“Julian Assange is a whistle blower in the tradition of the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers that exposed the lies the American government was telling about their war on Vietnam.”
John Stewart, Hackney North & Stoke Newington, says we should oppose the extradition of whistle blower, Julian Assange.
It’s 13 years since Julian Assange leaked grisly details of the American and British occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. And he has now spent 11 years in confinement for it, including the last 4 in Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison in south east London.
There are many important revelations in the thousands of documents that Wikileaks released. The one that sticks in my mind is the Collateral Murder video, the real time footage of an American helicopter gunship slaughtering a group of Iraqi men walking down a street in Baghdad in July 2007 and then laughing about it. And then seeing some passersby in a van stopping to assist the wounded and shooting them up too. The men killed were all civilians and two of them were journalists working for Reuters news agency.
No wonder they don’t want the people of the world to know about their behaviour. And that they harass, persecute and imprison journalists for exposing them. They want to punish Assange and they want to deter journalists in the future from revealing information they want kept secret.
Julian Assange is a courageous journalist and a whistle blower in the real sense of that term. He is a whistle blower in the tradition of the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1971 leaked the Pentagon Papers that exposed the lies the American government was telling about their war on Vietnam. Ellsberg avoided prison after it was revealed that President Nixon’s Special Investigations Unit – known as the White House Plumbers – had, quite illegally, broken into the offices of Ellsberg’s therapist in order to steal his notes in an attempt to discredit him. Daniel Ellsberg is one of the most significant whistle blowers of the 20th Century.
Assange is a whistle blower in the tradition of the ex-CIA man, John Kiriakou, who leaked details of the CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition and torture programme at Guantanamo Bay and went to prison for it.
Assange is a whistle blower in the tradition of the brave young soldier, Chelsea Manning, who leaked many of the details of war crimes which Wikileaks later published. And Manning was sentenced to 35 years for it – although she was later released in 2017 after President Obama commuted her sentence.
And Assange is a whistle blower in the tradition of ex-NSA worker Edward Snowdon who, in one of the biggest leaks in history, exposed how the USA and the UK spy on the leaders of other countries, both hostile and friendly, how they spied on the General Secretary of the United Nations and how they spy on ordinary citizens through their phones. Snowden will probably spend the rest of his life in exile.
All of these whistleblowers support Julian Assange and oppose his extradition to the USA. We should stand with them and support Assange against extradition and call for his release.
- John Stewart is a member of Hackney North & Stoke Newington CLP writing in a personal capacity.