The work of the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder could have world-changing consequences leading to harmony among nations, writes Karen Sharpe.
By Karen Sharpe
Special to Consortium News
Julian Assange has been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize eight times. Yet he is currently languishing in a maximum-security prison in London awaiting a ruling after the U.S. appeal to determine whether he will be extradited to the U.S. to face specious charges with a potential 175-year sentence.
Previous recipients of this prestigious prize include Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin and Barack Obama, who have never been imprisoned or convicted of any crime, yet whose decisions have been directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths, displacement, torture and starvation of millions of people around the world.
It’s no wonder that this has led some to suggest that the Nobel Peace Prize should instead be re-named the Nobel War Prize.
Assange’s crime, on the other hand, is to have practiced true journalism in uncovering and publishing meticulously documented evidence of war crimes, corruption, illegal government surveillance and hacking, among a multitude of malfeasances.
As founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Assange published some 10 million documents and associated analyses. These include:
* Collateral Murder video, which shocked the world with its graphic recording of the US military massacre of more than 12 civilians (including two Reuters journalists) walking down a residential Baghdad street;
* Afghan War Diary containing more than 90,000 precise and often gruesome reports of the U.S. military’s deadly actions;
* Iraq War Logs consisting of nearly 400,000 US Army field reports that reveal war crimes and the true number of civilians killed;
* Cablegate, more than 251,000 US diplomatic cables showing numerous consequential scandals around the world;
* Guantanamo Files, revealing the routine torture and abuse of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay;
* Spy Files, showing the industrialization of global mass surveillance, and much more.
After watching the Collateral Murder video and hearing U.S. soldiers in the Apache helicopter joyously taking out people who were merely walking by, then blasting away a man in a van who stopped to help the wounded, and injuring his children in the vehicle, how could any sane person not clamor for an end to the Iraq war, and to all wars whether or not they include such grotesque, heinous practices?
Alfred Nobel, who established the prizes in his will, was no paragon of pacifism — not only had he and his family manufactured armaments, but he invented (and profited enormously from) explosives, particularly dynamite, that were precursors to the modern derivations, which are used not just for blasting into mines or demolishing an undesired building.
Yet perhaps under the influence of his friend the Austrian pacifist Bertha von Suttner, and to detract from his connection to the arms industry, he included a prize for peace as one of the five awards he funded.
In his will he stated that the peace prize should be awarded to the
“person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the building and promotion of peace congresses.”
In announcing this year’s winners of the peace prize, the Nobel committee stated:
“Free, independent, and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies, and war propaganda. The Norwegian Nobel Committee is convinced that freedom of expression and freedom of information help to ensure an informed public. These rights are crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict.”
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The 2021 peace prize laureates, the committee further said,
“are representative of all journalists who stand up for this idea in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”
And the winners were … Not Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, even though that description seems to have their names written all over it, but: Maria Ressa, of the Philippines and Russian journalist Dmitry Andreyevich Muratov. Ressa co-founded Rappler, a digital media company for investigative journalism, and has “focused critical attention on the Duterte regime’s controversial murderous anti-drug campaign” (she has also received U.S. funding). Muratov is a founder of Novaja Gazeta, “the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude toward power” (and also someone who is said to be “paranoid about Putin.”)
Very safe choices, sure to please the masters of hegemony. Vladimir Putin, after all, has been in the sites of the U.S., which has imposed sanctions on Russia and surrounded it with increasing numbers of military bases, to say nothing of making endless saber-rattling threats against the country. Rodrigo Duterte is also on the hit list of the U.S. as he defiantly rejects their directives and interference in his country’s affairs, most notably to prevent it from trading with China and to establish and then expand a permanent military base there.
A closer look at Ressa shows just how close to the U.S. she is. Not only is she a U.S. citizen (she has dual nationality), but Rappler receives funding from the U.S. government—the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy (NED). It also receives funding from the Omidyar Network, founded by Pierre Omidyar, who, like George Soros, funds publications and groups around the world that, basically, help to destabilize governments, like the Philippines, that don’t toe to the U.S. line.
When asked if Julian Assange’s arrest is good or bad for journalists, Ressa sounded like a Mike Pompeo acolyte. “I think the wholesale dumping of WikiLeaks actually isn’t journalism. A journalist sifts through, decides, and knows when something is of value to national security.” Wrong. A journalist’s role, as WikiLeaks exemplifies, is to research and publish what is of value to the people and hold governments accountable.
Leaving aside Ressa’s mala fides as a media authority (she also worked for nearly 20 years for CNN, whose “wholesale dumping” of U.S. press releases it calls news), it’s hard to rationalize how her work and Muratov’s might have world-changing consequences leading to harmony among nations.
It is hard to rationalize how the work of these two journalists might have world-changing consequences leading to harmony among nations.
‘Last Outlet of True Democracy’
The work of Assange, on the other hand, certainly has. In nominating him for the 2019 prize, as she also did this year, Mairead Maguire, a 1976 laureate, stated:
“Julian Assange and his colleagues in WikiLeaks have shown on numerous occasions that they are one of the last outlets of true democracy with their work for freedom of speech. Their work for true peace by making public our governments’ actions at home and abroad has enlightened us to their atrocities carried out in the name of so-called democracy around the world. … Julian Assange meets all criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize. Through his release of hidden information to the public we are no longer naïve to the atrocities of war, neither oblivious to the connections between big business and the acquisition of resources and spoils of war.”
And that’s perhaps why he has never received the Nobel Peace Prize.
It is just a little ironic, and wholly tragic, that the person who published the Guantanamo Files, which led to calls to close the torture site and release the prisoners who have been held there for years without being charged with anything, is himself now locked up and locked down in a prison, Belmarsh, known as Britain’s Guantanamo. Not just because it holds in its cells alleged terrorists and murderers, but also because of the conditions there. And like the Guantanamo detainees, Julian has not been charged with a crime in the U.K.
Worse fate awaits him should he be extradited when the British High Court hands down its extradition ruling after the hearing in London on Oct. 27 and 28. If it rules for extradition and there is no appeal, he will be whisked away and locked up in a maximum-security prison in the U.S. with no access to family, attorneys, fellow prisoners and where there is a very high suicide rate. It was this that led Judge Vanessa Baraitser — always hostile to Assange and his lawyers —to rule against extradition in a lower-court hearing because she felt it highly likely that his already fragile mental state would lead him to commit suicide there.
Assange has often said that if we can be lied into war we can be truthed into peace. The thousands of truths he revealed in the WikiLeaks documents should certainly make him the prime candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. And not those who engage in or promote genocide and wars, as have a number of the recipients.
Karen Sharpe is editor of the upcoming book Julian Assange in His Own Words (OR Books, November release).
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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