Newport International Group: From obscurity, Manning became a polarizing symbol
NEW, YORK – The honors and accolades proliferated over three years: international peace prizes, solidarity campaigns by celebrities, an effort to designate him — in absentia, of course — as grand marshal of San Francisco’s gay pride parade.
All the while, Bradley Manning was imprisoned by the military, branded a traitor by the U.S. government and reviled by many Americans.
Some called for his execution for giving troves of classified secrets to WikiLeaks for global distribution.
Few Americans in living memory have emerged from obscurity to become such polarizing public figures — admired by many around the world, fiercely denigrated by many in his homeland. The contrasting portraits of Manning were summarized by his defense attorney, David Coombs, during the court-martial that culminated Tuesday with Manning’s acquittal on a charge of aiding the enemy and his conviction on charges of espionage, theft and computer fraud. “Is Pfc. Manning somebody who is a traitor, who has no loyalty to this country, or the flag?” Coombs had asked.
“Or is he a young, naive, good-intentioned soldier who had human life, in his humanist beliefs, center to his decision?
“Which side of the version is the truth?”
His supporters embraced the second of those versions, as illustrated by a full-page ad last week in The New York Times, headlined “WE ARE BRADLEY MANNING.” The ad’s 850 signatories included writer Alice Walker, activist intellectual Noam Chomsky, singer Joan Baez, and Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Vietnam War-era Pentagon Papers, who has praised Manning as a worthy heir to his legacy.