Peace is more than simply the absence of war; it is the active creation of something better. Alfred Nobel recognized this when he created alongside those for chemistry, literature, medicine and physics, an annual prize for outstanding contributions in peace. Nobel's foresight is a reminder to us all that peace must be created, maintained, and advanced, and it is indeed possible for one individual to have an extraordinary impact. For this year's prize, I have chosen to nominate US Army Pfc Bradley Manning, for I can think of no one more deserving. His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere.
I recently visited Syria, where I met a few of the millions of refugees and internally displaced people whose lives have been torn apart by the ongoing conflict in that country. I learned from those I spoke to, both within the government and in opposition groups, that while there is a legitimate and long-overdue movement for peace and non-violent reform in Syria, the worst acts of violence are being perpetrated by outside groups. Extremist groups from around the world have converged upon Syria, bent on turning this conflict into one of ideological hatred.
In recent years this would have spelled an undeniable formula for United States intervention. However, the world has changed in the years since Manning's whistleblowing – the Middle East especially. In Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and now Turkey, advocates of democracy have joined together to fight against their own governments' control of information, and used the free-flowing data of social media to help build enormously successful non-violent movements. Some activists of what has come to be known as the Arab Spring have even directly credited Bradley Manning, and the information he disclosed, as an inspiration for their struggles.
In a Middle East newly dedicated to democratic flow of information, those who would commit human rights violations can more easily be held accountable. 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.
Around the world, Manning is hailed as a peacemaker and a hero. His nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize is a reflection of this. Yet at his home in America, Manning stands trial for charges of espionage and "aiding the enemy". This should not be considered a refutation of his candidacy – rather, he is in good company. Burmese politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo were each awarded the prize in recent years while imprisoned by their home countries.
Last week at Manning's trial, the public learned that at the time Manning released his information, WikiLeaks stated they wanted to publish "the concealed documents or recordings most sought after by a country's journalists, activists, historians, lawyers, police or human rights investigators". Manning's disclosures to Wikileaks only "aided the enemy," as his prosecutors charge, if the enemy is international cooperation and peace itself.
Manning is the only one on trial, yet what of those who committed the atrocities he revealed? The United States, the most militarized country on earth, should stand for something better than war. Its government must be open to "debates, discussions and reforms" concerning its foreign policy, to use Manning's own words. By heeding Pfc Bradley Manning's message on the importance of transparency, America's government can once again rebuild its image in the eyes of the world, and spread democracy not through foreign invasions, but through setting a strong example.
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I hope American leaders will embrace the U.S. constitution, and base their national and foreign policies on ethical values, human rights and international law.