Saturday, April 27, 2013

San Francisco Pride's Jingoistic Insult to Bradley Manning

Yesterday San Francisco Pride, the organization responsible for organizing the yearly San Francisco Pride Parade, released this statement on its Facebook page:
SF Pride Statement about Bradley Manning 
26 April 2013: Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year's San Francisco Pride celebration. His nomination was a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen. A staff person at SF Pride, acting under his own initiative, prematurely contacted Bradley Manning based on internal conversations within the SF Pride organization. That was an error and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride.
Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms (sic) way the lives of our men and women in uniform -- and countless others, military and civilian alike -- will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country. There are many, gay and straight, military and non-military, who believe Bradley Manning to be innocent. There are many who feel differently. Under the US Constitution, they have a first amendment right to show up, participate and voice their opinions at Pride this year.
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. In point of fact, less than 15 people actually cast votes for Bradley Manning. These 15 people are part of what is called the SF Pride Electoral College, comprised of former SF Pride Grand Marshals. However, as an organization with a responsibility to serve the broader community, SF Pride repudiates this vote. The Board of Directors for SF Pride never voted to support this nomination. Bradley Manning will have his day in court, but will not serve as an official participant in the SF Pride Parade.
-- Lisa L. Williams, SF Pride Board President
I can't comment on the internal politics of SF Pride because I am not a party to them.  I do, however, want to focus on the ideology of this statement from the group whose mission it is to "educate the world, commemorate our heritage, celebrate our culture, and liberate our people."

First of all, there is a factually false suggestion in this statement: Bradley Manning never "placed in harm's way the lives of our men and women in uniform."  This claim is contradicted by the US military:

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell has said previously that there was no evidence that anyone had been killed because of the leaks. Sunday, another Pentagon official told McClatchy that the military still has no evidence that the leaks have led to any deaths. The official didn't want to be named because of the issue's sensitivity.

Read more here:
Other US officials characterized the cables as "Embarrassing, but not damaging" to US interests.  Former CIA director Robert Gates measured the impact as "fairly modest."

Secondly, for SF Pride to be consistent, I would hope that SF Pride does not associate with anyone that "placed in harm's way the lives of our men and women in uniform."  This would include all political leaders who have ordered the US military into war or similar military action which, plainly, puts soldiers at bodily risk.  However, I am not aware of any statement from SF Pride denouncing this class of people.

Thirdly, saying that associating with a whistleblower that leaked secret documents to the press is "an insult to everyone, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country" is highly dubious.  There are many current and former members of the military that no doubt feel quite differently.  

There is a larger question of why the preferences of military members (assuming, for the sake of argument, as the statement seems to, that all of them oppose Manning's actions, which is plainly false) should be privileged over the preferences of anyone else in society.  There is a wide spectrum of opinion on Manning's actions and current predicament among the US public.  Many who value government transparency, peace and scholarship are quite indebted to Manning's actions.

But the answer is all too plain: this is politics over principle.  Kevin Gosztola reveals that the statement's author, Lisa Williams, has deep ties to the Democratic Party machine.  That is, of course, the same party whose "commander in chief" has Manning in military custody.

SF Pride's statement on Manning is a spineless, cowardly and jingoistic missive that from an organization that claims to want to "liberate" Manning. 

I encourage anyone interested in Manning's plight to support the Bradley Manning Support Network.

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