Julian Assange is not a name on everyone’s lips here, but I would say that few of us Australians over the age of, say, 16 would not know who he is — an Aussie who has been hunted by the U.S. government for airing its dirty laundry.
Despite parroting of U.S. State Department talking points by the usual apologists for Washington, D.C., there is a near universal view here in Australia that Assange should be freed from jail in London and allowed to return home. Today this opinion spans the entire political spectrum.
For the past decade, politicians from both the major parliamentary parties desperately hoped Assange would quietly disappear. But he didn’t. And having now sniffed the shifting political winds, these talking heads decry that the Assange case has “gone on long enough.”
Few would dispute that in targeting this journalist and publisher, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies are waging a vendetta for revealing Iraq war crimes in the video “Collateral Murder,” which showed a helicopter crew firing on a group of men — killing several of them — then laughing about it. All of the victims were civilians, including two journalists. Assange and his organization, Wikileaks, had thrown a spotlight on an incident that the Pentagon wanted hidden. This put him squarely in the frame for a relentless campaign of persecution by the U.S. and its NATO ally, the United Kingdom (U.K.).
And it has to be said that there is a justified undercurrent of anti-Americanism in Australian society — partly based in the country’s oh-so-British colonial roots, partly due to well-founded doubts about the intentions and actions of Uncle Sam arising from the Vietnam war, and the fraudulent pretext for the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The default position concerning “news” from Washington is skepticism.
Assange re-affirmed the correctness of the Australian public’s opposition to the Iraq war from the start — believing it to be the concocted imperialist adventure it has since been revealed to be. Just like Vietnam.
It’s clear to any objective observer that the attacks on Assange were a political witch-hunt from day one. In July, James Ball wrote in Rolling Stone that Biden’s Department of Justice and the FBI have tried to pressure reporters, like him, to help build the case against Assange. Ball noted, “The prosecution of Julian Assange is already a threat to the free media, even before his first day in a U.S. courtroom. Law enforcement trying to coerce journalists into aiding that prosecution makes matters even worse.”
Chelsea Manning has admitted that she was the source of the leak, not Assange or Wikileaks. The publishers of mainstream media organizations, like The New York Times — which also revealed the Wikileaks materials — have not been charged. But Assange has been endlessly hounded.
In the meantime, it should not escape anyone’s attention that the U.S. federal authorities have managed to use a super-light touch in dealing with the nefarious “security risk” known as Donald Trump. Full of a sense of his own entitlement, Trump wanders off to Florida with who knows what actual, current state secrets. Secrets he shows off at dinner parties with his buddies.
So what happens to him? Some hand-wringing by Biden and senior Democrats, a polite “raid” of his compound at Mar-a-Lago. Assange publishes material leaked by someone else and is hit with a sledgehammer. The Donald appropriates classified documents and is flogged with a wet feather! The hypocrisy is mind blowing.
Assange has spent 13 years in various forms of incarceration, the subject of vilification, innuendo concerning his “aloof” public persona — and outright lies. Trump is living the high life and running for president.
Too often support for Assange has been passive, the subject of private conversations and op-ed pieces, rather than loud street marches. Demands for his release often lost in debates on whether he is a journalist or not. But the mood is shifting.
Julian Assange should not be the subject of this obvious U.S. vendetta, nor should he be rendered up to Washington. He should be freed from his U.K. prison cell and given safe passage to wherever he wants to go!