Julian Assange will face his first extradition hearing on Feb. 24

Glen Ford compared the US national security state’s fierce pursuit and prosecution of Julian Assange to that of the Black Panthers, which, Ford notes, “really shows how effective WikiLeaks has been in revealing the crimes of US imperialism all over the world.”

by Ann Garrison

“Most people with strong principles don’t survive for long. We want them to survive and do a lot, but typically they don’t.” – Julian Assange

Julian Assange will face the first phase of his extradition trial on Feb. 24, in Woolwick Royal Court, on Belmarsh Way, very near Belmarsh Prison, where Assange is incarcerated. On Feb. 15, the City University of New York hosted a forum on WikiLeaks and the peril Assange is facing. Speakers included Black Agenda Report Editor Glen Ford, Assange legal adviser Renata Avila and Grey Zone Editor Max Blumenthal. All three also spoke on KPFA and WBAI producer Randy Credico’s podcast, “Julian Assange: Countdown to Freedom.”

Glen Ford compared the US national security state’s fierce pursuit and prosecution of Julian Assange to that of the Black Panthers.

“Maybe the best measure of the contribution of fellow freedom fighters is the ferocity of the state’s pursuit and prosecution of those dissidents – and nobody has been pursued with more ferocity by the US national security state than Julian Assange. It is at the level of ferocity that the state pursued the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and it really shows how effective WikiLeaks has been in revealing the crimes of US imperialism all over the world.”

Ford also noted the irony that WikiLeaks was blamed for electing Donald Trump in 2016, even though the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks demonstrated that the Democratic Party did their best to help Trump win the Republican Party nomination.

“WikiLeaks revealed the effective collaboration between the Democratic party and the Trump campaign. This is one of the greatest ironies of Russiagate. The WikiLeaks revelations showed that it was the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign that favored Donald Trump getting the Republican nomination. The Democrats wanted Donald Trump to become the Republican nominee, not only because they thought that they could beat Trump, but also because if they could run against Trump, then they could run solely against racism and Donald Trump’s personality and they wouldn’t have to talk about bread and butter issues.

Ford also noted the irony that WikiLeaks was blamed for electing Donald Trump in 2016, even though the DNC emails released by WikiLeaks demonstrated that the Democratic Party did their best to help Trump win the Republican Party nomination.

“They wouldn’t have to talk about austerity; they wouldn’t have to talk about jobs – and the fact that real living standards in the United States had been deteriorating for 40 years. So they wanted to run against Trump, and the WikiLeaks revelations showed that they were encouraging not only other Democrats, but also friendly corporate media to boost the Trump campaign. And that’s one of the reasons that Donald Trump got $6 billion in free media. That allowed him not only to trounce his competitors in the Republican primaries, but also to, in the end, beat Hillary Clinton.”

Max Blumenthal said that Assange supporters should question presidential candidates about how they would handle his case.

“One of the things that we can do in the US, where we have a presidential campaign and a democratic primary that’s really an ideological contest, is to actually put pressure on the candidates to make statements about Julian. We heard from Pete Buttigieg that he was troubled by Obama’s clemency for Chelsea Manning, which is much more extreme in this political climate than someone calling for Julian Assange’s extradition, because it was the Democratic president – President Obama – who was actually giving clemency to a whistleblower who was being tortured and was suffering immensely.

“The only candidate who’s spoken out is, of course, the most demonized one, Tulsi Gabbard, who has been very strongly in support of Julian Assange. But we heard two days ago in the British parliament, a call by Jeremy Corbyn for not extraditing Julian Assange and a question to Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Will he do so?”

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. Please support her work on Patreon. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com. The audio version of this report aired on KPFA Radio-Berkeley on Feb. 15.