The Guardian • Issue #2088


Too long?

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2088

This editorial is written one day before Julian Assange’s last trial hearing. Significantly, Assange himself is too sick to attend the hearing, after years being confined to an embassy and more years being housed in Britain’s most high-security prison, all for the crime of successful journalism. The Assange case is really important for you.

It’s important to stress that Assange has done nothing wrong. That’s why the Labor Party’s refrain of “this has gone on long enough” is so grating. “This,” the hounding and attempted imprisonment of a journalist for embarrassing the USA, should not have gone on at all. What Julian Assange has done is uncover war crimes. The organisation he started, Wikileaks, has released footage of a US helicopter crew shooting journalists and civilians. The people who have done something; the soldiers who were recorded enjoying killing civilians, have not been punished. Nor have the war criminals who organised that war; Tony Blair and George Bush who both lied their way into a needless invasion that caused millions of deaths.

Since Assange released that footage there have been concerted attempts to muddy the waters and make him the issue instead of the crimes he uncovered. You could fill any number of books with the accounts of Assange’s table manners, personal hygiene, and character that have been published to make it seem that he can’t be trusted. There has been the since-debunked suggestion that some of his other releases have endangered US spies. Of course, there were the Swedish sexual assault charges which by no coincidence emerged just as the US started trying to extradite Assange to face up to 175 years prison. Those charges have since been dropped, almost as though their main purpose was to get Assange into a cell in the US.

We cannot stress this enough: Assange has done nothing wrong. He is a journalist who has uncovered war crimes.

Labor, characteristically, has been very feeble on this issue, unwilling to do anything that might seriously annoy our imperial masters in the US.  Albanese has been speaking to two audiences on this topic. To the domestic audience, there’s the feeble murmur that “this has gone on long enough.” To the US there is silence. A bipartisan group of Australian politicians have done a meet-and-greet tour of the US Senate, explaining politely that they’d like Assange to not be imprisoned. Freedom of Information has shown that Albanese has not written to US President Joe Biden about Assange. Australians get “too long,” Biden gets peace and quiet. So much for our special relationship.

The persecution of Julian Assange isn’t just an inhumane wrong. It’s the persecution of a journalist who told us important things that the ruling classes don’t want us to think about. It’s the persecution of someone who showed us what imperialism looks like up close. That’s why it’s important to you.

Action from people on this can have an effect.  If there’s one thing we’ve learned from almost two years of an Albanese Labor government, it’s that they can be dragged into taking action, however reluctantly.  So get into it! Call an MP. Write to one. Write to the media. If there’s an Assange event anywhere near you, get along to it if you can.

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