The following is an excerpt from an interview with Leah Bolger, the National President of Veterans for Peace, about the case of Bradley Manning, conducted in January 2013.
"Bradley Manning has been in jail for close to three years now awaiting trial for basically blowing the whistle on war crimes, which was his sworn oath to do. I was in the military for 20 years and I know that when you witness a war crime you are supposed to report it and that is exactly what he did. He released a video tape that implicated the U.S. Up until recently he had not admitted to it but he has now.
"So he did so out of a crisis of conscience.
"He witnessed, if you've seen the "Collateral Murder" video, if you haven't you need to, Google "Collateral Murder" on YouTube, this is the video, it was dubbed "Collateral Murder" by the WikiLeaks folks. It is an actual video tape from an Apache helicopter that shows their regular normal procedure of attacking innocent people, Iraqi people who were doing nothing except one family was trying to get their children to school and these people were attacked. Missiles and guns were shot at them and they killed nine people, I believe.
"Two of them were a Reuters reporter and photographer. And I think the world probably still wouldn't know about this if it hadn't been for Reuters reporting that their cameraman had been killed by American missiles. So they reported it and looked into it and they asked for an investigation and the army said no, nothing, there was nothing wrong.
"Well Bradley Manning released these video tapes amongst a bunch of other stuff too. What the video depicted was the truth of war. There were completely inhuman things—laughing about killing people, laughing about rolling over dead bodies with tanks. It was just abominable and reprehensible and sickening. When you watch it, it just makes you gasp to hear the language. But this is not an aberration. This is the truth of war. And that's what we need to convey to people. What Bradley Manning did was a huge service to the world, to let people know the ugly, awful truth of war. And that's what Veterans for Peace tries to do with our own personal experience.
"He's a hero. According to military law, if you see, if you witness a war crime you're supposed to report it. And his chain of command certainly didn't support him, and in fact the President of the United States said he was guilty of a crime punishable by death. Obama said this in a press interview and he said he was guilty. So when you have the Commander in Chief say that this man is guilty and the Commander in Chief is in the chain of command for all the people who will be part of the jury system, the judicial system, there is no way Bradley Manning can get a fair trial.
"And I also mentioned that he really had a right to a speedy trial which is 120 days and it will be over three years before he's even going to trial now. This is crazy. He's been in three years of solitary confinement in what the UN calls torturous conditions, deprived of his clothing, forced nudity, prohibited to exercise, no social contact with anyone. These are inhumane, torturous conditions and the United Nations has called for an investigation into this. So it's obviously vindictive punishment against someone who has embarrassed the government. But what I'd like to stress to people, is like I said, this is not an anomaly, this is not an abomination, this is what goes on everyday in war. So we have to understand, because this was not just a couple of bad apples, this was typical.
"These Apache gun ships that did not give fair warning, they did not use escalation of force, they didn't allow the people to surrender, they harmed first responders, the people who were coming to people's aid, that is a flagrant violation of international law, human rights. So there were all these different points of the Geneva Convention that were violated—international law. And not to mention the fact—why are we in Iraq in the first place, a country that has done nothing against the United States, and occupying that country? It's just one horrible thing on top of another, making it worse and worse and worse. And now these soldiers [who carried out these murders], they were found to be completely innocent and it's just a really sad commentary on what our value system is in American society."
Some people say that part of the reason the U.S. government is going after Bradley Manning is to get at Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
"I think the government is very, very embarrassed. I support, Veterans for Peace supports Julian Assange and we think transparency is critical. And getting back to Bradley Manning, the government in order for people not to see these things they over-classify things to make them secret or top secret so that we can't know it and then to release it makes it a federal crime. Well, these things are not secret. The things that Julian Assange released are not secret to the Iraqis, they are not secret to the Afghanis. These are war crimes that are happening. Who is it being kept secret from? The American public. The government doesn't want us to know what is being done in our name."
The full interview with Leah Bolger is available at revcom.us.