Solidarity: Bradley Manning and the Hunger Strikers

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Just as Bradley Manning’s court martial was getting under way, four leading members of Veterans For Peace – Brian Willson, Diane Wilson, Elliott Adams and Tarak Kauff – began fasting in solidarity with over 100 hunger striking prisoners in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

After fasting for 28 days, Brian Willson was hit by a car while riding his three-wheeled handcycle, and he was forced to suspend his hunger strike.  He is reportedly healing well.  Diane Wilson ended her hunger strike after 56 days, but only after being arrested for climbing over the White House fence.  As of Friday, July 12, Elliott Adams is on Day 58 of his hunger strike and Tarak Kauff is on day 36, and counting….

Bradley Manning himself makes strong connections to Guantanamo.

During a pre-trial hearing several months ago, he stated that he had released not only the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Dept. cables, but also the Detainee Assessment Briefs, short U.S. govt. reports on each of the prisoners detained at Guantanamo.

At Bradley’s court martial this week, prosecution and defense lawyers jousted over the level of harm that may have been caused by the release of the Detainee Assessment Briefs.  Retired Col. Morris Davis, who was the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, testified that the detainee assessments, referred to as “baseball cards” at Guantanamo, were not very useful and not always accurate.  Col. Davis said that much of the same information was publicly available, that the assessments contained no actionable intelligence and were not of significant value to any enemies of the United States.

BRADLEY MANNING EXPRESSED CONCERN FOR GUANTANAMO PRISONERS
Another defense witness this week revealed that Bradley Manning had expressed great concern about the fate of the prisoners at Guantanamo.  In an online chat with Lauren McNamara, Bradley wrote:

(10:28:59 PM) bradass87: question: guantanamo bay, the closure is good, but what do we do about the detainees =\

(10:33:01 PM) bradass87: well, some of them are actually pretty dangerous indeed… some of them weren’t dangerous before, but are now in fact dangerous because we imprisoned them for so long (don’t quote me on that, for the love of my career), and others might, with a little more than an apology would easily fit back into society… who’s who… worryingly, you can’t really tell

(10:35:45 PM) bradass87: the reason that’s difficult: the things we have tried them on are classified information, connected with other pieces of classified information… so if a trial is done, it might have to be done in some kind of modified trial, where pieces of evidence which are classified are presented only in a classified environment

(10:38:59 PM) bradass87: some of them are indeed dangerous, and those that have left have, and i as a liberal and someone against gitmo will tell you… yes, many of those previously released, even though innocent before, are quickly recruited as leading figures for new wings of extremist groups 

Bradley Manning was held in solitary confinement for ten months and suffered other abuses at the hands of authorities at the Quantico Marine Brig.  Only a worldwide outcry freed him from those torturous measures.  He is now allowed to mingle with other prisoners, to exercise, to have clothing, a blanket and pillow, and to sleep without being constantly awakened. The Quantico brig has been closed for good.

So Bradley Manning understands the plight of the Guantanamo prisoners very well.  He sympathized strongly with them even before he was a prisoner himself.

30,000 CALIFORNIA PRISONERS BEGIN HISTORIC STRIKE
Coincidentally, this week 30,000 prisoners launched a hunger and work strike in California (quickly spreading to other states), demanding their dignity and human rights, and calling for an end to indefinite solitary confinement.  Some of the prisoners are expressing solidarity with prisoners in Guantanamo as well as with Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel.  Profound links are being made in what is shaping up to be a historic struggle.

VFP hunger strikers Elliott Adams and Tarak Kauff remain strong and determined, despite having lost a lot of weight.  They insist that the best way to support them is to learn what is happening to the prisoners – at Guantanamo and Pelican Bay – and to do something about it.  They are making themselves available to speak to VFP chapters and community meetings via Skype.

To arrange for Elliott or Tarak to speak in your community, contact Gerry Condon at [email protected] or call him at 206-499-1220.

For more information on the campaign to support hunger striking prisoners in Guantanamo and California, go to CloseGitmo.net.

For a great report on the dramatic final day of Bradley Manning’s defense in the merits part of his court martial, go here.

Soon prosecution and defense lawyers will deliver their closing arguments, the military judge will render her verdict, and the sentencing phase, expected to go for two to three weeks, will commence.  The Bradley Manning Support Network is calling for international days of action on Saturday, July 27.