Ten years ago today the courage of two individuals changed the way millions view the world. A US soldier disgusted at the communications they were reading about their country’s conduct after illegally invading and occupying the sovereign nation of Iraq in 2003 leaked thousands of communications confirming US war crimes to Wikileaks.
The site had been set up in 2006 to precisely shine a light on the dark manoeuvres of powerful nations. Chelsea Manning risked imprisonment by exposing war crimes. Julian Assange risked imprisonment by publishing those leaked files and exposing the lies and heinous crimes against humanity committed by the United States government and military.
Yesterday I had the honour and privilege of interviewing the father of Julian Assange in Edinburgh for Sputnik radio on the eve of this tenth anniversary of the release of the Iraq war logs. John Shipton was articulate and passionate in defence of his son who has been in enforced incarceration within the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years and is now locked up in the maximum-security prison HMP Belmarsh while awaiting the outcome of a rigged extradition show trial that was conducted in London’s High Court over five weeks last month.
John sat through that travesty of justice and witnessed his son’s incredible stoicism and bravery as a cacophony of manufactured lies was presented as the US State case to justify forcibly transferring Julian to America to face charges under the never used 103-year-old law called the Espionage Act. Given the Niagara Falls of lies and distortions about Julian Assange promoted and promulgated by the US, UK, Australian and Swedish governments over the last decade a fair trial in America is impossible. Julian Assange would inevitably be found guilty in a biased US courtroom and sentenced to 175 years in a dangerous high-security prison where his personal safety would never be guaranteed.
Julian Assange Exposed Government Crimes Not Government Secrets
The Espionage Act was introduced in 1917 to deter traitors from revealing government secrets which endangered the security of America. Julian Assange is not guilty of exposing US government secrets, he is ‘guilty’ of exposing US government war crimes. He and Chelsea Manning do not deserve prison sentences, they deserve awards for performing essential humanitarian and journalistic duties. They revealed to the world the brutal truth of US Military behaviour in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in other sovereign nations targeted for regime change. The nation which parades across the world with pious lectures about human rights, the rule of law, and the importance of democracy is graphically exposed as the biggest abuser of human rights, the enemy of democracy and serial sponsor of war crimes. Many peoples suffered from US war crimes and human rights abuses, but the US denied guilt. Wikileaks exposed both their lies – and their crimes.
After years of denying civilian casualties in Iraq, the Wikileaks Iraq war logs ten years ago covering the period 2005-2009 and running into almost 400,000 army field reports revealed the atrocious truth that civilian deaths constituted more than two-thirds of all recorded casualties in Iraq. Many thousands of deaths were deliberately not recorded but of those that were 66,081 of 109,000 deaths were civilians. The Iraq Body Count Project used the published war logs to credibly estimate civilian deaths as a minimum of 183,249 to 205,785 while other population and family interview-based studies estimate the civilian death toll is well over one million.
Up to one million unarmed, innocent civilians murdered on the back of a concocted lie about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and Iraq’s readiness to use them. There was no threat from Iraq’s WMDs as she had none and there was no link to the terrible 9/11 attacks in America in 2001 as Iraq had not a single Taliban or al Qaeda operative within its territory. Iraq was illegally invaded, destroyed and over a million people were slaughtered on the basis of lies and deceit and the October 22nd, 2010 Wikileaks document publication revealed the US as the biggest war criminal on the planet.
Wikileaks Exposures Reveal US Working With Terrorists Not Against Them
The US and the world were still reeling from the Wikileaks publication of the Afghanistan war logs on 25th July 2010 which revealed American complicity in arbitrary civilian assassinations, systematic torture of non-combatants and extreme lies to cover up their crimes in Afghanistan. Wikileaks has continued its crusade to uncover powerful states and companies who lie and deceive and commit crimes in pursuit of their objectives in breath-taking displays of hypocrisy. The Syria leaks illustrate the extent the US and its allies will go to in pursuit of global domination with clear evidence of funding and supporting the very Daesh* terrorists and brutes within Syria to conduct a proxy war against the Assad government despite wholesale condemnations and declared hatred of such groups publicly. The world is led to believe the US is at war with Islamic terror groups like Daesh when in fact they are in cahoots with allies who are arming them and fighting alongside them in Syria.
John Shipton should be enjoying his retirement years but instead, he is campaigning across the world to raise awareness of his son’s terrible mistreatment by the UK and US governments and demanding his immediate release. He highlighted how Julian’s Wikileaks exposures have actually led to government actions to expel US troops from their soil and thereby saving lives. Despite empty headlines and accusations to the contrary not a single individual has ever been harmed as a result of Wikileaks publications and all the evidence shows Julian Assange worked assiduously to redact the names of any potential targets in the war logs while Guardian journalists who revelled in days of high profile swoops and money spinning books actually betrayed details Julian desperately worked to keep hidden.
George Bush and Tony Blair Should be Behind Bars Not Julian Assange
The absence of bitterness from John’s conversation with me is remarkable and testimony to his compassion and understanding of world affairs. His admiration for his son’s courage and strength is huge. Julian Assange committed no crimes. He is in a prison cell while real war criminals like George Bush and Tony Blair escape justice. They are the ones who lied and bullied and bribed and blackmailed the UN to try and get a second resolution justifying invading Iraq. They failed.
The invasion and subsequent occupation were illegal and they should be held responsible for the one million civilian deaths which resulted. The fact Chelsea Manning spent seven years behind bars before her thirty-five-year sentence was commuted by Barack Obama is a disgrace. She was sentenced again last March because she refused to testify against Julian Assange. She spent a year in jail between March 2019 – March 2020. She is the epitome of courage and integrity. Refusing to turn on Assange revealed her inner strength and dignity.
Julian Assange is a Victim of Psychological Torture in UK Custody
Julian Assange’s father drew attention to the numerous investigations of his son’s incarceration by the United Nations rapporteur on torture and arbitrary detention. Through visits and detailed assessments Professor Nils Melzer compiled damning evidence which showed Julian was indeed a victim of systematic psychological torture for which the UK bears a heavy responsibility:
“The case falls into my mandate in three different ways: First, Assange published proof of systematic torture. But instead of those responsible for the torture, it is Assange who is being persecuted. Second, he himself has been ill-treated to the point that he is now exhibiting symptoms of psychological torture. And third, he is to be extradited to a country that holds people like him in prison conditions that Amnesty International has described as torture. In summary: Julian Assange uncovered torture, has been tortured himself and could be tortured to death in the United States. And a case like that isn’t supposed to be part of my area of responsibility? Beyond that, the case is of symbolic importance and affects every citizen of a democratic country”
Please read these words from Professor Nils Melzer over and over again and acquaint yourself with his various reports. Exactly ten years to the day after exposing heinous US war crimes, systematic torture and flagrant breaches of international law it is the man who exposed the crimes who is behind bars when it should be the organisers, facilitators and perpetrators of those crimes.
Plague of Malice
During our interview, I reminded John Shipton of an incredibly apt phrase he used recently when interviewed during Julian’s trial in London. He said his son was subject to a “plague of malice”. I suggested it should be the title of a book detailing how Julian has not been criminally prosecuted – he has been politically persecuted. Persecuted by powerful nations in a vengeful act of revenge for being exposed by Julian as the practiced criminals, liars, and murderers they are. Should Julian Assange be handed over by a British Court to face a life sentence in America for publishing evidence of US government war crimes it is the death knell of investigative journalism and the most serious undermining of free speech and freedom of expression in hundreds of years. The world will be propelled back to the dark ages of medieval dynasties and the denial of democratic rights and freedoms should America be allowed to demand the release of a journalist into their custody for harsh punishment for doing no more than revealing war crimes. It was the celebrated author and forensic social commentator George Orwell who said that journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations. But he also advised us that:
In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
Please get involved in the various campaigns and online petitions and support groups demanding the release of Julian Assange. His state-sponsored political persecution has no association with justice and everything to do with spite, revenge, and stark warnings to the rest of us. Don’t you dare speak the truth or speak out or stand up against injustices and wicked crimes committed by your governments lest you face the same personal mauling and destruction of character meted out to Julian Assange.
The cause of Julian Assange is the cause of free speech, the rule of law and the right of the public to know when their governments and the powerful commit crimes. If they get away with extraditing Assange today it could be any one of us tomorrow. Say it loud and say it clear – Exposing war crimes is not a crime – Free Julian Assange.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic States) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries