Supporters of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier convicted of espionage for releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, submitted a petition to the Nobel Institute on Monday encouraging the committee to award him with the coveted Nobel Peace Prize. The last American to win the award was President Barack Obama. The decision to award Obama with the Nobel Peace Prize has drawn considerable criticism considering his administration’s policies in conflict zones. Turning the tables and giving the award to Manning can help restore some of the prize’s cachet. However, it also needs to be remembered that the award is not a popularity contest and at least officially, the petition cannot weaken or strengthen Manning’s chances of winning.
The online petition launched by the activist organization RootsAction garnered more than 100,000 signatures from people all across the world voting in favor of Manning’s nomination. Six officials sponsored Manning's nomination and sent it to the Norwegian Nobel Committee by the Feb. 1 deadline. The officials included Tunisia's former Secretary of State for Sport and members of the Pirate Party. According to the nomination letter, Manning "helped to fuel a worldwide discussion about the overseas engagements of the United States, civilian casualties of war and rules of engagement," and the letter stated that people worldwide are indebted to him for his actions.
When President Barack Obama received the award back in 2009, the committee recognized his “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Two months after the announcement and one week before Obama received the award he deployed additional troops to Afghanistan. Under the Obama administration's watch the 2008 election campaign promise of the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility has remained elusive. The U.S. drone campaign has received Obama's full backing and drone strikes have subsequently grown exponentially in Pakistan and Yemen in particular.
Now the Nobel Peace Prize committee is faced with Manning’s nomination — an individual sentenced to 90 years in prison by a military court, with the Obama administration pushing for an even stricter punishment. The committee has faced immense criticism for having awarded the coveted title to President Obama — an award that has previously been given to the likes of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr., among other highly deserving winners.
A fair amount of controversy will result should the committee decide to award the title to Manning. It would be an extremely bold step should the committee decide to award the title to an individual convicted by the U.S. government. However, such an action would also go a long way to prove the neutral and unbiased nature of the committee's decisions.
As one of the organizers of the petition, Norman Solomon, a U.S. journalist said, “the Nobel Peace Prize at this point needs Bradley Manning more than Bradley Manning needs the Nobel Peace Prize because there is no question of the firm commitment of Bradley Manning to human rights and peace.”