Peter Tatchell Statement -
a fuller statement on this issue was subsequently issued by PT on 30th April: it’s well worth reading in full and you can do this here at Queer Friends of Bradley Manning blog.
A few excerpts:
Bradley is a hero who has attempted to uphold international human rights law against those who have violated the laws of war.
Manning is openly gay. He has participated in LGBT Pride marches and he campaigned against the homophobic US military policy, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’. In 2008, he attended a rally in New York to oppose attempts to ban same-sex marriage in California.
He has spent nearly three years in jail without trial and for many months he was subjected to cruel, degrading and humiliating mistreatment by the US military authorities.
Private Manning, a US military intelligence analyst, was arrested in Iraq following the release by Wikileaks of video footage of a US Apache helicopter attack that gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians in 2007, including two Reuters journalists and men who had gone to the aid of the dead and injured. Two children were gravely wounded when the US helicopter opened fire on their van. The sickening video records US soldiers laughing and joking at the killings.
Manning exposed this massacre by US troops in Iraq. The video of the massacre can be seen at: www.collateralmurder.com
This slaughter had previously been the subject of a cover-up by the US armed forces, which claimed dishonestly that the helicopter gunship had been engaged in combat operations against armed insurgents.
It is only thanks to Bradley Manning that we now know the truth about this killing of innocent civilians.
Manning is a humanist and a man with a conscience. When he discovered human rights violations by the US armed forces and duplicity by the US government, he was shocked and distressed. He became disillusioned with his government’s foreign and military policy; believing it was betraying the US ideals of democracy and human rights.
Bradley believes that US citizens have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. Bradley should not be in prison.
At great personal risk, Manning sought to expose grave crimes that were perpetrated and then hidden by the US government and military. These are the characteristics of a man of conscience, motivated by idealism and altruism. There is no evidence that his leaks harmed anyone.
Thanks to Manning, we, the people, know the truth. Bradley Manning acted in the spirit of the gay liberation pioneers by challenging oppression and unjust authority. His stand for truth and justice should be applauded and honoured at this year’s Pride parade..
A RESPONSE FROM PETER TATCHELL TO SF PRIDE PRESIDENT’S LETTER
“San Francisco Pride has revoked the nomination of gay rights advocate & military whistleblower Private Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride parade. SF Pride leaders are wrong on facts, ethics & politics. Bradley revealed US war crimes & cover ups.
Manning is a hero – a defender of democracy and human rights, based on the principle that citizens have a right to know what the government is doing in their name. Bradley should not be in prison. The charges should be dropped. Set him free. Instead, put on trial those US soldiers who killed innocent civilians and those who protected the perpetrators.
Bradley Manning is a true patriot, not a traitor. Bradley reveres the founding ideals of the US – the ideal of an open, honest government accountable to the people, that pursues its policies by lawful means and respects human rights.
At great personal risk, Manning sought to expose grave crimes that were perpetrated and then hidden by the US government and military. These are the characteristics of a man of conscience, motivated by altruism. There is no evidence that his leaks harmed anyone. Thanks to Manning, we, the people, know the truth.
Bradley Manning acted in the spirit of the gay liberation pioneers. Make Bradley Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride.”
So what’s the story? Goes like this.
BRAD HONOURED AS SF PRIDE GRAND MARSHALL! THERE YOU HAVE IT…
There was great rejoicing on Wednesday amongst Brad supporters, when it was announced that
openly gay Army whistleblower PFC Bradley Manning will be honored as a grand marshal for the largest gathering of LGBT (lesbian gay bisexual transgender) people and allies in the United States.
A group of past grand marshals selected PFC Manning as this year’s sole honoree, bestowing one of the LGBT community’s highest accolades on the soldier who helped reveal unpunished war crimes, the Pentagon’s link to Iraqi torture (as publicized in a recent UK Guardian documentary), and other disturbing and previously secret foreign policies.
…THEN AGAIN, APPARENTLY, BY FRIDAY, YOU DON’T
By Friday, this was apparently NOT gonna happen. In no uncertain terms; in fact in many absolutes, we learnt this from Lisa L. Williams, SF Pride Board President…
Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration…..that was an error and that person has been disciplined…….a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen.….will not be tolerated…..a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified. SF Pride repudiates this vote. Bradley Manning….will not serve as an official participant in the SF Pride Parade.
Right. Think we got that. Echoes of school assembly, anyone? Disciplined?! wtf?
SERIOUSLY, UNJUSTLY, AND UNECESSARILY, LOADED
Williams did not simply go through the motions and make a statement clarifying he would not be honored
No doubt, had she done this, many would have been disappointed, even highly critical of that decision, but the outrage her letter has provoked is surely as much as anything a response to the gratuitously unpleasant tone of it. And to the way in which she appears to use what should be a fairly straightforward (and one might have thought, regretful, whatever the circumstances) correction, to vilify and abuse Bradley. Because the statement is seriously, unjustly, and unecessarily loaded.
In spite of a bit of lip service to reserving judgment on Brad’s guilt or innocence; on his being deserving of such an accolade or otherwise -
Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system.
There are many, gay and straight, military and non-military, who believe Bradley Manning to be innocent. There are many who feel differently
-personalised and highly negative feelings are more than evident throughout in the overriding atmosphere of the letter, and, most specifically, when this entirely unfounded and very serious allegation is breathtakingly assumed as fact:
…. until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike…
As we are all aware if we have been following this case, there is absolutely no evidence for this allegation whatsoever. And what’s with the ‘countless others‘?
WHOSE AGENDA? WHO DOES SUCH DEFAMATION SERVE?
But this is not just unpleasant. And it isn’t just tarnishing someone’s reputation. Actually, it is making a highly prejudicial statement about (as Glenn Greenwald put it in his piece contrasting the letter’s moralising attitude to Brad with the entire lack of same to sleazy corporate sponsors) a ‘young and powerless Army Private’, who is about to face a Court Martial Trial with a potential sentence of life imprisonment without parole, for a charge which carries (although the prosecution have said they will not invoke this) the Death Penalty.
And, tbh, it leaves one wondering, this letter; the nature of it, about motive, not even necessarily Ms William’s motive, but someone’s motive. Considering the timing, n’all. With the trial due to start in less than 6 weeks. Especially when we learn, from Kevin Gosztola’s piece, about Ms William’s profile. That ’she works for a “political, consulting and community advocacy” that serves Democratic Party politics. She “organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign.”’
Hmmm. (It aint what you do, it’s the way that you do it….it aint what you do, it’s the time that you do it.. &c)
PANIC. UPTIGHT & AUTHORITARIAN. OVER-REACTION. LUDICROUS..
To this reader, the letter conveys panic. And over reaction. A scenario whereby someone has come down on the author from a great height. And an authoritarian and very uptight response to that, which makes the author and the statement sound quite ludicrous. But unfortunately, unless this backfires (as one would hope it might do if people have any sensitivity), it is also potentially a knockback for demonstrating that Brad attracts a high level of public support.
SO THIS DATE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER: SAT 1ST JUNE
Which means it is all the more important to make our voices heard for Bradley on SATURDAY 1ST JUNE – a day to #ThankManning and show that we entirely reject the unwarranted persecution of a person whose immense integrity we have come to recognise.
If you are near enough, join us at the US Embassy at 2pm, and if that’s impossible PLEASE DO SOMETHING WHERE YOU ARE, and tell us, so others can join in. And WATCH THIS SPACE for more details ….more info will be posted on here as it becomes available.
INTEGRITY. TRUTH. PRIDE.
And that integrity of Brad’s is such a contrast to this debacle which smacks of all things other. Even if there is a very annoying back story. When it was thought that Bradley was to be honoured by SF Pride, Rainey Reitman said:
“The LGBT community is unique in that being a member requires a willingness to disclose the truth about ourselves to the benefit of those around us and society as a whole.
As a longstanding Manning supporter, I’m thrilled to see our community publicly embrace his courage in disclosing classified truths about the war in Iraq and other facts which empower the American public to promote smarter future policy.”
That’s the connection. The Point. TRUTH. INTEGRITY. It’s what PRIDE is surely supposed to epitomise; that’s its very precious gift to society as a whole, isn’t it?
TRUTH: Legalise it! Celebrate it! Honour it! FREE BRADLEY MANNING! Let’s make our voices heard all over the world for Brad on Saturday 1st June, before the start of his trial on Monday 3rd June; this much we all owe him.
HERE’S THE LETTER FROM LISA WILLIAMS (highlights added)
SF Pride Statement about Bradley Manning