26 august 2012
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32). This is the motto of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is a quote from The Bible and in very noble tones, it speaks of truth. This article is also about truth. It is about those who tell it and those who fear it.
Julian Assange told us the truth. He gave it to us unadulterated and without the sugar coating that we have come to expect from the big news outlets. We were treated like adults, given the truth and then allowed to make up our own minds without editorial comment or bias. Yes, he leaked documents that the United States Government would have preferred remain confidential but then so did Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation. It’s not as though Assange sat in a room somewhere and made up fiction in order to discredit the US Government, every word released was the truth. It actually happened. Journalist, hacker, all around bad guy, it doesn’t matter what label you put on him, when everything else is pushed away, all that is left is a man who told the truth. Bradley Manning or someone else went to Assange with information about the unsavory dealings of the United States Government and provided evidence to support those claims. Assange, for whatever motivation, decided to publish the allegations and the evidence that backed them up. They were not troop movements or the combination to the White House safe. The Wikileaks cables were diplomatic correspondence. Personal opinions on matters of state. In short, Julian Assange did nothing more than cause the United States government a little embarrassment. In the post 9/11 world, did the evidence of United States duplicity really come as such a shock to foreign governments?
Julian Assange has been accused of a crime in Sweden and in order for justice to be served, he should make himself available to be questioned. He has done that repeatedly but the Swedish government has refused. The questions and answers will be the same in London as they would be in Stockholm so what difference does it make where those questions are asked? The difference is that Assange is probably correct in his assumption that after Sweden, the next stop will be Guantanamo Bay. It defies belief that a man who has not been charged with a crime but is only wanted for questioning about a non-violent sex offense would be the subject of a hugely expensive international manhunt like this. It has to be costing the British taxpayer a fortune and to what end? Apart from skipping bail to go to the Ecuadorian Embassy, Julian Assange has committed no actual crime in England, his liberty is no threat to the British people yet they continue to foot the bill for what appears to be an American vendetta.
What does this have to do with me? Why do I have an opinion? Why do I feel a sense of kinship with a man that I have never met, in a country that I have never visited? I am Australian, like Julian Assange. I am American, like those who pursue him. I am a writer who values the truth and I am frightened for the future. America is my adopted home. I did not land on these shores because I had nowhere else to go or because I was persecuted in my homeland. When I decided to settle, I made a choice. I chose to live here and to make America my home. I believe strongly in American ideals and American values but I also believe that to maintain those values, there must be lines in the sand that we just don’t cross. We as a society are sitting back and watching the show as though it has no impact on us. If we allow Julian Assange to end up in an American prison for giving voice to a whistle-blower then we are destroying our own societies from within. By the act of closing our eyes to this injustice, we are telling the likes of Washington and London that it is acceptable to govern like those other countries that silence dissent by incarcerating those who attempt to tell the truth. When that happens, and make no mistake, it is about to happen if Washington has it’s way, then every person who writes for a living will see just how potentially dangerous their profession has become. In the day of Woodward and Bernstein, exposing the dirty little secrets of government might win you a Pulitzer. Now it appears, the same thing might earn you a jail sentence.
It’s time to make a stand. If we want people like Julian Assange to tell us the truth then we need to support his cause, not tomorrow but today. When the truth is suppressed because people are frightened to tell it, then we become the fascist state that we fear so much. There was once a proud tradition of journalistic freedom in America and that tradition was built on the telling of truth. Not so any more: The United States, as of 2012, is now ranked 47th in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
Whatever his faults, Julian Assange gave us the truth when he knew that it might ultimately cost him his freedom. A vengeful America was a predictable outcome given it’s recent history and Julian Assange must have known that. It is up to us now to protect him and all we have left is good old fashioned people power. If enough of us stand up and say “we don’t want this” then it we can stop it from happening. This is wrong and we know it. Every journalist, every blogger, every writer, we are all Julian Assange. We should never be afraid to illuminate the shadows and tell what we know. Our readers need the truth, and the truth… shall keep them free.