On the Frontline of History


The pre-trial Bradley Manning Support demonstration at Fort Meade on June 1, 2013 outside of Fort Meade received meager attention, even locally. The international press were all around, but our “mainstream” American media were nowhere to be found. 

I guess one might ask the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, has it made a sound?”

On June 4, 2013, the second day of the trial, I decided that I would try to gain entry to the proceedings, thinking that perhaps there might be a seat in the overflow seating area. Entering was easier than I could have imagined. The courtroom was almost empty, except for a handful of Bradley supporters on the one side and prosecution supporters on the other. I sat down, puzzled that I was able to choose a seat here, at the crossroads. So important is this trial, so historic, that I was at a loss to understand the absence of the world. I decided to be there as much as possible, to sit behind Bradley and his team, who need us – the conscious people of this country – to share his journey. Luckily, as the trial unfolded, more supporters began to attend, thereby fleshing out the body of support that Bradley Manning has in the United States.

The courtroom is so small – a clinically clean and civilized space – a place where human manners are near perfection. The trial itself was something to behold – day after day a “leger de main” by a government determined to have its way, to eat its own. Throughout this trial, the prosecutors showed nothing but contempt for the fellow soldier who broke their code of silence, and were clearly frustrated by the defense’s ability to consistently expose the weakness underlying their case. Those of us sitting in the box, yet existing outside of it, were frustrated by the lack of context that has enabled the criminalization of Bradley Manning. Should we really be surprised, however, that a military waging illegal and immoral wars prosecutes the young ones among them who learned the moral lessons that all good humans are taught?

The facts of this case are shockingly simple – a young citizen, a soldier, was shocked at the crimes of war and the cover-up of those crimes. Instinctively, he understood – silence is the voice of complicity. And, so, he acted. 

The Bradley Manning that this government prosecutes does not exist. The judge, I believe, knows that. While clearly favoring the prosecution from the bench, I get the sense, personally, that a small part of her is not of the military, and it is that small part that has given me some hope. 

Last Tuesday, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found NOT GUILTY of aiding the enemy. It was a clear disappointment to the military prosecutors, who want to win no matter the cost, both in this small courtroom and across this battlefield planet, their playground. It was an emotional moment, but Bradley Manning is a stoic, dignified, intense HUMANIST who is trapped in a uniform and must behave accordingly. David Coombs, his lawyer, was clearly relieved at this victory.

The struggle, however, continues now through the sentencing phase. If anyone actually reads what I have written and wants me to write some more, I will. Just let me know. 

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