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April 5th will be the 10th year anniversary of the release of the Collateral Murder video by WikiLeaks. This footage was hidden from the American people by the US government for well over three years. It is a graphic 39-minute video showing a team of two US Apache helicopters on July 10th 2007 firing on a group of what turned out to be unarmed Iraqi civilians. The crew can be heard at points laughing at their victims. When first responders arrived on the scene to care for the wounded they too were fired upon. Thereafter, when ground forces arrived in tanks, one of the tanks drove over one of the victims severing them in half.

Slandering Assange

These are clearly war crimes perpetrated by US forces on unarmed civilians, including two Reuters reporters who were killed in the unprovoked attack and two children who were badly injured.

This footage would have never seen the light of day if not for the courage of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

So, what did these two whistleblowers get for their heroic act of exposing this war crime? Well, although Chelsea Manning had her original 35-year sentence, a direct result of her whistleblower activities, commuted by Barak Obama, she was consequentially called before a grand jury. Once called, she refused to answer any of their questions for very good reasons. She was then held in contempt and returned to prison, again in solitary confinement, in the federal detention center in Alexandria, Virginia.

She was finally released once the grand jury concluded. However, while in detention she was also being fined $1,000 a day for refusing to testify, $256,000 by the time of her release 256 days later. The reason she chose not to answer their questions is that they wished to compel her to perjure herself by recanting the previous testimony from her original trial so that the extradition of Julian Assange could be fast tracked. The courage shown by her refusal to do so is simply beyond description.

When I was reaching out to my friends in the progressive community to discuss Julian Assange, I was met, more often than not, with a wall of pure vitriol.

As for Assange, he currently is in solitary confinement in London's Belmarsh prison, fighting extradition to the United States. There, he faces 17 charges brought against him under the 1917 Espionage Act. This, after 7-years in solitary confinement, like conditions in the Ecuadorian Embassy where he was granted asylum to prevent his extradition, not to Sweden for rape charges but from a grossly unfair trail awaiting him in the US. Nels Meltzer, the UN rapporteur on torture publicly called his conditions as torture. If Assange is ever brought to the US, he will spend the rest of his life in jail under the harshest conditions.

When I was reaching out to my friends in the progressive community to discuss this issue, I was met, more often than not, with a wall of pure vitriol or utter confusion as to why I would worry about the fate of Julian Assange, that horrible narcissistic sociopath? Some of the women I work with on a number of progressive issues were appalled that I would even consider discussing Assange, let alone defend this “rapist.”

In point of fact, Julian Assange has been vilified around the world and especially here in the US as a misogynist, a sociopath, a racist, both an anti-Semite and a Nazi (which is one hell of a trick when you think about it). He been accused of costing Hillary Clinton the election and of being in league with Trump or Russia. He’s also been presented as an active part of the larger right-wing wave of white nationalists, white supremacists and anarchists. He has been accused of being ungrateful to his protectors at Ecuadorian embassy, of abusing his own cat, being dirty and, hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if was even accused of kidnapping the Lindberg Baby.

Caitlin Johnson, who appears in Margret Kunstler and Tariq Ali’s excellent book In Defense of Julian Assange, says in her introduction:

“Have you ever noticed how whenever someone inconveniences the dominant Western power structure, the entire political/media class rapidly becomes very interested in letting us know how evil and disgusting that person is? It’s true of the leader of every nation which refuses to allow itself to be absorbed into the blob of the US-centralized power alliance. It’s true of anti-establishment political candidates, it’s true of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.”

Out of the plethora of charges against Assange I would like to directly address what I believe is the most damaging accusation of all. That Julian Assange is a rapist who then, in a most cowardly fashion, ran from the charges and has been hiding out ever since to prevent a just and fair hearing of those troubling accusations.

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With the evidence presented by the mainstream press, I must admit that I believed he was guilty. That created serious conundrum for me. Although I am a man, I also have a mother, wife, sisters, female relatives and friends who I know face misogyny, abuse and completely reprehensible behavior by men of all stripes on an ongoing basis with impunity. My feelings on this issue are that all accusations of abuse must be thoroughly investigated and the guilty must be brought to justice.

However, I also knew that WikiLeaks was doing amazing work and that they were on the very front lines of informing all of us what our governments wish to hide from us. My natural tendency was to support their efforts and that meant supporting Julian Assange as well.

With that in mind here is the story that I heard, read and watched over and over again in the mainstream press. Julian had forced himself on and raped, not one, but two women and then fled Sweden where he had been charged and refused to return or answer in any way to these very serious accusations.

However, as I looked into the facts, I was quite surprised to find out just how grossly I had been misinformed. First and foremost, even at this late date, a full decade past these accusations they remain allegations only with no actual charges being filed, Julian has repeatedly denied his guilt. But that is not enough to absolve him—unless there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Here are the facts. That Julian had consensual sex with two women* in August of 2010 has been agreed to by all parties involved, including the two women in question. In the end, all that one of these women wanted was to compel Julian to take an HIV test. When she was told that Julian was to be charged with rape, according to the authorities and her own sworn testimony, she was appalled. Rape was something that she categorically denied ever happened and fought against. In point of fact, her original testimony was that a rape had never even taken place at all. However, her testimony was later changed by the Stockholm police without her involvement, consent or a signature in order to somehow make it sound like a rape had occurred.

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It is important to note that these accusations arose just about four weeks after of the release of the “Collateral Murder Tapes”—the video WikiLeaks shared with the world exposing a wanton war crime plain and simple. A war crime that the US government was doing its utmost to cover up.

Stop for just a moment to consider this one point of reference. The very same government that offered us the lie of “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” which has led to our current quagmires in the Middle East, is the very same government pressuring the Swedish authorities to move forward with rape allegations, which neither of the individuals involved alleged to have happened. The great I.F. Stone famously stated that “all governments lie” and this is a perfect example of that.

Here are more facts. On August 10th, an arrest warrant was issued. However, senior prosecutor Eva Finne ultimately quashed the charges and dropped the matter fifteen days later on August 25th 2019, stating that the evidence “showed no crime at all”

 That's 9 a.m. Pacific Time

That's 9 a.m. Pacific Time

As to the accusation of Julian’s flight to escape justice, it turns out that he had actually reported to the Swedish authorities not once but on several occasions. He desperately wanted to respond to these accusations. However, the authorities stonewalled him each time he presented himself to be interviewed. Then, once an interview was finally arranged, Julian told his interviewers that he feared, in contradiction to Swedish law, that his name would be aired publicly. In fact, that is exactly what happened. The very next day his full statement and name were leaked by Swedish police to Expressen, one of the two Swedish primary papers of note.

It is also important to recognize that Julian Assange never ran from these charges as has alleged. In fact, when he planned to head to the UK, he contacted the Swedish authorities prior to his departure to seek and was ultimately granted permission to go. Additionally, to counter the allegations that he fled to avoid answering to the pending charges, he continued to make himself available to the investigators during his 7-year confinement within the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Then, after receiving permission to leave Sweden, Interpol—at the behest of the US State Department and British government—issued a Red Alert for his immediate arrest. This is a warrant primarily for terrorists or major cartel drug traffickers, not someone simply facing very questionable charges in which they are fully cooperating and leaving with that states permission.

At the behest of the US government, the Swedish state spent almost a decade intentionally presenting Julian Assange to the public as a sex offender. Then they suddenly again, for the second time, abandoned the case against him on the strength of the same argument that the first Stockholm prosecutor used in 2010, when she initially suspended the investigation after just fifteen days—that there was no proof that a crime had been committed. It is an unbelievable scandal. But the timing was no accident.

Just imagine being accused of rape for nine-and-a-half years by three entire state apparatuses and by the media without ever being given the chance to defend yourself even when no charges had ever been filed. However, to the world he has been presented with a mendacity that beggars the imagination as a cowardly rapist along with all of the other baggage he has been saddled with.

A clear understanding of the facts shows that Julian Assange was not running from justice, but was escaping from the injustice inflicted upon him by the most powerful nations in the world—the nations he had just embarrassed by his revelation of war crimes they wished never to see the light of day. Their intent to punish Assange mercilessly was a very clear message to all future whistleblowers: this is the fate that awaits you if you stand against the imperialist juggernaut, the United States of America and its cohorts.

Allegations of rape or abuse of any kind need to be thoroughly investigated and those found guilty must face justice. However, in this instance Julian Assange was not investigated, but rather targeted. When the facts of the case were not to the liking of the US State Department, they were simply fabricated. And the Swedish authorities and Interpol were pressured to pursue a case without willing victims, without evidence, and wholly without merit.

What WikiLeaks did is a threat to the political elite in the U.S., Britain, France and Russia because they publish secret state information and they are categorically opposed to classification. In a world where secrecy has become rampant, WikiLeaks represents an existential threat. What Assange’s life work shows is that countries are no longer interested in legitimate confidentiality, but in the suppression of important information about their own corruption and crimes—and especially their war crimes.

To quote Jesselyn Radack,

“How we treat Julian Assange is a harbinger of how we will treat journalists, sources, activists and dissidents in the future. If Assange and WikiLeaks are criminally prosecuted, the New York Times and its reporters are equally vulnerable. It is tragic that in trying to preserve civil liberties, government accountability and individual privacy rights for everyone, Assange has lost so many of his own. Only by allowing him to exercise the asylum he has been granted due to persecution for his political beliefs and expression will we truly preserve the values that are the hallmark of a free and open democratic society.”

The late Michael Ratner says in the on the very first page of In Defense of Julian Assange, “Never doubt the mendacity and cruelty of the state. It will make pariah’s out of those who will someday be recognized as heroes.”

Vincent De Stefano Head Shot

That, unfortunately, is Julian Assange’s fate at this point in time.

Vincent De Stefano

*Sweden has strict laws pertaining to the release of any names being released in cases of rape. That includes the person being charged. However, in Julian’s case after he provided an interview to Swedish police his name and the charges were released to the press in Sweden the very next day. The women still remain anonymous.