The Free Bradley Manning support network is encouraging supporters to send him letters for his birthday. The military whistleblower turns 25 on December 17. He is the reason we have all seen that "Collateral Murder" video from Iraq, of civilians being gunned down. He plans to plead guilty to releasing that video. But he's also just a kid who fucked up while trying to do good, and he has had a hell of a time in detainment. He has been "subjected to forced nudity, 24-hour camera surveillance, harassment under the guise of concern for his well-being, and months long solitary confinement, despite model behavior," as Jake Blumgart wrote in The Stranger back in August. Blumgart visited a pretrial hearing and pointed out: "Manning's case has struggled to maintain sustained public interest since day one." He added:

Whether Manning is guilty or not, whether he should be prosecuted or lauded, whether he is a whistle-blower or an indiscriminate dumper of information, it is clear that Manning's case is an example of a larger trend in American society: The powerless and economically vulnerable are held to punishingly harsh standards, while the rich and powerful get away with a slap on the wrist (if that). Steal $100 of food from the grocery store? You go to jail. Steal $10,000 from your employees through shady employment practices? Worst thing that happens is you might have to pay them back (but probably not). If an antipoverty organization is involved in a scandal, Congress cuts off its funding. But if a big bank indulges in racist lending practices to line the pockets of its executives, it gets a stipulation-free bailout.

According to Manning's lawyer, "his dream would be to go to college, go into public service, and perhaps one day, run for public office. And I asked Brad, why would he want to do that? And he said, ‘I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference in this world.'"

If you feel like writing to Manning, here is the address:

Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

His court martial is scheduled for March.

To clarify: I'm not saying he deserves to be free. I'm saying he sacrificed his life to sound the alarm with "Collateral Muder," and he deserves respect.