Medea Benjamin of CodePink: Rally for Bradley ManningMarch 16, 2011
George W. Bush? Nope. Barack Obama.
As Obama chooses to bury his head in the sand in regards to the abusive treatment of PFC Bradley Manning, groups are making sure he is not forgotten by holding protests around the world this weekend.
Medea Benjamin of CodePink, one of the leaders organizing the protests, joins us on this episode of Radio Free Dylan to talk about the latest on Manning, the complicity of the White House in regards to his treatment, and the events coming up this Sunday on March 20th in Quantico, VA and around the world.
Additionally, Medea wrote an op-ed on this topic on Huffington Post, “Under Obama, Better to Commit a War Crime Than Expose One.” Here’s an excerpt we find quite relevant this week:
Indeed, despite the grand promises and soaring rhetoric, Obama’s treatment of Manning is starkly reminiscent of none other than Richard Nixon. Like Obama — who has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history — Nixon had no sympathy for “snitches,” and no interest in the American public learning the truth about their government. And he likewise argued that Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, had given “aid and comfort to the enemy” for revealing the facts about the war in Vietnam.
But there’s a difference: Richard Nixon never had the heroic whistleblower of his day thrown in solitary confinement and tortured. If only the same could be said for Barack Obama.
“Whether he’s a hero or whether he’s a villan, the ability for the state, for the federal government to randomly create a new third class of prisoner that they can torture and retain at will without trial has to be troubling,” says Dylan.
We can’t let our country go down this road any longer. Here are the details on the events this weekend:
Join The Bradley Manning Support Network, CodePink, Veterans for Peace, and Daniel Ellsberg at the “Rally For Bradley!” in Quantico, VA on Sunday March 20th at 2PM.
DYLAN: Under which president would the slogan "You're better off to commit a war crime than to blow the whistle on a war crime apply"? George W. Bush? Nope. Barack Obama.
Welcome to episode 40 of Radio Free Dylan. We're joined today by Medea Benjamin, one of the co-founders of the activist group, CodePink. CodePink has become and has been very active in the matter of the abuse and some would say torture of Private Bradley Manning, the accused illegal downloader of documents who has been held for months at Quantico in the United States under circumstances that certainly resembles solitary confinement; 23 hours a day by yourself, being stripped naked at this point in the evenings.
The treatments go on and on and get worse and worse and remind all of us of the creation of a third class of prisoner under the Bush administration that is neither a prisoner that is adhered to the Uniform Code of Military Justice nor is it a prisoner that is treated within the Civil Code of American Justice. This, the third class of prisoner, the one that is treated however those in charge want to treat them ala friends Mubarak, Kadafi, and of course, the Chinese government. We really stamped our foot in the ground on this issue with Guantanamo where we wanted to create this third class of prisoner. Unprecedented in our democracy to create a new class of prisoners without any legislative debate, without any accountability whatsoever for the captors and with the ability to arbitrarily apply that imprisonment to any human being they may so choose without the need to try them for any crimes or any other due process.
And today we are joined by Medea who is one of the linchpins of CodePink's rallying behind Bradley Manning. Medea, not only a co-founder at CodePink but also works with the international human rights organization, Global Exchange.
Medea, put this in context. You guys have done a lot. CodePink has done a lot on a lot of things from the gulf oil spill to the health care debate. Put the Bradley Manning activism in the context of everything you've done at CodePink.
MEDEA: We started out as an organization that was trying to stop the war in Iraq, and we've watched with horror ever since what our government has done to that country and, of course, now we're very involved in the war in Afghanistan as well. So when we had the ability to see some of the video and the thousands of documents that give us more information about the activities of our government, we found that a great gift to democracy. And if Bradley Manning is indeed the person who leaked these to WikiLeaks, then we concur with Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers that he is a hero to us. So we've been involved with his case since we found out about it.
DYLAN: But again, whether he's a hero or whether he's a vilain, the ability for the state, for the federal government to randomly create a new third class of prisoner that they can torture and retain at will without trial has to be troubling.
MEDEA: Well, that's right. And we protested the conditions of indefinite detention in Guantanamo or Bagram and torture under the Bush administration, and we have continued to do so under the Obama administration calling for the closing down of Guantanamo, calling for Obama to remember his days as a constitutional lawyer. And in the case of Bradley Manning, we feel that it's our obligation to stand up for his rights. Even though he is in military confinement, he still does have rights. He shouldn’t be held in pre-trial detention for so long. He shouldn’t be under these conditions, and his status shouldn’t be in this prevention of injury that he is under now given that the military psychiatrist said that he is in no danger of committing suicide. So there's no reason to keep him under these conditions.
DYLAN: If you were to look at something you wrote recently in the Huffington Post, I'd be interested to get you to comment a little bit further on this. You write, "Remember when Obama campaigned against such Bush-league torture tactics? Recall when candidate Obama said 'government whistleblowers are part of a healthy democracy and must be protected from reprisal'? It appears his opposition to torture and support for whistleblowers was only so much rhetoric, and then he took office." How alienating is it to those who thought Barack Obama represented a higher moral value and stronger American values than the annihilation of those values that we saw under George Bush, only to see that this president seems just as active in annihilating American values as his predecessor?
MEDEA: It's very demoralizing for us especially because we know that President Obama is a constitutional lawyer. He knows better than this, and he shouldn’t be allowing this to happen. And we have an obligation, just as we did under Bush, to be protesting vigorously.
DYLAN: At the same time, do you feel like it's more difficult to generate the amount of energy to protest against Barack Obama relative to recruiting to protest against George W. Bush when it comes to these sorts of things?
MEDEA: Yes, it's been a lot more difficult. We used to be able to get out not just tens of thousands of people but hundreds of thousands of people for the anti-war rally if we had. Now, we'd be lucky if we got a few thousand out. And to these rallies now around Bradley Manning, it's actually -- we've got more support than we thought because people do understand as you implied; this for many people is not an issue about the war or whether Bradley Manning is guilty. For many people, it's about the conditions. And so we've done so far three rallies at Quantico. And it's not that easy for people to get out there, but hundreds of people have come. We have done letter writing campaigns to Bradley Manning, and many of our members who are mothers themselves have spent their time writing cards and letters or signing petitions for him. So we do find a lot of sympathy towards Bradley Manning.
DYLAN: Why do you think though that it's so much easier to generate a crowd to protest a republican like George Bush committing war crimes than it is to protest a democrat like Barack Obama perpetuating the same exact crimes?
MEDEA: Many of the largest organizations, the ones that have the ability to reach millions of people through the internet are very close to the democratic party and the Obama administration, and they haven’t taken on these issues or they've done it in a much more mild manner. So that's one reason --
DYLAN: So I mean, am I understanding then that people -- groups like MoveOn and others are pretty much cool with war crimes as long as this is committed by somebody from their party?
MEDEA: I don’t think as individuals they're cool with war crimes. I just don’t think that they're giving it the priority that they gave it under Bush which is a shame.
DYLAN: Tell us a little bit more about these rallies that you've been doing in Quantico, and what you're planning for this weekend.
MEDEA: We're really excited about this weekend because there's an international call to show support for Bradley Manning. And at Quantico this Sunday at 2:00 we'll be having a rally where we expect several hundred people to attend including the whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, many people from the military groups like Iraq Veterans Against The War. And these rallies will not only be happening in Quantico which is in Virginia, but they'll be happening internationally from places as far as London to Sydney, Australia and Vienna, Austria; and then in the United States from places like Phoenix to San Diego to Portland. So I think we'll have quite a good showing of support for Bradley Manning this Sunday.
DYLAN: I want to read one more excerpt from your Huffington Post blog. Again, we're talking to Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink, again originally a group formed to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; a group still very much active in American politics particularly war-related politics and right now focusing at least some of their attention on the abusive detention that is non-compliant with the Uniform Code of Military Justice of Private Bradley Manning at Quantico.
You write in the blog, Medea, that you say, "Indeed, despite the grand promises and soaring rhetoric, Obama's treatment of Manning is starkly reminiscent of none other than Richard Nixon. Like Obama -- who has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any president in history -- Nixon had no sympathy for 'snitches,' and no interest in the American public learning the truth about their government. And he likewise argued that Daniel Ellsberg," who you mentioned is going to this protest, "the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, had given aid and comfort to the enemy for revealing the facts about the war in Vietnam." You go on to say, "But there's a difference: Richard Nixon never had the heroic whistleblower of his day," being Ellsberg, "thrown in solitary confinement and tortured. If only the same could be said for Barack Obama."
A fairly damning indictment on your part of the President.
MEDEA: I think an even more damning indictment is the title of the whole thing which says, "Under the Obama Administration, You're Better Off Committing a War Crime Than Exposing One." And that's the unfortunate facts today. So yes, we feel that the Obama administration is responsible for the inhumane treatment of Bradley Manning. The Obama administration is responsible for the prosecution of more whistleblowers than any other president. And the Obama administration is responsible for the surge in Afghanistan that is leaving so many civilians dying on a regular basis. So we have many reasons to be unhappy with Obama's positions.
DYLAN: And where do you see us politically if the American people represented with two political parties; the democrats who are a pro-torture warmongering special interest but a bunch of abusers and destroyers, and republicans who have the same characterization I just gave, the democrats plus they are xenophobic, homophobic, and are waiting for the apocalypse?
MEDEA: It leaves us trying to hide for cover just like the civilians in Afghanistan. It's tough. I think it's our fault in some ways as a movement not being able to keep the pressure on the Obama administration. We knew that (1) a new president is not going to change a policy, it's very hard to move a nation out of a war that we've gotten ourselves bogged down in, and that we have to rebuild this movement, and that's what we are trying to do and I think as time has gone by and people who were very enamored with the Obama administration are now realizing that it's up to us to put on the pressure. I think our movement is building back up again and hopefully we'll be able to exert enough pressure to change the inhumane conditions under which Bradley Manning is being kept and on a larger level hopefully, especially under this financial crisis, to stop this administration's bleeding of our tax dollars on an unwinnable, unpopular war in Afghanistan.
DYLAN: Here, here. Before I let you go, Medea, the details once again for what you're planning this weekend.
MEDEA: We're going to be at the gates of the base in Quantico, Virginia at 2:00 p.m. And then as I mentioned, we will have rallies around the rest of the country. People can get information by going to BradleyManning.org or the CodePink.org website.
DYLAN: All right. Listen, a pleasure to have the conversation. Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink. We'll take a break. We'll be back right after this.
MEDEA: Thanks so much.
DYLAN: Thanks, Medea.
DYLAN: Welcome back. Unfortunately, the reality seems to be setting in across the board in this country. We'll see if the folks over at MoveOn ever catch on to the fact that the very president that they've been supporting is in fact a torturing, whistleblower prosecuting, bankster bailing, health care monopoly perpetuating president, and treat him for the horrendous policies that he advocates as opposed to what the kid gloves of the dream that they assign to a man who actually isn’t the man that they dreamt he would be.
My only hope is that the folks both on the left, right, and center simply care about having a fair America with a square deal with fair competition in the end of power politics and a bought government with an unholy alliance between business and state that has been institutionalized under Barack Obama and was created by presidents Clinton and Bush before him will set in. The sooner more of us wake up, the sooner we can put an end to the madness that is Barack Obama's presidency. It is not to say that I have any interest in returning to the years of George W. Bush because believe you me, I do not. But I sure as heck have ambitions to move beyond the lying, cheating politics that is the culture and unfortunately comes with a massive human toll. We are just talking about Bradley Manning, but think about the unemployed, think about the housing mess, think about the undefined risks that exist in our energy complex, one of the most inefficient and oldest in the world. I don’t have to carry on.
I thank you for joining us this afternoon even -- though I know I carry on, but you know, I'm done carrying on for now. That will do it for episode 40 of Radio Free Dylan, and we'll talk to you next time.