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On Manning, Fracking and Walker’s Chickens
Posted on Jun 9, 2011
Alice Walker: Well, I felt that I needed to speak not just about Bradley but also about [Julian] Assange—and there’s another piece about Assange. But yeah, I couldn’t resist commenting on the treatment of Bradley Manning, because it was so wrong. I mean, it’s just clearly wrong, and as humans we have to really speak to these atrocious actions taken against people who are helpless. The fact that you would put someone naked in the room in a cell and not let him exercise and not let him have any access to anything; that he’s in solitary, and you haven’t yet even charged him with something—and even if you charged him with something, it wouldn’t be right. You just wouldn’t do that to any creature. I wouldn’t put my chicken, any one of my chickens, in a cell without the ability to move around and have exercise; you just don’t do that. Because at some point, it’s not—I mean, it’s always about what you do to other people, but basically it’s what you do to yourself. It’s what you permit to be done to that place in you that you should really work to keep free and joyful and open and loving.
Kasia Anderson: I think that’s all we have time for, unfortunately. But this is Kasia Anderson with Narda Zacchino and Alice Walker, reminding everyone to treat both humans and chickens humanely. And to buy the book, which is “The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting With the Angels Who Have Returned With My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, The Gladyses, & Babe: A Memoir.” Thanks so much for your time.
Alice Walker: Thank you.
Josh Scheer: Hi, this is Josh Scheer with Truthdig. We just heard Alice Walker talking about Bradley Manning, so we brought in Scott Tucker, who wrote an amazing piece about Bradley Manning this week, to discuss it. Scott is a writer and democratic socialist. He is a founding member of ACT UP Philadelphia and Prevention Point Philadelphia, a harm-reduction and syringe-exchange program. His book of essays, “The Queer Question: Essays on Desire and Democracy,” was published by South End Press in 1997. Scott currently lives in Los Angeles with his spouse of 32 years, Larry Gross, a writer and teacher. Hi, Scott, thanks for joining us.
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Josh Scheer: It’s great to have you come in, especially after we just heard Alice Walker talking about Bradley Manning. We want to, obviously, go more in depth with it. Let’s talk about the ABCs of the Bradley Manning case for the listeners.
Scott Tucker: OK. Bradley Manning was a private first class in the U.S. Army; he was a U.S. Army intelligence analyst. And in the wake of 9/11, one of the reasons more people like Bradley Manning had access to classified information was precisely because they were kind of rebundling, rechanneling those kinds of classified, and all the way up to top-secret, information. None of the information that Bradley Manning is charged with possibly releasing to some other source, possibly [WikiLeaks]—none of that information is, in fact, top-secret. So if we’re thinking for example of Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers, those were in fact classified top-secret, unlike the documents Bradley Manning is charged with releasing. That’s important to keep in mind. His, Bradley Manning’s father, had been also an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Navy, and had—encouraged is a mild word—had really pressured his own son into joining the military. So at the age of 23 years old, [on] May 26 of 2010, Bradley Manning found himself in solitary confinement in the military brig at the Marine base at Quantico, Va. And those were under really quite harsh conditions. At one point, he was stripped naked and was under suicide watch officially, even though the psychiatrists in that unit were saying that he was not suicidal. So, but that was the official story given to the media, which then the media, you know, replayed—that he was under suicide watch. So those were very harsh conditions, and more recently on April 20th, 2011, Bradley Manning was transferred to a federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. By all accounts, that seems to be a milder regime, but anyone who’s been behind bars will tell you that if he is facing that day after day, for 10, 20, 30 years, who knows how long, that’s not going to be fun.
Josh Scheer: And I want to ask you about the Nuremberg Principles. And so what are they, and why does it pertain to this case?
Scott Tucker: The Nuremberg Tribunal was set up to try some of the German war criminals after World War II. And the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal were codified in 1950. The one that I think should be directly quoted is Principle No. 4, quote: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him,” unquote. And this is directly relevant to the Bradley Manning case, because if he’s simply going to be charged and tried under a strict military contract, then he’s in big trouble. But if an argument is going to be made that there was moral necessity, then this does relate back to the Nuremberg Principles. The Nuremberg Principles are often treated as though that was then, this is now. But in that case, what was the point of establishing the Nuremberg Tribunal? Then it was simply a propaganda campaign. The whole force of the Nuremberg Principles relates to international law. And that is why it counts, and that’s why it should be applied in the case of Bradley Manning. He was a soldier who understood that there were moral values, and democratic concerns, that were as important—even more important—than strictly following orders as a soldier.
Kasia Anderson: Hi, Scott, it’s Kasia here. And I’m wondering on just a basic level what compelled you to write about Manning now. Was there something missing, you felt, in the media narratives about him, or what was significant about this moment for you?
Scott Tucker: I had a strong personal motive, and political motive. I was a war resistor at a young age, and that was a scary decision, to resist the Vietnam War. I was lucky to have comrades from the War Resistors League, the first political group I ever joined; but I also had a large group of Quakers from a Quakers study center I was attending at that time. So they all showed up with me at my local draft board in Media, Pa., and what I did was I turned up with a letter of non-registration basically saying, “No, I won’t.” And that’s one of the most important powers we each have as individuals; when they tell us who we have to vote for, or what wars we have to fight in, or any other commands from on high, we can always say, “No, I won’t.” So that aspect of the Bradley Manning case appealed to me very deeply—morally, politically. Also the fact that Bradley Manning was being pathologized, including by some presumably progressive venues such as the [“Frontline”] show that was broadcast by PBS, and then later The Guardian [newspaper] produced a video and basically picked up some of the same tropes and elements and storyline. I don’t think the issue here is whether Bradley Manning’s mind is fractured; I’d be surprised if someone at the age of 23 who makes a decision this big isn’t under intense pressure. But the real pathology here is the pathology of militarism; it’s the pathology of putting someone, sort of spying on them through the keyhole of the mass media; it’s sort of treating his relationship as a young gay man with what appears to have been possibly his first boyfriend—that suddenly made kind of a spectacle. Don’t we all deserve to have boyfriends and girlfriends and go through the usual growing-up experiences? What matters to me is that at the age of 23, he had the self-possession and courage to stand up against the state.
Josh Scheer: Which is very difficult for a military person, right, because they oftentimes are—the individuality is beat out of them.
Scott Tucker: Yes.
Josh Scheer: Yeah, I mean, it is.
Kasia Anderson: Certainly not encouraged, yeah.
Josh Scheer: Yeah. It’s interesting, though … so now, why do you think he’s in such deep trouble? Can we go further into that? Why do you think he’s—because there have been other people who’ve leaked to the government; there have been other people who’ve kind of exposed things, and they’re usually protected, and they’re usually, you know, once it comes out they’re not under the same scrutiny as Bradley Manning.
Scott Tucker: Well, he’s being charged with aiding the enemy, technically. And that really can ramp up to a charge of treason if they wish; potentially, at the end of that legal road, a possibility is execution. Now, there are people on the far right—that’s exactly what they’re demanding, including Mike Huckabee. He’s demanding that he be tried and executed for treason. So unless the word goes out to the widest possible public that this is a young person in very deep trouble who did something very brave against wars that have gotten out of control, then there’s no solidarity for this guy behind bars. That’s my concern.
Josh Scheer: And then … do you want to talk about the support network, because there is a support network that can help Bradley Manning.
Scott Tucker: Well, the best way to get the most information in one place is to go online to BradleyManning.org. That’s the Bradley Manning support network. And once you’re on the Web page, you’ll find all kinds of resources, including the Bradley Manning Defense Fund, if you want to contribute directly to that defense fund. And of course his lawyer is working on the case, his solidarity supporters are working with David Coombs—that’s the name of his lawyer. And you’ll find a calendar of events and articles, interviews, related to his case on that website.
Josh Scheer: Just one more question here, about the bipartisanship. You’re talking about the far right, with wanting him killed—but in your piece you talk a lot about the bipartisanship both in the Patriot Act, which just got extended, and things like that. Can you go further into that?
Scott Tucker: Well, yes. I want to mention in particular that President Obama himself said he [Manning]broke the law. Now, Obama is fond of letting the world know that he was a constitutional scholar. In that case, he should know better than to be the prosecutor in chief of a young man who has already done hard time in prison and has not even yet come to trial. Shame on him.
Kasia Anderson: One last question from me, Scott, is that I wonder if you think that some of this issue has to do with the public image, which was in part created by the mainstream media, of WikiLeaks in general. That there’s a kind of ambivalence, to say the least, about WikiLeaks that could come to bear on people’s perceptions about Manning.
Scott Tucker: Well, again, WikiLeaks protects sources. So they’re not saying that Manning gave them the info. And all of this has to be established in court. However, yes—a lot of the animus that’s directed towards Manning—Manning is sort of the pinched nerve for citizens of this country. But we all know that WikiLeaks is part of the bigger background. And the issue there can be summarized pretty simply: Do we want the state to be the only entity that can keep secrets? Because, apparently, private citizens don’t have a right to privacy anymore. This state can strip-mine all our information as it pleases, and that’s no problem—whereas the state can sit on top of the mountain with full surveillance of the rest of us, and it gets to keep whatever secrets it wants. So WikiLeaks has brought that issue into crisp, clear foreground. And for that, I think we owe them a debt of gratitude.
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