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article imageRights campaigner Tatchell slams Manning Pride honour reversal

By Andrew John     Apr 30, 2013 in Politics
Britain’s best-known human-rights campaigner has issued a damning criticism of the organisers of San Francisco Gay Pride, who have revoked the nomination military whistleblower Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride parade in June.
Manning, a US military intelligence analyst, was arrested in Iraq following the release by WikiLeaks of video footage of a US Apache helicopter attack that gunned down 11 Iraqi civilians in 2007, including two Reuters journalists and men who had gone to the aid of the dead and injured.
Two children were gravely wounded when the US helicopter opened fire on their van. The video is said to show US soldiers laughing and joking at the killings.
Digital Journal’s Brett Wilkins wrote an opinion piece about the reversal on Sunday, saying that the San Francisco Pride Board should be feeling shame.
Peter Tatchell, the UK-based, Australian-born gay- and human-rights campaigner and director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, says in a statement today: “Pride leaders are wrong on facts and ethics. Bradley revealed US war crimes and cover-ups. He caused no harm to US military personnel or civilians.
“He was nominated as Grand Marshal according to the rules of San Francisco Pride. The decision to ban Bradley is political vetting, which has no place in the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] movement. He should be reinstated as Grand Marshal.”
The Pride Board says a rogue staff member was responsible for Manning’s selection and fewer than 15 members of the board’s electoral college supported the move.
The board’s statement on the issue says: “Specifically, what these events have revealed is a system whereby a less-than-handful of people may decide who represents the LGBT community's highest aspirations as grand marshals for SF Pride. This is a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified.”
But Peter Tatchell says Pride organisers are “acting like neo-McCarthyites” by demanding that a person nominated as a Grand Marshal “must first pass a patriot test. Unquestioning allegiance to US government and military policy should not be a requirement of a Grand Marshal.”
Violated laws of war
He says that, by deposing Manning, the Pride organisers are saying that he was wrong to expose criminal acts by the US military. “They are siding with a military system that perpetrated war crimes and their cover-up.
“Bradley is a hero who has attempted to uphold international human rights law against those who have violated the laws of war.
“Manning is openly gay. He has participated in LGBT Pride marches and he campaigned against the homophobic US military policy, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’. In 2008, he attended a rally in New York to oppose attempts to ban same-sex marriage in California,” says Tatchell.
“He has spent nearly three years in jail without trial and for many months he was subjected to cruel, degrading and humiliating mistreatment by the US military authorities.”
Tatchell points to a video in which Manning exposed this massacre by US troops in Iraq.
“This slaughter had previously been the subject of a cover-up by the US armed forces, which claimed dishonestly that the helicopter gunship had been engaged in combat operations against armed insurgents,” the campaigner continues in his press statement.
Shocked and distressed
“It is only thanks to Bradley Manning that we now know the truth about this killing of innocent civilians.
“Manning is a humanist and a man with a conscience. When he discovered human-rights violations by the US armed forces and duplicity by the US government, he was shocked and distressed. He became disillusioned with his government’s foreign and military policy, believing it was betraying the US ideals of democracy and human rights.
“Bradley believes that US citizens have a right to know what their government is doing in their name. Bradley should not be in prison. The charges should be dropped. Set him free. Instead, put on trial those US soldiers who killed innocent civilians and those who protected the perpetrators.”
Tatchell says it was “at great personal risk” that Manning sought to expose “grave crimes that were perpetrated and then hidden by the US government and military”.
Four decades ago, Peter Tatchell refused to comply with the Vietnam draft in his homeland of Australia on the grounds that it was an unjust, immoral war.
More about Bradley Manning, Peter tatchell, Wikileaks, Iraq, Whistleblower
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