Memphis—Bradley Manning, a 25-year-old Army private first class, decided to take it upon himself to expose what he saw as the government’s egregious wrongdoing. At his pretrial hearing last winter, Manning told the court: “I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the [war data] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general…as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In 2010, the appearance of the stunning “Collateral Murder” video on YouTube, published by Wikileaks, attracted the attention of millions of American citizens, including the Memphis (“Martin Luther King”) chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP). The film had been turned over to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning.
The video shows the grim reality of war: helicopter-borne soldiers gunning down unarmed Iraqi men, later discovered to be journalists. Minutes later, when a rescue van pulls up, it too is taken under fire, seriously wounding two children. The Defense Department denied having the video, and were it not for Wikileaks and Bradley Manning, the public might never have seen it.
Manning hoped that his brave act would trigger a massive public shift in attitude. So far that has not occurred. Things could still happen. Edward Snowden’s bravery may have been inspired by the young soldier.
Manning’s trial has set off a firestorm within the American pro-peace community. “I Am Bradley Manning” has become a universal slogan of solidarity. In July, VFP Memphis posted its own. The sign reads “We Are Bradley Manning.” The photo was placed on the website “I Am Bradley Manning” (BradleyManning. org). It joins tens of thousands of similar photos sent in mostly by U.S. civilians. Veterans are not alone. Perhaps Private Manning’s hope will be fulfilled and a citizen uprising will bring him home. FREE BRADLEY MANNING.
—George Grider, Coordinator, Memphis Chapter, VFP