Julian Assange should be freed, and the Ukraine War should be ended right away. These are two views expressed by Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour Party leader of Great Britain. These views are in sharp contrast with views typically expressed by prominent politicians of Corbyn’s nation that has imprisoned Assange for extradition to the United States as well as funded and armed Ukraine’s war against Russia.
And Corbyn, who has stayed a member of Parliament after serving as Labour Party and opposition leader from 2015 to 2020, has not just expressed these views quietly to friends or reluctantly when pressed in questioning. He has instead gone out of his way to proclaim prominently these views in an effort to influence a large audience.
Imagine a current or former top Republican or Democrat from the United States Senate or House of Representatives doing that.
Good for Corbyn. He has neither been a poodle of an American president, as was claimedregarding British Prime Minister Tony Blair, nor an enemy of free speech and peace.
This week, Corbyn is in Washington, DC where his agenda includes promoting the goals of gaining freedom for Assange and ending the Ukraine War. Hopefully, he will be able to make headway with both efforts.
On Friday, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman interviewed Corbyn regarding these and other issues. Here, from the interview transcript, is Goodman and Corbyn’s exchange regarding ending the Ukraine War:
AMY GOODMAN: And, Jeremy Corbyn, what about the war in Ukraine? What about those pushing for negotiation, for diplomacy, often criticized for being Russian puppets, yet deeply concerned about this, what could be a global conflagration, or even what’s happening just alone to the Ukrainians? You have a thousand religious leaders in the United States calling for a ceasefire. Bishop Barber, we played a portion of his speech where he said the war is immoral, it is illegal. He fiercely criticized Putin, but said negotiation has to be the way. Your response?
JEREMY CORBYN: I welcome the call by a thousand religious leaders and many, many other people. And I’ve had a number of very interesting discussions all around Washington yesterday on the possibilities of promoting the idea of an internationally organized ceasefire and negotiations.
I absolutely and totally condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the brutality that goes with it. And the destruction of life in Ukraine, the loss of lives of conscripted Russian soldiers is awful and appalling. This war could drag on and on and on. More and more arms could be thrown into the conflict. More and more people would die, and you would end up with destruction all around.
Surely to goodness, here we are in the 21st century watching in real time a conflict going on. Can we not do better than that, call a halt to the conflict, have negotiations and agree on a viable future? If Russia and the Ukraine can negotiate, albeit under the auspices in that occasion of Turkey, to ensure that grain supplies flowed out of Russia and the Ukraine through the Black Sea, which are very important to feed people in the Middle East and North Africa, then they can come together on lots of other issues itself. And so, can we stop having armchair generals in all of our studios discussing how this could happen, that could happen, this could go on and that could go on, and this could be destroyed? Instead, raise the voice for peace, and raise the voice for hopes and justice.
I support the Russian peace campaigners. I support the religious leaders that are calling for a more rational process. And I call upon the leaders of the countries that are closely involved in this to heed those calls and find a way out of it. All wars end with some kind of peace conference. Let’s jump to that stage.
Regarding Assange, Corbyn strongly advocated in the interview for freeing Assange, who Corbyn described as having “spent his life as a journalist investigating uncomfortable truths and ensuring that they are published.” Indeed, these journalistic efforts are the reason Assange is in the US government’s cross hairs. Corbyn also promoted in the interview the Belmarsh Tribunal, a Friday event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC regarding Julian Assange at which Corbyn is one of several speakers. Corbyn stated:
We are standing up for the right to know. We’re standing up for journalism. And the Belmarsh Tribunal today here in Washington is a plea to people, particularly in the United States, who believe in free speech, who believe in the right to know, who believe that journalists should be protected in going about their work, and to drop the appeal against the decision made by a British court that he was not fit to travel and, therefore, should not be allowed to go to the United States. And we are making that plea. We ask thinking people in the United States, thinking people who value the freedom of speech and freedom of the press, to speak out now in support of Julian Assange. And that’s what we’ll be doing this afternoon here in Washington.
By Adam Dick