Most of us have no illusion about our government’s intentions towards Bradley Manning. It will convict him for the crime of doing what international law says is a crime not to do: defy illegal orders to commit human rights violations and war crimes. In fact, the most onerous punishment must be applied to such an egregious offense, as a deterrent to others that would potentially report such crimes or refuse to commit them. Although protest is important, it is unlikely that any amount of pressure will affect the outcome.
We can, nevertheless, take countermeasures against the aims of this design, by honoring heroes like Manning in traditional ways. Perhaps one of the most effective of these is a bronze monumental statue in a public setting (if perhaps on private land). If we can find a place in Washington, DC, near the mall, the Congress, the White House or other national memorial, so much the better.
Such a monument might appear frivolous, especially considering the potential costs. However, it serves the purpose of embarrassing the authorities that are attempting to condemn and punish Manning – more so if it is begun and completed quickly. It demonstrates the honorable nature of Manning’s deed and his sacrifice, as well as the appreciation of a grateful public. It thus encourages others to emulate Manning’s example and it becomes a deterrent to similar prosecutions in the future.
The project requires site selection, prospective designs, an artist and above all an organization willing to undertake the project. I can think of several nonprofits that might wish to adopt it, and even some artists that might like to execute it. Some may be willing to donate part of their time. Other persons may be willing to donate land.
Obviously, the aim of the project is symbolic, but no less important for being so. If the U.S. government has decided to make an example of Bradley Manning, we can do the same.