May 2, 2011
Private First Class Brian Manning, a 23-year-old computer expert, has been in prison since July 29th, 2010, accused of having furnished thousands of military documents on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the website, WikiLeaks. One of the documents included a video showing soldiers laughing as they machine-gun civilians. He risks a sentence of 52 years, in effect a life sentence, since he’s accused of being “a traitor to his country.”
The United Nations took up his case. The prison authorities responded by moving him from Virginia to Kansas. They claimed this was an improvement, but the result is that it makes it more difficult for his family and lawyer to visit. His trial isn’t any time soon, so it’s yet another way to break him. This is probably the government’s goal – a government which has a long history of such tactics, as seen with the several-decades-long imprisonment of the former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the Native American leader, Leonard Peltier.
This case has already made waves at the top of the state apparatus, including the resignation of State Department spokesman, Philip Crowley, who said that the treatment inflicted on Manning was “ridiculous, counter-productive and stupid.” But the official position, expressed by President Obama himself, is that Manning’s conditions of detention are “appropriate.”
In fact, nothing justifies Brian Manning being held in prison. What is his crime? He helped expose crimes committed by the U.S. army in the Middle East. By denouncing an unjust war which the great powers lead against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, which profits only the bankers, arms merchants and oil companies, he was doing his duty. A simple human duty.