Exactly a year ago today (see 'here') the whistle-blowing organisation Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange were all over the news and I took the opportunity to remind you all of the fate of Bradley Manning, the US serviceman accused of leaking; a video of the Granai airstrike, around 260,000 US diplomatic cables and the notorious "Collateral Murder" video.
When I last wrote of this, 17th december 2010, Manning was 'celebrating' his 23rd birthday at the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico where he had been held in solitary confinement since July 29, 2010. Today, 17th December 2011, on his 24th birthday, he is once again back in the news. Yesterday, after 17 months of pre-trial imprisonment, Manning finally got to see the inside of a courtroom, at the preliminary stage of his military trial at an army base in Maryland.
Since his arrest, Manning has been treated as one of America's most heinous traitors. He faces 23 charges, the most serious of which is that Manning knowingly gave "intelligence to the enemy, though indirect means".
The sadistic conditions to which he was subjected for 10 months at Quantico, which Amnesty International condemned as 'inhumane', are well-documented and provoked an international scandal. Even so, PJ Crowley, a US state department spokesman, was forced to resign after denouncing Manning's treatment. In April 2011, 295 legal scholars and philosophers signed a letter stating that the conditions he experienced amounted to a violation of the U.S. Constitution; later that month the Pentagon transferred him to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, a new medium-security facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The attempts to crush Manning, and with him conscientious objection to government venality, are not yet over, however. One of the stranger aspects of the pre-trial is that it begins on a Friday and will run throughout this weekend. The military authorities have indicated that each day's proceedings could be extended late into the night. Jeff Patterson of the Bradley Manning support network has explained this decision thus;
"To run the hearing through a weekend right before the Christmas vacation is clearly designed to minimise both media coverage and public protests,"
It seems that, though it is Manning who is nominally on trial, these proceedings reveal the US government's fixation with extreme secrecy, covering up its own crimes, and intimidating future whistleblowers.
Today, I wanted to bring you a beautiful artistic response to Bradley Manning's treatment at the hands of the authorities, and at the same time, to remind you all that each of us, every one of us,is responsible for keeping the flame of liberty alive during our lives. Below I've embedded the video of the song 'Bring a Torch (for Bradley Manning)' by Cabin of Love.
I think that's truly beautiful. A free MP3 of the song can be downloaded from 'here'. Cabin of Love is Julia and Nathan Bloom, an acoustic duo from Owatonna, Minnesota. They have been making music together since 1988 and the best place to keep up with them is probably their Youtube channel. Julia also has a fine site of her own 'here' where you can read her thought on various issues. 'Bring a Torch (for Bradley Manning)' is based on the 16th. century French Christmas Carol 'Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle' (Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella). To this day, in the Provence region of France, children dressed up as shepherds and milkmaids, carry torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, while singing the carol. The wonderful chiaroscuro painter Georges de La Tour was inspired by the carol to paint this exquisite nativity scene.
As I look on those tender and gentle faces looking on the vulnerable yet peaceful child, I am reminded of the hope that must attend all births; the hope of a better and brighter future. This year, 2011, has seen the advent of a spirit of change and optimism throughout the world. The Arab Spring, The Occcupy movement, Los Indignados in Spain, the White Ribbon movement in Russia, and the Europe wide anti-austerity protests have all spoken of the re-birth of old and noble human ideals. The young people involved in these protests are the midwives of that rebirth. They hold in their hands the hopes of humanity; freedom of speech, the freedom to participate in free and open elections, the right to a fair trial, social justice, an end to acquisitive wars. These are the ideals I think of over the weekend of Bradley Manning's pre-trial. These are the ideals that, I believe, prompted Manning to release the material that so damned his own government. In doing so, this 24 year old man lost his liberty but took his place, along with so many of his generation, to endeavour to ensure that the fragile arrival of hope in the world is not crushed by those who would see us live under the weight of fear and hate.
Now is the time to ask yourself,where do you stand? Are you prepared to carry the hope born in 2011 forward and into 2012? Ask yourself, what will you bring into the world? Will it be darkness or light? Are you prepared, as Bradley Manning was, to bring a torch into the darkness and light up the world with hope?