Rochdale and Littleborough Peace Group welcomes the fact that Amnesty International has written an open letter to the US Secretary of Defense, expressing concern about the conditions under which Private First Class Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia (see http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/006/2011/en/df463159-5ba2-416a-8b98-d52df0dc817a/amr510062011en.pdf ). This follows a resolution proposed by the Peace Group and unanimously passed at the AGM of Greater Manchester and District CND, last week which declared our support for the imprisoned US soldier and called for Amnesty to adopt him as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.
Bradley Manning was detained in May 2010 by US authorities in Iraq and charged in July 2010 "transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system in connection with the leaking of a video of a helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007". He was moved on 29 July 2010 to the military jail in Quantico, Virginia, where he is classified as a "Maximum Custody Detainee". He his held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day; not allowed to exercise in his cell; has been denied a pillow and sheets; is under constant surveillance; and allowed no contact, even indirectly, with the media. He faces a potential jail sentence of 52 years.
Meanwhile, if Wikileaks had not published the video of the helicopter attack in Iraq in 2007, we would never have seen the evidence of the indiscriminate slaying by the US military of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad. The dead included two Reuters news staff and Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. The very distressing video is available on youtube (search for 'Collateral Murder - Wikileaks - Iraq').
We need to declare our support for whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and demand his release. We also need to demand the whole truth about the war in Iraq. In our own country, the government pretends to support the Chilcot Inquiry, but will not allow it to tell us the contents of notes and conversations between Blair and Bush when they were planning their illegal and immoral invasion. The then attorney general expresses his 'discomfort' at Blair's behaviour, but it seems that we shall always be reliant on people like Bradley Manning to know the facts.