By Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
I would like to thank Eamon McMahon and the Organizers of this event for giving us the opportunity to discuss what I consider to be one of the most important issues of our time, namely, War and Peace and the right for public to be informed what their governments are doing in their name.
Julian Assange, an Australian journalist founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, tried to uphold this right for us all and tell us the truth and for so doing he has been persecuted, demonized, suffered character assassination, and hounded like a criminal, by the USA government and media.
The current US charges against Assange centre on the Afghan War logs and Iraqi War logs, which the Guardian, New York Times and others published, and on the Collateral Murder in Baghdad, video showing an American helicopter crew gunning down civilians and the crew celebrating their murders. For this journalism, Assange faces seventeen charges of ‘espionage’ which carries a prison sentence totalling 175 years.
UNHR Committee leader Nils Melzer described how military establishments in USA, Sweden and UK colluded in the outrageous suppression of Assange’s rights. This is an atrocious example of the unacceptable horrors that can happen to people who stand up against the military machine. The one who exposes State crimes becomes the victim of State crimes. The whistleblower is severely punished – to deter others – not those guilty of the war crimes s/he exposed.
President Eisenhower on leaving office warned the American people to beware of the Military/Industrial/Empire least it become so powerful that politicians would lose control to them and there would be no real democracy and corruption would set in. Tragically this has happened and the Corporate/Media/ Military are in control.
As a Journalist, doing his job, and revealing war crimes by the USA/NATO forces, Assange brought down on himself the wrath of the American establishment and now faces an American indictment that has torn up American Constitution and the Rule of International Law.
Since WikiLeaks published the War Dairies this persecution of Assange has been an ongoing miscarriage of justice and many who could have come to the help of Assange have instead betrayed him.
The fraud of his arrest in Sweden and the lack of support by the Australian government for their own citizen, a courageous Australian doing his job as a journalist and publisher, is appalling.
The current Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, could still exercise the diplomatic power of his government and bring Julian Assange home.
I visited Iraq on a peace delegation just before it was cruelly bombed by USA/NATO forces during the time of the economic sanctions imposed by the west. I will never forget the horror of seeing Iraqi children screaming in pain and dying in agony in hospitals. Over half a million children died in Iraq because of sanctions and over a million in the invasion and war against them when all the while it was known Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. So we were told by top Iraqi officials during our visit. The reply to this child genocide by the USA/NATO Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was ‘it was worth the price.’ This of course was not the only war; we had Afghanistan, Libya, killing millions of people, and today we are being prepared by UK/USA war propaganda for further aggression against Syria, Iran and continuing cold war with Russia.
Our only protection against such madness from military/corporate elite will be courageous journalists like Assange. We all know that Assange proved to the world the link between private corporations, government agencies, corrupt politicians and arms dealers. He had to be silenced and in doing so USA/UK/NATO would send out a warning to other would-be whistleblowers, anti-war activists and citizens not to speak out least they too pay the same price as Assange.
However, the world citizens are becoming more aware they have been fed lies about Assange.
I visited Assange when he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in Nov and Dec 2012. I found him kind and highly intelligent and he showed such joy when my friend (Ann Patterson) and I presented him with a letter of thanks from young Afghan men who professed their deep gratitude to Assange for what he had done to help stop the drones and killing by USA/NATO forces of their friends out on the hills of Afghan gathering wood for their families.
When Chelsea Manning (Bradley), the USA Intelligence officer, followed his conscience and sent to Julian Assange the video Collateral Damage showing war crimes being committed by North American soldiers, he did the right thing. When Assange and WikiLeaks published this evidence of war crimes, he tried to stop the weapons, the war, and the killing of men, women and children. Assange, Manning and also Julian Assange, have done a great service to humanity and by their courage help restore our belief in humanity. They have saved millions of lives and showed a higher moral law in revealing vital information on USA/NATO war crimes.
Assange is now in London’s Belmarsh Prison even though the UN ruled Julian has been illegally detained. He cannot be extradited as under extradition laws the UK cannot extradite political prisoners and he would definitely be tortured tried and imprisoned by the American Authorities. The world cannot allow this to happen to an innocent and good man; he must be released immediately and given his freedom.
I nominated Julian for the Nobel Peace Prize as he is truly in the spirit of Alfred Nobel in his efforts to liberate all peoples and nations from weapons and war, the only way of Peace.
Mairead Corrigan Maguire, co-founder of Peace People, is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com