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Barack Obama's presidency

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A Campaign to Free Bradley Manning

By Ann Wright
September 17, 2010

Editor’s Note: After nine years of war in Afghanistan and seven years in Iraq, American finally got an unfiltered glimpse of what those conflicts are like on the ground via disclosures by WikiLeaks, including a 2007 video of a U.S. helicopter gunship mowing down a dozen Iraqi men.

The U.S. military has responded by charging Private Bradley Manning, who was a 22-year-old intelligence analyst in Iraq, with leaking the video and investigating his suspected role in also giving WikiLeaks thousands of field reports from Afghanistan. But retired Army Col. Ann Wright says Manning should be praised for standing up for the U.S. Constitution, not condemned:

Bradley Manning is accused of telling the truth.

He now faces decades in prison for letting Americans see the truth about our wars on Iraq and Afghanistan by allegedly leaking the “Collateral Murder” videos -- of two Reuters’ journalists being shot and killed by a U.S. helicopter -- to WikiLeaks.

Manning also is being investigated in the leaks of the “Afghan War Diary” documents that were also released by WikiLeaks -- in conjunction with the New York Times, The UK Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiege l-- exposing the war in Afghanistan as a costly quagmire that has cost countless civilian Afghan lives, as well as the lives of over 1,000 U.S. soldiers.

Over the last seven years, Iraq has become the deadliest theater of war for journalists since World War II, but hearing that generality is different from actually seeing what the killing looks like.

WikiLeaks posted on April 5 a video showing a U.S. helicopter crew killing 12 Iraqi civilians including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant, Said Chmagh, 40. WikiLeaks wrote that the computer file had come from unspecified “military sources.”

Reuters had filed a formal request, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), in 2007 to access documents that might explain the death of its media workers. FOIA requires federal government agencies to release documents to all persons requesting them unless specifically exempted by the law. Reuters received no documents.

Reporters Without Borders, the international journalists association writes of Bradley Manning, “If this young soldier had not leaked the video, we would have had no evidence of what was clearly a serious abuse on the part of the U.S. military.”

Much of my own military background concerns the law of warfare. Most Americans do not realize that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have violated domestic and international law, violations that have been fully exposed in the WikiLeaks documents that Manning is accused of releasing.

When I joined the U.S. military I, like Bradley Manning, took an oath to protect the Constitution and the American people. This led me to resign my position when the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Protecting the Constitution outweighs following orders and Manning should be lauded for choosing to do the right thing.

Bradley Manning is a patriot of our democracy, who stayed loyal to what is right, risking his own security. His loyalty to the Constitution and the American people transcends partisan politics.

Just as Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle on the lies of U.S. leaders about the Vietnam War, Manning is accused of blowing the whistle on the illegality of today’s wars.

What will be our response to the information Manning is charged with releasing? Can we make today’s Pentagon Papers lead to an end to illegal and wasteful wars abroad and the return of our troops home?

A nationwide series of support events for Bradley Manning has begun in 18 U.S. cities, including a March and Rally to Free Bradley Manning, starting at 2 p.m., Saturday, in front of the SF War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California, and ending at Union Square.

For more information go to

Ann Wright is a Colonel, US Army Reserves (Retired) and U.S. diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the War on Iraq.

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