Stop the War organised another spirited and moving rally on last Monday at Conway Hall to support Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, who faced his first day in court where he is being tried for extradition to Sweden. Over 300 people attended.
Jemima Khan spoke first. Her contribution was interesting in that she represented one who was “not anti-all wars” and one who did not consider herself “on the left or the right”, but simply one “who hates lies.” She hypothesised: “If Wikileaks had existed then, ten years ago, perhaps there would be no Chilcot Inquiry. Perhaps if we had been told the truth then, we would not have gone to war.”
She talks about the cables relating to Pakistan, where she lived with her then husband for ten years. They reveal: “The US were fully aware that by continuing… their covert military operation in Pakistan’s tribal area, they risked destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear country” and how “Prime Minister Gilani shamelessly reassured the American Ambassador Patterson, ‘Oh don’t worry - we’ll complain about the drones in the national assembly, but then we’ll ignore it.’”
Tony Benn, as always, was an inspiration for everyone. He highlighted how remarkable it is that Interpol has spurred into action to apprehend an individual who not only has not been charged, but even if he had been, it would be for a crime that would not even constitute rape in this country. He mused:
“Dictatorships are as old as time. And the one characteristic of a dictatorship is that they keep everything secret to themselves, and they want to know all about us: they want to bug our phones, hack our internet, check everything we do, and it is only when everybody knows everything, that you can have a true democracy.”
Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition commented: “The first leaks were about civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“We were told for years that they didn't know the death counts. Now we know they did count them up but they were too great to tell anyone about them.”
Tariq Ali said: “the entire Wikileaks episode is part of the struggle to create an alternative network of information” alongside news networks as Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now and Al Jazeera. Wikileaks is “doing the job that mainstream journalists refuse to do.” The governments’ attempts to intimidate and harangue people like Assange and Manning as a deterrent against future whistleblowers will fail, says Ali, “because the technology that is now available means that large numbers of people all over the world can do it.”