Are you Bradley Manning? High-profile Americans
take to YouTube to back Nobel petition
The protesters who descended on Fort Meade military base in Maryland to express frustration
with the trial of Bradley Manning have been joined by major American celebrities and
journalists, who are also rallying support for the Army whistle-blower.
Manning, 25, could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of aiding and abetting the
enemy by leaking military cables to WikiLeaks. US military prosecutors have asserted that
Manning put his own agenda above national security and that by releasing the cables, most
notably the Collateral Murder video depicting an American helicopter opening fire on Iraqi
civilians, he jeopardized Americans in the field of battle.
But his trial at Fort Meade this week has attracted the attention of influential Americans, as well
as international activists who opposed the American wars in the Middle East and beyond.
The “I Am Bradley Manning” campaign, featuring a video trailer of A-list celebrities and public
thinkers voicing support for Manning, pushed viewers to consider if they themselves would have
the courage to disclose military video footage in order to stop the carnage.
Actors Russell Brand, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Wallace Shawn join Oliver Stone, Rage Against
the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, and journalists Chris Hedges, Matt Taibbi and a slew of
others who lend Manning their support. Daniel Ellsberg, the former US Defense Department
employee who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, is also featured.
“If you saw incredible things, awful things, things that belonged in the public domain and not in
some server stored in a dark room in Washington,” each advocate says in the campaign trailer,
“What would you do?”
The trailer also urges audience members to sign a petition encouraging the Nobel Committee to
award Manning the Nobel Peace Prize. By Tuesday, the second day of Manning’s trial, nearly
60,000 people had signed the petition, organized by Roots Action, which describes itself as “an
online initiative dedicated to galvanizing Americans who are committed to economic fairness,
equal rights, civil liberties, environmental protection – and defunding endless wars.”
Supporters also made themselves known outside the trial at the main gates of Fort Meade.
Michael Thurman, a former member of the US Air Force, told the Daily Beast he flew in from
Oakland, California to personally witness the events.
“”I think what Bradley Manning did was pretty heroic and selfless, and I want to do everything I
can to support someone who is willing to sacrifice everything so we can all know the truth about
US foreign policy and what this government is doing,” he said.
“When I was in the military, I was able to see it for what it was. I came to the conclusion during
my enlistment that it wasn't an organization benefiting anyone, it was a business venture that
benefited a few very elite people,” Thurman continued. “I saw the corporate collusion and found
out about the civilian casualties, the racism, the seizure of resources, and basically the nature of
US policies. I thought it was wrong, and I became opposed to it, and that’s why I’m supporting
Bradley Manning, who exposed all those things.”
European groups have also sided with Manning. The former Army Private first-class admitted in
February that he provided a large number of classified documents to WikiLeaks, but that
confession came after nearly three years of detention, where Manning was monitored as he
stewed in solitary confinement for an entire year.
Joshua Benton, the director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab, explained to the
Associated Press why the American press has been more “uniformly unsympathetic” than their
“Part of that is the mainstream press here doesn't cover the same ideological turf that it does in
the UK, or elsewhere,” Benton said. “But I’d suspect most of it is the mundane fact it’s the
American interests he’s accused of threatening, and that people accused of ‘aiding the enemy,’
rightly or wrongly, tend not to get the most flattering coverage in their home country.”