Dedicated to Daniel Ellsberg & Julian Assange

by Margaret Anna Alice. Originally published on her Substack.

I am republishing my poem Ode to a Whistleblower to honor the memory of Whistleblowers’ Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg (April 7, 1931–June 16, 2023) and shine a light on the looming extradition of his treasured friend Julian Assange.

Ode to a Whistleblower

Ode to a Whistleblower

by Margaret Anna Alice

It starts as a whisper.
A tickle in your throat.
A glissando down your spine.
A quiver in your stomach.

The hairs on your arms rise up.
A tremor pulses through your nervous system.
Nausea washes over, engulfing you,
Until you can no longer contain it.

What you’ve seen cannot be un-seen.
What you’ve heard cannot be un-heard.
What you’ve felt cannot be un-felt.
What you know cannot be un-known.

To speak that knowledge,
to sing that secret,
to roar that truth
is to risk all—
career, reputation, security, relationships,

And yet to stifle it,
to tamp it down,
to suffocate it
is to sap your integrity,
to stoke your guilt,
to stab your soul.

So you release it,
let it fly,
and it wings its way
round the globe,
waking, shaking,
taking flight.

You know your peace
will be shattered.
You know your days
may be fewer.
You know this could be
your last song.

But you belt it out
You bellow it out
You whistle it to the stars,
and the stars echo it back.

You’ve rippled the ocean.
You’ve whipped the wind.
You’ve sparked the volcano.

And even if the Goliaths target you,
even if their thugs assault you,
even if their scientists spike you,
your truth will swell to a seismic wave,
traveling upon the sea of the awakened,
swallowing up our tyrannizers.

We will trill your truth.
We will warble your song.
We will whistle your secret
to the world, until there are
too many of us to silence.

Note: Paid supporters can listen to my reading of this poem here.

A Tale of Two Truth-Tellers: Daniel Ellsberg & Julian Assange

Daniel Ellsberg and Julian Assange
Daniel Ellsberg at a 1972 press conference (by Bernard Gotfryd); Julian Assange at a 2014 press conference (by David G. Silvers)

“You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can’t lead to a good conclusion.”
—Julian Assange

This is a somber moment in history for truth. As we mourn the passing of Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, Julian Assange is facing the prospect of extradition from Belmarsh to a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, where he could serve a sentence of up to 175 years for the crime of revealing crimes committed by the US government.

Edward Snowden Quote: When Exposing a Crime

Julian is down to his final application now that High Court Judge Jonathan Swift has denied two applications to appeal his extradition to the United States. If that, too, fails, the only remaining hope—besides a presidential pardon or release to his home country of Australia—lies with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) opposing his extradition on the grounds that it sets “a dangerous precedent for journalists,” but there’s no guarantee the United Kingdom will abide by such a ruling even if it does occur.

Stella Assange, Julian’s indefatigable wife and the mother of his two children, recently delivered an anguished speech to the National Press Club in Canberra. Conveying the desperation of her husband’s plight, Stella stated, “Julian’s life is in the hands of the Australian government.”

Stella Assange: June 2023 Speech in Canberra, Australia

This case is about far more than a single man, heroic as he is.

Any one of us could become Julian.

Did you know that he “never committed a crime”?

Chris Hedges explains:

“Julian is not a US citizen. WikiLeaks is not a US-based publication. And yet he is charged, under the US Espionage Act, with treason. It is judicial pantomime, a show trial where the rule of law is sabotaged by barristers in horsehair wigs and grand inquisitors …”

The US government is commandeering the right to prosecute and persecute a non–US citizen, as Stella warns in this tweet:

Stella Assange: Warning to All Australians

Every human being who cares about truth, freedom, and journalism should be fighting to #FreeAssange.

As Hedges writes:

“If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information, under the Espionage Act. The inner workings of power will be shrouded in darkness, with very ominous consequences for press freedom and democracy.”

This is a threat Daniel Ellsberg understood deeply, having narrowly escaped imprisonment for up to 115 years himself. Witnessing the enduring torment of Julian must have been like looking in the cracked mirror of a parallel universe.

When reporters asked if he had second thoughts during a December 30, 1971, news conference, Daniel replied:

“I can’t regret having done what I knew at the time to be what I ought to do, my duty as a citizen.…

“How can you measure the jeopardy that I’m in—whether it’s 10 years, 20 years, 115 years, or other ludicrous amounts like that—to the penalty that has been paid already by 50,000 American families here and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese families? It would be absolutely presumptuous of me to pity myself in that context, and I certainly don’t, and I’d be ashamed of myself [if I did].”

Daniel did express one regret—he hadn’t exposed government malfeasance sooner. As he said to prospective whistleblowers in 2018:

“Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait ’til the bombs are actually falling or thousands more have died, before you do what I wish I had done years earlier, in ’64 or even ’61, on the nuclear issue. And that is, reveal the truth that you know, the dangerous truths that are being withheld by the government, at whatever cost to yourself, whatever risk that may take. Consider doing that, because a war’s worth of lives may be at stake. Or in the case of the two existential crises I’m talking about, the future of humanity is at stake.”

The person Henry Kissinger called “the most dangerous man in America” inspired his friend and longtime peace activist Diane Perlman to “develop a theory of ‘the Courageous Personality’” in which she coined the term “Verido” to “describe the instinctual drive for truth and justice.” Diane defines this personality type as follows:

“Veridos™ may represent less than 5% of the population. They see through deception, investigate truth and have the strength to challenge official narratives. They are truly courageous and refuse to remain silent.…

“Because information is power, those who expose truth are a threat and must be punished and silenced by the forces of oppressive authority, who need a mystified, pliable populace.”

It is no wonder fellow Veridos Daniel and Julian became friends, rare specimens of courage they are.

In March, Julian learned Daniel had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Julian got him added to the list of approved callers so they could say their final goodbyes.

Julian Assange and Daniel Ellsberg: Final Farewell

In the two-and-a-half months from the announcement of his diagnosis to his death, many of Daniel’s friends published tributes to him, from Seymour Hersh’s gripping reflections on their fifty-year friendship to Diane’s recollections of their time spent together and the role he played in inspiring her theory of “the Courageous Personality.”

Diane will be organizing a memorial for Daniel at the 2023 Whistleblowers Summit (July 22–30, 2023, in Washington, DC; also available virtually). If you wish to attend, the memorial will take place on July 30 at National Press Club.

But the best way to honor Daniel is to work toward fulfilling his dying wish to see Julian pardoned.

Daniel Ellsberg on Democracy Now!

Daniel’s words about Julian in this May 2021 interview could easily serve as a eulogy for himself:

“The fact is that very few people tend to have the moral courage to take any risk whatsoever, be it risking their careers or their relationships. Even when it comes to exposing illegal wars that are undermining the Constitution—even then, you don’t find people willing to take any risks at all. And then there are people like Julian who have the moral courage to face such risks, the legal charges as well as the physical danger. I believe this world will not survive without more people like him, willing to show enough courage to defy their own governments and risk their own lives and freedoms.”

What a rarity to find one such luminary in a century, let alone two whom kismet yokes in friendship. Daniel is like the dying Turgenev writing to Tolstoy, “I have been fortunate to be your contemporary.”

And now, one of those lights has gone out, and those who have seized the bellows of the world are trying to snuff out the remaining one.

Let us raise our hands to shield the fluttering flame together.

Join me singing an ode to these two fearless Veridos as well as to the past and future champions of truth they represent:

We will trill your truth.
We will warble your song.
We will whistle your secret
to the world, until there are
too many of us to silence.

Action Steps to #FreeAssange

Please see the original post for actions you can take to join in the worldwide movement to #FreeAssange.

© Margaret Anna Alice, LLC
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Note: Purchasing any items using Amazon affiliate links included in my content will further support my efforts to unmask tyranny.