Monday, June 17, 2013

After Action Report: March For Bradley Manning, and opening day of Bradley's Courts Martial at Front Gate of Ft Meade, Md., June 1-3, 2013

Perspectives on Pfc. Bradley Manning from an Anti-War Veteran

Jim Baldridge, 
VVAW/OSS & Baltimore VFP 

  L to R:  Dave Schott - USAF (VFP), Vietnam; Dr. Larry Egbert, US Army (VFP), WWII & Korea;  Jim Baldridge,- USN, Vietnam Era (VFP & VVAW/OSS)  Photo: Bill Perry 
Many came by bus. Photo: Bill Perry
As reported at , nearly 2,000 activists gathered outside the Main Gate at Ft. Meade Army Post on 1 June to show support for Pfc. Bradley Manning, whose court-martial  trial began on Monday, 3 June.  Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq--and all times in between our many wars--were in attendance.  Veterans came from all points of the compass:  California, Michigan, New England, Florida, Louisiana, Washington DC, Maryland, states in between, and Canada.  Members of VVAW/OSS (Old School Sappers), VFP,  IVAW, VVAW, and even some who are members of VFW and the American Legion were there as well, as were  citizens of various political persuasions:  Socialists, Communists, Independents, Democrats, Greens, Anarchists and even a few Republicans.   The crowd included students and workers, union members and activists, labor supporters and retirees.  Many had been supporters of Daniel Ellsberg back in the day because of his release of the “Pentagon Papers,” my generation’s Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.  We still support Elsberg, and as the popular chant now goes, “WE ARE ALL BRADLEY MANNING.”

Photo: Bill Perry
My perspective on the Bradley Manning trial, as a Vietnam-era veteran, is that capitalism has once again turned TRUTH into a victim of imperialist war no matter how it lies to justify it.
Photo: Bill Perry
VVAW/OSS on the March For Bradley Manning
Photo: Bill Perry
The Manning court martial trial presents challenges to vets.  The massive government PR puts out allegations, disinformation and outright myths about what he is alleged to have done, and what he and his defense team are saying in response.   Too often veterans are expected to support the official government and Pentagon positions, no matter what, but it ain’t necessarily so!  Anti-war vets typically don’t fit this traditional mold, are outspoken, go against the grain and are demonstrative, as we’ve seen at Ft. Meade, Kent State, Chicago and across the country.

The main stream media (MSM) is putting out all the misinformation that the Administration and Pentagon can come up with, all to minimize support for Manning, but it isn’t working!  Aside from the myths and lies being told by the MSM about Bradley Manning and what he did or is alleged to have done, as a Vietnam-era vet I’ve seen the attacks before.  I got out in ’69, and the Pentagon Papers hit the streets 14 months later.  When I heard about the release of the Pentagon Papers I rushed to get to the newsstand because the Papers validated what I had known to be true for the second half of my four years in the service.
Dan'l Ellsberg of Pentagon papers Fame at Ft Meade for Bradley
Photo: Bill Perry
Many “myths” surround the whole Wikileaks/ Bradley Manning situation.  I’ll just discuss a few of them.  First, some say that Wikileaks and Manning are “anti-American.”  Wikileaks clearly disapproved of our invasion of Iraq, which is true of two thirds or more of Americans well before we officially “pulled out.” Does that make the U.S. majority “anti-American?

A second myth is that the information Pfc. Manning “leaked” to Wikileaks was Top Secret.  You wouldn’t know it from media coverage, but none of the information Manning has been accused of declassifying was Top Secret.  None.  Most of it wasn’t classified at all, just somewhat embarrassing when it was publicly revealed.  Even the helicopter gunship video, since called “Collateral Murder",  which has been highlighted at home and around the world. wasn’t classified.

Another “myth” that gets closer to allegations being made against Manning in the military courtroom is that his leaks have gotten people killed and have damaged U.S. “national interests.”  In the three years since the release of the Wikileaks documents, there has been no evidence that anyone other than America’s reputation has been harmed by the leaks.  But I doubt that’s what our government is talking about when it alleges damage to U.S. “national interests.”  Rather, the military would have us believe that in-the-know Americans are what put us at risk, and therefore our lack of knowledge provides us security.  It’s worth noting that while our government doesn’t want us to know what it’s doing, in many of these instances people in other countries already know because they are on the receiving end of it, like death by helicopter gunship, drone and IED’s.

Bradley Manning’s trial is expected to continue for twelve weeks, through the summer.  You can be sure that U. S. veterans will continue to protest at the Main Gate and be vigilant in the military courtroom to hear what the government and Pentagon are trying to do to Pfc. Bradley Manning.  As vets we object to what is so often done “in our name,” whether it is torture, invading countries that pose no threat to us, looking the other way when sexual assault and suicide decimate the ranks of veterans and active duty, or cover-ups, lies and distortions of truth.

49er Nicole Guiniling, fresh in from Toronto
Photo: Bill Perry
A group of 14 American expatriates from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, known as the Toronto 49er's, was represented at Ft Meade by Nicole Guiniling, wife of 49er Jules Guiniling. They sent a letter to the VVAW/OSS participants.  It says, in part:

To the delegation of VVAW/OSS:

On behalf of my fellow war resisters in Canada, I would like to extend this formal greeting to all of you who are meeting here today. We are deeply thankful to VVAW/OSS and others involved for the thought they are putting toward the struggle of U.S Iraq and Afghanistan War Resisters in Canada. We are also honored to have one among you, a Vietnam veteran against the war and old school sapper, representing us at this gathering as he did at the medal returning ceremony (in Chicago) last Spring. It was an odd twist of fate that brought him to us but one that we are very grateful for. We have benefited from his friendship, experience, and knowledge of the G.I resistance movement.

Many of you might remember what it was like to be in our shoes, or at least under similar circumstances during the Vietnam War. Unfortunately, we are living proof that not much has changed since then. The imperialist war machine is still turning out young killers with factory-like efficiency. Nowadays at the crew-served weapons ranges at Ft. Benning, they teach you to hold the butterfly trigger for three words, four syllables “die-Hajji-die”. Since the start of these wars, thousands of U.S troops have deployed overseas to kill for and die for these scumbags who run the show: the profiteers and the zealots. But, just as in all wars that are unjust and based on false pretenses, there springs forth an organic resistance to the bullshit.

Young people like Camilo Mejia, Mike Prysner, Kelly Doherty, Jeremy Hinzman, and Bradley Manning. You can’t really fit us into one category. We are not all socialists; we are not all pacifists; not all of us began our resistance from a place of ideology. Some of us had to see and do the things we did to figure out that we didn’t want to do them anymore, and some of us figured it out right away. We here in Canada left our contracts early, while those resisters who chose to stay behind became outspoken while respecting their contracts. Resistance has been unique to each individual—as it should be. 

The Toronto 49er's Resisters Group