Julia Glover pulls on her knitted gloves, wraps her scarf tighter around her shoulders as the chilly breeze whips through San Diego’s newly named Freedom Plaza. Fixing her eyes grimly on the costumed patrons of the ballet in tuxedos and firs as they line up for the annual Nutcracker presentation at the Civic Theatre, across the square from the Occupy San Diego base camp, she shivered and said sadly, “there they go, the fools of empire, the subsidiaries of the 1 percent, they will never understand, much less appreciate what Bradley Manning did for us.”
From Florida, she was visiting a friend in San Diego and was determined to spend her 68th birthday marching for Pfc. Manning on their shared birthday, December 17th. As she waited for the Saturday march to begin, listening to San Diego Occupiers discuss strategy at their daily General Assembly gathering in the plaza, she commented “we need to occupy Ft. Meade; all of us, thirty or forty thousand from across the nation, marching upon the base, requiring our government to release this young hero.”
“I never thought that I would live to see a young US citizen tortured and prosecuted for telling the truth, exposing war crimes and helping to end a war,” she lamented. “He has been nominated for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize and should get it!”
Joining seventy other San Diegans, she marched from Liberty Plaza to the Third Street Interstate 5 overpass, taping banners and signs on the metal fencing, calling for the release of Manning, who has been in vicious custody for over 19 months as the military at the bidding of the Justice Department has sought to fracture his mental stability in the hopes of building a judicial case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Also, through his ordeal, the supplicants and merchants of the war machine hope to strike terror into the hearts of any future whisperers of truth.
After the San Diego march to banner over the freeway, Manning’s supporters gathered at Freedom Plaza to hear several speakers blast the government’s persecution against one of history’s greatest soldiers of conscience.
Calling Manning “an American hero,” Marjorie Cohen, a professor at San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law, talked about the latest developments in the Article 32 hearing the day before the rally, which is the military equivalent of a pretrial court appearance. She outlined the Orwellian farce which will serve as the illusion of justice, beginning with the venue for the trial at Ft. Meade, Maryland which is the base of the National Security Agency – which is supposed to keep the government’s secrets secret.
Then, there is the presiding judge, Lieutenant Colonel Paul Almanza, an Army reservist, who refused to recluse himself even though in civilian life he is – surprise – a prosecutor for the US Department of Justice, which is preparing an espionage case against Assange. Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, a former military officer, accused the judge and the military of “colluding with the US government” against his client.
Cohen also told the assembled gathering that the judge had denied all but 10 of the 48 witnesses the defense wanted to call to the hearing, including President Obama – who, as Commander-in-Chief, had already prejudiced any military fairness by declaring Private Manning had “broken the law.”
Cohen, who is the author of Pursuit of Justice and Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent, vividly outlined the personal transformation of the young private who through the military videos he saw and the State Department cables he read, “became aware of the breath and depth of brutality and lies around the Iraq War and US foreign policy.” She quoted Manning who said he “wanted people to see the truth so they could make informed decisions.”
She spoke of his horror at looking at the video footage of an attack helicopter killing civilians, including two journalists, and wounding two children, and its crew laughing and calling the innocent victims “dead bastards.” She called these “collateral murders” a violation of the International Geneva Convention on war, of which the US is a signer; targeting civilians, refusing medical aid and “disrespecting” bodies – in the US case, driving tanks over the victims, including one civilian who was wounded, cutting him in half. Cohen told his supporters that Manning felt compelled to drag the horror of war and hypocrisy of the State Department to the attention of the entire world.
“Bradley Manning exposed the corruption within the US government’s war machine,” San Diego union organizer Michael Anderson told the crowd. “The real traitors of our nation, the bankers and speculators who profit from war, go free,” he said. Anderson also reminded the group that Private Manning played a part in the Arab Spring because the young Tunisian who killed himself in protest over his fraudulant government had read the WikiLeaks reports from the State Department about the corrupt and dictatorial regime of Tunisia.
Also speaking at the rally was Josh Funn, a former Marine and a member of Veterans for Peace, who pointed out that the Obama administration has prosecuted more citizens under the Espionage Act than any other President in US history and that “the treatment of Private Manning is a deterrent to truth and whistle-blowing.”
At the conclusion of the rally, Julia Glover, commenting on the 23 charges filed against Manning, including aiding the enemy, which carries the death penalty, angrily denounced the government and said, “we have become our own worst enemy; in our endless wars, in our use of terror to fight terrorists, drones to kill innocents and the use of torture, we have – once again – become the ugly American.” As she walked down Third Avenue, she passed out flyers with Manning’s support website address and spoke to passing persons about the “fine new generation” back at the Occupy San Diego encampment.