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Julian Assange: Courageous Hero or Terrorist?

By Ashahed M. Muhammad -Asst. Editor- | Last updated: Dec 14, 2010 - 5:25:16 PM

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What's your opinion on this article?

The answer depends on whom you ask

Focus on Wikileaks - FinalCall.com/Wikileaks

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   Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange
(FinalCall.com) - Had Julian Assange emerged in China, Iran or perhaps another country that the American government regards as authoritarian and repressive, he would probably be hailed as a courageous fighter against tyranny.

    NEWS ANALYSIS   

Since his revelations have stung the shapers of American policies at home and abroad, he is labeled an “anarchist,” a “terrorist” and Wikileaks, the not-for-profit media organization he directs is under attack.

Kimber Heinz, national organizing coordinator for the New York based War Resisters League sees the crackdown on Mr. Assange coming from U.S. officials as another way of the U.S. creating a new definition of terrorism to include anyone who criticizes the American government's foreign or domestic policy.

“Since U.S. policy is taking militarism up a notch every chance it can get whether it be in our communities or parts of central and south Asia then anyone who is trying to work against that either by releasing documents or working in organizations against those policies is going to be labeled a terrorist,” Ms. Heinz told The Final Call.

In a view shared by many across the globe, the Nation of Islam's UK representative Hilary Muhammad said the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange are “trumped up.”

Mr. Muhammad said it brought tears to his eyes when he saw Mr. Assange being taken into police custody.

“He (Assange) reminded me of one who is following in the footsteps of divine because he is willing to pick up his cross and carry it. He has access to all of that information knowing that it would serve the public interests, and knowing in advance that he would have governments opposing him. He still was willing to take the responsibility of being opposed by government to inform the masses,” said Mr. Muhammad. “The information being published is all in the public's interest, and when you juxtapose that with the amount of gossip and slander and false accusations—nothing that has been published has been refuted as false,” he added.

“It seems to me the reaction is kill the messenger, forget the message,” said Hodari Abdul-Ali, chairman of the Social Justice Task Force for the Muslim Alliance in North America. “The political witch-hunt against (Mr. Assange) is so transparently ridiculous, I'm pretty sure it is going to backfire,” he added.

As opposed to the controlled U.S. media which has focused primarily on the case against Mr. Assange and his arrest, foreign media such as Press TV, Al-Jazeera and Der Spiegel are emphasizing the actual details of the Wikileaks Cablegate files.

Activists like Mr. Abdul-Ali, Ms. Heinz and others who monitor foreign media believe this is critical in understanding the long-range impact of the Wikileaks revelations.

“The outcry in non-U.S. countries is a lot louder and a lot stronger than we see in the U.S.,” said Ms. Heniz. “In other countries, the media is much more focused on how the U.S. is handling it, but also what the U.S. did and are holding the U.S. accountable.”

There have also been numerous protests by anti-censorship activists on behalf of Mr. Assange worldwide. Internet activists have mounted denial of service attacks against PayPal, Visa, MasterCard and PostFinance, all financial institutions that cut off Wikileaks' ability to receive donations from the public.

Control of Africa detailed in files

Whether using religion, economics, or outright racism, Western imperialism has always been on display when it comes to its dealings with the African continent.

Whether it is the British, the Americans or the French, the West benefits from the land and resources that exist in Africa, while the people remain in poverty, ravaged by disease and mired in wars.

Mr. Muhammad said the Wikileaks cables reveal a modernization of the methods used to subdue the African continent with the overarching goal of continued hegemonic rule.

“These cables demonstrate that Africa is still under Western control,” Mr. Muhammad told The Final Call.

With Western powers still choosing Africa's leaders, they manipulate internal organizations to achieve their desired results and get rid of leaders who are not compliant with their foreign policy objectives, Mr. Muhammad said, adding that it is simply the modern proof of an old Western strategy of imperialism.

Neither Africans nor Blacks in the United States should wait for an apology from the Western powers, nor any sincere attempt to right historical wrongs through reparations because the West still benefits economically and politically, he said.

“Slavery never really ended,” said Mr. Muhammad. “In their mind, they never stopped using and abusing us. They never stopped, so how are you going to apologize for something that you are still doing? They never stopped so it's farcical for them to apologize.”

Attempts at increased Western control and influence in different parts of the globe appear throughout the Wikileaks documents, however, the desire to influence the political and military realities in Africa are among the most glaring examples of this dynamic at work.

Disparaging comments listed in Wikileaks files by former U.S. Ambassador Chris Dell, who left Harare in 2007, paint a troubling picture of America's view of the situation in Zimbabwe.

Although named specifically in Mr. Dell's memos, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai would not comment on Amb. Dell's words about him in the leaked cables. However, Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said Amb. Dell's words were clear evidence of “a regime change agenda” to oust Mr. Mugabe and install a puppet leader to replace the man who has led Zimbabwe for over 30 years.

Other cables from the U.S. State Department show an interest in the agricultural policies in Burundi, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, perhaps in preparation for the export of genetically modified foods and continued rape of the land and its resources.

And the stories of corruption keep on coming:

Unrelated to Wikileaks but another example of the U.S. and its insatiable appetite for oil and resources, former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and the oil services firm Halliburton Co. has been charged with 16 counts of bribery by Nigeria's anti-corruption police.

Femi Babafemi a spokesman for Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says Mr. Cheney's firm allegedly paid $180 million to government officials to win a contract to build a $6 billion natural gas plant in the oil-rich southern delta.

The militarization of Africa via the U.S. Pentagon's United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) starting in October 2007 has been criticized since its inception by activists and political commentators citing another attempt at Western hegemonic influence in the region.

In the Somalian conflict, the West ostensibly supports an 8,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission charged with protecting the embattled government operating out of the capital of Mogadishu, however the insurgents have continued to fight.

Wikileaks documents show Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh, telling top NATO commander General David Petraeus that his country would publicly state American missile strikes against a supposed Al-Qaeda-linked group were conducted by Yemen's own military forces, even though NATO forces were behind the attacks.

Citing a cable he read in Wikileaks from a U.S. diplomat to the Ukrainian government questioning whether a shipment of tanks marked for Kenya was in fact going to Sudan, in the correspondence, the U.S. portrayed itself as an innocent dupe, when in reality, it is the world's largest weapons supplier to combatants in conflicts raging globally.

“America orchestrates all of these military transactions,” said Mr. Abdul-Ali.“During this comprehensive peace agreement, in Sudan, both sides agreed not to rearm. But the United States has been arming and facilitating the delivery of arms through third parties like Chad or Israel in order to escalate the military tension. It is shameful and this is just one small incident in terms of how America has conducted its foreign policy,” Mr. Abdul-Ali added.

U.S. damage control efforts

While refusing to cite any specific examples, U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said there are indications that foreign powers are “pulling back” from their dealings with the U.S. following the release of diplomatic cables.

According to the Associated Press, Col. Lapan told reporters “believing the U.S. is not good at keeping secrets ... certainly changes things” and “generally, there has been a retrenchment” in cooperation.

After the U.S. halted talks with Israel regarding continued West Bank settlement construction and the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians, in somewhat critical remarks, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a parliamentary committee the American government was too consumed with Wikileaks fallout and increased tensions between North and South Korea.

U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder said the U.S. had been put at risk by the publication of the diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks and recently announced the authorization of a criminal investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a Dec. 16 hearing on the potential application of U.S. espionage laws and constitutional issues raised by Wikileaks.

Although U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially attempted to downplay the information revealed in the leaked files, an embarrassing picture of American “diplomacy” is emerging.

There is evidence to believe the Obama administration is worried other damaging information may come to light in subsequent weeks.

Mr. Abdul-Ali believes there is more to come and for the U.S. government, the embarrassing revelations are sure to continue.

“The United States empire is crumbling right in front of us, and they have been—up until now—successful in bullying countries through financial institutions, through the military and through cultural domination and on all her fronts, they are being challenged in an unprecedented manner,” said Mr. Abdul-Ali. “It's another example of how we the people have to be vigilant, with regards to the conduct of the American government. It is a wake-up call around the world. Other governments around the world are seeing this,” he added.

(For up to date information regarding Wikileaks, visit http://www.FinalCall.com/Wikileaks. You can also read Ashahed M. Muhammad's latest reporting on the issue via http://twitter.com/@AshahedM.)

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