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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/12/19

The Julian Assange Case: Revealing War Crimes Is Not a Crime

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Message Bill Simpich

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The US government's case against Julian Assange is now before the American public. It was revamped in 2017 to avoid a skirmish with the corporate media over the breadth of the "reporter's privilege" to receive classified materials from a source. Assange is facing a charge of conspiracy with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to "break a password" to gain access to classified information.

What we are facing is an all-out assault against one of the most significant acts of civil resistance in the history of the United States. Specifically, the civil resistance of Chelsea Manning, her whistleblowing that helped end the US combat role in Iraq in 2011, and the courage of Julian Assange in ensuring that Manning's resistance was effective.

The daily leaks to the media from the "reliable sources" inside the Trump administration are portrayed as a rational tool used to prevent the president and other high officials from abusing their power. These Washington journalists are rewarded with the sign of the dollar.

The all-too-infrequent leaks to the media about US government war crimes are portrayed as criminal conduct. Assange and his journalist colleagues are rewarded with attacks on their integrity and threats to their freedom.

This hypocrisy must end. American citizens and civil society must lead the effort to provide a whistleblower defense in military cases and, for that matter, in every case that involves the release of classified material or that abused term "national security."

To end this hypocrisy, it will ultimately take a statute that will somehow make it through Congress. Only then will Edward Snowden be willing to come home and have a fair trial.

A practical first step is a call to the European Court of Human Rights to bar the extradition of Assange. Without a whistleblower defense protected by law, the courts of the United States are unable to provide Assange with a fair trial.

Until this hypocrisy ends, we are all complicit.

Nine years ago, Julian Assange collaborated with Chelsea Manning with a sweeping set of revelations depicting US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and the factual background underlying these events.

After many years, a horrified American public saw in April 2010 a graphic video of hardened soldiers gloating about "dead bastards" while innocent Iraqi civilians died in an Apache helicopter assault.

A 22-minute documentary based on this footage was nominated for a 2012 Academy Award. Ethan McCord, an Army specialist, picked up a wounded child and ran to a US military vehicle. His superiors refused to take the child to a US military hospital, and McCord was reprimanded for his response. When McCord sought psychological assistance, he was told by his staff sergeant to "get the sand out of your vagina."

McCord and fellow Army specialist Josh Stieber wrote a public apology to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, emphasizing that the Wikileaks footage depicted not an aberration, but "everyday occurrences" in Iraq. McCord's address to a 2010 antiwar conference can be seen here in a YouTube clip.

Ethan McCord and Josh Stieber offer an example of the nation that we could be.

What Wikileaks entitled the "Collateral Murder" video helped bring the US phase of the Iraq war to an end in 2011.

Chelsea Manning admitted releasing this video and a trove of related classified material. She said at her trial that she did it to spark public debate on US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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