Last month, over 30,000 people signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award former Army intelligence analyst and whistleblower Bradley Manning with the Nobel Peace Prize. Based on Manning's bravery, heroism, and treatment at the hands of the U.S. government, it is hard to think of a more deserving candidate for the prize.
While Manning has slipped off the media's radar as of late, his story is an inspiration to all of us fighting for justice, transparency, human rights, and peace. Manning is currently being prosecuted by the U.S. government for leaking classified documents which, like the Pentagon Papers, document the systemic corruption of American foreign policy.
As journalist Chris Hedges explains, Manning provided an "important window into the inner workings of imperial power," showing routine torture, the imprisonment of innocent Iraqis, the inhuman conditions of America's secret detention facilities, the use of State Department officials as spies, collusion with multinational corporations, and a multitude of war crimes.
The Iraq War logs and the Afghan War Diary contain footage of U.S. forces committing the types of horrendous atrocities that tend to accompany an aggressive war, including the famous "Collateral Murder" video in which U.S. Apache helicopters fire on innocent civilians, including children and a Reuters reporter.
Manning has been subjected to unbelievable cruel and inhumane treatment. Despite not being convicted of a crime, he has spent nearly 1,000 days in prison. Most of this time has been spent in windowless solitary confinement. Against the advice of multiple forensic psychiatrists, Manning was kept under "suicide watch" which meant being confined to his tiny cell for 23 hours a day and stripped of all clothing besides his underwear. They took his eyeglasses away. Guards would harass him every five minutes to ask if he was okay, even in the middle of the night.
Perhaps out of jealousy for their incompetence, the mainstream press has smeared, defamed, and dragged Manning through the mud. They have questioned his loyalty, his patriotism, his motives, and his sexuality (he happens to be gay).
Now that he has finally been given a trial, he has plead guilty to leaking the classified documents knowing full well he could spend up to twenty years in federal prison. Not content with this plea, U.S. prosecutors want to add "aiding the enemy" and lock him up for life. Prosecutors even plan onbringing in an anonymous witness who supposedly took part in the Osama bin Laden raid, claiming that bin Laden's computer contained some of the documents leaked by Manning.
But the case against Manning made by the U.S. government simply does not add up. Aiding the enemy? Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the publication of the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary had not revealedany sensitive intelligence sources or methods. McClatchy also reported that officials were overstating the supposed danger posed by the leaks.
Manning technically did leak classified documents, but he was very careful not to leak any information that would directly harm the security of the American people he wanted to wake up. If publishing classified material is worthy of two decades in prison, then the entire journalism profession would be in trouble. What about when the New York Times published intimate detailsabout President Obama's "kill lists" and targeted assassination program? Is publishing classified information okay only when sanctioned by the White House?
Manning told his superiors about what he saw, and they ignored him. So did the New York Times and Washington Post when he asked them to publish the leaks. Thankfully, Wikileaks eventually did.
It is clear that Manning's "crime" was holding up a mirror to the American establishment for all to see, and for this he became the biggest enemy of the U.S. government. This is why his treatment has been so inhumane and the prosecution to aggressive. They want to make an example of out of Manning for any others whose conscious compels them to speak out when witnessing war crimes, abuse, and officially-sanctioned corruption.
Just look at how the Obama administration has reacted to other whisteblowers as well. While invoking the century-old Espionage Act more times than his predecessors combined, Obama's other whistleblower targets include former CIA agent John Kirakou and former Foreign Services Officer Peter van Buren. Aaron Swartz and Jeremy Hammondwere targeted by the U.S. government. The message is clear: contradicting the empire and telling the truth will not be tolerated. Manning is the most visible aspect of this vice grip, an example to other possible whisteblowers on what awaits them.
In a way, Manning did "aid the enemy." The enemies of the American empire are truth and an engaged, informed public, which explains the U.S. government's ferocity in their prosecution. Despite the possibility of life in prison, harassment, and persecution, Manning, when given the chance to speak, knew what he was doing. He saw "bloodlust," corruption, and evil and simply couldn't take it any longer. His bravery and courage are not only heroic, but humbling.
It is truly a shame that while President "Kill List" enjoys swooning crowds, massive popularity, and a second term wielding the might of the war machine, Manning sits alone in a government cage. But perhaps Manning will be vindicated in the end. In the petition sent to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, there were hundreds of private notes from Americans showing full support, love and solidarity.
Manning deserves the highest recognition possible for what he has done. While Manning should receive the Nobel Peace Prize, this award doesn't even begin to honor the magnitude of humanitarianism of this true American hero.