Bloomsbury Baptist Church, London, Wednesday May 1st 2019, 7-10 pm, organised by Greg Sharkey
I have attempted to make a full transcription of the event. It is not word-perfect, but to the best of my belief it is not materially incorrect.
The views expressed are the speakers’ own.
I reproduce them in order to express support for the event, for Julian Assange, and for Wikileaks.
The event was broadcast live on RT, and may be watched here.
1) GREG SHARKEY
[Derry-based organiser of ‘Imperialism on Trial’ events, including this evening]
Introduces the evening by reading out a statement in support of Assange written by Mairead Maguire (Nobel Peace Prize co-winner 1976)
2) GEORGE GALLOWAY
[politician, activist, and compère for the evening]
Introduces the evening by satirising the dismissal, earlier that day (1stMay 2019), of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Announces his intention to stand in the upcoming by-election in Peterborough on, amongst other things, a pro-Assange platform.
3) ANNIE MACHON
Describes her experience of being a whistleblower in the 1990s, and what a good resource for whistleblowers Wikileaks is – such as she wishes had been available to her and her partner David Shayler in 1990s. Recalls her first meeting with Assange in 2009, and notes the increasing legal threats since that time to whistleblowers, and those who publish their information. Notes the contradiction between the UK judiciary’s recent lenient treatment of Christopher Steele, and its punitive treatment of Julian Assange.
4) KRISTINN HRAFNSSON
[editor-in-chief of Wikileaks]
Expresses sorrow over the day’s events (the sentencing at Southwark Crown Court of Julian Assange to fifty weeks in prison for skipping bail, almost the maximum possible sentence); over the judge’s dismissal of the UN’s findings regarding Assange’s treatment; over the growing division in popular consciousness between the concepts of journalism and of activism; and over the fact that conditions for whistleblowers are worse now than they were in the early 1970s. Nonetheless concludes that empires are not immortal, and that Wikileaks and its ideals will survive.
5) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Concurs with Hrafnsson regarding the degradation of journalism into state stenography.
6) EMMY BUTLIN
[campaigner for Julian Assange]
Shares her long-term experience of campaigning outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, and of the support that Assange’s cause has received from members of the public. Observes that information, like raw materials, is a resource which governments wish to control. Urges the audience to take action, to contact their MPs, and to appear infront of media cameras.
7) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Observes that the term ‘imperialism’ remains valid, and that self-serving attempts on the part of its agents to obfuscate its referent by other terms should be resisted.
8) PETER FORD
[UK ambassador to Syria 2003-2006]
Observes that imperialism was shaken by Wikileaks’ revelations, and that it has been fighting back fiercely; that Wikileaks helped to create the anti-war climate that brought Trump to power but that Trump betrayed the hope for peace that he evoked; that Americans are more credulous of their national narrative than were Soviet Russians; that imperialism has made the situation in Syria much worse; and that it currently gravely threatens Iran.
9) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Observes an instance of President Trump’s apparent ignorance of geopolitical circumstances.
10) NEIL CLARK
[journalist and campaigner]
Parodies Tony Blair’s neocon war-mongering; points out the similarities between Julian Assange and Saki’s fictional cat Tobermory; observes how character assassination works, and how the resumption of innocence has been reversed in trial by media; finally adduces the example of the prevention of all-out UK bombing of Syria in 2014, partly as the result of public protest, as a source of encouragement for engaging in the latter.
11) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Observes from experience how powerfully correspondence from constituents affects MPs, especially those fearful for their seats.
12) ALEXANDER MERCOURIS
[editor of The Duran]
Outlines the legal basis of the US case against Assange, and its shakiness, for reasons connected with the First Amendment, the Statute of Limitations, the definition of terrorism, and other matters. Cites American lawyers who are hostile to Assange (such as Andrew McCarthy) admitting these difficulties. Adduces the relevance of the 1971 Pentagon Papers case to a First Amendment defence. Observes that the current US charges, of co-conspiracy to protect a source, strike at the heart of investigative journalism, and concludes that Assange’s is not merely a legal case, but a political one, and that as such it can be susceptible to action on the part of campaigners.
13) GREG SHARKEY
Pays tribute to Sheila Coombes and George Galloway for starting him on his career of anti-imperial campaigning. Thanks the Reverend Simon, and the Board of the Bloomsbury Baptist Church, for hosting this event, and RT for streaming it.
14) SHEILA COOMBES
[founder of Frome Stop War]
Provides examples of the Wikileaks revelations, and how they prove that supposedly-neutral bodies such as the UN have acted in the US’s favour. Notes that many neocon regime change operations, led by Republican and Democrat politicians alike, had been forecast in widely-disseminated communications. Observes that Hillary Clinton has increased the tensions between two nuclear superpowers by her attempts to deflect attention from her own malfeasance in the DNC rigging of primaries.
15) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Introduces Patrick Henningsen.
16) PATRICK HENNINGSEN
[editor of Twenty-First Century Wire]
Stresses the importance that all those present, and those watching online, express support for Julian Assange’s cause to all those they know. That his case affects all producers and consumers of media. That Wikileaks is par excellence a twenty-first century media outlet, which simply provides information for other journalists to analyse. That the sex allegations against Assange have successfully been deployed to muddy the waters of his case for many people of good faith, and that, precisely for this reason, we must all act as explicators of his case.
17) GREG SHARKEY
Invites everyone to attend the protest outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court the following morning (2nd May 2019, when the US extradition request against Assange was first considered, and Assange declined to comply with the request).
18) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Compares how similar techniques of character assassination have been deployed against Jeremy Corbyn, since he became the Leader of the Opposition, and against Assange, since he lost his initial vogue upon beginning to threaten imperialist interests. That the mainstream media’s abnegation of its responsibilities has led to alternative media, such as those represented tonight, stepped into the vacuum. That Wikileaks simply performed a bigger, more important, version of the task that The Telegraph was widely hailed for accomplishing in relation to the 2009 MP expenses scandal, in which case the media’s focus was rightly not on the fact of the theft of the information concerned, but on the contents of that information. Concludes by expressing hope in the British judiciary.
1) GREG SHARKEY [Derry-based organiser of ‘Imperialism on Trial’ events]
[Greg Sharkey opened the event by reading out a statement of Mairead Maguire. She nominated Julian Assange for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, and currently requests permission from the Home Office for permission of visit him in prison. The full text, taken from Peacepeople.com, is reproduced here below.]
‘I want to visit Julian to see he is receiving medical care and to let him know that there are many people around the world who admire him and are grateful for his courage in trying to stop the wars and end the suffering of others.
Thursday 11th April will go down in history as a dark day for the rights of humanity, when Julian Assange, a brave and good man, was arrested, by British Metropolitan Police, forcibly removed without prior warning, in a style befitting of a war criminal, from the Ecuadorian Embassy, and bundled into a Police Van. It is a sad time when the UK Government, at the behest of the United States Government, arrested Julian Assange, a symbol of Freedom of Speech as the publisher of Wikileaks, and the worlds’ leaders and mainstream media remain silent on the fact that he is an innocent man until proven guilty, while the UN working Group on Arbitrary Detention defines him as innocent. The decision of President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador, who under financial pressure from the US has withdrawn asylum to the Wikileaks founder, is a further example of the United States’ global currency monopoly, pressurizing other countries to do their bidding or face the financial and possibly violent consequences for disobedience to the alleged world superpower, which has sadly lost its moral compass. Julian Assange had taken asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy seven years ago precisely because he foresaw that the US would demand his extradition to face a Grand Jury in the US for mass murders carried out, not by him, but by US and NATO forces, and concealed from the public.
Unfortunately, it is my belief that Julian Assange will not see a fair trial. As we have seen over the last seven years, time and time again, the European countries and many others do not have the political will or clout to stand up for what they know is right, and will eventually cave in to the Unites States’ will. We have watched Bradley Manning being returned to jail and to solitary confinement, so we must not be naive in our thinking: surely, this is the future for Julian Assange.
I visited Julian on two occasions in the Ecuadorian Embassy, and was very impressed with this courageous and highly intelligent man. The first visit was on my return from Kabul, where young Afghan teenage boys insisted on writing a letter, with the request I carry it to Julian Assange, to thank him for publishing on Wikileaks – the truth about the war in Afghanistan and to help stop their homeland being bombed by planes and drones. All had a story of brothers or friends killed by drones while collecting wood in winter on the mountains.
I nominated Julian Assange on the 8th January 2019 for the Nobel Peace Prize. I issued a press release hoping to bring attention to his nomination, which seemed to have been widely ignored, by Western media. By Julian’s courageous actions and others like him, we could see full well the atrocities of war. The release of the files brought to our doors the atrocities our governments carried out through media. It is my strong belief that this is the true essence of an activist, and it is my great shame I live in an era where people like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and anyone willing to open our eyes to the atrocities of war, is likely to be haunted like an animal by governments, punished and silenced. Therefore, I believe that the British government should oppose the extradition of Assange, as it sets a dangerous precedent for journalists, whistle-blowers and other sources of truth the US may wish to pressure in the future. This man is paying a high price to end war and for peace and nonviolence, and we should all remember that.’
2) GEORGE GALLOWAY[compère for the evening]
‘Gavin Pike’ [a reference to the youthful private in Dad’s Army], defence secretary of the UK, is on his way to jail. He must now face charges under the Official Secrets Act, having betrayed our country’s national security in plain sight. He didn’t have the guts to own up to it. He forced the Prime Minister to hold an official enquiry, which found that our Defence Secretary leaked secrets from the National Security Council. Our Prime Minister has sent him a letter ordering him to demit office, as she no longer has any confidence in him.
So I have an idea. A prisoner swap. Let’s open the gates of Belmarsh Prison, let Assange out, and put Williamson in. Julian was, of course, a more honourable prisoner than Private Pike could ever be. After all, Private Pike leaked our secrets for personal advancement, and, one could say, as far as the wages of sin are greater than those of the defence secretary, for personal enrichment.
Julian Assange told the truth to us, not for personal interest, not for personal enrichment, but for our enrichment, our interests. Julian Assange told the truth to us for us, and he accrued no conceivable advantage in so doing. Indeed, he has suffered, mightily, bearing that cross, of being a truth teller, down all these years of incarceration – and I would argue torture – at the hands of the besieging British government and their American masters.
Julian Assange bears the scars of being a truth-teller. I have the privilege, as several do on this platform, of describing Julian Assange as my friend. I knew him when he was young and fresh and health and vibrant, and I have to tell you that when I saw him dragged out of the Embassy, in a manner befitting of a war criminal, I wept bitter tears for what had become of Julian Assange.
And I met a lady today – she may be here now – in a shopping mall in South West London. She was an ordinary woman, not political at all; she was not even sure that I was me, and she said she had seen what I had said outside the grim walls of Belmarsh Prison, and she said she had wept. (Sheishere – and thank you for coming). She said she thought of Julian Assange every day. That is the impact of what has happened in the hearts of ordinary people. That there is something wrong here. The man who told the truth about war crimes is in prison, and those who profit from them are counting their millions. That lady knew that it’s just not right, it’s not fair, it’s not just, and we demand that the British government cease and desist from their attempts to send him to the torture chambers of the US injustice system, for that is what they are trying to do.
But in the last hour, it has been announced that there will be a parliamentary by-election in the Peterborough Constituency, triggered by a recall petition, and you will be the first to know that I will be a candidate in that by-election. And one of my candidate descriptions will be ‘Free Julian Assange’. We shouldn’t chant in a holy place, but I take your point.
We have assembled here a fine panel of speakers. I will come back in introducing them. They can speak for themselves.
Our first speaker needs little introduction. She is a hero herself. She is someone from within the deep state itself. She is someone who was charged with our national security – and, by the way, if she’d done what Williamson has done, she would have been in jail these past years.
She left the security service because she believes in our security, and not in its prostitution for other people’s interests. And you will see her on Sputnik on Sunday. Please welcome the wonderful Annie Machon.
3) ANNIE MACHON [MI5 officer-turned-whistleblower]
I am glad to see such a wonderful turnout.
I want to talk about my experience, partly of working with Wikileaks, with Julian, but also with the legalities.
My background is MI5. I was in intelligence in the 1990s for six years, before resigning along with David Shayler, who became quite a notorious whistleblower in the late 1990s.
We ended up going on the run for a year around Europe, and were in hiding in France for a year.
He went to prison for a year for exposing the secrets of spies. Not official secrets, but the fact that they had broken the law.
They can do it very easily, because the spies can lie even to the government. David exposed an illegal assassination attempt against Gadaffi. MI6 funded a known branch of Al-Queda in order to assassinate a head of state. It doesn’t get much more illegal than that. Innocent people died in the 1996 attack.
David ended up not just in prison, but in Belmarsh Prison, in 2002, which is precisely where Julian Assange is currently languishing. This is where the triple A terrorist prisoners go. David said he survived by telling fellow prisoners he had been taught how to kill prisoners with his bare hands.
David took proofs from MI5 to establish his bona fide. He gave them to the newspapers in 1997 to stand up the stories that they published. The newspaper insisted on keeping the copies of the documents (this was before the internet age). When the story broke, the police took the documents back from the newspaper’s safe.
Ten years later, in 2009, I was floating about in various hack-tech-geek festivals, and someone pointed out to me a man called Julian Assange, and explained that the idea was that people could send information secretly, where that information could be stored, and that person wouldn’t be immediately identified. I thought that that was a really interesting concept. Julian Assange came from the cyberpunk movement, and I thought that this was wonderful. I wished it had existed in the 1990s.
I met Julian at that event, and stayed vaguely in contact with him, and I have nothing but appreciation and awe at him for exposing so much crucial information over the last decade. I have nothing but admiration for what he has had to put up with. His courage was manifestly obvious, when the Swedish allegations were made, and he still went ahead, and his staff did, to publish information which was in the public interest. That system has never failed. No source has ever been identified because of a technical failure at Wikileaks. That is the service that Julian has provided to whistleblowers around the world.
I have been involved in other whistleblower organisations, and VIPs [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity], and the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, which gives an award every year. Many key whistleblowers have been honoured and supported by those groups. We put out a memorandum yesterday saying that what happened to Assange will have a chilling effect on the media, but also on future whistleblowers. He is not a whistleblower. He is a high-tech publisher who has broken the mould of the old legacy media. They see this new model as a threat. Whatever happens to Julian, the old media cannot put that genie back in the bottle. So let’s hope for more whistleblowers.
We are now facing the position where the Law Commission has been asked to consolidate, for the government, the secrecy legislation in the UK. At the moment, two years is the maximum sentence for breach of the Official Secrets Act. The Law Commission is proposing to tighten up the legislation. Now the maximum sentence would be fourteen years in prison, with no legal defence for whistleblowers. Reporters of such information would also be liable to fourteen years. Prior publication [ie that the information is already in the public domain] would no longer be a defence under law. This is appalling, because fourteen years in prison is something that traitors face.
The pusillanimous attitude in not protecting someone like Julian Assange is appalling. The craven attitude of our media is bloody appalling. For obvious reasons, I am concerned about my personal privacy: I am the poacher-turned-gamekeeper, and I understand how we are surveilled.
What I see now is a ghastly confluence at the level of the state. If I were a psychiatrist, I would be aware of something called the dark triad: machismo, narcissism, and psychopathy. This triad, by the way, characterises James Bond. What is going on now in terms of our internet freedom is the dark triad. We are, first, seeing the corporate side of things – copyright laws, intellectual copyright, being pushed further and further. Second, a crackdown on hacktivists. Third, there is what the spies do, laid bare in all its detail by Edward Snowden.
A few years ago there was a Wikileaks disclosure called Vault 7. The CIA had developed the ability to make tools to make it look as though something were hacked, by a specific foreign government.
We are told that there is fake news everywhere. But responses to this are being used to crack down on freedom of expression as well. What is happening now is that a high-tech publisher is being crushed by ridiculous charges.
We knew that there had been a secret grand jury convened for years in the Assange case. What we are looking at is the very fulcrum which will kill our freedom of expression, the freedom of the internet.
The key final point is the irony. In the Russiagate hysteria, there was the dirty dossier, pulled together by a former British intelligence officer. He was sued for defamation in the UK court by three Russian intelligence officers. The judge said that Christopher Steele had the right to freedom of expression, because what he did was in the public good.
But already we have Julian Assange denied his first amendment right. How is this justice? There are so many dark swirling circles under what appears to be a simple case of extradition.
All I can say is that if we do not stand up for Julian Assange, we do not deserve to live in a democracy.
4) KRISTINN HRAFNSSON [editor-in-chief of Wikileaks]
I’ve had a very busy day. My mind is full of anger after today’s sentencing. It was a great shock to be in court today, observing a judge basically dismissing every mitigating point and strong evidence in support of Julian Assange.
The judge had obviously written the decision before hearing the counter-argument. Giving Julian Assange the maximum permitted time in prison, minus two weeks, is an absurd, vindictive, political decision.
There was a question going through my mind: will Julian Assange ever have any justice in the tough fight ahead of us? We all know what awaits him: a possible death sentence, or life in prison, for the crime of doing journalism.
I am still angry. Are we seeing a total breakdown in every norm? Are we seeing a total dismissal of justice on every front, not just national but international?
I was observing the judge today mocking the UN and the finding of a respected UN tribunal, that found in Julian Assange’s favour – saying that it was all based on misunderstanding, and that their points don’t touch on us. The judge was echoing the words of the former foreign secretary of this country, who said exactly the same.
The UK government and the judiciary here have decided that the UN does not matter. It can be dismissed when it does not suit their political objective. They say that nobody is above the law. But who is claiming to be above the law? It is the judiciary here.
Will Julian Assange have any justice? I doubt it. But we will fight on. Because it is a fight about fundamental principles.
For the first time, today, I saw in the eyes of the many journalists an inkling of what this might mean for them, their security, their jobs, if this extradition went ahead. I think they are slowly getting it.
I had a stop on my way here to have an interview with a German weekly, where I was asked: is Julian Assange a journalist or an activist? I was astonished. If you are fighting for accountability, for truth, is that activism? I call it journalism. I was raised on that principle.
Somehow, in this distorted world we live in now, there is a distinction between the two concepts. So what is journalism today? Obviously, it is not holding power accountable.
Today, many people were asking me: ‘what can we do?’ I was actually lacking words. I would probably be better taking advice from you. I was in the mainstream media for twenty years; in Wikileaks for ten years. The values have never changed.
But I’m feeling that we’re coming to a juncture where things are breaking down. All the norms are breaking down. Where are the democratic principles? The extraterritorial reach of the US is now taken for granted. This is an attack on UK democracy. What can we do? Can we trust politicians? The judiciary? The mainstream media? You tell me.
I told people that it’s time to mobilise, to take to the streets: we can’t take this any more. I’m emotional about this. Today is the eighteenth birthday of my younger daughter. I’ve been trying for thirty years to deliver on my principles. I am ashamed that I am delivering to my children a world in a much worse state than it was. Even compared with the Nixon era.
The person who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 told me that if he’d been doing this today, he would not see a day outside prison, he would have spent the rest of my days in prison. So we are worse off today than we were in the early seventies, in the Nixon era.
I wish I could leave you with a positive note. Wikileaks will not perish. We will get Assange free. Empires diminish in power. We now have one empire, with an extra-territorial reach all over the world. I would put my bet on Wikileaks and its ideals – more than that empire – to be alive in ten years’ time.
5) GEORGE GALLOWAY
It is true that things are not as they were. Panorama is a parody of its former self. Channel 4 News is a parody of its former self. Some of us are old enough to remember when The Guardianwas a liberal newspaper. Now it is a sewer of disinformation. I have no idea how any self-respecting journalist remaining on it can justify its metamorphosis from a butterfly into a slug.
The next speaker is an activist for Julian Assange.
6) EMMY BUTLIN [campaigner for Julian Assange]
Thanks to the organisers for asking me. I am one of you, I should be sitting down there with you [the panel sat on a stage]. They’ve invited me because myself and others have for the last several years been holding a vigil outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where we have witnessed the struggle of Wikileaks and Julian Assange up close. We have witnessed the waste of taxpayers’ money. And we have witnessed an outstanding man never giving up, inspiring us to stand there in solidarity, because we were inspired by him.
Our work continues. The fact that we have left the embassy does not mean that we stop our work in his support. Overwhelmingly, the British and international public have supported Wikileaks and Julian Assange. You wouldn’t know it, reading the local or national newspapers, but overwhelmingly people have understood that Wikileaks is a good thing, and that the troubles of Wikileaks and Julian Assange are a direct effect of imperialism.
What is that about? Information as a resource – a resource that Wikileaks has released, for free, for the public good. Other powers – imperialistic powers – are trying to control it, as they try to control oil, precious metals, etc. Information gives you the opportunity to act with knowledge, to play on a level playing field in the international, political arena, but also in personal life. People understand that. They were the first to say: we know, he’s in there because of the US.
Over the years a great number of us have realised that working together, we can do the best that we can. Standing alone, we are not effective. Please join us and mobilise. Please, give your email address. Join our actions. They are solidarity. Tomorrow, at 10 am, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, when the first hearing for the extradition takes place, we are going to protest. We want to make our voice heard. There will be scores of journalists and microphones. Let us step up to the microphone and make our voices heard. We don’t have to wait five years until we have a general election. We can do it tomorrow.
Let’s be the protagonists in this story, we the public. But there are also other ways of helping. Please write to your Member of Parliament. They need to understand how you feel. It’s not a legal, but a political, issue. We need to alert our MPs to our opinions. Whatever tool we have available, let’s use it. George Galloway gave us exciting news about making this an electoral issue. Hundreds of people stood at the solidarity vigil outside the Embassy. Now is the time. I welcome you all to join our action. It is an inspiring group of people. Julian Assange has sacrificed all. The least we can do is to support him in his difficult times.
7) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Emmie reminds us that the title of this meeting is ‘Imperialism on Trial’. I will remind you of something said to me in the context of the Stop the War coalition in 2002, which was trying to stop our rulers from committing the disaster that they did commit.
Someone said to me: ‘can you stop using the word imperialism? It’s so old-fashioned, so nineteenth-century.’ Well, anyone watching the news from the last few days, from Venezuela, knows that imperialism is still alive and kicking. The Americans don’t do coups like they used to back in the day. The masses in Venezuela, and the honourable, loyal and patriotic armed forces have stopped John Bolton, Eliot Abrams and Donald Trump in their tracks.
Imperialism is alive and kicking and dangerous, but it’s not unbeatable – and this fight, on which we are not engaged, is not over yet.
The next speaker is another whistleblower from inside the machine. He could have had a comfortable retirement. He might have been knighted. He might have ended up in the House of Lords. He would certainly have ended up on the comfortable dinner-party circuit, because he had been one of Her Majesty’s Ambassadors. But he decided to stand up against the lies, terrorism, and regime-change operations, mounted by our own government, of which he was once a part. Please welcome His Excellency Peter Ford.
8) PETER FORD [former UK ambassador to Syria, 2003-2006]
Thank you for that warm introduction. It is hard for me to live up to your kind words. I know that we are all very concerned about Julian. But with our concern, we must keep in mind the causes for which Julian has been suffering, and that cause is the struggle against imperialism.
As George rightly says, that term sounds anachronistic, but you have to call the beast by its name. That is part of their modus operandus; they don’t like people to call the empire by its name. What we’re seeing at the moment is a wounded beast – an empire that is striking back.
Looking back to 2010, we see the avalanche of leaks from Wikileaks, that rocked the foundations of imperialism: the sheer scale of the revelations, the immensity of the atrocities which were revealed, especially the scale of atrocities in Iraq: the torture, the indiscriminate killings. Ordinary people’s imaginations were grabbed by these leaks. The empire really was being rocked on its foundations.
Let’s not forget that it was partly that groundswell of opposition to war that helped bring Trump to power. Let us not forget that Candidate Trump was going to bring home the troops, to end the wars; Wikileaks had helped to pave the way.
The Judas – Trump – that pathetic man, is now the plaything of warmongers. Once he was in power, he invited to the house of power the warmongers, the Michael Boltons, and the Mike Pompeos – the personnel of the permanent military government which arguably governs America, and our country, and France as well.
He brought them in and let himself be led by them. He let himself be led into bad relations with Russia. Candidate Trump argued for good relations for Russia. But he has allowed himself to preside over deteriorating relations.
It is ironic that, whilst Russia has been moving away from Communism and its dogmatism, America has been moving closer to that model. Don’t think America doesn’t have an equivalent ‘-ism’. It does: imperialism. Or, by its scholarly name, American exceptionalism.
Many Americans see America as the beacon on the hill – the country created with God’s help, bringing supreme values to the rest of humanity, with their seven hundred military bases, and immense bullying economic power to impose sanctions on dozens and dozens of poorer, weaker countries.
And here’s the thing. Americans believe in this more than Russians believed in communism. Americans imbibe it with their mothers’ milk, that Americans are born to lead.
Doesn’t it get under your skin when people refer to the American president as ‘the leader of the free world’? We must be grateful to Trump, because he has embodied the stupidity of this, and has shown us how naïve we have been for accepting this principle.
Syria has been at the receiving end of much of this American imperialism of recent years. It is as though the Iraq War never happened. We are hearing similar lies about alleged use of chemical weapons, which has been shown by independent experts to be fake. I don’t need to go into detail about that now, but the Americans have made a bad situation worse in Syria.
Not content with having spoiled Iraq, they have helped to generate the beginnings of ISIS, which spread to Syria. Then they had to make the situation worse by placing their troops in Syria.
In a moment of lucidity, Trump decided to withdraw them. Cue the most awful caterwauling, including in newspapers like The Guardian.
And doesn’t that typify the immense move to the right of the elite worldwide since 2010? Who would have imagined in 2010 that the Americans would start or be instrumental in starting other wars in the Middle East: in Yemen, in Syria. And now possibly Venezuela. The empire has struck back powerfully.
And I greatly fear now what is possibly going to happen with Iran. America is now effectively at war with Iran. The sanctions are designed to bring Iran to its knees. America will not take ‘yes’ for an answer. The independent international watchdog on nuclear weapons has crawled all over Iran and found it to be compliant. But the Americans will not take ‘yes’ for an answer. They want regime change in Iran. We must be vigilant against another conflict.
I just want to express my own hopes that tomorrow the judges will be aware of opinion in this country. I am not overly hopeful. In 2010 Julian Assange and Wikileaks helped to kick off something very important. They rocked the foundations of imperialism. The counter-attack is now coming to a climax.
9) GEORGE GALLOWAY
His Excellency mentioned a rare moment of lucidity by Trump. I witnessed the reverse on Twitter last night. In the wake of the failure of his coup on Venezuela, he threatened Cuba with economic sanctions.
No one appears to have told the leader of the free world that Cuba has been under total US sanctions for sixty years, and that President Eisenhower was in the White House when they were imposed – or that Cuba will still be standing when President Trump is a distant if hilarious memory.
Many rogues have come out of Oxford, I don’t need to list them, up to and including Tony Blair. Some of the finest people too. Next up is a novelist, writer, journalist, and activist – the one and only Neil Clark.
10) NEIL CLARK [journalist and campaigner]
[wearing Tony Blair face-mask]
My name’s Tony. I’m a peace envoy. All the countries I get involved in end up being broken in pieces. First of all: congratulations to my friend George Galloway, who has just announced that he is standing in Peterborough. The bad news is that I will be standing too.
For speaking tonight, I will offer a discounted rate. I will just charge £50,000. Imperialism: what’s not to like? You go into countries. You topple them, they take a big loan out with the IMF, you go in, and take the assets of the country. We are liberating the people of the countries from their assets. What is the point of an Iraqi oil company? Much better when the likes of Godman Sachs are running the show. If George Galloway had been British Prime Minister in 2003, he wouldn’t have gone into Iraq. If we hadn’t done that, where would we be today? Saddam would still be there with his weapons of mass destruction. We wouldn’t have gone into Libya, or Afghanistan. Think how much safer we would be. Thank goodness we avoided that.
Imperialism? I prefer ‘humanitarian interventionism’. We dropped a lot of depleted uranium on Serbia, and on Afghanistan. All good humanitarian intervention.
I don’t get Julian Assange. I don’t get what people have been expressing tonight. He exposes war crimes. If you do that, you’re going to make it harder for us to do these liberations. He is getting in the way of these operations, making life more difficult for people like me. So, I think that it’s bad what Julian Assange is doing. Imperialism has got us to where we are today. Think how dangerous the world was before those humanitarian interventions. We weren’t to know that Saddam had moved the WMDs to Iran. Confronting Iran and its own WMDs has to be done. I think we need to forget about Wikileaks and concentrate on more interventions: we’ve got to liberate more countries, like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela. We need to liberate them from their oil, their resources. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would improve their living conditions.
Getting a little bit serious now, it is the case that there is something wrong – whether you are left, right, in the middle – there has to be something wrong, when the people who planned and orchestrated these terrible wars, from Yugoslavia onwards, are free, and the guy who published information, which we had a right to know, is in jail. That cannot be right.
I wrote an article ‘Julian Assange and the tale of Tobermory’, based on Saki’s [Hector Hugh Monro’s] short story ‘Tobermory’ . Tobermory was a cat that was taught to speak, and it was telling the guests at a house party all the secrets he had heard from below-stairs. The guests all thought that it was hilarious. Then he started talking about them, revealing their secrets, what they had said about each other. They weren’t so happy about that. A day later his body was found in a water but.
I sincerely hope that that is not what is going to happen to Julian Assange. Everyone loves whistleblowers when they publish things about people they don’t like. Just think how Julian Assange was feted in 2009-11. The Guardianfawned on him; he won a prize from Index on Censorship. Then the stuff started coming out about Western war crimes. Suddenly he was described as a terrible man, a narcissist. Releasing bad stuff about Tunisia was fine; we didn’t really care about that government. But revealing Western war crimes was not.
Character assassination is a key part of imperialist strategy today. I’ve had it done to me. George has suffered more than any other political figure in Britain, until Corbyn became Labour leader. This is how it works. Regarding the smear campaign against Julian Assange: misused political-correctness has played a part in trying to divide the left, preventing it from coming to his defence.
The Swedish ‘charges’ were never brought, and for me one of the key revelations was the leaked CPS emails to the Swedish, telling them: ‘don’t you dare get cold feet, don’t drop this case, money isn’t an object’. Anyone who doubts that this case is political should ask: would the CPS be sending such emails to Sweden in any other case? That tells us clearly that this is political.
Once the allegations are out there, we’ve reached a stage at which just to accuse someone of something is taken as proof of guilt. I studied law, and when I was studying, I was taught that it was the case that someone was innocent until proven guilty. Now today someone just needs to say ‘I think that someone’s an anti-Semite’. And that’s it.
Well, actually Assange hasn’t been charged yet, let alone found guilty – but it’s still a toxic allegation, a trial by media, and it’s an unhappy development that we’ve lost sight of the presumption of innocence.
What is To Be Done? to quote a famous Russian [Vladimir Lenin, 1901, but also the title of a novel by Nikolai Chernyshevsky, 1863]
Emmy was saying that we should be writing to MPs. The one positive to take from what happened to Julian is that there may be a general election soon. What with that, and Euro-elections, and local elections, many MPs are feeling nervous about their seats. It is therefore a good time for us all to write to our MPs and ask: what is your position on Julian Assange?
Let them know that this matters to us. Think back to 2014, when we looked as though we were going to be bombing Syria. There were allegations of chemical weapons attacks. There we were, in Iraq War territory again. The public mood was so against that.
I’m not saying that that’s the sole reason that the Labour Party unexpectedly voted against going to war. But I think that the large mailbags that a lot of MPs got at that moment were very important. It can make a difference.
You know that it mattered, because of the reaction from the neocon interventionist lobby – the anger that there was, I remember reading a piece from Andrew Roberts, the historian, who said that this was the most shameful moment since Munich [the Munich Agreement, 1938]. Ray McGovern said he was in TV studio with a neocon – perhaps it was Paul Wolfowitz – and they were as unhappy as if a close family member had died
Had that bombing happened, we could have had Al-Qaeda, and ISIS, in Damascus – and that would have been another successful operation for the endless war lobby. And it was checked.
So, imperialism is not infallible. As our speaker from Wikileaks said: empires do not last for ever. Julian Assanges’s case is political. Don’t be disheartened by today’s news. The fight is far from over. What has happened is an injustice. If we stick together, if we get behind George in Peterborough, and other MPs who take the same line – such Chris Williamson – then we are the many; they are the few.
11) GEORGE GALLOWAY
I spoke in that debate [about possible intervention in Syria], in 2013. I commend it to you even now; it was an amazing debate, but there is no doubt that the public pressure against joining all-out war against Syria made the difference. As Dr Johnson said, the knowledge that one will be hanged in the morning concentrates the mind wonderfully. MPs are, as it were, hanged every four or so years. I know, from my own experience as an MP, that if you get five emails on the same subject from your voters, especially if your majority is small, then you note it. If you get fifty, or five hundred, then you convene meetings with your staff to organise a response.
It is even better if you go and see your MP. Never underestimate what you can do. There might be a general election very much sooner than expected. We have to make the Julian Assange issue a burning political issue throughout the land. And every MP has to know that there is a political cost to their acquiescence in extradition of Julian Assange to the dungeons of the US.
Our next speaker is from the admirable magazine The Duran.
12) ALEXANDER MERCOURIS [editor of The Duran]
I’d like to build on the point that this is a political issue. It is supposed to be a legal process. I want to argue that as such it is radically, essentially, wrong. Since these charges originate from the US, I’m going to do something unusual. I want to quote to you what American lawyers are saying about this.
It is American law that matters. The key law that governs the way that journalism is supposed to be conducted in the US is the First Amendment to the Constitution:
‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances’ [italics added]
The Pentagon Papers case happened in 1971, when a whistleblower leaked from within the Pentagon information that showed that US policy in the Vietnam War had been intentional. The story that the US had simply blundered into the war was therefore wrong.
He published it through TheNew York Times. The US government tried to prosecute TheNew York Times to prevent publication. It went all the way up to the US, and the Court said that the newspaper could not be prevented from publishing the information, because that would be contrary to the First Amendment.
There is a particular American lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, with whom I disagree almost entirely on every political issue – but I do accept that he is an outstanding lawyer. He recently said:
‘If prosecutors were to charge Assange with espionage or any other crime for merely publishing the Manning material, this would be another Pentagon Papers case (i.e. a First Amendment case), with the same likely outcome’.
Well, Wikileaks did publish, and they were not prosecuted. The same was also the view of Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. They looked into it very carefully, and said that if they start prosecuting him as a journalist, that will fail because of the First Amendment defence used in the Pentagon Papers. If it succeeded, it might have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.
This is also the view of Rudi Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who has represented Trump during the Mueller investigation. He has gone out publicly and said the same thing. So, we are looking at a potential problem under the First Amendment.
There has been questioning of whether Assange is a journalist. I want to state on record that he is a greatjournalist.
But let’s see what Alan Dershowitz has to say on that question.
‘Prosecutors might […] try to distinguish the cases on the grounds that the New York Timesis a more responsible outlet than Wikileaks. But the First Amendment does not recognize degrees of responsibility. When the Constitution was written, our nation was plagued with irresponsible scandal sheets and broadsides. No one described political pamphleteers Thomas Paine or James Callender as responsible journalists of their day.’
That argument therefore has no basis in law. Anyone who makes it is speaking in bad faith.
The US Justice Department, and Donald Trump’s lawyer, knew not to bring a charge under the First Amendment. So they haven’t tried that. Instead we have a strange situation in which they are accusing him of engaging in a fraud to extract information from a computer.
Dershowitz said: ‘the courts have […] ruled that journalists may not break the law in an effort to obtain material whose disclosure would be protected by the First Amendment.”
But the problem with the current effort is that, while it might be legally strong, it seems on the face of the indictment to be factually weak.
It alleges that ‘Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records’ from federal government agencies, that ‘Manning provided Assange with part of a password,’ and that ‘Assange requested more information.’
It goes on to say that Assange was ‘trying to crack the password’ but had ‘no luck so far.’
Not the strongest set of facts here!
Dershowitz goes on to say that the first thing is whether a legal case based on a set of such inchoate facts will be sufficient for an extradition request.
The facts are extremely weak on the face of the indictment. The US government is trying to make them look stronger by trying to get Assange’s alleged co-conspirator Chelsea Manning to testify against him.
So she is being held in indefinite detention. Her courage and integrity fill me with awe. I have no hesitation in saying that I consider her heroic.
Do we really want to extradite Julian Assange to a country in which people are held in indefinite detention in order to get them to testify against each other?
What did Julian Assange actually do? Why did he do it?
I’m now going to turn to another American lawyer, Glenn Greenwald, because he’s not just a very fine lawyer, but a journalist, and he understands journalism very well; these cases have the potential to affect his own work as a journalist.
“The […] key fact being widely misreported is that the indictment accuses Assange of trying to help Manning obtain access to document databases to which she had no valid access: i.e., hacking rather than journalism.’
But the indictment alleges no such thing.
Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username, so that she could maintain her anonymity while downloading documents in the public interest, and then furnish them to WikiLeaks to publish.
In other words, the indictment seeks to criminalize what journalists are not only permitted but ethically required to do: to take steps to help their sources maintain their anonymity.
As long-time Assange lawyer Barry Pollack put it: ‘The factual allegations […] boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.That’s why the indictment poses such a grave threat to press freedom. It characterizes as a felony many actions that journalists are not just permitted, but required, to take, in order to conduct sensitive reporting in the digital age.’
We have heard from Annie how important it is for journalists to protect their sources if whistleblowers are to be protected. This is a very dangerous indictment. It goes to the root of what journalists do. It aims to make whistleblowing all but impossible.
There is a further problem. This case is brought out of time. The statutory limitation in the US for cases of this sort is five years. Whatever it was that Assange and Manning did together, they did it in 2010. The indictment against them dates from 2017, almost eight years later.
Another American lawyer, Andrew McCarthy, a federal prosecutor, is a man of very conservative views, but he is nonetheless an outstanding lawyer.
What does he say about the limitation issue?
‘According to the indictment, Assange and Manning conspired in 2010. Manning was prosecuted by the armed forces. The Justice Department’s indictment against Assange was not returned until 2018 – eight years later.’
So how is the Justice Department able to prosecute Assangeon an indictment filed three years after the prescribed limitations period?
It appears that the Justice Department is relying on an exception, in Section 2332b of the penal code, that extends the statute of limitations to eight years for ‘acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.’
Andrew McCarthy, who is someone very hostile to Assange, states that ‘Assange’s [case] is at the top of the seriousness range, because it involved publication of defense secrets that endangered lives, including the lives of our troops. And there’s no doubt that the conspiracy transcended national boundaries – Assange was outside the U.S. when he collaborated with Manning.’
But is it really an act of terrorism?
According to McCarthy’s long erudite article on National Review, the government may have a case, because the word terrorism is so broadly defined in US law.
‘It will be a hotly contested issue. If the Justice Department is going to succeed in prosecuting Assange, it is going to have to win a statute of limitations argument twice – in Britain, and in Virginia. That is not going to be a lay-up, to say the least.’
So we have an extraordinarily flimsy case. There is no case under the Espionage Act. A cobbled-together case is actually being brought based on an allegation of conspiracy, in which the co-conspirator is not being prosecuted, but finds herself in indefinite detention.
How can the UK courts extradite on the basis of this nonsense?
But let’s look at what the story of Julian Assange has been. He was sentenced today for fifty weeks in prison for skipping bail in a case that originated with allegations– only that – of sexual misconduct in Sweden.
He gave answers in Sweden, and again in the Embassy; the statement that he gave is on the internet; the Swedes never made charges; but they are now coming under great political pressure to bring charges against him.
So he was sentenced to fifty weeks in jail on a case that doesn’t exist.
We have an extraordinary case that prominent American lawyers are extremely sceptical about. In Britain the judge paid no attention to the cases made by counsel.
This doesn’t feel right. Because it isn’t right.
This case is not going to be won in the courts; it’s going to be won in places like this, by people like us, pointing out how abysmally this man is being treated. We must renew the political struggle to defend him. A frightful machine that been unleashed on him, which ultimately has the potential to attack us all.
13) GREG SHARKEY
I want to thank Reverend Simon, and the Bloomsbury Baptist Church Board, for not giving in to the intimidation and threats of some online activists, and for deciding to host the event tonight.
I got started in campaigning because of two people. First I met Sheila Coombes at her ‘Media on Trial’ event, for Frome Stop War.
After meeting her at that, I thought: I want to put on something like this.
I then met George Galloway, who spoke in Derry nearly two years ago.
RT has supported and live-streamed this event.
I want to extend thanks to George and to RT, and I would like to welcome Sheila Coombes.
14) SHEILA COOMBES [founder of Frome Stop War]
‘Imperialism on Trial’ is a fantastic progression from the ‘Media on Trial’ events that we did.
Thank you to Greg for his energy in getting so many brilliant speakers tonight.
I want to speak about Wikileaks. Its revelations not only include the collateral murder video, and the 90,000 incidents of the Afghan war log, but also the machinations exposed in emails, by people such as those in the State Department, to bring about deadly regime change.
One such is by Sir William Roebuck in 2006 – the US ambassador to Damascus.
He put forwards lots of suggestions as to how the US could ‘throw Assad off balance’.
He says that the US should stress the Iranian influence in Syria, and should instigate sectarian divide. In other words, he was advocating the old British imperialist technique of divide and conquer. That was in 2006.
What I also particularly note about this email is the recipient list. The recipients are the Treasury Department, the Secretary of State, Israel, the League of Arab States, the US Mission to EU, and the UN.
The UN? The UN knew about this email in 2006, in which Roebuck was planning all of these schemes to destabilise the Syrian government.
So why didn’t the UN, which has international law at its core, pick this up as preparation for war?
Even worse, five years later, when some of the mechanisms he was suggesting were being put into play, why didn’t the UN say: there is something wrong here?
They didn’t do that. They went along with the narrative of peaceful protesters wanting democracy and freedom, being repressed by a brutal dictator. The Syrian ambassador to the UN was even excluded from UN discussions of events in his own country.
So we must thank Wikileaks for not just exposing the thoughts of the bad guys, but the collusion of some of the good guys.
But reading through The Wikileaks Files, we can see that many of the machinations for regime change coincided with the targets of the Washington Neocons.
If you look, the targets have been clearly stated. Leading neocons such as Richard Pearle, John Bolton, and William Kristol, openly stated that they had these targets: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya. It wasn’t a surprise, it was known, it was out there, but nobody in the media, in the government, said that it was a bit strange that we were seeing this list played out in the twenty-first century.
If you want to understand who the Washington neocons are, watch a BBC Panorama programme from 2003 – ‘The War Party’. That is an excellent documentary.
It interviews neoconservatives in Washington. They say that they have an ideology of spreading democracy and freedom. But that has killed so many people, and it has been rolled out again and again. Democracy and freedom have become weaponised in the twenty-first century.
I am shocked that the international community hasn’t made the connection. The neocons are central to imperialist moves. Not only do we have the countries in the Middle East, but Venezuela is on the list for key neoconservative, John Bolton. Russia is in their sights; Victoria Nuland, wife of neocon Robert Kagan, was responsible for orchestrating the coup in Ukraine, which destabilised a country on Russia’s borders.
The neocons started off with the Republicans. Bush and Blair effected the Iraq war. But later on, they went to the US Democrats. Clinton used the idea of the ‘responsibility to protect’ to effect regime-change. It went away from the Republicans, who people saw as war-mongering. It softened the whole thing.
Hillary was a key driver in the Libya intervention. The media made out that it was Britain and France that were spear-heading it. Wikileaks released thousands of her emails that referred to Libya (‘tick-tock to Libya’; ‘how to undermine Gadhafi’s Libya’). It is not surprising that she cackled at his death: ‘we came, we saw, he died’.
Hillary has of late over-extended herself. Her lies on Russiagate are unravelling. Her DNC’s malfeasance in undermining her running-mate Bernie Sanders was exposed in leaked – not hacked – emails.
Her childish deflection, that Russia did it, was very dangerous, and presented the supposed hacking of the emails as an act of war. Rather than journalists looking at the contents of the emails, she said that Russia did it, and everyone followed that, even though it was so infantile and stupid.
But what I think is: could we not logically assume that a DNC member who wanted Bernie Sanders to be Democratic candidate, and had witnessed some of the machinations to undermine him, might have downloaded the emails on site, and passed them to Wikileaks? That seems to me very possible.
Hillary’s deceit in claiming that Russia did it, that it was as an act of war, has pitted two nuclear superpowers against each other.
The mainstream media has wholly colluded in trumpeting her claims. She stands to lose a great deal from this story unravelling. We have to note the level of desperation of the mainstream media, with their smears against Assange.
I think that’s because they’re running scared. You may think I’m homing on Hillary quite a bit – which I am – but she is just as legitimate a target as Bush or Blair. Her lies with regard to Russian meddling were potentially as dangerous as were theirs with regard to WMD.
Journalist or not, publisher or not, Julian Assange is a truth teller, and we need Julian Assange.
15) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Our final speaker is another redoubtable campaigner, of Twenty-First Century Wire.
16) PATRICK HENNINGSEN [editor of Twenty-First Century Wire]
Thank you everybody for coming tonight. Don’t be fooled by the numbers in this room. This represents a much bigger group that is out there, not just here but internationally. Everyone who interacts with social media knows what I’m talking about.
So why am I here? Why are we here? This is a fundamental issue. I’ve been trying to put this in a way that people can understand. You’re going to be talking to people. That is how this issue is going to spread. If you really want to win this, and if you’re a journalist or a news consumer, this is the defining issue of this generation. Think of history from the beginning of the printing press – Gutenberg til now. Think of all the trials and tribulations that we’ve had to go through, just to achieve some fundamental rights, some protections for whistleblowers for instance, some rights for the press that they might publish and be damned, but still they publish – think of all the blood that’s been shed for that. It’s not unlike the suffragettes. When you go away tonight, you have to make it clear to everyone you speak to that this affects everyone. Not just the press. It’s every journalist, every blogger, everyone who uses social media, people doing forensic analysis on Twitter. The number of journalists on the planet has mushroomed. This affects everyone. Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning are holding the line on one of the most important pillars of post-Enlightenment democratic society. That’s what you have to get people to understand. When governments take rights away from citizens, they don’t give them back easily, short of a French Revolution scenario; and I don’t want to see that happen, nobody does. This isn’t trivial.
When I look at The Guardian, which milked Wikileaks for all the street cred it was worth, and look at some of the pieces of fiction they have published over the last few years, it is unbelievable – not that they would call themselves journalists, but that they themselves don’t see the danger of letting this one slide. The editor of Wikileaks, here tonight, was very worried – and so he should be, and so should everyone be – that the rules-based international system is in fact a Hobbesian state of nature in which might makes right, and all we have believed in is dissipating before our eyes. We have to understand that Julian Assange is a publisher like any publisher, and Chelsea Manning is a source. Lose one, and you lose the other. That’s the fourth estate. Right now, a lot of people don’t know or care what the fourth estate is any more – including a lot of people working in it.
What we have is a system, a state, that doesn’t believe that it should be held accountable by anyone. But if you lose protection of the press, you lose everything. The system believes that it should regulate itself. What sort of system is that? We saw it in the mid twentieth-century breaking out in Europe – corporatism, attributed to Benito Mussolini. We are now looking at a corporatist state not accountable to anybody. That is what governments are becoming like. Corporations have a hundred lawyers; individuals have a public defender. Corporations test themselves. That has been the case for almost twenty years. The case of Julian Assange makes that clear.
How many of you have seen the Collateral Murder video? I rewatched it last year for the first time in eight years. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. If you walk into a shopping mall in America [and start shooting], the whole country goes into crisis mode. Every media network is down there. It is the horror of horrors. We watched the mass shooting on that video. But no charges were charges brought, or, if any, of the lowest-ranking soldier – you can guarantee that – even if higher names attach to the orders.
The other thing is to understand that this is a technology issue. Wikileaks is in its purest form a twenty-first century media outlet. It doesn’t do commentary. It doesn’t do television interviews or podcasts. It gets information, curates it, does a light bit of formatting, and publishes it. In doing so it provides a valuable service for the rest of the media. They do the heavy lifting for us; all we have to do is report on it, and pull out the nuggets of interest in there.
I was at Belmarsh Prison with a lot of people who are here today, just two weeks ago. The night before, I got a call from my colleague behind me, who said: will you go on LBC radio to do an interview? George Galloway couldn’t make it. Andrew Castle was the host. The show started. And I was asked none of the questions I had been asked in the pre-interview. Castle started by laying into Assange as a sex criminal, and talked about Sweden reviving this case. There was nothing about freedom of the press – just about Assange’s sexual exploits in Sweden. I laid out the facts of the case to Castle, who looked surprised, and said that he hadn’t known all I said. I asked him: Andrew, do you consider Julian Assange a colleague, or not? Do you consider Wikileaks a media outlet, or not? There was just a pause.
That’s the fundamental question here. Government does what government does. Politicians do what politicians do. That’s why we need an independent fourth estate to hold them to account when they don’t tell the truth.
By exposing war crimes, as Chelsea Manning did, you can potentially save lives. The governments are panicking; they are in reactionary mode now. The politicians don’t have coolness or expertise. In terms of technology, they are out to lunch. I’ve seen their talks at DAVOS. They can just about read email, read a few tweets – but even than it’s a bit haphazard. The people behind me, and some of those in front of me, understand better than they do the nature of the modern media. You’ve been blogging. The politicians don’t. They’ve been told what blogs are, and what they should say about blogs.
My message is simple. This is for everybody. If you think that the odds are stacked against you, think of how things change when one person gets up and speaks. You have to stand up, and say no, and put yourself between the oppressor and the oppressed, who is representing the best of interests of us all. Spread that to as many people as you can. Get people to understand this.
17) GREG SHARKEY
Emmy has said she will be available to meet with people afterwards, and that she would like people’s emails.
To our online viewers, as well as to those of you in the audience: we are meeting tomorrow at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, at 9 am, before court proceedings start at 10 am. The nearest stations are Edgeware Road or Marylebone.
18) GEORGE GALLOWAY
Thank you, Greg, for all the efforts of you and your friends – but also of you, the tens of thousands who have been watching these proceedings live on the internet.
In precisely the year that a Russian gentleman, to quote my good friend Neil Clark, asked the question ‘What is to be done?’, a man called Hobson wrote a book on imperialism [Imperialism: A Study, John A. Hobson]. It has been in print since 1902; it is on every university reading list, it has been quoted approvingly by no less than Mr Blair, Gordon Blair, even in The Guardian.
And yet, because eight years ago Jeremy Corbyn wrote a small blurb, saying that this is quite a good book, although it was controversial in parts – no less than the London Times, now a sewer, a cell, of neocon propaganda, led on the front page with the story that Corbyn had endorsed a book that contained within its hundreds of thousands of words some casual racism.
They weren’t concerned that the author described the colonised as lesser races. His casual racism, an unfounded casual racism, concerning the banking and finance industries, got Corbyn in the middle of another anti-Semitism storm. With local elections tomorrow, who would have thunk it?
The reason that I mention this is that we have tonight slain the slander of Julian Assange, whether it concerns his activities in Sweden, his attitude towards cats, or his personal hygiene. Is there any sentient being that hasn’t smelled a rat, in that as soon as Corbyn became a threat to the British Establishment, he became an anti-Semite?
As soon as Assange was no longer the flavour of the month, all these things about him were discovered.
These are not deluded journalists. They have not lost their way like some lost sheep.
Journalism in what is laughingly called the mainstream media now is no more than a bastion of state power in the UK and the US.
And that is why the Duran, Twenty-First Century Wire, the Canary, why the Skwawkbox, why Wikileaks, have to exist – because nature abhors a vacuum.
These people, with their critical malfeasance, have created a vacuum.
From time to time, some nobility emerges. Let me give you just one example. When The Daily Telegraphwas offered stolen property – that property being the details of the grand larceny of public funds in the MPs’ expenses scandal (which revealed that hundreds of members of parliament, some of them the biggest names in the land – excluding me of course; how disappointed they were – had been stealing from the public case, in false, in some cases forged, expenses claims),TheTelegraphhad no compunction in publishing this information, of which the provenance was theft.
And rightly so. The Telegraph was hailed. They won journalism awards. Their circulation boomed. And rightly so. Because what they were revealing was much more important than the original act of theft, which had obtained this information.
That is all that Julian Assange and Wikileaks have done, albeit on a bigger scale.
They revealed not just grubby expenses malfeasance. When you open me up after my death, you will see the word ‘Iraq’ running me through me as ‘Brighton’ through a stick of rock, and I will be with Assange to the end because of his revelation of war crimes in Iraq.
I told Blair: as long as God gives me breath, I will pursue you to the ends of the earth because of the crimes you have committed in Iraq. And after me, by the grace of God, my five children, and your [the audience’s] children too, we will never allow you, in this life, to escape the trials you face on judgment day.
Some of you won’t agree with this. But as I have watched in recent decades our institutions failing each other one after the other: our police, our fourth estate, our government, our parliamentarians.
And I maintain that the least compromised is the British judiciary. It is the least corrupted, the least compromised, the one that has retained some semblance of its independence from the political power.
I ran a campaign more than twenty years ago to save what would have been the life, and certainly the liberty, of the leader of the Saudi opposition in London. The arms companies in Britain had pressurised the government to deport him to Dominica. Michael Howard issued a deportation order, having had his orders from British Aerospace and the military-industrial complex, which might have lost millions.
Nobody gave our chances a fig. But I was always confident, in front of the noble Judge Pearl, a Jewish judge. When some of those in the campaign discovered that we had a Jewish judge, they were dismayed. I told them this is the best judge we can have, because this man will be determined to be honest and fair and just in this case. And so it was.
Not only is the opposition leader still here, but the judge administered a judicial caning of Michael Howard.
The judge today [Deborah Taylor] is a lower-order apparatchik, but I also implore our judiciary to stand up for what they are meant to be – the custodians of justice in this land. I believe that our lawyers will make a case that any fair judge will have to listen to. I beg them to listen fairly and justly to the cases that we are making, regarding double-jeopardy, the statute of limitations, the balance of good and bad. If our courts are worthy of the name, they will stop this extradition.
And if they don’t, then we will do the same in America, with the best lawyers in America on our side.
I think that we will look back on this as a historic meeting.
Thank you very much.