VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Addresses UN, Confronts US ‘Regime Of Secrecy’
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed the United Nations General Assembly via video chat from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Here he remains confined, having been granted political asylum by Ecuador, but threatened by the UK with arrest and extradition to Sweden (where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations).
A U.S. grand jury has been building a case against Assange and WikiLeaks on espionage charges, for publishing whistleblower-obtained classified documents that have embarrassed the US government by exposing a vast assortment of illegalities.
Most Assange defenders suspect that the Swedish extradition request (Note: Assange has not been charged with anything. It is only for questioning.) is simply a ruse to get him into the Swedish legal system, where he would then be immediately extradited to the U.S. to face persecution.
He used his speech to the UN to remind the Assembly about the virtues of liberty, democracy, transparency, and the rule-of-law and contrasted these universal rights with the dark reality he helped to expose as practiced by the world’s most powerful and ‘virtuous’ nations.
He gave a profile of the alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning, commending him for taking huge personal risks in his quest for truth and justice, and then condemned the U.S.’s persecution of him, using the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture to highlight that point.
Then Assange took President Barack Obama to task, by taking the very words he used in his speech to the U.N. and contrasting them with his actual policies, showing a stark contrast between the two.
The transcript follows the video.
Foreign Minister Patino, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen.
I speak to you today as a free man, because despite having been detained for 659 days without charge, I am free in the most basic and important sense. I am free to speak my mind.
This freedom exists because the nation of Ecuador has granted me political asylum and other nations have rallied to support its decision.
And it is because of Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights that WikiLeaks is able to “receive and impart information… through any media, and any medium and regardless of frontiers”. And it is because of Article 14.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the right to seek asylum from persecution, and the 1951 Refugee Convention and other conventions produced by the United Nations that I am able to be protected along with others from political persecution.
It is thanks to the United Nations that I am able to exercise my inalienable right to seek protection from the arbitrary and excessive actions taken by governments against me and the staff and supporters of my organisation. It is because of the absolute prohibition on torture enshrined in customary international law and the UN Convention Against Torture that we stand firmly to denounce torture and war crimes, as an organisation, regardless of who the perpetrators are.
I would like to thank the courtesy afforded to me by the Government of Ecuador in providing me with the space here today speak once again at the UN, in circumstances very different to my intervention in the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva.
Almost two years ago today, I spoke there about our work uncovering the torture and killing of over 100,000 Iraqi citizens.
But today I want to tell you an American story.
I want to tell you the story of a young American soldier in Iraq.
The soldier was born in Cresent Oaklahoma to a Welsh mother and US Navy father. His parents fell in love. His father was stationed at a US military base in Wales.
The soldier showed early promise as a boy, winning top prize at science fairs 3 years in a row.
He believed in the truth, and like all of us, hated hypocrisy.
He believed in liberty and the right for all of us to pursue happiness. He believed in the values that founded an independent United States. He believed in Madison, he believed in Jefferson and he believed in Paine. Like many teenagers, he was unsure what to do with his life, but he knew he wanted to defend his country and he knew he wanted to learn about the world. He entered the US military and, like his father, trained as an intelligence analyst.
In late 2009, aged 21, he was deployed to Iraq.
There, it is alleged, he saw a US military that often did not follow the rule of law, and in fact, engaged in murder and supported political corruption.
It is alleged, it was there, in Baghdad, in 2010 that he gave to WikiLeaks, and to the world, details that exposed the torture of Iraqis, the murder of journalists and the detailed records of over 120,000 civilian killings in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He is also alleged to have given WikiLeaks 251,000 US diplomatic cables, which then went on to help trigger the Arab Spring. This young soldier’s name is Bradley Manning.
Allegedly betrayed by an informer, he was then imprisoned in Baghdad, imprisoned in Kuwait, and imprisoned in Virginia, where he was kept for 9 months in isolation and subject to severe abuse. The UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Juan Mendez, investigated and formally found against the United States.
Hillary Clinton’s spokesman resigned. Bradley Manning, science fair all-star, soldier and patriot was degraded, abused and psychologically tortured by his own government. He was charged with a death penalty offence. These things happened to him, as the US government tried to break him, to force him to testify against WikiLeaks and me.
As of today Bradley Manning has been detained without trial for 856 days.
The legal maximum in the US military is 120 days.
The US administration is trying to erect a national regime of secrecy. A national regime of obfuscation.
A regime where any government employee revealing sensitive information to a media organization can be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or for espionage and journalists from a media organization with them.
We should not underestimate the scale of the investigation which has happened into WikiLeaks. I only wish I could say that Bradley Manning was the only victim of the situation. But the assault on WikiLeaks in relation to that matter and others has produced an investigation that Australian diplomats say is without precedent in its scale and nature. That the US government called a “whole of government investigation.” Those government agencies identified so far as a matter of public record having been involved in this investigation include: the Department of Defense, Centcom, the Defence Intelligence Agency, the US Army Criminal Investigation Division, the United States Forces in Iraq, the First Army Division, The US Army Computer Crimes Investigative Unit, the CCIU, the Second Army Cyber-Command. And within those three separate intelligence investigations, the Department of Justice, most significantly, and its US Grand Jury in Alexandria Virginia, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which now has, according to court testimony early this year produced a file of 42,135 pages into WikiLeaks, of which less than 8000 concern Bradley Manning. The Department of State, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Services. In addition we have been investigated by the Office of the Director General of National Intelligence, the ODNI, the Director of National Counterintelligence Executive, the Central Intelligence Agency, the House Oversight Committee, the National Security Staff Interagency Committee, and the PIAB – the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.
The Department of Justice spokesperson Dean Boyd confirmed in July 2012 that the Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks is ongoing.
For all Barack Obama’s fine words yesterday, and there were many of them, fine words, it is his administration that boasts on his campaign website of criminalizing more speech that all previous US presidents combined.
I am reminded of the phrase: “the audacity of hope.”
Who can say that the President of the United States is not audacious?
Was it not audacity for the United States government to take credit for the last two years’ avalanche of progress?
Was it not audacious to say, on Tuesday, that the “United States supported the forces of change” in the Arab Spring?
Tunisian history did not begin in December 2010.
And Mohammed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could be reelected.
His death was an emblem of the despair he had to endure under the Ben Ali regime.
The world knew, after reading WikiLeaks publications, that the Ben Ali regime and its government had for long years enjoyed the indifference, if not the support, of the United States – in full knowledge of its excesses and its crimes.
So it must come as a surprise to Tunisians that the United States supported the forces of change in their country.
It must come as a surprise to the Egyptian teenagers who washed American teargas out of their eyes that the US administration supported change in Egypt.
It must come as a surprise to those who heard Hillary Clinton insist that Mubarak’s regime was “stable,” and when it was clear to everyone that it was not, that its hated intelligence chief, Sueilman, who we proved the US knew was a torturer, should take the realm.
It must come as a surprise to all those Egyptians who heard Vice President Joseph Biden declare that Hosni Mubarak was a democrat and that Julian Assange was a high tech terrorist.
It is disrespectful to the dead and incarcerated of the Bahrain uprising to claim that the United States “supported the forces of change.”
This is indeed audacity.
Who can say that it is not audacious that the President – concerned to appear leaderly – looks back on this sea change – the people’s change – and calls it his own?
But we can take heart here too, because it means that the White House has seen that this progress is inevitable.
In this “season of progress” the president has seen which way the wind is blowing.
And he must now pretend that it is his adminstration that made it blow.
Very well. This is better than the alternative – to drift into irrelevance as the world moves on.
We must be clear here.
The United States is not the enemy.
Its government is not uniform. In some cases good people in the United States supported the forces of change. And perhaps Barack Obama personally was one of them.
But in others, and en masse, early on, it actively opposed them.
This is a matter of historical record.
And it is not fair and it is not appropriate for the President to distort that record for political gain, or for the sake of uttering fine words.
Credit should be given where it is due, but it should be withheld where it is not.
And as for the fine words.
They are fine words.
And we commend and agree with these fine words.
We agree when President Obama said yesterday that people can resolve their differences peacefully.
We agree that diplomacy can take the place of war.
And we agree that this is an interdependent world, that all of us have a stake in.
We agree that freedom and self-determination are not merely American or Western values, but universal values.
And we agree with the President when he says that we must speak honestly if we are serious about these ideals.
But fine words languish without commensurate actions.
President Obama spoke out strongly in favour of the freedom of expression.
“Those in power,” he said, “have to resist the temptation to crack down on dissent.”
There are times for words and there are times for action. The time for words has run out.
It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks, to cease its persecution of our people, and to cease its persecution of our alleged sources.
It is time for President Obama do the right thing, and join the forces of change, not in fine words but in fine deeds.
After The Iraq Debacle, It Would Be Negligent For Americans Not To Watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. Speech
One reason why the most powerful interests succeed in pulling the wool over the eyes of the American people is because the masses rarely if ever take the time to read or view the raw information available to them. Instead they rely on others’ interpretations.
Everyone is guilty of this to different degrees. People’s lives are hectic, there are only so many hours in a given day. So the masses look for quick summaries, 30-minute news programs covering dozens of different news briefs that can be measured in seconds. Fast food news consumption for those on the go.
But in doing so, they become dependent upon these same powerful interests, not only to inform them about what they need to know, but how to think about these issues.
When the interests of both the public and the powerful coincide, then the public can often glean an accurate, though often ‘Cliffs Notes’-level of comprehension on any given issue. But when the public interest conflicts with the interests of the powerful on an issue, then the establishment is well positioned to massage the message and misinform, or to drop its coverage entirely, thereby ensuring the public remains uninformed.
This helps to ensure the masses vote and cheerlead against their own best interests, and in ways that further enrich the powerful. The public ends up supporting wars they later learn were unnecessary, unlawful, costly, and resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, often including members of their own families.
A majority of Americans knew close to nothing about Saddam Hussein after Sept. 11, 2001, at a time when the Bush Administration began its propaganda campaign to mislead the country into a war with Iraq. This made the Neocons’ job very easy. By repeating talking points laced with demagoguery and fear mongering, the Bush Administration convinced a major majority of Americans that this dictator was so evil, so dangerous, so irrational, that his accelerating ‘nuclear weapons program’ made him an ‘imminent threat’ to American security.
One of the most oft-repeated phrases the Neocons used to help demonize Saddam as a monster was “he gassed his own people.”
George W. Bush on Oct. 11, 2001 (one month after 9-11):
“There’s no question that the leader of Iraq is an evil man. After all, he gassed his own people. We know he’s been developing weapons of mass destruction. … And so we’re watching him very carefully. We’re watching him carefully.”
The gassing allegation was true. Saddam DID gas the Kurds on 40-some different occasions. His largest gassing was against the Kurdish town of Halabja in March of 1988, resulting in the deaths of 5,000 people. But what George W. Bush didn’t want you to know, and could rely on the establishment media not to tell you, was that this gassing took place back when Saddam was an ally and aid recipient of the United States, during the Administration of his father, George H.W. Bush.
Samantha Power, in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide,” revealed that not only was the Bush Administration well aware of the gassing of the Kurds, they refused to even condemn it. Despite knowing definitively that Saddam was responsible, as declassified documents now reveal, the State Department went as far as to suggest that perhaps Iran was involved on some level in the gassing.
Does this fact make Saddam any less evil? Of course not. But had the public at large realized that Bush and his fellow Neocons were capitalizing on incidents that occurred nearly 15 years earlier — incidents that happened when Saddam was cozy with Bush’s own father and some of these same Neocons, and with their full knowledge — it might have led the public to question why these Neocons suddenly ‘saw the light’ on Saddam’s monstrosity. And that might have taken some of the air out of the ‘imminent threat’ bubble.
And now Americans are being sold that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new Adolph Hitler. This week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly (99 votes to 1) passed a new non-binding resolution, proclaiming war to be a viable option should the Iranians gain the capability for a nuke — even if they have no intentions of creating one. The knowledge, in itself, has now been pronounced grounds for war.
Now, you might not like Ahmadinejad, you might even find his views on any number of subjects repugnant, or his abuse of political dissidents criminal, but he is NO Adolph Hitler, NOR Saddam Hussein.
The Washington establishment is terrified that you too might draw this same conclusion. Because if Israel were to launch an attack on Iran, the U.S. would undoubtedly be dragged into war. And none of our politicians have the guts to ward Israel off by threatening repercussions (e.g. aid cuts, no more U.S.-vetoes to shield Israel from accountability at the U.N. Security Council, etc.). And no one in the mainstream media has the courage to address this unprecedented ‘tail wags dog’ dynamic.
So instead, they ALL demagogue the Iranian President, embellish his words, make comparisons to Hitler, as if to make his ‘irrationality’ and ‘evilness’ a type of conventional wisdom that must remain unchallenged, especially during prime time.
When President Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the U.N. yesterday, the U.S. delegation boycotted it, thereby sending a loud and clear message to the nation that this leader is so despicable, so evil, so threatening, that they wouldn’t dare attend.
Despite President Obama’s apparent reluctance for war, the American war drums continue to bang loudly. Each week, the threat of an Israeli attack gets heightened and PM Netanyahu continues to meddle in the U.S. Presidential Elections, blatantly trying to entrap the U.S. President into committing to war.
All Americans owe it to themselves to watch Ahmadinejad’s U.N. speech. Watch it and decide for yourselves whether the Iranian President is the depraved lunatic you’ve been told; whether his words make him such an ‘imminent threat’ to the United States, that hundreds of thousands more innocent lives are worth losing, trillions more dollars are worth spending (err borrowing); that it is worth having our gas prices tripled, and our economy ransacked.
Spare yourselves the establishment’s caricature of Ahmadinejad and just watch him for yourself:
The Year Of The Co-op: New Survey Reveals Americans View Co-ops More Favorably Than For-Profit Businesses
On October 31, 2011, the United Nations proclaimed 2012 to be “The International Year of Cooperatives (IYC).” The world body uses this annual designation to help bring attention to what it believes are some of the world’s most critical issues. On its IYC website, it praises the cooperative model for its contributions towards ending world poverty, and encourages more groups to embrace this “alternative means of doing business.”
Co-ops benefit communities around the globe by offering employees a living wage with favorable working conditions, and by promoting social integration and sound environmental policies.
Co-ops have recently enjoyed something of a resurgence in the U.S. as its economy has continued to sputter. Worker pay has remained on the decline for decades, and a corporate hijacking of U.S. democracy has left the public distrustful of the 1% who appear to be living large off the pain, suffering and disempowerment of the 99%.
‘Social injustice’ has become the buzzword to define America’s new economic reality.
In just the last few years, Americans have watched in horror as laissez faire Capitalism wreaked havoc, with impunity, on their communities. From Wall Street corruption bringing the entire financial system to its knees, and those responsible profiting from the calamity they engineered, to BP & Halliburton’s gross negligence resulting in 200 million gallons of oil pouring into the Gulf, and creating a catastrophe so severe that two full years later the sea life there can only be described as “horribly mutated creatures.”
The public’s faith in for-profit ‘free’ markets has understandably waned. Even Republican ‘word doctor’ Frank Luntz recently cautioned that ‘Capitalism’ is now a dirty word, and he advised Republicans to stop using it.
As a result, non-profit cooperative businesses have experienced a groundswell of new interest from people eager to work for, and/or spend their money at more community-conscious companies.
Last Fall, the Occupy Wall Street movement spearheaded “Bank Transfer Day,” where hundreds of thousands of Americans closed out their accounts at ‘for-profit’ banks and moved their money to ‘non-profit’ cooperative credit unions.
And now, the results of a new national survey reveal just how favorably Americans view non-profit cooperatives when compared to for-profit businesses. Not only do they prefer the community-driven values these co-ops represent, they prefer their products and services to those of for-profit companies:
According to the survey, nearly one-third of all Americans belong to consumer cooperatives. Seventy-two percent of Americans believe cooperatives are “helpful to consumers,” while only eleven percent believe they are “unhelpful.”
Last week, following the release of the survey results, the White House invited 150 cooperative leaders to its weekly “community leaders briefing.” The co-op leaders were from all different sectors of the economy, and they educated administration officials about the large role co-ops have played in helping to put Americans back to work.
Whereas corporations — being required to maximize shareholder value by maximizing profits — have been outsourcing American jobs to developing countries for cheap labor and nonexistent environmental and labor laws, non-profit co-ops have been employing Americans, because their core responsibility is to their customers, their employees, and their communities.
Attendee Liz Bailey, who is interim president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association, had this to say about the White House briefing:
Every day cooperatives around the U.S. are stimulating the economy and we are pleased to have the opportunity to discuss our successes in job creation and ways to use the cooperative model to continue to strengthen communities large and small.
Two million jobs are generated each year as a direct result of cooperatives, which illustrates the incredible impact that these organizations have on local economies.
Recently, M.I.T. professor and author Noam Chomsky urged the Occupy Movement to mobilize for community-centric cooperatives. He told Laura Flanders that one way to target private power in the U.S. would be to help promote companies with stakeholder-based cooperative models, rather than those with shareholder-based corporate models.
With over 29,000 cooperatives in the U.S., ranging from local businesses (grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters, daycare centers, health care, etc.) to Fortune 500 companies, there are many to choose from. Several of the bigger co-ops in the U.S. include: Associated Press (AP), Land O’ Lakes, Sunkist, Ace Hardware, Ocean Spray, REI (Recreational Equipment Inc), Southern States, True Value Hardware …
By becoming more ‘conscientious consumers’ and choosing cooperatives, Americans will help to promote the core values that co-ops espouse. And if corporations begin to see their customers fleeing to cooperatives, they will be forced to reconsider their own business practices to lure them back.
It might take another ‘Bank Transfer Day’–style mobilization effort to really entice a large enough number to participate, and to generate the press required to start a new national discussion; that discussion being “what business model (corporate v cooperative) ACTUALLY benefits Americans? Which model’s core principles ensure that jobs are never outsourced, and customers are never taken advantage of, and the environment is never polluted? Which model’s core principles amounts to little more than turning as big and as quick a profit as possible for its owners?”
With the nation’s democracy now effectively hijacked by the corporatocracy, it begins to dawn on you that a vote with your dollars is now the only vote that counts. But surprisingly enough, that can still feel rather empowering.