Julian Assange, an Australian, is being tried in England at the urging of the United States for alleged crimes committed somewhere else. Kafka didn’t know the half of it.
The alleged crimes form the basis of the US’s demand for his extradition to face 18 charges of espionage, which could see him jailed for 175 years. That is, he’d never see the world again.
A number of US senators have publicly, explicitly, called for him to be executed.
Assange has not committed a crime. His “offence” has been to alert the world to some of the hideous crimes being perpetrated against innocent women, men and children in the name of the American people.
As founder and editor of Wikileaks, Assange published evidence of US war crimes in Iraq. The material had been passed to him by US Army Intelligence Officer Chelsea Manning. She’d recoiled from some of the material she’d been required to review.
One video from July 12th 2007 was recorded from a helicopter hovering over a suburb of Baghdad, showing a group of civilians on a street near a crossroads. These included 22-year-old Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Noor-Eldeen is carrying a camera, Chmagh talking into his mobile phone. Other civilians are standing or moving around, apparently unperturbed. Suddenly, deafeningly, heavy gunfire erupts from the helicopter. The two Reuters men disappear in an instant in a flurry of terror and dust.
“Hahaha. I hit ’em,” shouts an American voice. Another responds: “Oh yeah, look at all those dead bastards.”
The dust clears. A man on the ground is seen trying to crawl away. A van draws up alongside him. Iraqi civilians climb out. They lift the wounded man and start carrying him towards the vehicle. One of the helicopter gunmen opens fire again. The men carrying the wounded man fall. “Look at that. Right through the windshield,” cries one of the helicopter crew, seemingly exultant.
Eleven died, including two children. As far as the upper echelons back in Washington were concerned, this was the last straw – not the glee of soldiers at the slaughter of innocent people but the publication by Wikileaks of footage showing it happening.
Assange was already in the crosshairs of the US authorities. Wikileaks had published documents revealing western companies dumping toxic waste in Africa, a detailed account of the “protocols” for treating prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and much else that the White House and the Pentagon didn’t want getting out.
Assange is in the dock because he showed the world a piece of the truth about the American occupation of Iraq which US leaders didn’t want the world to see.
One of the “crimes” on the charge-sheet tells that, “Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure.”
Guilty and proud of it, would be the response of any respectable journalist.
“Assange encouraged Manning” to provide the information? Same answer.
But there hasn’t been a massive international campaign on Assange’s behalf. Many leading journalists have kept their lips zipped. One reason is that Assange has been accused of sexual assault of two women in Sweden. Sweden wanted him back for questioning. Assange refused to return voluntarily and sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. Last year, British police barged in and hauled him out.
Assange’s lawyer had repeatedly offered to return to Sweden to answer the charges if Swedish authorities undertook not to extradite him onwards to the US. The Swedish government refused. Assange says this was because the Swedes were reluctant to anger the Americans and so were prepared to bundle him back to forces intent on his destruction. If he went back to Sweden, he said, he wouldn’t be questioned about the assault allegations but would be shipped to the US before his feet had touched the ground.
Nobody who looks at the facts can be in any doubt that this is exactly what would befall him.
The feminist author Naomi Klein has become one of Assange’s fiercest defenders, precisely on the ground that, “Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan,” she says. “Wake up!”
Noam Chomsky describes the treatment of Assange as “scandalous in several respects. It’s not just the U.S. government. The British are cooperating…The efforts to silence a journalist who was producing materials that people in power didn’t want the rascal multitude to know about…That’s basically what happened…
“The other scandal is the extraterritorial reach of the United States…No other state could possibly do it. Why should the United States have power to control what others are doing elsewhere in the world? It’s an outlandish situation.”
The only people who would stand to gain from Assange’s extradition to the US are people who cheerfully contemplate torture, lies and murder to keep the common people down.
Footage of the Baghdad helicopter massacre can be accessed on YouTube, tagged “Collateral Murder.”