In an English prison, at the time of writing, there is a sick person Julian Assange and waiting to be extradited to the draconian laws of the United States, intended for war spies of 1917. Forget about the press and politicians that he was actually arrested for being sent to Sweden to face rape charges that are otherwise waived. His crime is to have done what every journalist and publicist should do, but as too few do: He has brought further evidence of the abuse of power, yes, war crimes, to an extent that is difficult to comprehend. In other words, he is dangerous. It does not forget the mighty, in this case the mighty US with the Obama, Clinton, Trump, CIA, New York Times or Washington Post in the lead. The worst is the embarrassed press, for Assange has done nothing but what they themselves should do. They never forget it.
The price for revealing the plans and abuses of power men is paid by Assange and other brave warriors – who cannot remain silent.
What we others have to remember are the furious words the leader of the Swedish Law Society, Anne Ramberg, writes on his blog April 14: "[The Assange case] is characterized by everything from irresponsible conspiracy theories, totally unsupported in reality, to reprehensible legal treatment by both the UK and the Swedish side" [quotes translated by article author, ed.]. Because this is about far more than we might think of Assange, she says, summarizing: "It's about freedom of speech and respect for the law. Ultimately, it is about the right and moral duty to expose war crimes. Assange and WikiLeaks did this. ”But is WikiLeaks relaying stolen documents? Ramberg smiles, and to really emphasize the gravity of the case, she concludes: "Should we have handed over to Hitler of Germany someone who [illegally] had disclosed the concentration camps and genocide?" She answers herself, laconically: "I don't think so."
Leaders without confidence
Today the suspicions are about secret deals to extradite the prisoner to United States no longer a loose «conspiracy theory». Swedish and British authorities not even ashamed to show his servility for Empire in the West. The universally hated Trump has suddenly become the living room and a front-line judge and humanitarian prison guard for Assange. In the UK, commentators such as Suzanne Moore, James Ball and Jess Phillips appear in the Guardian, New Statesman and Sunday Times with derogatory descriptions that are not suitable in Norwegian.
While here on the mountain, Aftenposten thinks it is "too early" to say anything about the Assange case. Journalists in Bergens Tidende and Dagbladet harassed previously that the prisoner in the embassy was allowed to speak to the University of Bergen during the Holberg Days. The man is free. Good stories do not need facts, not even in this country.
What does the Assange case really have to do with us in Norway? Do we need to think anything about the bearded prisoner who was disrespectfully dragged down the embassy stairs in front of the TV cameras? For me, the belief in leaders' relationship to truth and openness has taken a serious toll, and the Assange case has been a catalyst in this. The reason for growing contempt for leadership in my eyes is not so much Donald Trump's pathetic lies or Benjamin Netanyahu's four lawsuits about corruption, to name two peaks in the terrain. I do not think of Norwegian Storting politicians tampering with travel expenses or minors. Nor is the Storting populated by large or petty criminals like society in general. No, I think I no longer trust our politicians and leaders to let the basic search for truth and openness override the prospect of opportunistic or short-term gain.
No will for democracy
Let me start four years back: "I want Daniel Ellsberg in the studio", insisted Ole Torp i NRK on the phone one early summer day in 2015. Along with Norwegian PEN were we hosted, among other things, the American alerts icons Daniel Ellsberg, Jesselyn Raddach og Thomas Drake in Oslo, Stockholm, Berlin, Reykjavik and London. "Stand up for the truth," the tour was called.
We got articles in the Guardian itself, but more important to me: NRK's Torp's professional interest, Aftenposten's Harald Stanghelles and Dagens Næringsliv's Osman Kibar's spinal cord involvement gave strong texts. They took seriously the price paid by the whistleblowers to ensure us truth and openness, something all Democrats must be able to demand of their leaders. Not least when they shamefully drag us into degrading wars and crimes against humanity.
The message of the lecture tour was to create awareness of the importance of whistleblowers for democracy, and especially that whistleblowers Edward Snowden should be allowed to come to Norway and receive the Bjørnson Prize for his revelations. In London we visited Julian Assange, who met us supportively in his room at the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Outside the Storting one Wednesday, June 2015 we had rigged up a stage. Moddi sang. Whistleblowers told their stories in a row. Harald Stanghelle challenged the present President of the Storting Olemic Thommessen to show that the 1814s the year before, about freedom of speech and democracy, were more than words: You can get Snowden to Norway, encouraged a committed Stanghelle optimistic.
That was when it happened: Reality exploded right before my eyes: with furious glances and assurances of never more cooperation, Storting President Thommessen angrily left the gathering. The call to listen to the most prominent whistleblowers of our time was too costly for the Storting's top ear. And the whistleblowers' message to Thommessen never reached the elected representatives. This was more serious than Thommessen's tampering with tax havens and parliamentary budgets. This is about the will to democracy.
Ignorant Foreign Affairs Committee
On Libya hearings this spring, Assange intervened again in the parliamentary debate. WikiLeaks and Assange had disseminated information that the English Parliament's hearing statement placed great trust in: A secret e-mail to Hillary Clinton revealed the motives behind French Sarkozy's eagerness to crush Gaddafi Which was to strengthen French influence in Africa and consolidate Sarkozy's shaky political life in the forthcoming elections. Not a word about a humanitarian motive or desire to stop a genocide. One does not bomb to democracy from an altitude of 10 meters, the British thought – otherwise the same as Foreign Minister Støre thought two days before he sent Norwegian bombers to do just that.
The price for revelations of those in power's plans and abuses is paid
of Assange and other brave whistleblowers
So we got consultation in the Storting: A clearly uninformed foreign affairs committee did not prefer a mine over information about Assange's Sarkozy revelations from peace researcher Ola Tunander. SV's Audun Lysbakken thought this was strange, as Gaddafi and Sarkozy were such good friends. Conservative representative Michael Tetzschner did not know about Tunanders The Libyan War – a book full of documentation and the only Norwegian publication on precisely the topic the committee was to "hear". Progress Christian Tybring-Gjedde meant smiling that libya for Gaddafi could hardly be called a paradise. Tunander replied with support from WikiLeaks and the UN that the Norwegian humanitarian effort has so far brought Libya down from 57th to 108th place on the UN index for human development. This is due to increasing violence, damaged health, poorer nutrition, weakened infrastructure, increased unemployment – and many, many killed. Also mass emigration to Europe. But an almost united Storting was satisfied with its humanitarian efforts. (Feel free to watch video recordings on Stortinget.no of the hearing in the Storting's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee)
Whistleblowers pay the price
The price for revelations of the plans and abuses of those in power is paid by Assange and other brave whistleblowers – who cannot remain silent. For example, the alerts are Jesselyn Raddach, Katharine Gun and John Kiriaku just three of the many whistleblowers I have come to know in recent years. Look them up! They have sacrificed work, family and future because they could not do otherwise. The three are no longer in prison, but so are Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.
On the steps of the Ecuadorian embassy in London, I recently met Tom from Australia. He had traveled his errand the long way to sit three days guard over Assange. He did so in solidarity with all of us who would love to be there. We then talked about the Catholic priest Daniel Barrigan, who was imprisoned for his opposition to nuclear weapons and war. For Barrigan had pointed out: "I do not do it because I think I want to win. I do it because it's right. "
We who have spent time getting to know what Assange has done and not done, and have seen all the lies and all the ignorance, can we still hope that Barrigan's words are put to shame and believe that truth still has value? And could say with Anne Ramberg that fighting war crimes and abuses is not just a human right – but a moral duty.
Also read: Assange and the free word.