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Jónsdóttir: If Bradley Manning Had Leaked State Secrets in Iceland, He’d Have Been a Hero

Birgitta Jonsdottir

Icelandic Parliament Member Birgitta Jonsdottir

Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir, who has been a target of the United States’ government’s wide investigation into WikiLeaks, visited the US to show her support for Pfc. Bradley Manning.

She was involved in the release of the “Collateral Murder” video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad, Iraq, that was released just over three years ago. During her visit, she participated in multiple speaking events and spoke with US media interested in speaking with her.

Jonsdottir was here for five days. I participate in a panel event with her and others in New York City on Friday, April 5 (that can be viewed here).

I interviewed her while she was here. Part 1 of our interview was already published. Here is Part 2.


KEVIN GOSZTOLA: In being here in the United States and following how the Bradley Manning case is covered and taking notice of how the US population reacts to his case, what do you think about that in comparison to how people have reacted in Iceland or other countries?

BIRGITTA JONSDOTTIR, Icelandic MP: Many people say he’s a traitor and he should be killed and hung. I read it and it is very disturbing because it’s sort of a reflection of a mentality that I don’t think it is normal. It’s a very weird mentality—solution to a problem is to go and kill people or torture them or to waterboard them. It’s Middle Ages. It’s unacceptable in modern societies.

The only thing I have to say to people that claim this is that I understand that the government went into panic when the leaks were coming because they probably had no idea if it came from higher. They should have known, because according to what I have heard, he did not leak that was the highest classified stuff.

GOSZTOLA: Not top secret.

JONSDOTTIR: Right, it was Daniel Ellsberg who leaked that stuff. It is Ellsberg who is the hero and he was fortunate to not be in the military yet he was leaking to the general public stuff that people really needed to know about the government’s behavior in order to keep the government honest. I don’t see any difference except what Bradley Manning has been accused of doing is a lot less serious and people are saying he should die because of this.

I can understand that he might get some sentence. I understand that, but he’s served in prison for like more than a 1000 days and he’s been tortured. Isn’t that enough? Haven’t they gotten enough revenge? Do they want to pull out his teeth? Or put him in the electric chair? What sort of barbaric society thinks like this? And I don’t know anybody in the United States who thinks like this so I don’t really know where these people come from.

GOSZTOLA: This zeal, this wanting of death—it’s not in these countries that you’ve talked about?

JONSDOTTIR: In Iceland, we have much less prison sentences. We don’t use prisons to keep people, to forget about them. Or, we don’t use prisons—Even if you possess a little bit of drugs for your own use, you’re not really put in prison for that. We recognize that this war on drugs can never be won. And, we recognize that a prison should not be a storage place for problems. The biggest aim for someone to go to prison is get the person to get some sentence but the other thing is how to help that person assimilate back into society because it’s really expensive for society to have completely dysfunctional people coming out of prisons and these really long sentences here—This is not really traditional European. It’s more like Iran.

The way the prison sentences here are really high like what we’re seeing with Jeremy Hammond. Forty-five years in prison?

GOSZTOLA: And they want Barrett Brown to go to prison for 105 years.

What do you think about the idea that if Bradley Manning was not in the military there would not be so many calls for him to be put to death?

JONSDOTTIR: Do these people that request this—that the state becomes the executor—do they find it acceptable how many people have died in meaningless wars? What was the reason why the US went into Iraq? Oh, weapons of mass destruction. And like has the guy who lied to the UN actually been held accountable? Have the people we have seen with our own eyes committing war crimes, have they been held accountable? Or their superiors? Or the people pissing on dead people held accountable? Or raping children? Have they been held accountable?

The pride of military—You can be proud of your country, but you have to be proud for the right things. I used to look at the United States and was fascinated by many aspects of your society but they’re almost all gone. And now the world looks at the United States as similar to China.

I’d just encourage people to do everything in their power to turn it around and I know you can because you have so many brilliant, brilliant people in this country.

GOSZTOLA: In Iceland, if you had someone like Manning and there was this need to hold someone accountable for violations, would there be a zeal against that person  similar to what exists in this country? There seems to be such lawlessness in this country. Is there a problem of rampant lawlessness in Iceland?

JONSDOTTIR: I have live most of my life in Iceland but I have also lived in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the UK. So, I have a fairly good perspective of how things are and I think the stronger the military establishment, the worst off the civic society will be.

In Iceland, we’re fortunate that we don’t have a military so we don’t ever have to teach our children how to kill a person. And, it makes a huge difference.

I’ve studied another society like this, the Tibetans. It’s just an entirely different mentality if you don’t have to indoctrine your children that it’s okay to kill people, that you have to have this absolute rigid loyalty to something you might feel to be wrong in your heart and I think it does something really bad to nations.

If Bradley Manning would have leaked this stuff in Iceland—Since we don’t have a military, if he would have leaked other sensitive state secrets that should have been in the public domain, like videos from police interrogations, he would be a hero.

GOSZTOLA: You would like people participate in the organization of actions during his trial. What can you say about your vision to have mass action in the US?

JONSDOTTIR: I would like to encourage anybody who has any time to spare to organize in his hometown an event that would be around the time or on the date when the trial starts. So, I would like people to show the “Collateral Murder” video or show it in halls or their homes. They can do guerrilla video. They can take photos if they see stencils, like “Blowing a Whistle is Not a Crime.” They can host readings, re-read his statement. They can show different documentaries but would need to upload to similar website like the Global Voices website.

I want to have larger events in three cities like New York, Washington, LA or San Francisco and then people upload that they’ve done an event on Tumblr or Twitter and we collect information on these events. We can send a strong message to Bradley Manning that we’ve not forgotten and we appreciate what he’s done. We are not going to accept that he will rot in jail for the rest of his life. Enough is enough.

Photo by G20NWD released under Creative Commons License

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."