One hour of Assange in long interview with Pilger on freedom and Wikileaks

Here’s an extended interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the John Pilger film The War You Don’t See:

John Pilger in conversation with Julian Assange from John Pilger on Vimeo.

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“Governments now need to factor in that things can be WikiLeaked”

Let the information flow freely. These comments represent the kind of healthy debate so absent from the mainstream political and journalistic world. If secrets are kept, Wikileaks and sites like it will remain essential:

The government should take the WikiLeaks revelations as a lesson that civil servants and ministers can no longer assume they operate in private, and “wise up” to a world where any official communication could be made public, according to the information commissioner.

Christopher Graham, the independent freedom of information watchdog, told the Guardian that the website’s disclosures had profoundly changed the relationship between state and public, in a way that could not be “un-invented”. But he warned against “clamming up,” saying the only response was for ministers to be more open.

Speaking after weeks of revelations from US embassy cables published by WikiLeaks, he said: “From the point of view of public scrutiny, the web and the internet has empowered citizens. Governments now need to factor in that things can be WikiLeaked.

“We are strongly of the view that things should be published. Where you’re open things will not be WikiLeaked. Whatever view you take about WikiLeaks – right or wrong – it means that things will now get out. It has changed things. I’m saying government and authorities need to factor it in. Be more proactive, [by] publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn’t know it. You can’t un-invent WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen … these are facts that aren’t going to go away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that.”

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Happy new year, Rupert

Following Britain’s Business Secretary Vince Cable declaring his opposition to Rupert Murdoch, this letter in today’s UK Independent expresses the views of many who care about media diversity and decency:

Vince Cable’s remarks to the undercover reporters were undiplomatic, yes, but heartening nevertheless.

What Cable didn’t say was why he thinks so little of Murdoch. If he had, he would perhaps have cited the long-term and insidious effect the man has had on this country’s culture and values, which includes his subversion of fairness and good taste in the press (Sun and News of the World) and of intelligent and impartial journalism (Times and Sunday Times), the hijacking of the mass television audience for free viewing of the national sports (cricket and football) in favour of a smaller relatively rich subscribing elite (Sky), and the consequent distortion of the game of football itself by bathing it in a dominant and corrupting commerciality.

Through these and other activities, including the opportunistic support for political leaders by his media (Tony Blair first, now David Cameron), he has undermined the essential qualities and sensibilities of the British identity more than any other living person. This is quite a feat considering he isn’t even British. That’s why a good man like Cable doesn’t rate him. I agree with him.

David Gibbs, London SW4

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Yet more Wikileaks cables to devour

When the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten recently announced it had received the entire collection of the Wikileaks cable dump, the world was strangely silent.

But there is a treasure trove in there and should be examined.

Heaps on Sri Lanka from the last years, including Colombo allegedly purchasing weapons from North Korea and Iran. Norway as a country that doesn’t simply accept every Israeli war crime as inevitable and acceptable or take political directions from Tel Aviv over Hamas.

Wikileaks has a long way to run.

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Ahmadinejad bitch slapped by even harder hard-liner

Oh my:

The chief of the Revolutionary Guard angrily slapped Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in early 2010, as Tehran was still dealing with the fallout from last year’s election, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The cable, written in February, said Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff Mohammed Ali Jafari blamed Ahmadinejad for the post-election “mess” in 2009, which saw the country roundly criticized by the West amid allegations of fraud and tough crackdowns on large-scale protests in Tehran.

The guard was founded after the Islamic revolution in 1979 to prevent dissident activity and is a strong internal force within the country, with economic and military wings.

Jafari is seen as close to the most conservative Iranian elements, but Ahmedinejad himself is also deemed a stalwart hawk.

The cable, titled “He who got slapped,” quotes an Iran watcher in Baku, Azerbaijan, who related that Ahmedinejad felt that in the aftermath of the post-election street protests, which turned violent, “people feel suffocated.”

In a meeting with his national security council, the president “mused that to defuse the situation it may be necessary to allow more personal and social freedoms, including more freedom of the press,” according to the source.

This provoked an angry retort from Jafari, according to the cable:

“You are wrong! (In fact) it is YOU who created this mess! And now you say give more freedom to the press?!”

The top guard then slapped the president in the face “causing an uproar and an immediate call for a break in the meeting” which did not resume for another two weeks, the cable said.

It took the intervention of Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, a senior member of the top oversight body, the Guardian Council, to get Jafari and Ahmedinejad back to the table, according to the cable.

For that honesty, Iran has allegedly now blocked sites discussing the cable.

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Tel Aviv more than happy to help Beijing target its own people

What’s a Zionist state to do when it has such wonderfully useful skills at managing occupation and repressing people? Sell that knowledge to another repressive state such as China:

Sino-Israeli relations were generally distant prior to the 1980s but that decade saw the beginning of significant Israeli arms and technology transfers to China. Early efforts included the 1982 transfer of missile technology and the upgrading of China’s tank fleet despite closer political and diplomatic relations being hindered by Cold War and Non-Aligned Movement politics, especially Israel’s close military and political relationship with Taiwan. Yet by 1990 Israel was “a very major supplier” of defense technology to China (“Israeli Arms Technology Aids ChinaLos Angeles Times, 13 June 1990). Moreover, a closer relationship was built when Israel proved itself to be a reliable arms supplier during the period after the Tiananmen Square massacre when many international suppliers imposed an arms embargo in response. At the time Israel was selling arms to many repressive regimes including ones restricted by official arms embargoes such as apartheid South Africa.

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Fallujah children suffering because of us?

What will the West do if we are at fault in causing massive defects in Iraqi children?

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports.

The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja’s genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys.

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias.

Their effects have long been called into question, with some scientists claiming they leave behind a toxic residue, caused when the round – either from an assault rifle or artillery piece – bursts through its target. However, no evidence has yet been established that proves this, and some researchers instead claim that depleted uranium has been demonstrably proven not to be a contaminant.

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known.”

The latest Falluja study surveyed 55 families with seriously deformed newborns between May and August. It was conducted by Dr Samira Abdul Ghani, a paediatrician at Falluja general hospital. In May, 15% of the 547 babies born had serious birth defects. In the same period, 11% of babies were born at less than 30 weeks and 14% of foetuses spontaneously aborted.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities.

One case documented in the report is of a mother and her daughter who after the 2004 battles both gave birth to babies with severe malformations. The second wife of one of the fathers also had a severely deformed baby in 2009.

“It is important to understand that under normal conditions, the chances of such occurrences is virtually zero,” said Savabieasfahani.

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Iraq’s film industry is slowly advancing

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Pilger explains why media could stop wars (if they want to)

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Britain always sees its role as imperial power

Post 9/11 there have been countless discussions about the lack of accountability for foreign forces and privatised mercenaries in theatres of war.

This debate isn’t so new and Western governments have clearly long believed that they have the right to act and kill as they wish:

SAS soldiers were to be provided with life insurance and legal immunity for killing foreigners if sent on overseas hostage rescues, according to files released today to the National Archives.

Preparations made in the aftermath of the Iranian embassy siege in London included a “pro forma agreement” that could be handed over to foreign governments before special forces were ordered in, Foreign Office files opened under the 30-year rule show.

The televised storming of the embassy building in Prince’s Gate, south Kensington, on 5 May 1980 boosted the SAS’s international prestige and generated invitations to deploy them abroad. Rescue missions were organised under the codename Operation Pulpit.

“The successful outcome … will lead to a fresh wave of requests for SAS training teams to visit well-disposed Middle Eastern countries,” observed a senior Foreign Office diplomat. “There should be no problem in dealing with such requests, save the limited resources of the SAS themselves.” He also anticipated the use of the SAS “in the event of a future hijack or siege involving hostages”.

The file, marked secret and entitled Future Use of SAS Squads, recorded that the UK’s most highly trained troops might be loaned to “resolve the problem”.

A “pro forma agreement” should be drafted … covering use of the SAS in a third country. The draft should include: “Immunity from prosecution and all claims in the event of causing casualties; life insurance and so on.”

SAS training tours to friendly countries should stress “that command and control is as important as the actual military gymnastics,” the official cautioned.

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No country should be immune from war crimes prosecutions, including Sri Lanka

Just what the world needs; another corporate journalist defending Sri Lankan war crimes and condemning Westerners (and many Tamils, but who cares about them?) for daring to demand accountability for the Rajapaksa junta.

Welcome to the hall of infamy, UK Daily Telegraph Diplomatic Editor Praveen Swami. Sadly, you’ve swallowed the “war on terror” mantra completely, believing that developing nations shouldn’t be held to standards of decency or human rights. And if war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka, best to ignore them and move forward. Dream on:

There’s plenty of compelling evidence, of course, that Sri Lankan soldiers also engaged in horrific acts of violence. Nor do I dispute that Mr Rajapaksa has on occasion acted in an authoritarian, even despotic, manner – though I cannot think of many nations at war which have behaved differently. I’m not questioning, either, that the chauvinism of the Sri Lankan state played a considerable role in engendering the crisis: more than 3,000 people were estimated to have been killed in an anti-Tamil pogrom in 1983.

But it is my belief that, as the crisis unfolded, Sri Lanka was left with few choices. Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE’s supremo, was a military genius who succeeded in transmuting Tamil resentments into guns and bombs. He was also, as the eminent Indian journalist N Ram has pointed out, a Tamil Pol Pot. Mr Prabhakaran systematically eliminated leaders who believed a negotiated, democratic settlement was possible – among them, Laxman Kadirgamar, in whose memory Dr Fox was to deliver his lecture in Colombo, and Neelan Thiruchelvam.

Like so many, Mr Ram wrote, he initially believed Prabhakaran wanted to “shape a future for his people based on equality, democratic and human rights.” But, Mr Ram went on, the LTTE  instead “did everything conceivable to make the peace process falter and fail.”

Put simply, Sri Lanka used all force at its disposal, legitimate and illegitimate, to crush a nightmarish movement – which brings us back to the Dresden question.

That war-scarred nation [Sri Lanka] needs help rebuilding democracy, not insults.

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Israel has such charming friends in its region

All those “moderate” US-backed dictatorships in the Middle East:

Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.

“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.

The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.

Assange or Mansour, however, didn’t disclose the names of these officials. The WikiLeaks founder said he feared he could be killed but added that there were 2,000 websites that were ready to publish the remaining files that are in possession of WikiLeaks after “he has been done away with”.

“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.

Currently, his whistle-blowing website is exposing files in a ‘responsible’ manner, he claimed. “But if I am forced we could go to the extreme and expose each and every file that we have access to,” thundered the WikiLeaks founder. “We must protect our sources at whatever cost. This is our sincere concern.”

Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.

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