On Saturday, The Washington Post devoted an entire article to left-wing praise and Facebook fan pages for Private Bradley Manning, suspected of the shocking leak of more than 90,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan. The headline was "Army analyst linked to WikiLeaks hailed as antiwar hero."
Washington Post reporter Michael W. Savage (not that other Michael Savage) began: "For antiwar campaigners from Seattle to Iceland, a new name has become a byword for anti-establishment heroism: Army Pfc. Bradley E. Manning." In the entire story, there is no liberal or leftist label used, and there is no conservative counterpoint quoted. There are only "grass roots activists" offering praises to the audacity of Manning:
The breach has elicited a furious reaction from national security officials, who say it has compromised the safety of U.S.-led forces and their Afghan allies.
Yet, since his arrest in the spring, Manning has become an instant folk hero to thousands of grass-roots activists around the world, some of whom are likening the disclosure to the unauthorized release of the Pentagon Papers or the anonymous tips that helped uncover the Watergate scandal.
Mike Gogulski, a U.S. citizen living in Slovakia, honored Manning as a "charismatic young whistleblower" linked to the "story of the decade," and his group drew no label:
The group co-coordinating Gogulski's campaign, Courage to Resist, has developed a line of Manning memorabilia, replete with images of the boyish-looking private. There are "Save Bradley Manning!" badges, posters and T-shirts. The products' tagline: "Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime."
Their other motto is "Supporting the troops who refuse to fight!" They are clearly on the radical left, but the Post just calls them "peace campaigners" and other positive-sounding labels. The Savage story ended this way:
Plans are being drawn up for an international day of solidarity.
Andrew Burgin, spokesman for Britain's Stop the War Coalition, said that whoever disclosed the classified material to WikiLeaks had done the public a favor.
Although Manning has not been charged in connection with the more than 90,000 documents leaked to WikiLeaks, he has been charged in the disclosure of U.S. combat video footage showing a helicopter attack that killed several civilians in Iraq.
Burgin said Manning should "be on a par" with Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw a shoe at George W. Bush during a Baghdad news conference in 2008.
Peace campaigners hope that Manning's rising profile will spur interest in their cause.
"It is like the story of the boy who cried out that the emperor was wearing no clothes," said Gerry Condon, president of Seattle's branch of Veterans for Peace and a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
"He's really becoming a focus that could help revive what has been a somewhat weakened antiwar movement."
Daniel Ellsberg, who was imprisoned for leaking the top-secret Pentagon Papers in 1971, said he felt "great identification" with Manning.
"He's a hero to me," he said. "I haven't seen someone make an unauthorized disclosure on this scale, that would lead to serious charges, for 40 years. It seems he believed, as I did, the stakes involved justified that kind of risk."