A Message from Courageous Whistle-blower Julian Assange

Gary G. Kohls, MD

I have been paying attention to local and regional news reports for any evidence of coverage of the recent scandalous activities of the British, Swedish, and United States governments regarding the treatment of Julian Assange and his efforts to shine the light of truth on what he calls “the secret crimes of the powerful.”
Outside of Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now (which, by the way, is broadcast every weekday morning at 9 a.m. on Duluth, Minnesota’s KUMD, FM 103.3), I have not seen or heard any fair or balanced coverage of Assange’s side of this important story. The absence of reportage on the important issue of anti-democratic state-sponsored terrorism, state-sponsored torture, and police-state Gestapo tactics against whistle-blowers, prophets, free-speech advocates, and anti-fascist protestors is a serious problem for a nation that is supposed to be a democratic republic rather than a fascist empire.
Seeing essentially no worthwhile coverage of the issue among the mainstream media in our region, such as the Duluth News-Tribune and the local and regional television and radio stations, and seeing the importance of giving voice to one of the most courageous, pro-democracy (and thus endangered) whistle-blowers of the world, I submit below the entire text of Assange’s most recent speech for Reader Weekly readers.
Among anti-fascist, pro-peace dissidents, Assange (recipient of Amnesty International’s 2009 Media Award for exposing extra-judicial assassinations) is justifiably regarded by such altruists as a hero for his consistent efforts to expose the criminal activities of many of the most powerful nations of the world, including the United States and (not-so-) Great Britain.
The damning “Collateral Murder” videotape was just the tip of a demonic iceberg involving any war, especially the Iraq War
For me, the most important revelation, which most of us would not have become aware of without the WikiLeaks exposé, was the videotape footage of an out-and-out war crime that was committed by unidentified, trigger-happy American helicopter pilots over Baghdad and their cohorts on the ground, that showed, in all its gruesome detail, the indiscriminate killing and maiming of a dozen innocent, unarmed Iraqi civilians (that the pilots, after the event, called “those dead bastards”). All of those American soldiers that were involved, typical for wartime killings, were later absolved of responsibility and not punished!
The victims of the killings included two Reuters News Agency staff members and two children — all murdered at the hands of an Apache helicopter gunship that was shooting rapid-fire 30 mm Gatling gun-type cannons. The horrifying (as least for us civilians who will be paying for this war for generations) incident has been titled “Collateral Murder.” It can still be viewed on YouTube by accessing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zok8yMxXEwk.
This particular, very chilling video was narrated by Assange, with “balancing,” embarrassingly lame justifications for civilian murders in wartime by a PhD in national security matters, Ivan Eland, a Cato Institute defense analyst. The video tells a story about the satanic nature of war that the war machine doesn’t want told. Because it was told, the shamed and humiliated U.S. Pentagon and State Department — and most uber-patriotic right-wing war justifiers — want Assange, WikiLeaks, and Bradley Manning (check out www.couragetoresist.org or search for “Iraq Vets Against the War”) imprisoned or extra-judicially assassinated.
Tellingly, after it was revealed that two of the casualties of the Apache murders were children, the Apache gunner tries to excuse himself and shift the blame for the crime upon somebody else by saying, “It’s their fault for bringing their children into a battle.”
Of course, such sentiment is standard operating procedure for pro-war politicians, guilty warriors, and their commanding officers in wartime. Such blame-shifting is also an obvious root cause for post-war PTSD, depression, drug-prescribing, and suicidal behaviors, or, alternatively, for the development of sociopathic personality development and its characteristic remorselessness.
Amy Goodman prefaces Assange’s speech by saying, “We begin today’s show with the words of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. On Sunday (August 19, 2012), he made his first public appearance since he took refuge two months ago inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, just days after he was granted asylum. Assange is attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sex crime accusations, because he fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States to face charges over the leaking of secret U.S. military and diplomatic files. Julian Assange spoke from a windowsill on a small balcony on the second floor of the Ecuadorean embassy, careful not to step onto the balcony, which is considered outside the legal boundary of the embassy. Dozens of police officers looked on. British authorities have threatened to raid the embassy (contrary to international law) and are refusing to allow Julian Assange safe passage out of the country to Ecuador. In his nine-minute address, Assange called on President Obama to abandon what he described as a ‘war on whistleblowers.’”
(Assange’s full speech can be viewed at http://www.democracynow.org/2012/8/20/end_the_wikileaks_witch_hunt_julian.)
Assange’s July 19, 2012 speech from the Ecuadorean Embassy
“I am here today because I cannot be there with you today. But thank you for coming. Thank you for your resolve, your generosity of spirit. On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy and the police descended on this building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the world’s eyes with you. Inside this embassy, after dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through its internal fire escape. But I knew there would be witnesses. And that is because of you. If the U.K. did not throw away the Vienna conventions the other night, it is because the world was watching. And the world was watching because you were watching. So, the next time somebody tells you that it is pointless to defend those rights that we hold dear, remind them of your vigil in the dark before the embassy of Ecuador, remind them how, in the morning, the sun came up on a different world, and a courageous Latin America nation took a stand for justice.
“And so, to those brave people. I thank President Correa for the courage he has shown in considering and in granting me political asylum. And I also thank the government and, in particular, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño, who upheld the Ecuadorean constitution and its notion of universal citizenship in their consideration of my asylum, and to the Ecuadorean people for supporting and defending this constitution. And I also have a debt of gratitude to the staff of this embassy, whose families live in London and who are showing me hospitality and kindness despite the threats we all received.
“This Friday, there will be an emergency meeting of the foreign ministers of Latin America in Washington, D.C., to address this very situation. And so, I am grateful to those people and governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, and to all other Latin American countries who have come out to defend the right to asylum; and to the people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Australia who have supported me in strength, even when their governments have not; and to those wiser heads in government who are still fighting for justice — your day will come; to the staff, supporters and sources of WikiLeaks, whose courage and commitment and loyalty has seen no equal. To my family and to my children, who have been denied their father, forgive me, we will be reunited soon.
“As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies. We must use this moment to articulate the choice that is before the government of the United States of America. Will it return to and reaffirm the values, the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world in which journalists fall silent under the fear of prosecution and citizens must whisper in the dark?
“I say it must turn back. I ask President Obama to do the right thing. The United States must renounce its witch hunt against WikiLeaks. The United States must dissolve its FBI investigation. The United States must vow that it will not seek to prosecute our staff or our supporters. The United States must pledge before the world that it will not pursue journalists for shining a light on the secret crimes of the powerful. There must be no more foolish talk about prosecuting any media organization, be it WikiLeaks or be it the New York Times.
“The U.S. administration’s war on whistleblowers must end. Thomas Drake, William Binney and John Kiriakou and the other heroic whistleblowers must — they must — be pardoned or compensated for the hardships they have endured as servants of the public record. And to the Army private who remains in a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who was found by the United Nations to have endured months of torturous detention in Quantico, Virginia, and who has yet, after two years in prison, to see a trial: he must be released. Bradley Manning must be released. If Bradley Manning did as he is accused, he is a hero and an example to all of us and one of the world’s foremost political prisoners. Bradley Manning must be released. On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial. The legal maximum is 120 days.
“On Thursday, my friend Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, was sentenced to three years in prison for a tweet. On Friday, a Russian band was sentenced to two years in jail for a political performance. There is unity in the oppression. There must be absolute unity and determination in the response.
“Thank you.”
Goodman finishes the Assange segment by saying, “Julian Assange, speaking to hundreds of supporters and to the media from a windowsill on a small balcony on the second floor of the Ecuadorean embassy in London Sunday. He was careful not to step onto the actual balcony, which is considered outside the legal boundary of the embassy. He stood within the windowsill.”