February 9th 2012
I won’t mince words…two of my family were killed by the State. My husband Peter and his brother Stephen were ordinary guys who just happened to be born with a medical condition where the blood does not clot, known as haemophilia. For years they relied on a British National Health Service treatment called factor concentrates, pooled plasma donations taken from many individuals, which they injected into their veins to prevent bleeding. What patients didn’t know at the time was that this product was imported from prisons in the US, blood bought by American pharmaceutical companies that paid inmates for their blood.
The safety violations concerning these products are too numerous to mention. However as well as taking blood from prisoners that were known drug users and a very high hepatitis risk, American doctors used prisoners in experimentation programmes. These included actually injecting and infecting them with viruses to study the effects of a disease, in return inmates were given reduced prison sentences. This experimentation was dangerous, highly unethical and similar to that carried out in Auschwitz concentration camp http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/aumed.html The company Bayer that commissioned such experiments in Auschwitz later supplied contaminated prison blood to haemophilia patients. These blood products were passed as “safe treatment” for many a young haemophiliac child by authorities in both the US and the UK. I gave witness evidence on this to the Archer Public Inquiry in the UK http://www.archercbbp.com/
When my husband became ill, poisoned with HIV, hepatitis B and C and exposed to variant CJD I began to research the politics of the global blood trade where profit was prioritised over safety in what became known in parliament as the “worst medical treatment disaster in the history of the NHS”. I then discovered both the worst and best of human nature.
I watched governments lie, withhold key safety information and shred documents (including those of a health minister) in order to avoid liability. I saw pharmaceutical companies making vast profits while refusing to properly compensate blood victims. I was forced to confront corrupt lawyers (supposedly working on our behalf) that were struck off for stealing legal aid money to finance their own lavish lifestyle. I even learned of a government official who embezzled the trust fund set up for tainted blood victims and widows by creating false profiles of haemophiliacs to line his own pockets.
Then there was the problem of blood links to Bill Clinton as his campaign finance manager Leonard Dunn held the lucrative contracts for Arkansas State Penitentiary plasma programme http://prorev.com/blood.htm It was also alleged that profits from the programme helped Clinton on his way to the White House. This is not a good history for a man who travels the world and claims to be fighting the global war on AIDS when the prison plasma programme actually helped to spread it.
The behaviour I witnessed trying to fight for the truth went just about as low as you could go. The saving grace was the whistle blower… men and women who understood that a terrible injustice had occurred wiping out thousands of haemophiliacs across the world and for some it was too much, they had to speak out. Just one problem, they risked their jobs, their careers and in some cases feared for their lives.
In order to protect themselves they began leaking information to haemophilia campaigners including my husband and I who then pressurized the media to look at their documents alongside our own independent research (which came to the same findings) and helped us to fight for truth and justice. This resulted in thousands of media articles, documentaries, research papers, international litigation against governments and pharmaceutical companies and finally a privately funded public inquiry. It was this long history of contact with whistle blowers that drew my attention to whistle blowers in other areas of human rights.
The name Bradley Manning originally came to my attention through a friend, Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, a human rights campaigner and sponsor of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative that has long championed freedom of speech http://cryptome.org/0003/jonsdottir-wl.htm Birgitta has also acted as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks founded by Australian journalist and political/internet activist Julian Assange http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11047811 She helped to co-produce the now infamous Collateral Murder video (Iraq) which showed an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad firing on and killing civilians and badly injuring two small children.
Bradley Manning, a United States Army soldier was arrested in 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed restricted material to the whistle blower website WikiLeaks. He was later charged with transferring classified data onto his personal computer, and communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and could face a court martial with the possibility of life imprisonment if found guilty.
It is not my place to judge innocence of guilt but I do know that conscience can compel an individual to take great personal risk to educate and assist others if they experience something which they define as morally wrong. I am aware from dealing directly with whistle blowers within corporations or government institutions that it takes great courage to question and act against those that have the power to break you. If we could always rely on just and honest politicians and organisations and there was a valued system of meaningful communication there would be no need for leaked
“insider “information. Often though, not only do we not trust those who represent us, our lived experience tells us they are capable of behaving in the most immoral and corrupt ways.
In a democracy citizens supposedly have the right of free speech, the right to challenge. The US government and military may define Bradley Manning as a security risk, alleging treason but surely inept governments creating conflict after conflict, violating human rights and targeting innocent civilians whether by Apache helicopter or through endless drone strikes is a security risk to us all and increases the possibility of further terrorist attacks in retaliation. So why should we not use documented evidence of increased security risks by governments to hold them to account for their actions. They must be accountable to the ordinary citizens they claim to serve.
Therefore I have no hesitation in supporting the argument laid out by Birgitta Jonsdottir in her letter of February 1st 2012 on behalf of the entire parliamentary group of The Movement of the Icelandic Parliament nominating Private Bradley Manning for a Nobel Peace Prize. The letter below states the reasoning that Birgitta and her colleagues sent to the committee explaining why they felt compelled to nominate Private Bradley Manning for this important recognition of an individual effort to have an impact for peace in our world.
LETTER TO THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE COMMITTEE
“We have the great honor of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistle blower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and imperialism by the United States government in international dealings. These revelations have fuelled democratic uprising around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on our foreign policies, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S. troops from the occupation in Iraq.
Bradley Manning has been incarcerated for well over a year by the U.S. government without a trial. He spent over ten months of that time period in solitary confinement, conditions which experts worldwide have criticized as torturous. Juan Mendez, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, has repeatedly requested and been denied a private meeting with Manning to assess his conditions.
The documents made public by WikiLeaks should never have been kept from public scrutiny. The revelations – including video documentation of an incident in which American soldiers gunned down Reuters journalists in Iraq – have helped to fuel a worldwide discussion about America’s overseas engagements, civilian casualties of war, imperialistic manipulations, and rules of engagement. Citizens worldwide owe a great debt to the WikiLeaks whistle blower for shedding light on these issues, and so I urge the Committee to award this prestigious prize to accused whistle blower Bradley Manning.
Members of the Icelandic Parliament for the Movement”
Soon after I came into contact with Birgitta I was also in touch with Ethan Mccord, the young soldier that had appeared in the Collateral Murder video seen helping the victims of the Apache helicopter attack. I was impressed with his honesty and bravery in portraying the reality of war in Iraq, the fact that he had since become a peace activist and had written a public letter of reconciliation and responsibility to the Iraqi people. .. http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5966/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=2724
It was not long after, that I also came across James Spione a New York film director who had initiated the idea of a film called “Incident in New Baghdad” exploring Ethan’s experience in Iraq, the subject of collateral damage/murder and the difficulties faced by a soldier dealing day to day with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder http://www.incidentinnewbaghdad.com/ The fact that this film would probably not have come about if it had not been for the existence of a whistle blower site emphasises the importance of supporting Wikileaks which provides information for ordinary citizens to make “informed “choices on matters of social and political importance. Having such information to hand empowers citizens, they can choose to support or contest the actions of those in a position of responsibility whether it be governments or international corporations.
From 2010 I decided to support “Incident in New Baghdad” in whatever way I could. Back then it appeared simply a small independent documentary film but with a big vision …to educate on war. There was no hint of film festivals or Oscar nominations, just a growing and trusting relationship between two men as director, James and subject, Ethan came together. One way I could assist initially was to use my British media connections that had supported my own “bad blood” campaign to highlight their story and provide a platform for discussion such as the piece which aired on 28th October 2010 on BBC Newsnight http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9136984.stm and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMAFI3bYJs0
A year later a further opportunity arose as James put out an appeal for funders. By a stroke of luck this call for financial support coincided with my having received a small ex-gratia payment from the British government after many exhausting years of campaigning. It seemed natural to take a portion of this “blood money” to help finance the film to be screened in LA which is a requirement in order for a documentary to be eligible for Oscar Qualifier nomination… A group of us banded together with our donations and I became Executive Producer. I was both supporting a project I believed in and honouring Peter my late whistle blower husband by donating in his memory (which he would have preferred to me buying a park bench memorial site I am sure)!
There was also a dark satisfaction knowingly that the British government had inadvertently helped fund a film that was anti-war and made possible through WikiLeaks, a whistle blower site. Peter would have laughed heartily at that. I just thought of all the lies the British government had told sick and dying haemophiliacs over the years and how I could have really used the help of an established whistle blower site to expose this deceit during those many difficult years.
I wish James and Ethan the best of luck at the Oscars and I am happy that we have got this far and grateful to all our supporters. I will leave the final words to Kristinn Hraffnson of WikiLeaks as it takes us back to focus on the victims of US aggression. The “targets” seen through the eyes of a helicopter sight suddenly become real, they have names, occupations, loves and aspirations just like the rest of us… but their lives destroyed in seconds.
LETTER FROM WIKILEAKS
I am glad that you supported the film and I am happy that it has got the award in Tribeca and this nomination now. The matter is dear to my heart as I travelled to Baghdad prior to the release of the Collateral Murder video and met there with and interviewed many of those who lost their loved ones in that attack. Among them where the widow of Mathasher Tomal, the driver of the mini-van and her two children, Said and Doha, who still bear scars from that day – not to mention the trauma of losing their father whose only crime was to stop his car to help the wounded Reuters employee, Saeed Smagh. Meeting the people there on the ground, going to the spot where it all happened, and especially feeling the grief of the children is an experience that will never leave me even though I am rather thick skinned journalist. The children are about the same age as my own.
I have talked to Ethan McCoord a number of times and he has my utmost respect. Hearing him say that seeing the video was like an awakening made it all worth while. If it accomplished only that it would be enough.
I wish you all the best of luck and please give my best to James Spione. Congratulation on the nomination to you both. It is so good we have again the attention on that horrible incident. That will probably be the only justice the two children, and other grieving relatives, will ever get. The truth.
Carol Grayson worked as Director Coordination Asia Despatch and is a UK independent activist/researcher/campaigner on global health/human rights awarded ESRC Michael Young Prize 2009