October 26, 2014
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

BRADLEY MANNING BY MAELLE DOLIVEUX

Bradley Manning

 

 

 

I was on my way home on April 9, 2011, when I stumbled into the New York Anti-War Protest passing by my building. Having never taken part in anything like that before, I decided to walk with these thousands of people for a couple of blocks, and listen to what they were rallying about.  The first person I spoke with was a woman with placards reading ‘Free Bradley Manning’.  Embarrassingly, I knew nothing of this young US Army intelligence analyst, who allegedly leaked thousands of classified, top security-level videos and information to the website Wikileaks, and was shocked to hear of his seemingly unfair imprisonment.  Later, after having gone home and researched his actions and current situation, I realized that his ‘issue’, like any issue, was not as black or white as it was first presented to me.  Yet, what seemed definitely wrong was the fact that Manning was imprisoned in awful conditions, and was being denied a right to trial.  At the time he had been held in solitary confinement for one year, since May 2010, for over 30 charges some of which are punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty, and this has been ongoing, with no trial date set yet.  According to US Uniform Code of Military Justice, the accused must be brought to trial quickly, and with the least rigorous confinement to ensure his presence at a trial.  Past cases of extended periods of solitary confinement have clearly resulted in lasting social dysfunction and brain malfunction similar to severe head trauma.  Manning had been held in solitary confinement without reprieve for over a year. Clearly Bradley Manning’s case does not fit the description of adequate treatment by US law, let alone international human rights law.  Who knows what kind of damage the government has done in making an example out of him?  I felt strongly enough about the issue, and felt connected enough to this young man who was the same age as me, to want to make a piece of art in connection to it, and that is the silkscreen I came up with.  I had intended to keep the piece fairly ‘neutral’ in terms of my opinions on his alleged actions, and wanted to mostly focus on his unfair treatment by the government.

 

 

 

Recently I have tried to reconsider my position on Bradley Manning, and to decide how I feel about his situation, supposing that he did release that information to Wikileaks.  On the one hand, Mr. Manning is portrayed as a brave, whistle-blowing hero who believed in letting the American civilians, and the rest of the world, see a hidden side to war, and to see a little closer to the truth of what is going on in Iraq, and how American military operations are being conducted.  On the other hand Mr. Manning is shown as a frustrated and lonely young man who used his access to classified information to make himself feel empowered and wanted in a bad period in his life, and in so doing broke the contract he had signed in his engagement to the military, thereby breaking the law as well as placing the American people at risk, with no real notion of the consequences of his actions.  These are the ways that Bradley Manning is described.   I have not met him.  I do not know and cannot know for sure the reliability of these sources of information.  From what I hear people have died because of him giving up the information he did, but other people have probably also been saved for the same reason.  I am not in a position to tally up the specific ‘pros and cons’ of his actions- that would be for a court-martial to decide.  Yet perhaps now the question of a mistrial should be brought up, for Mr. Manning’s case has been so broadly publicized and has garnered such interest that the specifics of his trial could not possibly be ‘fair’ any more.  And in Manning’s actions the question of ‘freedom of information’ comes up: do people have the right to all and any information?  Or is there some information that is best left for certain eyes only, for the interests and safety of those very same people?  But then again, if governments are allowed to keep certain information secret, how do people keep their governments from committing actions they do not support?  By showing footage of a personal, real-time perspectives of murder in war, Manning has shown the irony that exists when the government persecutes civilian murderers but rewards the same actions when done under the label of ‘war’.

 

One young man has brought up a lot of questions.  What is still clear to me though, is that Bradley Manning should not have been kept in solitary confinement.  His case questions America’s current treatment of prisoners, use of the death penalty and torture as well as its military policies.  Last week the Washington Times stated that the hearings for Manning’s pre-trial would soon begin.  My hopes are that he is tried as fairly as he can be, and is not used to set a standard for future whistleblowers.  However, assuming he committed the crimes that he is accused of, I still see Manning as both dangerous and necessary.  Dangerous, because, from what I read it doesn’t seem like his intentions were entirely for the public’s benefit, or carefully planned (and at twenty-two, after only one month spent on duty in Iraq, how can he completely understand the full implications of his actions).  And necessary, because without whistle-blowers, the government would risk becoming totalitarian.  Lastly, what were the effects of this whole case?  One thing it does seem to have influenced is the Obama administrations’ inability to extend their ‘welcome’ in Iraq, and that US troops will return at the end of 2011. Furthermore, after the collateral murder videos cast America in a very poor light, Iraq might return to an un-occupied state, but has Middle Eastern disgust with the US increased at the same time?  Probably.  Will this result in more violence from religious extremists?  Perhaps.  But some say that if Manning was the ‘criminal’ he is accused of being, he would also have influenced the Arab Spring protests, and influenced revolutions worldwide in search of fairer governments.

 

I’m still unsure of my feelings toward the specific actions that PFC Bradley Manning is accused of having committed.  I can’t help but see both sides of the coin.  But I can still relate to him, and empathize for him, as a young man my age, living a year of his life as no one should have to.

 

 Maëlle is a French and Swiss illustrator who has lived all over the world, from New Jersey to New Zealand. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the University of Nottingham in 2008, and is currently in the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at the School of Visual Arts. In her spare time she enjoys roaming the streets and subways of New York and performing improv throughout the city.

 

http://www.bradleymanning.org/

 

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/29/government-to-disclose-evidence-against-wikileaks-/?page=1

 

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00000813-—000-.html

 

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/10/usc_sec_10_00000810-—000-.html

 

 

www.maelledoliveux.com .

 

Comments

  1. tombaxter says:

    “Dangerous, because, from what I read it doesn’t seem like his intentions were entirely for the public’s benefit, or carefully planned (and at twenty-two, after only one month spent on duty in Iraq, how can he completely understand the full implications of his actions). ”
    Bradley was quoted as saying he wanted folks to find the truth of the facts he released for discussion. I suspect you’ve never been in a true emergency situation, when you must rely on trainings and instincts, which I suspect Bradley thought he was in. Lots of BAD [Best Available Data] decisions are make in catastrophes and Operation Iraq Liberation is/was a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. At least all the Iraqi Kurds, Sunni and Shia, I know think it is/was. I still regret my BAD decisions from 40 years ago, that I survived and others did not. I’ve never spent a day in Iraq, yet, I can tell you it is a criminal war fought by criminal means. No one can understand the full implications of their acts, especially when others are dying because of your inaction.

  2. Maelle says:

    Tom,

    Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say, but I feel that perhaps I’ve been misunderstood? I completely understand and agree that this war is a tragedy, and I do not support it in any way, but only question withdrawing troops and ‘structure’ so quickly from people that might not be ready to recover from the atrocities they have suffered on their own. I am definitely not saying that the US military should stay in Iraq. I just hope that enough support, training and infrastructure is available to Iraqis for them not to return to chaos.

    Furthermore, I also know that ‘BAD’ decisions are made in catastrophe situations (although you are correct in that I am fortunate enough to never have been in such an extreme circumstance). What I meant by Bradley perhaps being ‘dangerous’, is that from the transcripts, and from reading about his background and upbringing, it seems that his decision to release the documents was as much a personal, emotional one, as it was for the good of the civilian public. At the time he made the decision to leak this information, Manning had a troubled upbringing, was going through a gender identity crisis, was threatened to be discharged from the army, and did not have much support from family and friends. How could all of this not have influenced his decision to leak that information? We are lucky that Bradley was, in his way, a selfless young man, and used his anger at the war and his situation towards the most positive action he thought he could do. But, as he himself has said, he “could’ve sold to russia or china, and made bank”. There is danger there. Perhaps this whole thing is fruitless questioning, though, and perhaps we should only judge Manning on his actions, and not his intentions. I just find it hard to separate the two.

Speak Your Mind

*