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Forgotten

March 13, 2011 1 comment

It was recently announced that Wikileaks has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  Julian Assange continues to struggle with the wrath of the US government, the international media and Swedish prosecutors in his pursuit of what John Pilger calls ‘the insurrection of knowledge’.  Debates rage around the world about the nature of individual freedom, free speech, the right of the people to know what our governments are doing, the role of the internet in exposing injustice and state excesses.

In the mean time 23 year old US Soldier Bradley Manning who is accused of leaking secrets to Wikileaks, is in a high security military prison in Virginia in the US.  He doesn’t have the celebrity support, bail money or media attention that Assange has and is facing up to 52 years in prison.  he is being kept in solitary confinement and his physical and mental health are deteriorating.

This is from an article about Bradley Manning in the New Statesman:

Manning is under a Prevention of Injury (POI) order, which limits his social contact, exercise, sleep and access to external stimuli such as newspapers or  television (Manning had no idea of the impact the WikiLeaks release was having until House told him). He spends 23 hours a day alone in his cell. The hour he is allowed out, he is taken to an empty room and walks in circles. If he is caught exercising in his cell, he is forced to stop. At night, Manning is stripped to his underwear and has to sleep under blankets that he says give him carpet burn. He is usually woken several times throughout the night by guards. POI orders are usually issued when prisoners present a risk to themselves or others and are supposed to be temporary. Manning has been under the order since he arrived at the Brig in July.  (http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2011/03/manning-house-held-base-iraq)

Bradley Manning does not know when his situation will change, if things will get better for him, or worse.  He is in prison because he did what he thought was the right thing.  It seems he understood the impact of his actions, but he went ahead and did what he felt he had to do.

There is nothing I feel I can say about this situation, except the Manning is one of many people, forgotten and not forgotten, suffering the most inhuman treatment while we – myself included – stand by and do nothing.

Perhaps two very heroic men can say more about it than me. So I will leave it to them:

The True Prison

It is not the leaking roof
Nor the singing mosquitoes
In the damp, wretched cell.
It is not the clank of the key
As the warder locks you in.
It is not the measly rations
Unfit for man or beast
Nor yet the emptiness of day
Dipping into the blankness of night
It is not
It is not
It is not
It is the lies that have been drummed
Into your ears for one generation’
It is the security agent running amok
Executing callous calamitous orders
In exchange for a wretched meal a day
The magistrate writing in her book
Punishment she knows is undeserved
The moral ineptitude
Mental decreptitude
Lending dictatorship spurious legitimacy
Cowardice asked as obedience.
Lurking in our denigrated souls
It is fear damping trousers
We dare not wash off our urine
It is this
It is this
It is this
Dear friend, turns our free world
Into a dreary prison.

Ken Saro Wiwa (1941 – 1995) Nigerian Poet, TV Producer and Environmental campaigner, executed by the Nigerian Government after a military tribunal for campaigning against Oil companies and for the rights of the Ogoni people in the Niger Delta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


**

It’s Also Fine

It’s also fine to die in our beds

on a clean pillow

and among our friends.

It’s fine to die, once,

our hands crossed on our chests

empty and pale

with no scratches, no chains, no banners,

and no petitions.

It’s fine to have an undusty death,

no holes in our shirts,

and no evidence in our ribs.

It’s fine to die

with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheeks,

our hands resting in those of our loved ones,

surrounded by desperate doctors and nurses,

with nothing left but a graceful farewell,

paying no attention to history,

leaving this world as it is,

hoping that, someday, someone else

will change it.

Mourid Barghouti (b. 1944) Palestinian Poet and Writer

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The true international community

February 2, 2011 Leave a comment

A lot has happened to me since my last post, but this pales in comparison to the scandalous treatment of Julian Assange over the Christmas period and the current uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.  Our brothers and sisters have gone onto the streets to say a collective no to decades of treatment by their governments that we in the UK cannot even begin to imagine.  Despite many interventions from the International Community, and so much I am sure taking place behind the scenes, it is the people themselves who are driving these revolutions, and it is up to us to support them.  Just as the case of Wikileaks has shown, popular revolts take many forms and start in the very places you would least expect them.  The true international community is all of us, we are all capable of collective action. 

One of course remembers the heroes of 1989 across eastern Europe, but more than this, I think of the struggle of the Algerian people to free themselves of the French.

Obviously there are many ways in which these events connect, but one way is through the philosopher Frantz Fanon, who went to Algeria and joined the FLN in the 1950s.  In his book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, written in 1961, he develops his critical analysis of colonialism and it’s consequences, arguing that the only response to violent repression is violence.  This sort of thinking touches on existentialism and Sartre was a big fan.  if any book can tell us about the struggle for national liberation in north African and Middle Eastern countries  then this is it.  Even now we see the power of Fanon’s work, for example in analysis of the current situation (this article is worth a read):

 

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/01/201111413424337867.html

The resonance of Fanon’s writing is evident in one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen, Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers.  I understand that this film was shown at the Pentagon before the invasion of Iraq, as it shows what urban guerilla warfare looks like and how any resistance, in order to be successful, must have the support of the people.  This was also the lesson the British army and government learnt in Northern Ireland in the 70s.  Ultimately although the film is a call to arms, told in snapshots, following the events as both sides upped the stakes, with the French using the most horrendous torture tactics to get viable information out of detainees (also something practised in northern Ireland). Ultimately the French threw everything they had at Algeria and lost because they could never contend with popular revolt.  The French would have done well to remember that their own democracy was born from a bloody revolution, the ideals of freedom, brotherhood and the belief that a government is only legitimate if it has the consent of its people. Surely this irony could not have been lost on them.

In my next post I will continue with this theme and also say something about another very inspiring film set in Algeria, which is about a different kind of freedom.