On September 6th President Obama is slated to be nominated for a second term by the Democratic Party at its convention in Charlotte. I won’t be there and I doubt I’ll watch the choreographed proceedings on TV. There’s something else that I’d rather do on that day.
On the day of Obama’s nomination, the Bradley Manning Support Network has called for actions at local Obama re-election campaign offices demanding Manning’s release from prison. Events are being planned nationwide [see www.bradleymanning.org for more information]. In our region, demonstrations are set in New York City, Boston and Somerville, but unfortunately none is scheduled locally (the Connecticut River Valley of Western Massachusetts). However, I’ve gotten in touch with some folks and maybe we can pull something together at the last minute.
Some might ask: “Why make this demand of President Obama.”
I see two reasons. First, Obama already intervened in Manning’s case in a manner that makes it impossible for Manning to receive a fair trial. Obama declared on April 11, 2011 that Manning “broke the law.” Such a declaration by the Commander in Chief is called unlawful command influence, and is a violation of Article 37 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. All the military officers sitting in judgment at Manning’s tribunal will know that their supreme commander has already determined Manning’s guilt. No matter what they claim, such a powerful influence will be impossible to ignore.
Second, Obama has the power to pardon Manning. Manning was held for 800 days under conditions that Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture, called “cruel and inhuman.” Who better than the President to make amends for the horrific treatment Manning received while being held by the military the President commands.
Some believe that Bradley Manning is a traitor who deserves whatever he gets. I believe that he is an unjustly incarcerated political prisoner. I believe he is a hero who provided the American public and the world with the truth they need to know. As one commentator put it; “[Manning] disgorged devastating evidence of US war crimes and collusion with death squads in Iraq on an industrial scale, the machinations and lies of America’s wars and allies, its illegal spying on UN officials – as well as a compendium of official corruption and deceit across the world” (Guardian (UK) August 21, 2012).
President Obama said in May, 2011: “In the 21st Century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.” Of course, he was talking about the Arab Spring, and apparently does not believe the same principles apply in the United States.
But I do. And that’s why I’d rather be holding a picket sign on September 6th demanding Obama release Bradley Manning than watching the nomination of someone who, when it comes to due process, human rights and the rule of law, says one thing but practices another.
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