In the wake of Tuesday's verdict against Pfc. Bradley Manning that now threatens to put him in prison for the rest of his life, a petition urging the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway to award this year's award to the 25-year-old whistleblower is gaining widespread public traction.
RootsAction.org, the advocacy group behind the petition, says that the online petition has now swelled to nearly 100,000 signatures and plans are underway for the group's director, journalist and activist Norman Solomon, to visit Oslo in order to hand-deliver the petition to the committee.
The message of the petition is simple. Directed to the Nobel committee itself, it reads: "I urge you to award the Peace Prize to Bradley Manning."
In an op-ed in USA Today on Wednesday, Solomon championed Manning by writing,
Thanks to [him], vast troves of information have become public knowledge, making possible more informed debate about war and peace. For instance, he leaked the now-infamous "collateral murder" video, with a soundtrack of chilling banter as U.S. servicemen in a pair of gunships fired on civilians in Baghdad.
Other evidence that Manning brought to light includes a U.S. diplomatic cable about a covered-up massacre of at least 10 civilians, including young children, in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi. That revelation stiffened the resolve of Iraq's government to seek jurisdiction over American troops for criminal actions. Washington found the demand unacceptable, thus hastening full U.S. military withdrawal from the country.
Manning was officially nominated for the prize earlier this year by Mairead Maguire, the Nobel laureate from Ireland, who said that she could "think of no one more deserving" than Manning. "His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere," she said.
Agreeing with Solomon's estimations and citing past abuses as well as ongoing military crises—like the current civil war in Syria—Maguire argues that Manning's decision to expose the manner in which the US conducts its foreign policy has had far-reaching implications for peace, saying:
If not for whistleblower Bradley Manning, the world still might not know of how US forces committed covert crimes in the name of spreading democracy in Iraq, killing innocent civilians in incidents such as the one depicted in the "Collateral Murder" video, and supporting Iraqi prisoner torture. Now, those who would support foreign intervention in the Middle East know that every action would be scrutinized under international human rights law. Clearly, this is for the best. International peacekeepers, as well as experts and civilians inside Syria, are nearly unanimous in their view that United States involvement would only worsen this conflict.
In addition to having signatories of the petition add their name and where they live, they are also encouraged to offer brief thoughts on why they believe Manning is deserving of the prize. With many thousands to choose from, here is a sample of those voices:
"Selfless courage for the greater good deserves reward, not a life behind bars." --Dominic Jones, Great Britain
“This poor, incredibly brave person has been scapegoated nearly to death for his extraordinary heroism in revealing just a bit of the truth behind the ideological gloss of war and politics. Please give him the support and recognition he deserves -- you may save his life and you will certainly support a higher consciousness in many if you do so.” --Cathy C., Boulder, CO
“Wall Street bankers who looted our nations go scot free. Petro chemical companies who poison millions go free. A young man who releases truth in a democracy is terrorized endlessly by his government. We must stand up for truth tellers.” --W.D., Overland Park, KS
“Manning has done more for peace in our time than any other individual. He risked his freedom to inform the world of war crimes and other wrongdoing by his country.” --William P., Prescott Valley, AZ
“He has done more than anyone to challenge the hubris of a government’s foreign policy that is based on belligerence and aggression.” --Myles H., Baltimore, MD
“Please give the peace prize to those who truly merit it, like Manning, not to politicians who further militarism and war.”
--Albert R., Naperville, IL
“The Norwegian Nobel Committee will need courage even to consider awarding Bradley Manning the Peace Prize.” --Robert B., Honolulu, HI
“Bradley Manning is a hero in the deepest and truest meaning of that word.” --Jennifer A., Dickson, TN
“This young man risked everything to reveal war crimes being committed by his government.” --Joanne H., Columbia, MD
“I feel Manning was acting in the spirit of the Nuremberg trials in taking individual responsibility for illegal activities that he was witnessing.” --Nick W., Point Reyes, CA