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They Say 'Court-Martial'? We Say 'Grand Marshal'!

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Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

This week I was proud to read a statement of support for Bradley Manning before his court-martial and protest the San Francisco Pride board for rescinding his community grand marshal status after he was democratically elected by former San Francisco Pride grand marshals. Below is my statement.

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The beginnings of San Francisco's gay liberation movement were deeply tied with mass mobilizations against the Vietnam war, alongside thousands of GI resisters, like Bradley Manning. Iraq Veterans Against the War San Francisco is disappointed that the board of SF Pride has betrayed the strong anti-war roots of San Francisco's LGBT community by deciding to unseat Bradley Manning as 2013 Grand Marshal, and to further publicly malign him.

SF Pride has broken with its own tradition of appointing controversial community leaders and freedom fighters as grand marshals and has instead capitulated to the interests of its funders and lowest-common-denominator politics by making the profoundly undemocratic decision to reverse Manning's election. SF Pride's recent statement also makes several false assertions about the nature and effects of Manning's actions.

As veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both queers and allies, we strongly object to the hyberbolic assertion made by Lisa Williams, president of SF Pride's board of directors, that Manning's election as grand marshal is an "insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country," and that Manning committed "actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform."

Indeed, U.S. servicemembers are placed in harm's way, not by whistleblowers and human-rights defenders but by the policies carried out by the Bush and Obama administrations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the broken veteran care system we return to. As veterans, we have witnessed the effects of U.S. occupations on civilian populations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As violence racks communities throughout Iraq this month, we note with sadness that today's Iraq is less safe for gay men, as well as women of all sexual orientations, than it was a decade ago when the U.S. invaded.

Like us, Manning saw the effects of years of U.S. occupation in Iraq. PFC Manning has been homophobically maligned by the mainstream press as having impulsively leaked documents in an attempt to get back at the Army following relentless homophobic harassment. In fact, Manning's statements reveal an extremely sophisticated analysis of military racism and the U.S. military's role in undermining democracy in Iraq and around the globe. If Manning is guilty of releasing wires to Wikileaks, then Manning is guilty of actions that have played a role in catalyzing some of the largest democratic uprisings in recent history. Meanwhile, these "crimes" pale in comparison to the laundry list of unethical and illegal activities perpetrated by a number of SF Pride's funders, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and AT&T.

Bradley Manning is currently languishing in a military prison in conditions that the UN and Amnesty International have described as torturous. After nearly three years Manning is facing a trial without basic tenets of due process. Bradley Manning has risked a great deal on account of the belief that information matters, that we as a public would do something if we knew the truth about actions being taken by the U.S. government. Now it is up to us to prove Manning right.

Publicly maligning Manning one month before what could be the biggest court-martial proceeding our country has ever seen has broad negative implications for the future of truth telling from within the military ranks, and accordingly for the U.S. population to be informed on the actions of our nation.

We would like to respectfully call on members of the wider LGBT community to demand Bradley Manning's reinstatement as 2013 SF Pride Grand Marshal by emailing info@sfpride.org, to take this time to renew commitments to anti-war politics and solidarity with political prisoners, and to visibly support Bradley Manning throughout the ensuing court-martial, as well as the upcoming Pride season.

Sincerely,
San Francisco Chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian-Soldier Alliance

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