The world owes them an inestimable debt of gratitude for the truth. Because only through knowing the truth can we possibly change the world for the better.
This month marks the 13th anniversary since the publication of the now globally renowned video known as “Collateral Murder”. The short video clip of approximately 39 minutes in duration shows the cold-blooded murder of 18 Iraqi civilians by American troops flying Apache helicopter gunships over Baghdad.
The killings occurred on the morning of July 12, 2007, during the American military occupation of Iraq following the U.S.-British illegal war that was launched against the Arab country in 2003 (the 20th anniversary of the war was marked last month). The U.S.-British war on Iraq, which was built on a pile of flagrant lies about alleged weapons of mass destruction, resulted in over one million deaths and a cascade of horrendous repercussions for the entire Middle East, and indeed beyond.
When “Collateral Murder” was on April 5, 2010, it was a world-changing event and it delivered a lightning bolt for truth because it uniquely exposed the systematic war criminality of the United States and its British accomplice in Iraq. The impact of the revelation was far-reaching. Veils of deceit and lies held up by Washington and London were torn asunder. The false images of these imperial powers were forever shredded.
Yet the man who published that truth, Julian Assange, is today held in a British torture dungeon. Can there be any more graphic condemnation of the U.S. and British state corruption?
Australian-born Assange (51) founded Wikileaks in 2006 as a publishing site dedicated to whistleblowers to help expose war propaganda. Unlike other mainstream media outlets, Wikileaks had the courage and integrity to release the video footage that became known as “Collateral Murder”.
In subsequent years, Wikileaks gained worldwide respect and awards for publishing many other ground-breaking secret documents that exposed other war crimes by the United States and its NATO allies in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as countless illicit foreign intrigues, diplomatic dirty tricks, and the mass criminal spying by American state agencies against supposed allies and citizens the world over, including American citizens.
Mainstream news outlets sluggishly got involved and profited from the ground-breaking exposés facilitated by Wikileaks even though it was Wikileaks that had led the way with its earlier publication of war crimes in Iraq.
The United States and British establishments have never forgiven Julian Assange for his truth-telling and the fatal damage he inflicted on their pretensions. Assange exposed the fraudsters and criminals in high office all of whom are shamefully still at large today; people like former President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. While it is disconcerting that no prosecutions for war crimes have been levied so far, at least one consolation brought by Wikileaks’ publications is the grievous undermining that it inflicted on the supposed moral authority that the Americans and British had often abused to justify their wars of aggression.
Julian Assange has been held in arbitrary detention in Britain for nearly 11 years. He was forced to seek refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London in 2012 over trumped-up sex offence charges (which have since been dismissed). He was later forcibly removed from the embassy by British police in April 2019 and imprisoned in Belmarsh High-Security Prison. For the past four years, Assange has been kept in solitary confinement under conditions that a United Nations special rapporteur Nils Melzer describes as “torture”. The American and British state authorities have played with Assange like an oversized cat with a mouse. A legal process over his impending extradition to the U.S. is a travesty. In the United States, Assange will be tried as a spy and faces up to 175 years in a super-max prison.
It is a shocking and frightening fact that Julian Assange has been subjected to all this persecution while on remand. He has not been convicted of any crime.
Assange’s basic human rights to due legal process have been trashed by Western states that proclaim to be paragons of rule of law and humanitarian principles. The United States and Britain stand exposed as grotesque fraudsters, while the European Union and Australia are shown to be abject in their silent complicity. So too exposed are the Western mainstream media who at an earlier stage made huge profits from Assange’s publishing of scandals at Wikileaks but whom they now ignore with callous and cowardly indifference. Even though, ironically, the fate of Assange could very much destroy independent journalism and freedom of speech – the principles that Western media declare sacred.
The systematic violation of Assange’s basic rights, from illegal spying by the CIA on his supposedly private conversations with his lawyers to calls by American officials for his assassination, are solid grounds for his extradition case to be dismissed. There is a precedent in the case of Daniel Ellsberg who classified information known as the “Pentagon Papers” back in 1971 which exposed the systematic lies that propelled the United States into its equally genocidal war against Vietnam (as in Iraq decades later). The prosecution of Ellsberg was dropped in 1973 after it was revealed that his defense team was spied upon by U.S. intelligence agencies.
Assange’s defense case is arguably even stronger. He published “Collateral Murder” and other classified documents as a publisher. Daniel Ellsberg was at the time an employee of the Pentagon who was sworn to secrecy. The proper analogy would be to compare Assange’s role with that of the newspapers that published the “Pentagon Papers”. If there were no prosecutions against the New York Times and Washington Post for their coverage back then, why should Assange be victimized now?
To his eternal credit, Daniel Ellsberg has been an outspoken champion of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. It is a cruel and capricious twist of fate that the 92-year-old and now dying Ellsberg has been lauded for his courageous truth-telling, while Assange is subjected to vindictive incarceration.
If Daniel Ellsberg was permitted to have his freedom then all the more so should Julian Assange. Many well-wishers pray that Assange does not become another collateral murder by foul judicial means 13 years on. He should be freed immediately.
Both men exposed the lies behind America’s imperial wars in Vietnam and Iraq. The world owes them an inestimable debt of gratitude for the truth. Because only through knowing the truth can we possibly change the world for the better.
One way or another, however, a day of reckoning is coming for the imperial warlords.
The views of individual contributors do not necessarily represent those of the Strategic Culture Foundation.