While the sentencing phase of Bradley Manning's trial continues in the US, a US activist group has attempted to gather international support for his cause. Recently the activist group, an organization called RootsAction submitted a petition to the Nobel Committee recommending Manning for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
Manning was arrested in 2010 for leaking thousands of state documents to the information freedom organization WikiLeaks. These documents exposed US foreign policy and military practices to the wider world via the Internet.
One of the most circulated documents was the infamous video dubbed Collateral Murder by its WikiLeaks disseminators. This video, taken from a US helicopter, shows a group of reporters and civilians in Baghdad being mistaken for combatants and killed from the air.
The misidentification of these victims proceeds on very blurry evidence, such as that one victim has a camera strapped around his shoulder, taken as a weapon by the helicopter pilot.
Currently in the US, political divides mean that few people are vocally supporting Manning. Conservatives and Republicans tend to feel that pro-military sentiment requires casting him as a traitor, while Democrats want to see US President Barack Obama vindicated in both his war efforts and his attempts to control the press.
In fact, many Americans speak of Manning as misguided or confused, or say that though the US military and government are overly secretive, Manning's revelations were an unfortunate mistake.
This is not, however, how Manning portrays himself in his own testimony. His trial is being held in secret, but transcripts have been obtained and released by the Freedom of the Press Foundation.
Although Manning has apologized for leaks that "hurt the US," in his testimony, he did make it clear that his release of classified documents was a deliberative reaction to problems ignored by his superiors and hidden from the public as classified information.
In short, Manning wanted to alert US citizens to the realities of the Iraq War, including mistakes and malfeasance such as those depicted in the Collateral Murder video.
The RootsAction petitions are an attempt to reach out to the international community given the lack of domestic support for Manning. In reality, there may be very little chance that the Nobel Committee would actually award its highest honor to a dissident currently being prosecuted by the US government, but the petitions bring attention to some important connections.
Norman Solomon, the peace activist who submitted the petition for RootsAction, explains that honoring Manning would give the Nobel Committee a chance to reverse its earlier mistake, awarding Obama the peace prize in 2009.
According to Solomon, while Manning has helped to stem the tide of violent intervention in the Middle East, Obama has only perpetuated it along with the government secrecy that makes it possible.
Solomon's connection between secrecy and war points to drastic changes in US military practice since the 1970s.
During our war in Vietnam, Americans engaged in massive dissent, creating problems for those in power who wished to continue the conflict.
In the Iraq War, however, the Bush administration discovered that if photos and information from the scene of violence were not allowed into the public domain, then Americans would be fairly isolated from the reality of war. The Obama administration has continued this kind of tack in its expansion of government secrecy.
The advanced technologies used by the US military are as much a public relations tool as an advance in the practice of war.
Drones and other technological devices are often depicted by government representatives and the US media as creating a less violent kind of war: They supposedly create the ability for "surgical strikes," where only enemy combatants are harmed, leaving the surrounding population and environment unscathed.
Advanced communications, video cameras, and helicopters only yield the blurry images that emphasize the distance separating the US soldiers from the actual situation on the ground, much like the isolation of US civilians from the reality of the wars waged in their names.