthday and the holidays, we would love nothing more than to be able to tell Chelsea that these projects were fully-funded. We know that many of you have given before, and we are grateful for that; but we are asking you to give what you can today to help us meet our goal, and give Chelsea some good news this holiday. She has sacrificed much in our interest, and we think it’s the least we can do.
You can donate here. If you have any trouble with that link (I did, repeatedly), you can go through Courage To Resist. Use the drop-down arrow at the "donate" tab.

12.13.2013

coming soon: let them stay week 2014

Maybe you thought we gave up and went away? Not a chance. The War Resisters Support Campaign is still working to make Canada a safe haven for people of peace and conscience.

Several US war resisters were forced out of Canada, court martialed, and given harsh prison sentences by the US military. Many more could no longer bear the uncertainty and surrendered themselves to the military. But some forty people who refused to participate in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, along with their families, are still living in Canada. And we are still fighting for them.

About a month from now, the War Resisters Support Campaign will launch Let Them Stay Week 2014. From January 12th to the 19th, people all over Canada will take action on behalf of US war resisters. If your Canada is the country that offered refuge to people fleeing war and injustice - from the United Empire Loyalists, escaped slaves, and the Doukhobors, to the Mennonites and the Vietnam-era war resisters - please join us. This is not only about forty people and their right to conscience. This is about the kind of country you want to live in.

war resister kimberly rivera released from prison in u.s.

At long last, Iraq War resister Kim Rivera is out of prison and reunited with her family. This is great news, the best news. I should be thrilled, but the whole situation makes me so sad that I can't muster much joy.

11.29.2013

update on kimberly rivera and how you can help

Three days ago, Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera gave birth to a son, Matthew Kaden, in a military hospital in San Diego. As soon as her hospital stay ends (which may have already happened), Kim will be taken back to prison. Her newborn baby will stay with his father and his siblings... but his mother will be forced to finish her prison term. Her release is scheduled for mid-December.

The US Army has rejected all appeals for clemency, and is insisting Kim serve the final weeks of her sentence, even though it means separating a mother and a newborn infant.

On Sunday, December 1, people of peace and conscience around the world will be holding actions in solidarity with Kimberly and her family.

See Free Kimberly Rivera on Facebook for updates on vigils and actions.

In Toronto, a vigil will be held at 12:00 noon at the US Consulate, 360 University Avenue. Please note this is the correct time. Actions in most other locations are taking place at 3:00 p.m.

If, like me, you cannot attend a vigil, you can still help.

- Write Brigadier General Michael A. Bills and urge him to grant clemency to PFC Rivera. Kim's lawyer has filed the official clemency request, but says that letters can still be written in support.

Brigadier General Michael A. Bills
c/o Fort Carson Public Affairs Office
1626 Ellis Street
Suite 200, Building 1118
Fort Carson, CO 80913 USA
(Fax: 1-719-526-1021)

Sign a petition on Kim's behalf.

Donations to assist the Rivera family can be made here.

You can send words of encouragement to Kim at:
Kimberly Rivera
P.O. Box 452136
San Diego, CA 92145-2136
USA

I hope with all my heart she will soon have a new address.

11.17.2013

the war continues to kill: the wounded survivors, and those killed by their own conscience

Here are two excellent, heartbreaking stories about what happens to those who survive and don't survive war.

The first, excerpted from Ann Jones' book They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — the Untold Story:
An older Army officer calls me over and gestures toward the empty seat by his side. He sits ramrod straight, wrapped in his blanket, and speaks through tight lips as if he fears what might come out of his mouth. “I’ve been in the Army twenty-six years,” he says, “and I can tell you it’s a con.”

He has been an adviser to the chief counterterrorism officer in Iraq. It’s hard even to imagine what’s involved in work like that, but his version of his job description evidently failed to match the official checklist of his boss. He doesn’t think much of military bosses or politicians or Americans in general who send the lowliest 1% to fight wars that make the other 1%, on the high end, “monu-fuckin’-mentally rich.”

He says he’s going home for “psych reasons” caused by “life,” and he is never going to deploy again. He has two sons, 21 and 23, in college, “They won’t have to serve,” he says. “Before that happens, I’ll shoot them myself.”

I ask if he has any particular reason to dislike the military so intensely. “War is absurd,” he says. “Boys don’t know any better. But for a grown man to be trapped in stupid wars — it’s embarrassing, it’s humiliating, it’s absurd.”
Read it here: US soldier: My sons won’t serve. “Before that happens, I’ll shoot them myself”.

The second story was written by the parents of a member of the US National Guard who deployed to Iraq, and eventually committed suicide. He left a note, included in the article, detailing why: his forced participation in war crimes in Iraq, and then being forced to cover them up. I say it again: war resistance saves lives: On Losing a Veteran Son to a Broken System by Howard Somers and Jean Somers.

9.22.2013

how canada supports it troops: by telling them to shut up

Thanks for your service, soldier. Now shut up, and that's an order.
Canada’s wounded soldiers are being required to sign a form agreeing not to criticize their superiors on social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter, the Ottawa Citizen reported Friday.

The form reportedly also asks injured soldiers not to disclose “your views on any military subject” or post anything that could “discourage” others in the military.

The document, first obtained by the Citizen, was reportedly created in March and handed to military personnel who transfer to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, which was designed to help mentally and physically wounded soldiers.

The JPSU confirmed the form exists but said its purpose is “to educate our members and personnel on what constitutes the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media and the possible ramifications for a CAF member.”

A Canadian Forces email sent to the newspaper explained that each unit has a different way of communicating the social media policy.

“The difference being that the JPSU is asking members to indicate that they have read and understood the policy by signing the form,” the email said.

The controversial policy drew quick reaction from NDP MP and defence critic Jack Harris. 
“To single out ill and injured soldiers and require them to sign this form is tantamount to saying, ‘Don’t complain.’ ” Harris said in an email to the Star Friday.

“I call on the minister of defence to take measures to ensure that all our ill and injured soldiers are getting the help they need, rather than being muzzled.”

8.23.2013

how you can support chelsea manning

Here are two important things you can do to help support Chelsea Manning.

1. Do whatever you can to work for her pardon. You can sign the petition to President Obama here.

You have to create an account, but that only takes a few moments, and the form accepts Canadian postal codes. Please sign and share widely.

2. Write her. According to her support team, she's looking forward to being able to correspond with her supporters for the first time. The mailing address will say Bradley Manning, as that's the only name the military will recognize. But you can and should use her chosen name out of simple courtesy and respect.
Bradley E. Manning
89289
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304
USA
Here's a good short piece by John Cassidy in The New Yorker: History Will Pardon Manning, Even if Obama Doesn't.

8.22.2013

her name is chelsea and she is a hero - and a scapegoat

A while back, I saw a blog post angrily asking why everyone referred to Bradley Manning as a man when it is "known" that he is trans. The answer is simple: out of respect. That's how Manning was identifying. Period. Anything else was rumour.

Now that Manning's court martial (fake trial) is over, she has come out as a transwoman. So now we can refer to Chelsea Manning with the same respect.

From Chase Madar, in The Nation:
Update, 8/22/2013: Yesterday, Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Today, Chelsea Elizabeth Manning announced through her lawyer that she will live the rest of her life as a woman, and we have amended our comment from yesterday in conformity with who she is. Chelsea Manning will most likely be imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, which like all other US military prisons and many civilian ones, does not provide hormone therapy or gender transition surgery to transgender prisoners. These policies should be reversed immediately.

The best way to cope with humiliating military disaster is to find a scapegoat. For the Germans after World War I, it was leftists and Jews who “stabbed the nation in the back”—the Dolchsto?legende that set the global standard. In the resentful folklore that grows like kudzu around our Vietnam War, American defeat is blamed on the hippies and anti-American journalists who sabotaged a military effort that was on the verge of total victory. (More sophisticated revanchists season this pottage with imprecations against General Westmoreland’s leadership.)

The horrible problem with our Iraq and Afghan wars is that policy elites can’t find anyone to blame for their failure. Widespread fatigue with both wars never translated into an effective antiwar movement with any kind of mass base or high public profile. As for journalists, even liberal media platforms like The New Yorker and MSNBC dutifully mouthed administration propaganda in favor of both wars. (The liability of thoroughly embedded media is that they can’t be blamed for military failure.)

In other words, the usual suspects for stabbing-in-back whodunits all have ironclad alibis. Who will save us from this thoroughly unsatisfying anticlimax?

Enter Pfc. Chelsea Manning. In the young Oklahoman we finally have a scapegoat for two failed wars against whom Republicans and the deeply compromised Democrats can unite in vindictive harmony. Her release of 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks is well under 1 percent of what Washington classified last year, but the moral panic it has generated among American media and policy elites has scratched a certain punitive itch. Her thirty-five-year sentence is a sign that she must have done something seriously wrong. Finally, we have held someone responsible.

One almost has to admire the deft disingenuousness of our foreign policy mandarins. Though the real (and ongoing) carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan has elicited only their sulky silence, how they gush with brave humanitarian concern over the purely speculative damage they attribute to Manning and WikiLeaks! Some variation of “She has blood on her hands!” has been shrieked with joy by top civilian and military officials in the Obama administration.

The double-subjunctive mood of “may have put lives at risk of harm” is of course two degrees of reality removed from the actual slaughter that continues in our Afghan War (some 1,600 soldiers dead since Obama took office, and thousands more civilians, without any military or humanitarian gains to show), but no matter. Retired Brigadier General Robert Carr testified in the court-martial that there was no firm evidence of any Afghan civilian harmed by the release of the Afghan War logs. Military judge Denise Lind did not allow most of the State Department’s vaporous speculations of harm to US interests to be admitted as evidence against the young private.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t blame Chelsea Manning. After all, she is the only player in the saga of our Iraq War to be prosecuted—or to make a public apology. “I am sorry that my actions hurt people,” said the private, facing a possible ninety years in prison, in an effort to throw herself on the mercy of the judge. After all, no mea culpas have sprung from the lips of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld or Condi Rice; not from Bill or Hillary Clinton, both of whom supported the Iraq invasion; not from David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, which editorialized in favor of the war after publishing spurious reports on the links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Nor has New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who told a bemused Charlie Rose that the United States needed to invade Iraq and tell its troublesome inhabitants to “Suck. On. This.” The Bush/Cheney administration’s torture lawyer Jay Bybee has not apologized, and the feckless Democrats have not apologized for failing to impeach Bybee off the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he now wields immense power, just one judicial layer beneath the Supreme Court of the United States. This long and distinguished list of non-apologies could go on, and on, and on—but fortunately we have found a private to blame.

So thank God for Chelsea Manning. Not only did she provide us with hundreds of front-page news stories to enjoy with our morning coffee, she fulfills the sacred role of national scapegoat. All the good people who blame the teachers unions for child poverty and bicycle lanes for bad traffic can now hold Chelsea Manning responsible for the military and humanitarian failures of the past decade, for the hundreds of thousands dead, for the trillions of dollars spent, for the long-term public health damage that will give parts of Iraq astronomical rates of birth defects for generations.

As Dolchsto?legenden go, it’s pretty pathetic. But then our national standards have been slipping and it’s the best we can do. Manning’s thirty-five-year sentence could mean eight or nine more years in prison before release, at which point she will be able to live free, just like George W. Bush and Frank Wuterich, commander of the Marine unit that killed twenty-four civilians in Haditha, Iraq, many of them women and children slaughtered execution style. Manning’s sentence is shameful, cruel and stupid, like our Iraq War itself, to which the prosecution of this patriotic truth-teller is a bitterly appropriate finale.

8.21.2013

bradley manning in his own words

In case you haven't seen it, this link at Democracy Now! has the transcript of Bradley Manning's statement, read by his lawyer David Coombs, after Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.

I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.

In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.

Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown our any logically based intentions [unclear], it is usually an American soldier that is ordered to carry out some ill-conceived mission.

Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy—the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, the Japanese-American internment camps—to name a few. I am confident that many of our actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.

As the late Howard Zinn once said, "There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people."

I understand that my actions violated the law, and I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intention to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.

If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.
I believe I've quoted this Bob Dylan song more than once, but it keeps going around in my head: "And all the criminals in their coats and ties, are free to drink martinis, and watch the sun rise..."

Or, as a Facebook friend said today: Bradley Manning, 35 years; the war criminals he exposed, still at large.

8.16.2013

bradley manning's apology: the triumph of torture

Earlier this week, Bradley Manning's defense ended its case in Manning's sentencing hearing. Manning made a statement to the military court: an apology.

Reading it, I thought of 1984, when Winston faces the terror of being eaten alive by rats, and he tells his tormentors what they want to hear. I read the apology and I thought, They have crushed him.

Manning has been tortured - physically and mentally. He has been through an ordeal that few of us can possibly imagine. No matter how much we admire him, no matter how we stand with him in spirit or in thought or by donating to his defense, no matter how many of us say "I Am Bradley Manning," only Bradley Manning is Bradley Manning. And he is alone.

Manning said:
First, your honour, I want to start off with an apology. I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I'm sorry I hurt the United States.

At the time of my decisions, as you know, I was dealing with a lot of issues, issues that are ongoing and continuing to affect me. Although a considerable difficulty in my life, these issues are not an excuse for my actions.

I understood what I was doing, and decisions I made. However, I did not fully appreciate the broader effects of my actions.

Those factors are clear to me now, through both self-refection during my confinement in various forms, and through the merits and sentencing testimony that I have seen here.

I am sorry for the unintended consequences of my actions. When I made these decisions I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people.

The last few years have been a learning experience. I look back at my decisions and wonder how on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better […] on decisions of those with the proper authority.

In retrospect I should have worked more aggressively inside the system, as we discussed during the […] statement, I had options and I should have used these options.

Unfortunately, I can't go back and change things. I can only go forward. I want to go forward. Before I can do that, I understand that I must pay a price for my decisions and actions.

Once I pay that price, I hope to one day live in a manner that I haven't been able to in the past. I want to be a better person, to go to college, to get a degree and to have a meaningful relationship with my sister with my sister's family and my family.

I want to be a positive influence in their lives, just as my Aunt Deborah has been to me. I have flaws and issues that I have to deal with, but I know that I can and will be a better person.

I hope that you can give me the opportunity to prove, not through words, but through conduct, that I am a good person and that I can return to productive place in society. Thank you, Your Honor.
People of peace and conscience know that Bradley Manning has nothing to apologize for. He is not a criminal. He is a hero. This is the response from the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Nothing To Apologize For

As the defense closed its sentencing case yesterday, whistle-blower PFC Bradley Manning – facing 90 years in prison on six Espionage Act convictions – apologized to military judge Colonel Denise Lind for the way in which he exposed the horrific crimes and abuses he witnessed in America’s wars and diplomacy abroad. “I should have worked more aggressively inside the system,” noted Manning on the stand.

The defense’s cross-examination of prosecution witnesses in open court revealed that no deaths or casualties have been connected to WikiLeaks releases, despite soaring government rhetoric since 2010. The defense tried a number of times to get the judge to consider overclassification and other big picture issues affecting the case, but her ruling in the merits portion showed she was not willing to do so. In closed court, prosecution witnesses were allowed to talk about indirect harm—primarily the money and Government resources expended reacting to the release of the documents. Meanwhile, the Defense was barred from addressing the many positive outcomes of the releases. In that context, Manning stated, “I am sorry that my actions hurt people. I’m sorry I hurt the United States.” [Read more here.]
I wonder how many of us, if we could know what would happen afterwards, would have made the choices Manning did. In prison for three years before court martial, nine months of those in solitary confinement, at one point without even clothes, bedding or his glasses. And now he faces spending the rest of his days in prison.

I think most people could only make the moral choice in ignorance of the personal consequences - the suffering - it would bring.

7.20.2013

brandon toy: i have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing

Brandon Toy, writing in Common Dreams.
I hereby resign in protest effective immediately.

I have served the post-911 Military Industrial complex for 10 years, first as a soldier in Baghdad, and now as a defense contractor.

At the time of my enlistment, I believed in the cause. I was ignorant, na?ve, and misled. The narrative, professed by the state, and echoed by the mainstream press, has proven false and criminal. We have become what I thought we were fighting against.

Recent revelations by fearless journalists of war crimes including counterinsurgency "dirty" wars, drone terrorism, the suspension of due process, torture, mass surveillance, and widespread regulatory capture have shed light on the true nature of the current US Government. I encourage you to read more about these topics at the links I have provided below.

Some will say that I am being irresponsible, impractical, and irrational. Others will insist that I am crazy. I have come to believe that the true insanity is doing nothing. As long as we sit in comfort, turning a blind eye to the injustices of the world, nothing will change. It is even worse to play an active part, protesting all along that I am not the true criminal.

I was only a foot soldier, and am now a low level clerk. However, I have always believed that if every foot soldier threw down his rifle war would end. I hereby throw mine down.

Sincerely,

Brandon M. Toy
Stryker Engineering Project Management
General Dynamics Land Systems
Sterling Heights, Michigan
Mr. Toy's links are here.

Thank you, Brandon Toy. I salute you, I admire you, and I celebrate what you have done. You are a pioneer of a world without war.

6.09.2013

amnesty international calls for release of war resister kimberly rivera: please write a letter in support

Amnesty International is calling for the release of war resister Kimberly Rivera, who was forced out of Canada by the Harper Government. Will you please write a letter in support of her release? Here's how.

If you want to write to Kim, you can reach her at:
Kimberly Rivera
P.O. Box 452136
San Diego, CA 92145-2136
You can also write to war resister Justin Colby at:
COLBY, Justin
1450 Alder Rd.
Box 339536
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA 98433-9536
Important Note: The military has very strict (arcane, incomprehensible) rules about what prisoners can receive. Please do not include anything in the letter but the paper you write on. If you send gifts - even stamps, writing paper, or stickers - the letter will not reach Kim or Justin.

Be sure to include your full name and address in the return address area of the envelope. Mail with incomplete return addresses will not get through.

Even if you do this, there is no guarantee that the war resisters will receive your letter. But if you don't follow these instructions, they definitely won't.

You cannot send books through Amazon or any other online book distributor. Books can only be sent directly from the publisher. Look on publishers' websites for this information. For example, from the FAQ on the HarperCollins website:
Special Orders

I would like to send a book to someone who is in prison. Prisons will only accept books directly from publisher. How can I pay and have you ship it?

Send an e-mail with the specifics to orders@harpercollins.com or phone 1-800-242-7737 -- a customer service representative will respond to you.

6.08.2013

read matt taibbi on bradley manning court martial

While I'm not writing, I hope you will read this excellent article by Matt Taibbi on mainstream media coverage of the Bradley Manning court martial.

I cannot understand why good writers like Taibbi continue to refer to the "Bradley Manning trial". A trial is, in theory, an impartial hearing, where an unbiased judge and 12 ordinary citizens hear a full range of evidence from both prosecution and defense.

Bradley Manning, by contrast, is being tried by his accusers. The accusers are judge and jury, and they write the rule book.

What's more, the court martial procedures used by the United States military do not comply with accepted international standards of justice. This was proven in the cases of Chris Vassey and Jules Tindungan, US Iraq War resisters living in Canada.

Calling Bradley Manning's court martial a trial connotes justice, fairness, and due process, where none exist.