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Julian Assange - a modern day hero

By Kellie Tranter - posted Tuesday, 3 August 2010

The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it differed one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made. Henry David Thoreau.

It ill behoves Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, to suggest that Julian Assange, Wikileaks, has the blood of some young soldier or of an Afghan family on his hands. He conveniently overlooks why we’re all in the bloodbath that is the war.

Rather than using emotive Shakespearean language the United States Government should look at who really wields the knife in the context of the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the Geneva Protocol, not to mention numerous subsequent treaties, case law, principles of distinction and proportionality and customary international law. Shall I go on?


As Australia’s internal Defence taskforce investigates whether the leak of US defence documents will have any impact on Australian operations in Afghanistan, its brief might be extended to examine at the same time the legality (PDF 86KB) of the war itself and question whether or not the UN has been sidelined by our allies. Don’t forget Secretary-General Kofi Annan's September 24, 2001 address to the United Nations General Assembly:

"... the attack of 11 September was an attack on the rule of law - that is, on the very principle that enables nations and individuals to live together in peace, by following agreed rules and settling their disputes through agreed procedures. So let us respond by reaffirming the rule of law, on international as well as the national levels. No effort should be spared in bringing the perpetrators to justice, in a clear and transparent process that all can understand and accept. Let us uphold our own principles and standards, so that we can make the difference unmistakable, for all the world to see, between those who resort to terrorism and those who fight against it ... Let us reject the path of violence, which is the product of nihilism and despair. Let us prove by our actions that there is no need to despair; that the political and economic problems of our time can be solved peacefully; and that no human life should be sacrificed, because every human being has cause to hope ..."

Some of us also remember the British Government's 2001 dossier “Responsibility for the Terrorist attacks in the United States” and the doubts expressed about the dossier at the time by Senior British lawyers Anthony Scrivener QC, Richard Gordon QC and Nick Blake QC.

It is also interesting to note that the 9/11 Commission Report (PDF 7.22MB) (released in 2004) says:

... Although Bin Laden's top priority apparently was to attack the United States, others had a different view. The Taliban leaders put their main emphasis on the year's military offensive against the Northern Alliance ... From the Taliban's perspective, an attack against the United States might be counterproductive. It might draw the Americans into the war against them, just when final victory seemed within their grasp. There is evidence that Mullah Omar initially opposed a major al Qaeda operation directly against the United States in 2001 ... According to KSM, in late August, when the operation was fully planned, Bin Ladin formally notified the al Qaeda Shura Council that a major attack against the United States would take place in the coming weeks. When some council members objected, Bin Ladin countered that Mullah Omar lacked authority to prevent al Qaeda from conducting jihad outside Afghanistan. Though most of the Shura Council reportedly disagreed, Bin Ladin persisted.  The attacks went forward …

This seems to support reports earlier this year that:


Evidence now available from various sources, including recently declassified U.S. State Department documents, shows that the Taliban regime led by Mullah Mohammad Omar imposed strict isolation on Osama bin Laden after 1998 to prevent him from carrying out any plots against the United States ...

The same report says Geoff Morrell, the spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert Gates, “… suggested that the United States could not negotiate with Mullah Omar, because he has “the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands,” implying that he had knowingly allowed bin Laden’s planning of the 9/11 attacks ...”

“Blood on his hands”, eh? Is the same script writer at work demonising Mr Assange?

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About the Author

Kellie Tranter is a lawyer and human rights activist. You can follow her on Twitter @KellieTranter

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