Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Church to Host Graham Nash for Army Whistleblower Benefit Concert
By Melonie Magruder
October 19, 2012 -- On October 26, legendary folk singer and activist Graham Nash will present an intimate acoustic concert performance at Santa Monica's Church in Ocean Park to benefit this generation’s most well-known whistleblower, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning.
In 2010, Manning, a soldier who worked in military intelligence with top secret clearance, was arrested on suspicion of having passed classified material to Julian Assange’s website Wikileaks, in particular a gruesome video that showed U.S. forces shooting and killing unarmed civilians in Baghdad from a helicopter.
He was held in solitary confinement for nine months and, to this day, his right to a speedy trial has been repeatedly delayed -- in violation, his supporters say, of his civil rights and the Army’s own Uniform Code of Military Justice -- while he waits in a medium security prison.
Nash will be performing at the Church in Ocean Park, with a private reception available to top ticket holders. The church, which has been operating in the community since 1898, is indeed a curiously intimate venue for a star of Nash’s stature. It can accommodate perhaps 150 people.
Nash promised to speak at length about his outrage at Manning’s treatment.
“We are supposed to be a nation of laws, even military laws,” Nash said in a phone interview. “The Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically states that no punishment may be meted out before trial. Two psychiatrists have testified that Manning was not a threat to himself and advised against the treatment he was receiving. They are selectively choosing which laws to enforce.”
Ever since Rand Corporation employee and U.S. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg met with sympathetic journalists at the historic Chez Jay to pass along the what would be known as the infamous Pentagon Papers, Santa Monica has lent a sympathetic ear to whistleblowers.
Ellsberg, one of Manning’s vocal champions, has spoken often and forcefully of not only what he sees as gross violation of Manning’s civil rights, but of the national significance of the Army private’s actions in exposing evidence that contradict the military’s public reports.
On the syndicated news program “Democracy Now,” Ellsberg told host Amy Goodman, “I was a battalion training officer who trained the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines on rules of war. No question in my mind, that the leaked pictures… [showing] helicopter gunners hunting down and shooting an unarmed man in civilian clothes… was murder. It was a war crime. Not all killing in war is murder… And this was.”
A national movement called the Bradley Manning Support Network has arisen in the intervening months, with a number of civil rights leaders, military veterans and politicians calling for swift justice for the imprisoned 24-year-old. Manning supporters include former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, former U.S. senator Mike Gravel, Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, filmmaker Michael Moore, Iraq Veterans Against the War leader Jose Vasquez and Code Pink: Women for Peace founder Medea Benjamin.
Emma Cape, a campaign organizer for Manning’s support network, said that Nash offered to give a fundraising concert after learning about Manning’s plight. The singer recently released a YouTube video of his new single “Almost Gone,” recorded with “Crosby, Stills & Nash” band mate James Raymond. The YouTube video features disturbing images of severely wounded Iraqi children and the infamous helicopter footage.
“Graham said he was most concerned about the violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” Cape said. “He wants to bring attention to this cause.”
Cape said she has been an anti-war activist since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, when she was in high school.
“A good friend of mine worked in military intelligence and was eager to go to Iraq,” Cape said. “He thought he’d be doing good things, but he came back very disillusioned. So I started reading independent and foreign journals and realized that the U.S. media was not telling the whole story.”
She took a break from anthropology studies and got involved in the Manning support network, keeping close tabs on the progress – or lack of – Manning’s case. His trial is scheduled to begin February 4, but has been hampered by a crush of pre-trial motions, most of which have concerned securing open press access, something the military wants to deny, citing national security.
Manning has allegedly been held in 24-hour solitary confinement, often naked and in a cold cell, similar to abuse charges leveled at the “enhanced military interrogation” techniques the military has performed on war detainees. Military response has been that such treatment was for the psychological and physical safety of the accused, but Cape said that two military psychologists declared that such treatment was not beneficial.
“Coombs (Manning’s civilian attorney) has proof that orders to torture Manning came from a three-star general,” Cape said. “Beyond that, Coombs plans to show that the documents released to Wikileaks have created no discernible harm to national security and that Manning had idealistic reasons for whistle-blowing.”
Nash said he believes that the government wants to formally tie Manning’s actions to Assange in order to brand the Wikileaks publisher an enemy of the state. When asked what he thinks will eventually happen in Manning’s case, Nash sighed.
“I think they will convict him and give him life in prison,” Nash said. “They can’t allow him to get away with telling the truth. This isn’t about Bradley Manning. It’s about whistle blowing, even though we have laws to protect whistle blowing. But they want to end that. All we can do is fight for him and hope that people realize what’s at stake.”
Information and tickets for the Free Bradley Manning concert may be found at: http://www.bradleymanning.org/news/nash-benefit
To view Nash’s song, “Almost Gone,” go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAYG7yJpBbQ
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