Unlikely Heroes

by Terry Oliver on April 30, 2012

At first blush, Bradley Manning seems an unlikely person to be a present- day hero. With his smooth moon-shaped baby face and heavy black horn-rimmed spectacles, he stares out at us from the protest posters which proclaim his impending martyrdom by the US government.

My partner and I have joined a cluster of people who gathered outside the American Consulate in downtown Vancouver  on the occasion of this young man’s court martial. A court martial which could impose life imprisonment or even the death penalty – for being a whistle-blower.

The audacity of what he did is breath-taking.  Reports vary widely as new information is released but over a quarter of a million classified documents of war crimes were uncovered by this 24 year old, with regard to the covert activities of the US military and the government in the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Activities which included helicopter gunship killings of  civilians, women and children, captured on military video cameras.

And so we join this little band of protesters outside the forbidding facade of the US Consulate, in the forlorn hope that something, anything might be done to awaken the conscience of – whom? The American government? Vain hope. Our own government which rubber stamps whatever actions our all-powerful neighbour takes? Not likely. Who then?  Our fellow citizens?

As I march slowly round in a circle, chanting our hopeless demands to ‘Free Bradley Manning’ and that ‘Whistleblowing’s not a crime’, I’m aware that more than half the demonstrators are older people, like ourselves. And I further notice that those who stop to take our leaflets explaining Bradley Manning’s courageous act, are also predominantly older people. Why, I wonder? Long memories perhaps?

Perhaps they remember other earlier whistleblowers that corrupt governments tried to muzzle. Like Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers or the Nixon/ Watergate exposure by two reporters, Woodward and Bernstein, or Ralph Nader in his lone campaigns against big business corruption. Or perhaps they’re thinking about Julian Asange, founder of Wikileaks.

Because Bradley Manning and Julian Asange are the two whistleblowers behind Wikileaks – that political bombshell that is causing havoc in the corridors of power – not just in the US but in Canada and around the world, as the authorities wait for the next tranche of documents to unveil even more skulduggery by the infamous one percent and igniting more outrage amongst the Occupy movement and the 99 percent.

Small wonder the American government wants to bury Bradley Manning in as deep a prison hole as they can dig. And then extradite Asange to provide a similar fate.

But there are signs of rebellion – from petitions to Obama by over half a million people calling for the end of his isolation and torture, from continued calls by Amnesty International for Manning’s release, to a probe by the UN chief torture investigator, as well as public protests across the world for his release.

And on top of all that, Bradley Manning has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

So perhaps it’s not hopeless –  maybe our small but vocal protest here in downtown Vancouver will add to the groundswell which will bring his eventual release. And provide encouragement for future whistleblowers. God knows we need them.

As Woody Allen says – half of success is just showing up. Today is the First of May, the day of international labour solidarity and the Occupy movement has called for a General Strike – around the world. I intend to be out there, in my community of downtown Vancouver, in that growing body of ordinary people,  seniors as well as youth –  practising civil disobedience.

And I’ll be holding up my placard: REMEMBER BRADLEY MANNING.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Camilla Morrow May 29, 2012 at 8:45 am

Terry, your article inspired me to consult Wikipedia about Manning; what a challenging and intense life he has led in his 24 years! And as you say, he has accomplished something audacious and remarkable. Reading about this brings up the same fury I felt a few weeks ago when I watched the documentary, An Inside Job, shown at the Quaker House in Mexico City. It shows how the greed and recklessness of the U.S. Stock Market barons and bankers brought about the financial crisis endemic in so much of the world. This laissez-faire attitude presumed that the economy would self-correct, when in reality it’s a Ponzi scheme, a virtual world without real value.

Bravo Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and the Occupy Movement – we need you now more than ever!

Terry Oliver May 31, 2012 at 9:41 pm

I saw An Inside Job too, Camilla and I agree with your comments entirely – the whole financial system is a giant Ponzi scheme which could fall apart anytime – only a question of if, not when. Bradley Manning is facing 22 charges of treason, each one carrying a possible death penalty – just for telling the truth. What a corrupt society we’re living in.

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