No person who watched “Collateral Murder” could deny the brutality of U.S. imperialism. Smuggled out of Iraq by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks in 2010, the video reveals the murder of more than a dozen people by occupying U.S. soldiers from Apache helicopters.
The video itself is shot from a helicopter, with the radio transmissions looped in so that viewers can hear the way the soldiers laugh, joke and cheer as they plow thousands of 50-caliber bullets into a crowd of unarmed journalists, civilians and children.
This was not an isolated incident. People across the world were disgusted and outraged by the photos of torture from Abu Ghraib, the stories that emerged from the Haditha and Muttawaniya massacres — all reminiscent of U.S. war crimes in Vietnam and elsewhere.
Due to the Pentagon policy of targeting journalists who were not embedded with the murderous soldiers, a lot of the horror never reached the U.S. public. By the time the first deformed children were born after their parents were poisoned by depleted uranium ammunition, most media had moved on from covering Iraq. But there was no possibility of ignoring the brutality exposed by WikiLeaks.
Together, Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and Manning published incontrovertible proof of imperialist crimes committed across the world, mainly by the U.S. from Asia to Africa to Latin America. The case against empire piled up. The ruling class, both Democrat and Republican, was enraged.
As a result of this exposure, Manning was kidnapped and sent to prison in 2010. Assange accepted asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in July 2012 and was unable to leave without being arrested. Both Assange and Manning found themselves incarcerated for nearly seven years.
Manning was offered clemency by Barack Obama in 2017, but last month Donald Trump sent her back to prison for refusing to appear in front of a federal grand jury regarding WikiLeaks. On April 11, the whole world was watching as Lenin Moreno of Ecuador allowed the British Metropolitan Police to arrest Assange.
The bourgeois media seem confused about why Assange was dragged out of the embassy where he had been living for the past seven years. They say it’s about hacking, skipping bail or sexual abuse. They say it’s because he was a bad guest to the Ecuadorians.
All this is outrageous. He was arrested because he had played a part in exposing the crimes of empire.
The Pentagon Papers were classified but published anyway in 1971. Eventually, charges against those involved in leaking the information were dismissed. But this is no longer 1971. Now, in 2019, Donald Trump is president, and there are about 1,000 U.S. military bases worldwide.
By refusing to condemn the most recent attacks against Assange and Manning, the mass media are sending their assurances to the ruling class. Honest journalists would see this as an attack on press freedoms, the First Amendment and basic whistleblower protections. By saying that the two deserve to be repressed, the media are promising their Wall Street and Pentagon bosses they would never expose the crimes of empire.
The workers and oppressed, however, have not remained silent. Protests were held across the world in response. People gathered in New York, Paris, Washington, D.C., and Britain as well as other places to raise their voices against this sort of intimidation. Online vigils under the hashtag #Unity4J have been raising awareness around their arrests.
Many in the antiwar movement have been reminded of the crimes that WikiLeaks, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange exposed and vow not to let them happen again.