InQueery: Bradley Manning-Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell?

Posted on March 16, 2011 by

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Private Bradley Manning is gay. Bradley was arrested in May 2010 and is being held at the Brig in Quantico, Virginia, charged with 22 crimes related to his alleged involvement in the “Wiki-leaks” affair. Bradley is awaiting trail and has never been convicted of any of these crimes. Yet, he is being tortured: held in solitary confinement 23 hours per day, no contact with the outside world, stripped of all his clothes, even his underwear, forced to sleep naked and inspected while naked every morning. He is not allowed to exercise or read anything. He is forced to answer questions by guards sometimes every 5 minutes. Furthermore, he is the only prisoner at Quantico who is being treated this way. These are all the kinds of torture techniques that are being used at Guantanamo, in Iraq, Afghanistan and other “black site” prisons around the world in the “war on terror.” And these are exactly the kind of torture, abuse and war crimes that Bradley Manning tried to expose to the world.

Bradley Manning allegedly released anywhere from 50,000 to 300,000 cables, photos, videos and documents to an informant who was connected with Wiki-Leaks. It’s still uncertain as to whether he had direct contact with Julian Assange, which Julian denies. Bradley released the “Collateral Murder” video, showing that American military intentionally shot and killed a dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians, including two reporters from the Reuters News agency. Bradley released thousands of other documents and communications that contain information that provides evidence of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bradley also released a huge but unkown number of US diplomatic documents. The Obama Administration contends that the release of this information threatens the security interests of the United States. Some might argue that Bradley went too far in releasing diplomatic and military information that had no direct bearing on evidence of war crimes, and I might even agree with you on that. But that doesn’t justify using torture to punish him, especially as he hasn’t even been to trial or convicted of anything. Even if he was convicted of threatening US security interests, there is no justification for subjecting him to torture. His treatment constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment” which is illegal under the US Constitution. The United Nations and Amnesty International are investigating Bradley’s case as a prisoner of conscience and a victim of torture. Deputy Secretary of State, P. J. Crowley, a retired Air Force Colonel, resigned his position at the State Department in protest over the torture of Bradley Manning.

But beyond these gruesome facts is something even more troubling for both Bradley and the gay community in North America: the stunning silence of gay leadership about Bradley’s situation. To date, NONE of the gay and lesbian human rights organizations has made any kind of public statement about Bradley Manning. I have searched the websites of NGLTF, the Human Rights Campaign, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and EGALE Canada. NOT ONE of these sites has published even a statement acknowledging Bradley’s situation.

Just to be sure that I wasn’t missing something, I actually called IGLHRC’s headquarters in New York City and asked them if they had a position on Bradley Manning’s situation. I was told that I had to speak to a Communications Director, but that she was out of the office. I was told to send an email to the person I spoke to, and he would pass it on to her. I regretfully sent the email on Monday, March 14 and awaited a reply. To date, I have not even received a reply to my email.

The stubborn silence about Bradley on the part of gay human rights organizations is an outrage and a disgrace. I almost fear what would happen if I was imprisoned for some spurious crime and subjected to that kind of torture. Would the gay human rights community be silent about me? Why are they silent about Bradley? Have they forgotten the basic queer truth: SILENCE EQUALS DEATH? When does “It Get Better” for Bradley? Are they going to stand by in silence if he commits suicide because of the torture and abuse to which he is subjected?

Or is there another agenda here? In December, 2010, the Obama Administration, with the Department of Defense, issued an order repealing Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, essentially making it legal for gay and lesbian soldiers to be “out” in the US military. (I will not extend that to say it applies to transgender and transsexual soldiers, because it probably doesn’t.) Immediately, in December, Matthew Tsien, an out gay member of the military, wrote an editorial in the South Florida Gay News that “Private Bradley Manning is No Gay Role Model.” Tsien argues that Bradley Manning is not a champion of truth and human rights for exposing US war crimes, but a traitor to his country. Furthermore, he argues that Bradley’s actions threaten the rights of gays and lesbians to be out in the military, which had just been secured that month.

The silence of the gay and lesbian human rights organizations concerning Bradley, and his denouncement by gay military, implies that the equal right to serve in a military regime is more important than the right of a gay brother to be protected from torture. It implies that queers who serve the Imperialist State will be protected, but queers who challenge the Imperialist State by exposing the horrific human rights abuses, torture and brutal criminality of the Imperialist State will not be protected. Furthermore, it implies that it is more important to be seen as compliant functionaries of the Imperialist State than it is to challenge the brutality of the Imperialist State.

Private Bradley Manning is gay. He copied the data from the military computers on to a CD of music by Lady Gaga, gleefully lip-syncing her songs while he downloaded the information. He was bulleyed as a fag at the school in Wales where he lived with his mother. His military father in Oklahoma kicked him out of the house as a teenager because he was gay; he survived by living in his car. But he was a genius programmer and found a job in the military, obtaining high security clearance to data banks that stored both military and diplomatic information. He was about to be discharged from the military, on grounds that he was mentally ill, when he discovered the evidence of war crimes and decided to release it. Bradley Manning is as queer as any 23 year-old could possibly be, suffered all the abuses that young queers suffer, and is now a victim of brutal State torture, and yet the gay and lesbian human rights organizations have turned their backs on him. So with regard to Bradley Manning, it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or really, it’s Let’s Save Our Own Gay Asses by Sacrificing Bradley.

Bradley Manning, who is clearly gay, is a champion of justice for exposing the truth about US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, a queer hero of the first order, a prisoner of conscience, and a victim of torture. It’s about time we in the queer community claimed Bradley as our own and did what we could as a community to protect our gay brother.

Queers in Solidarity for Bradley Manning is joining the fight to free Bradley. Queers in Solidarity for Bradley Manning stands in support of our gay brother to demand the immediate end to his torture and abuse, to demand that he receives a rigorous defence and is finally set free as a champion of truth and human rights.

Come out to our Rally for Bradley Manning on Sunday, March 20 at 2 PM, Officers Square, corner of Regent and Queen Streets to call for an end to the torture of Bradley Manning.

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Posted in: InQueery