By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
Does the world really care what Berkeley thinks about peace and justice?
Apparently so, if you tally up all the television, Internet, newspaper and radio stories this week on a resolution the Berkeley City Council will consider Tuesday to proclaim a hero the Army man accused of leaking sensitive war documents and a video to the online site WikiLeaks.org.
If the world does care what Berkeley thinks, does it make a difference?
Absolutely, says 58-year-old Bob Meola, a commissioner on Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission who authored the item on Pfc. Bradley Manning.
"I believe when something is right, the City of Berkeley should be a leader and a guiding light so other cities can see what Berkeley has done and do the same thing," Meola said.
"That's how movements cause change. Sometimes you just have to do what you can, but you never know how great an effect it's going to have." The commission is charged with advising the City Council and school district on peace and justice issues of local, national and international significance.
|Bob Meola of Berkeley is a member of Berkeley's Peace and Justice Commission. (Photo by Doug Oakley)|
On Thursday Meola said his phone had been ringing constantly all week with interview requests from media around the world.
"Yesterday I did interviews with five local television stations, I've done three radio interviews, said no to Fox News, Russia Today called me and CNN wants to do something this weekend," Meola said.
Since it is the Peace and Justice Commission's duty to advise the city, Berkeley should take the side of people who believe the public has a right to know what the government is doing behind closed doors, Meola said.
"If Manning did do it, he should be proclaimed a hero just as Daniel Ellsberg is a hero for leaking the Pentagon Papers," Meola said.
Ellsberg, a Kensington resident, is one of many credited with turning the tide of public opinion on the Vietnam War when in 1971 as an employee of the RAND Corporation he leaked to the New York Times a secret Pentagon study of decision making during the war
Manning was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material and faces a possible court martial. He is believed to have had access to the leaked Afghan reports posted on the WikiLeaks web site.
Berkeley City Council member Gordon Wozniak said the Peace and Justice Commission should do more homework before "clogging up" the council's agenda and wasting its time.
"I have several objections to the resolution and one is we don't even know whether Manning did it or not and they want to call him a hero," Wozniak said.
"Then there's the question of whether leaking confidential documents is heroic." In addition, Wozniak said he thought the commission should first find out if there is a consensus of Berkeley residents on whether the Council should consider such an item.
"They are asking the council to make a statement in the name of the citizens of Berkeley," Wozniak said.
"There should at least be some kind of assessment to see if the citizens agree with that statement."