Bradley Manning is the 24-year-old US soldier accused of leaking thousands of US embassy emails to Wikileaks, two airstrike videos and 500,000 reports army reports about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan along with the Guantanamo Files. Within information was the video of the Granai Airstrike where unarmed civilians were killed by US soldiers. It is one of the highest civilian death tolls from Western military action since foreign forces invaded Afghanistan, and the government has said that around 140 civilians alone were killed in this incident; 93 of those were children. The US government systematically tried to stop this video being shown for fear that it would damage their reputation before it was leaked by Bradley Manning. In addition to the cables and the Granai video, was the leaked Baghdad airstrike video from July 12th in 2007 that sees a sustained attack by armed US military on a group of largely unarmed men, resulting in eight being killed. The Afghan War leak saw nearly 100,000 documents marked “secret” made public by Wikileaks. The Guardian called the material “one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history … a devastating portrait of the failing War in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and NATO commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.” Manning was also the source of the leak of a group of files known as the Guantanamo Bay Files, which were also marked as “secret”. These documents directly discuss the inmates at the world-famous Guatanamo Bay, including information of torture routinely carried out by the US Government.
On Friday the 16th of December 2011, his pre-trial hearing opened in Fort Meade in Maryland. Manning faces a maximum sentence of life in custody with no chance of parole. For some, he is a national hero for having leaked the sensitive embassy emails and for others; Bradley is a traitor. Manning has been held in solitary confinement and even tortured. In April he was charged with 38 crimes, including espionage. As he awaits trial, his conditions in prison have been called “cruel, inhumane and degrading”, claims the UN. If charged with “aiding the enemy”, Manning could be subject to the death penalty and ultimately killed for releasing this set of information which was undeniably in the public’s interest.
But, before all these events took place, and before Manning was even in the US army and before he was ever imprisoned, Manning was a high school student in West Wales. His Mother, a Welsh woman, lived with her child in a small town named Haverfordwest. How did this radicalisation happen? Is the story of Manning’s life a key with which we can open a door into the realm and reasoning of one of the most courageous acts in recent history? A play performed by the National Theatre of Wales seeks to discuss these issues; a play aptly named the Radicalisation of Bradley Manning. The tickets have sold out, so in the meantime the play is going to be streamed live tomorrow evening (Saturday) in order to reach as many people as possible; tune in.