Category Archives: Incarceration

Begging Outrage: British Journalists for Assange

Even that title strikes an odd note.  It should not.  The Fourth Estate, historically reputed as the chamber of journalists and publishers keeping an eye on elected officials, received a blast of oxygen with the arrival of WikiLeaks.  This was daring, rich stuff: scientific journalism in the trenches, news gathering par excellence.  But what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks did was something unpardonable to many who pursue the journalist’s craft: sidestepping the newspaper censors, permitting unadulterated access to original sources.

People could finally scrutinise raw documents – cables, memoranda, briefing notes, diplomatic traffic – without the secondary and tertiary forms of self-censorship that characterise the newspaper imperium.  Editorially imposed measures could be outflanked; the biases and prejudices of newspaper moguls could be ignored.

This has meant that media outlets in the drought affected mainstream can only ever make quiet acknowledgments about the seriousness of the US case against Assange. It is why certain outlets fail, and have failed to cover the extradition proceedings against the publisher with any degree of serious alarm or considered fear.  When they do, irrelevant and inconsequential details feature like tabloid tat: the irate Assange, shouting from his caged stand; the kooky Assange, somewhat unhinged.

A central contention of the prosecution case against Assange is that he is no publisher or journalist being gradually asphyxiated by the apparatus of power for exposing it, but a cold, calculating purloiner of state secrets indifferent to the welfare of informants.  Thieves cannot avail themselves of press freedoms nor summon the solid protections of the US First Amendment, even if they did expose torture, war crimes and illegal renditions.  It is a narrative that has been fed shamelessly by certain members of the media fraternity, rendering them indifferent and, at times, even hostile to the efforts of WikiLeaks.  David Leigh and Luke Harding of The Guardian added kindling to this idea by publishing the full passphrase to the file of un-redacted US State Department cables in their 2011 book. It was foolish and clumsy, and did not shine a good light on the parties involved.

A train was set in motion: the German weekly Der Freitag ran a piece in August that same year pointing an indirect finger to the password revealed by Leigh and Harding; Assange, alarmed, had contacted the editor Jakob Augstein beforehand, telling him he “feared for the safety of informants”.  WikiLeaks then reached out to the US State Department warning that publication of the un-redacted trove was imminent.  This would have given time to US officials to take necessary measures to protect any protected sources.  Cryptome scrambled to publish the documents on September 1, 2011; WikiLeaks followed the next day.  The myth of Assange the indiscreet, incautious figure hostile to concealed identities was born.

It has been left to other courageous reporters to right the record at the trial.  As investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi recalled in her statement read at the extradition proceedings, “I went through the cables as systematically as possible.  I was given an encrypted USB stick, and once I returned to Italy I was given the password that would then allow opening the file.  Everything was done with utmost responsibility and attention.” She also noted how the password published by Leigh and Harding “was not the same password I myself was given at the time.”

Mature, snappy views have also featured from conservative British voices concerned by this grotesque overreach of US power.  In Britain, and elsewhere, these media commenters have been few in number in registering appropriate alarm at the implications of the US Department of Justice’s indictment against Assange.  Peter Oborne, writing last month, issued the call to fellow journalists to take up the case for WikiLeaks.  He starts with a scenario: imagine a political dissident held at London’s Belmarsh Prison charged with espionage offences by the People’s Republic of China.  The real offence?  Exposing atrocities by Chinese troops.  “To put it another way, that his real offence was committing the crime of journalism.”

Add to this the findings of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the dissident in question showed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture”, with Beijing pressuring UK authorities to extradite him to a place he could face 175 years in prison.  “The outrage from the British press would be deafening.”  Protests and vigils outside Belmarsh would be unhalting; debates would take place on “prime time news programmes, alongside a rush of questions in parliament.”

Oborne acknowledges the UK-US alliance.  But that should not matter one jot “as far as the British media is concerned.”  The Old Bailey trial marked “a profound moment for British journalists.”  Were Britain to capitulate to the Trump administration on this score, “the right to publish leaked material in the public interest would suffer a devastating blow.”  He noted the concerns of 169 lawyers and academics expressed in a letter to the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding government intervention.  “We call on you to act in accordance with national and international law, human rights and the rule of law by bringing an end to the ongoing extradition proceedings and granting Mr Assange his long overdue freedom.”

The dangers to the Fourth Estate to Oborne are incalculable.  On UK soil, an effort is being made by the US “to prosecute a non-US citizen, not living in the US, not publishing in the US, under US laws that deny the right to a public interest defence.”  Yet a myopic British press remains more interested in Assange’s character, one attacked for breaching the Bail Act in avoiding extradition to Sweden to face sexual misconduct suspicions, and the distracting point as to whether he really is a journalist.

Peter Hitchens, brother of the late Christopher and long departed from the barricades of Trotskyite fervour, is also very much on Oborne’s page.  Admirably, he starts his reflection on Assange by putting to rest notions of compromising fandom.  Assange “is not my world, and his people are not my people.”  But he was “wholly, furiously against the attempt by the United States government to extradite Assange from this country”.

Hitchens can seem a touch reactionary at times, his views heavily wrapped in the Union Jack.  A sounding board at The Daily Mail would suggest such tendencies.  But on Assange, he is sharp.   He rightly picks up on the barring of extraditions for political grounds under Article 4(1) of the UK-US Extradition Treaty.  He also notes the servility shown by UK officials to US power, given that the treaty permits Washington to “demand extradition of UK citizens and others for offences committed against US law.  This is so even though the supposed offence may have been committed in the UK by a person living in the UK.”

In Hitchen’s mind, it was inconceivable to envisage a situation where the US would reciprocate: submitting its citizens to the UK for leaking British secret documents.  But allowing Assange to face trial in the US would mean that “any British journalist who comes into possession of classified material from the US, though he has committed no crime according to our own law, faces the same danger.”  The process undermined national sovereignty and threatened press freedom.  No English court, he argued, “should accept this demand.”  Were the courts to fail, “any self-respecting Home Secretary should overrule them.”

Fittingly, and accurately, Hitchens describes the effort mounted against Assange as “a lawless kidnap” against an individual who exposed “inconvenient” truths of US power.  It would be heartening to see more journalists, notably British ones, turning their mind to this awful reality, instead of falling for yellow press, click-bait distractions.

The post Begging Outrage: British Journalists for Assange first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dying Alone: When We Stopped Caring for Palestinian Prisoners

“No one cares about the prisoners.” Over the past few years, I have heard this phrase — or some variation of it —  uttered many times by freed Palestinian prisoners and their families. Whenever I conduct an interview regarding this crucial and highly sensitive topic, I am told, repeatedly, that ‘no one cares.’

But is this really the case? Are Palestinian prisoners so abandoned to the extent that their freedom, life and death are of no consequence?

The subject, and the claim, resurfaces every time a Palestinian prisoner launches a hunger strike or undergoes extreme hardship and torture, which is leaked outside Israeli prisons through lawyers or human rights organizations. This year, five Palestinian prisoners died in prison as a result of alleged medical negligence, or worse, torture.

Even international humanitarian aid workers, like Mohammed el-Halabi, are not immune to degrading treatment.  Arrested in August 2016, el-Halabi is yet to be charged for any wrongdoing. News of his plight, which originally received some media attention — due to his work with a US-based organization – is now merely confined to Facebook posts by his father, Khalil.

As of October 1, el-Halabi has been paraded before 151 military trials, yet unaware what the charges are. The cherished Palestinian man, who has played a major role in providing cancer medicine to dying children in Gaza, now holds the record of the longest military trial ever carried out by the Israeli occupation.

Desperate for some attention, and fed up with cliches about their ‘centrality in the Palestinian struggle’, many prisoners, whether individually or collectively, launch hunger strikes under the slogan: ‘freedom or death’. Those who are held under the draconian and illegal ‘administrative detention’ policy, demand their freedom, while ‘security prisoners’, who are held in degrading conditions, merely ask for family visitations or food that is suitable for human consumption.

Health complications resulting from hunger strikes often linger long after the physical ordeal is over. I have interviewed families of Palestinians who were freed from Israeli prisons, only to die in a matter of months, or live a life of endless pain and constant ailments for years following their release.

According to some estimates, over 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned in Israeli jails since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in June 1967.

Maher al-Akhras is currently writing the latest chapter in this tragic narrative. At the time of writing this article, he has just concluded 77 days of uninterrupted hunger strike. No medical opinion is necessary to tell us that al-Akhras could die any moment. A recent video released of al-Akhras on his Israeli hospital bed conveyed a glimpse of the man’s unbearable suffering.

With a barely audible voice, the gaunt, exhausted-looking man said that he is left with only two options: either his immediate freedom or death within the confines of Israel’s “phony justice system.”

On October 7, his wife, Taghrid, launched her own hunger strike to protest the fact that “no one cares about” her husband.

Once again, the lack of concern for the plight of prisoners, even dying ones, imposes itself on the Palestinian political discourse. So, why is this the case?

The idea that Palestinian prisoners are all alone in the fight for freedom began in the early 1990s. It was during this period that the various Oslo Accords were signed, dividing the Occupied Territories into zones governed by some strange Kafkaesque military system, one that did not end the Israeli occupation, but, rather, cemented it.

Largely dropped from the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations agenda at the time, but permanently, eventually, were several pressing issues fundamental to Palestinian rights and freedom. One of these issues was Israel’s brutal system of incarceration and imprisonment without trial.

Certainly, some Palestinian prisoners were released in small batches occasionally, as ‘gestures of goodwill’; but the system, itself, which gave Israel the right to arrest, detain and sentence Palestinians, remained intact.

To date, the freedom of Palestinian prisoners — nearly 5,000 of them are still held in Israel, with new prisoners added daily — is not part of the Palestinian leadership political agenda, itself subsumed by self-interests, factional fights and other trivial matters.

Being removed from the realm of politics, the plight of prisoners has, over the years, been reduced to a mere humanitarian subject — as if these men and women are no longer political agents and a direct expression of Palestinian resistance, on the one hand, and Israel’s military occupation and violence, on the other.

There are ample references to Palestinian prisoners in everyday language. Not a single press release drafted by the Palestinian Authority, its main Fatah faction or any other Palestinian group fails to renew the pledge to free the prisoners, while constantly glorifying their sacrifices. Unsurprisingly, empty language never produces concrete results.

There are two exceptions to the above maxim. The first is prisoner exchanges, like the one that took place in October 2011, resulting in the freedom of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. And, second, the prisoners’ own hunger strikes, which are incremental in their achievements, but have, lately, become the main channel of resistance.

Sadly, even solidarity with hunger strikers is often factional, as each Palestinian political group often places disproportionate focus on their own striking prisoners and, largely ignores others. Not only has the issue of prisoners become depoliticized, it has also fallen victim to Palestine’s unfortunate disunity.

While it is untrue that ‘no one cares about Palestinian prisoners’, thousands of Palestinian families are justified to hold this opinion. For the freedom of prisoners to take center stage within the larger Palestinian struggle for freedom, the issue must be placed at the top of Palestine’s political agenda, by Palestinians themselves and by Palestinian solidarity networks everywhere.

Maher al-Akhras, and thousands like him, should not risk their lives to obtain basic human rights, which should, in theory, be guaranteed under international law. Equally important, Palestinian prisoners should not be left alone, paying a price for daring to stand up for justice, fairness and for their people’s freedom.

The post Dying Alone: When We Stopped Caring for Palestinian Prisoners first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Assange’s Fifteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Solitary Confinement and Parlous Health Care

September 28.  Central Criminal Court, London.

Throughout the sham process formally known as the Julian Assange extradition trial, prosecutors representing the United States have been adamant: the carceral conditions awaiting him in freedom’s land will be pleasant, accommodating and appropriate.  Confronting 17 charges under the US Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Assange and his defence team have been resolutely sceptical.

Today, the prosecution reiterated its position on the US federal prison system as one of rosy comfort and decent facilities.  As has happened at several points in the extradition trial, the views of Gordon Kromberg, assistant US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, were given another airing.  Stale as ever, Kromberg told the court that, “Inmates in administrative segregation are able to speak to one another through the doors and windows of their cells.”  How civil!  “Typically,” he also noted, “there are several inmates in administrative segregation.”  He does not tire of this canard, and makes the point one more time with robotic certitude.  “Even in administrative segregation, Assange would be able to communicate with other inmates through the doors and windows of his cell.”

Ellis on solitary confinement

The defence witness Yancey Ellis, as with others more acquainted with the bestial prison conditions of the imperium, suggested something quite different.  Ellis is a former judge advocate in the US Marines.  First would come the experience of being held in the Alexandria Detention Center (ADC), where Assange will be given his pre-trial blooding on US soil.  Most likely, he will find himself, Ellis claimed, in X block, kept in a narrow cell each day for 22 to 23 hours, containing “a sleeping area, a small sink and a toilet”, guarded by thick doors.  Meals would be taken in the cell.  The precious one or two hours granted to the inmate would often only be granted at “very odd hours.”  The time would be spent in the “common area of the ADSEG unit, which is maybe about twice the square footage.”  Only one inmate in the unit would be permitted out of the cell at any one time.  “There is limited interaction with other ADSEG inmates because their doors and food-tray slots are closed.”

Such an individual is purposely segregated from others, alienated and prevented from accessing therapeutic or other programs available at the facility.  “There is no outside recreational or exercise area at the Alexandria jail and I do not recall there being any windows in the ADSEG unit,” Ellis notes in his written submissions.

As with other defence testimonies, Kromberg’s came in for special attention.  There were “several assertions made by Mr Kromberg” that were “incorrect or incomplete”.  When asked by Edward Fitzgerald QC for the defence whether Assange would be given the means to “associate with other prisoners”, Ellis was far from convinced. “The short answer is: not really.”  Administrative segregation implied just that.  Kromberg’s assertion in his affidavit that there was no solitary confinement at ADC was dispatched. “1X ADSEG unit is essentially the same as solitary confinement.”

Ellis had himself experimented with conversing through such barriers, and was discouraged by the effort.  In his court statement, he suggests that it might be “technically true” to suggest that words might be exchanged.  But in practice, it was “impossible.  In 1X ADSEG the cell doors are made of thick steel and the ‘windows’ are transparent, thick plexiglass material with no slots or holes.”  It would be, Ellis explained, “almost impossible to speak through the door if the food tray slot is not open.  It would not be possible for anyone to say that if he is familiar with the X Bloc.”

Communicating with his clients through such doors proved “very difficult, even when standing several inches away. I find it implausible that inmates could really communicate in this way, unless they constantly screamed at loud volumes.  I would routinely have to ask for a deputy sheriff to open the cell’s food tray slot in order to be able to speak with a client.”

In addition to the physical features of the facility will be Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), further limiting Assange’s communication and hindering his means of mounting an adequate legal defence.  While Ellis conceded to having had no experience of them, he understood them to entail further impositions on visits and communication with friends and family.

On matters of mental health, Ellis was distinctly discouraging.  Provision at the facility was rudimentary.  “The extent of mental health care is that a social worker or counselor comes around to check on you every once in a while to ensure basic functioning.”  There were no permanent doctors in residence at ADC.  Part-time psychiatrists were employed instead, meaning irregular visits and consultations.  Those at risk of self-harm found themselves in suits designed to prevent suicide, immobilizing “the arms away from the body, removing shoe strings and sheets, etc.”

In cross-examination, James Lewis QC for the prosecution attempted to shore up the shoddy assertions in Kromberg’s affidavit.  Ellis, he suggested, was doing a bit of crystal ball gazing: how could he really know if Assange would be held in X Bloc?  Ellis had, after all, not interviewed the warden, a psychologist or prison staff about the conditions.  This was a desperate ploy; Ellis had been asked to testify on the conditions he had seen, not the totality of a policy that remained opaque.  “I have requested those records [determining how inmates will be housed] before and can never get them.”  Triumphantly, Lewis suggested that “Kromberg’s statement of how [Assange] would be assessed for housing at the ADC” was not something that could be disputed.  As to whether Assange would actually find himself in administrative detention, Ellis was cautious but convinced.  “I can’t predict the future, but I would bet he would be put in administrative detention.”

The prosecutor also attempted to lay a trap in discrediting the testimony.  Had Ellis been massaged by the defence to use the words “solitary confinement” in his statement to the court?  No, came the reply.  The time detainees in administrative segregation are permitted outside the cramped confines of their cell was “generally equivalent to solitary confinement.”  Mockingly, Lewis scrapped about definitions: an inmate could not be said to be enduring conditions of solitary confinement meeting his lawyers three hours each day.  (Not much verisimilitude on the part of the prosecution, given that the application of SAMS would make such meetings a difficult, if not an impossibility.)

Lewis then focused on Assange’s standing in Ellis’ eyes.  Did he feel that the publisher’s case had garnered publicity and large public support?  “I would agree with the publicity,” came the reply.  Public support was another matter he could not speak to.  The fact that previous prominent figures such as Paul Manafort and Maria Butina had been housed at the ADC and placed in “administrative segregation” suggested that Assange would not be treated any differently.

This line of questioning stirred Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who went on to probe Ellis on how the US Bureau of Prisons would handle Assange’s case.  In the United Kingdom, “Assange has been in custody in this jurisdiction for 18 months,” housed in the general wing. “Other than his being a public figure, any reason you think he’ll be held in administrative detention?”  The “primary reason”, suggested Ellis, would be his notoriety, though mental health might be a factor officials would consider.  But as the mental health unit was located in the general population, a decision might still be made to place him in “administrative segregation”.  “The mere fact you are high-profile dictates conditions?” inquired Baraitser.  Generally, came the reply, the ADC preferred segregating “these types of defendants” to “maintain a secure and safe environment” though he could not say why. “I am just speaking from experience.”

Sickler on health care

Veteran prison advocate and founder of the Justice Advocacy Group in Virginia, Joel Sickler, followed for the defence.  Much of his testimony seemed reiterative and supplementary to that of Ellis, though it also moved into discussion about the ADX Florence supermax facility, a nightmare Assange may face after softening at the ADC.  He suggested that Assange would have “no meaningful reaction” at the ADC, kept in his parking-space sized cell.  It was “ridiculous” to assert, as Kromberg had done, that credible communication between inmates in administrative segregation in the facility could take place.  “You’re twiddling your thumbs.  You’ll have access to reading material, but your whole world is the four corners of that room.”  There was also “significant sensory deprivation comparable to isolation in a cell.  There is little natural light as well as access to fresh air.”

While Assange’s attorneys would be permitted “to meet with him at any time during professional visiting hours” finding yourself “in the ADSEG unit at the ADC could compromise Mr Assange’s ability to focus on and assist his attorneys in his defence – for reasons related to how debilitating the experience may be for a prisoner.”

There was also a real risk of SAMSs being applied by the Attorney-General in the event of conviction. Challenging them would pose almost insuperable challenges. “It’s a well-known fact here that even the most minor administrative appeals by inmates are denied.”  Sickler claimed to have filed over a thousand appeals, “winning a dozen at most.”

Sickler’s testimony also covered the issue of health care at the ADC.  “Mr Assange should expect to receive only the most limited medical service at the ADC.  Any suggestion to this Court that he will be fully evaluated and assessed for medical or mental health conditions is misleading.”

Holding the flame for the prosecution was Clair Dobbin, who attempted to create a world of textual reality rather than grounded fact.  Policies of the US Bureau of Prisons were discussed; staffing and health care provisions were canvassed, including ADX facilities where inmates might be able to labour and improve their conditions.  This would present a good case to the authorities to have their SAMs removed.  Sickler suggested that what the BOP was claiming was different from practice.

While the prosecution smelled blood in suggesting that Sickler was actually unexperienced on the actual operations of X Bloc and the application of SAMs, Sickler rallied on the issue of how medical care would be supplied in such prison facilities.  Dobbin made the assumption that he had no access to prison medical records.  Not so, came the correcting reply.  Dobbin then moved on to limiting the value of such knowledge gained: it was specific to Sickler’s clients; not of the same order as an academic or research account on medical care in the prison system.  As for whether SAMs would be applied or not, this was up to the US Attorney General, who would determine the case on the basis of whether the prisoner had classified information threatening to “national security”.

Dobbin then engaged in what could only be described as a tidying up effort for one of the most notorious facilities in the US.  ADX Florence was hardly atrocious, she insisted.  Prisoners, she noted from a report, had claimed to form close personal relations with the staff.  “If it’s such a great place,” Sickler retorted, “why are so many prisoners trying to get out?”  Finding the report “incredulous,” he also suggested that institutionalisation brings with it fears of change.  Under re-examination, he noted that a client of his at ADX was “begging to get out.”

On Sickler’s own example of the darker side of the US penal system – an individual who suffered a mental breakdown at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, “severely beaten by correctional officers” and “thrown in the hole naked” – Dobbin was bizarrely disingenuous.  Initial calls by Sickler that the individual suffered psychiatric illness might have been callously ignored; and it took a federal court to grant the individual bail and eventually receive a writ for treatment at the Bellevue psychiatric center, but “judicial oversight” had prevailed.

The prosecutor also referred to the case of Cunningham v BOP to illustrate that things, even if they had been dire, must have improved.  The case involved ADX inmates, described as “five seriously mentally ill men”, along with six other ADX prisoners (“interested parties”) with “serious mental illnesses” suing the Bureau of Prisons in 2012 for violating BOP policy and the Eighth Amendment.

The class action argued that the authorities had failed to adequately diagnose and treat prisoners at ADX with grave mental illness.  This eventually led to an approved settlement covering, amongst other things, a range of improved measures for screening and diagnosis for mental illness and the provision of mental health care and suicide prevention.  Dobbin was being selective. As Sickler noted in his statement, “that same Court would find that the health care in ADX failed to meet basic standards of care for inmates.”

Dobbin, continuing her train of dissimulation, submitted another, deeply flawed example.  ADX Florence had permitted a convicted terrorist known as the “Underwear Bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, time to see family members during his time at the facility.  This belied an inconvenient reality: Abdulmutallab sued the Justice Department in October 2017 claiming that prison officials had held him in “long-term solitary confinement”, restricted his communication with relatives and force-fed him during hunger protests and fasting sessions.  Abdulmutallab had also been the subject of SAMs, and incarcerated in the infamous H-Unit of ADX.  Not exactly a paragon of US prison treatment, and not one of the prosecution’s better examples.

The post Assange’s Fifteenth Day at the Old Bailey: Solitary Confinement and Parlous Health Care first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Assange’s Fifth Day at the Old Bailey: Supermax Prisons and Special Administrative Measures

Having had a coronavirus scare towards the end of last week, necessitating a brief suspension of proceedings for September 11, the extradition proceedings for Julian Assange resumed with Eric Lewis.  The chairman of the board of Reprieve, who has cut his teeth on representing Afghan detainees in US custody and those in Guantánamo, has not been shy in arguing against the extradition of Assange to the United States.  In 2019, he warned in The Independent that one did not have to swoon over Assange’s politics or embrace his personality “to understand that if he is extradited to the United States, not only does he face a de facto life sentence, but every journalist who receives and publishes classified information faces such jeopardy as well.”

Emphasis during the day’s proceedings was placed on the potential consequences of Assange’s pre-trial detention and incarceration.  Think of the ADX Florence, Colorado, with such non-commodious confines that would fall within the definition of solitary confinement.

James Lewis QC for the prosecution had been consulting his authorities, suggesting that the European Court of Human Rights had an instructive answer favourable to the US side.  In Babar Ahmad & Others v United Kingdom, a 2012 case involving six defendants accused of terrorism, the ECHR was not unfavourable to aspects of the US justice system.  The applicants, including four British nationals, an Egyptian and a Saudi Arabian, argued that they were at real risk of ill-treatment in the US from the conditions of supermax prisons including “special administrative measures” (SAMs) or the possible length of sentencing in the US.

The ECHR concluded “that there would be no violation of the applicants’ rights if extradited to stand trial in the United States.”  The court accepted the argument made by the UK that the risk of real torture constituted an absolute bar to extradition but that other forms of ill-treatment did not.  “[T]he absolute nature of Article 3 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] does not mean that any form of ill-treatment will act as a bar to removal from a Contracting State.”  A deciding factor would be whether the risk was “real” or “whether it was alleviated by diplomatic and prosecutorial assurances given by the requesting State.”

The judgment itself suffers from a judicial preoccupation with procedural soundness rather than prison reality, not to mention an unhealthy degree of trust.  The court was ready to accept the submissions made by the US that the inmates would not unduly suffer mistreatment, given various safeguards.  “The Federal Bureau of Prisons applies accessible and rational criteria when deciding whether to transfer an inmate to ADX [supermax prison].”   The placement process “is accompanied by a high degree of involvement of senior official within the Bureau who are external to the inmate’s current institution.  Their involvement and requirement that a hearing be held before transfer provide an appropriate measure of procedural protection.”

The words of Babar Ahmad were music to the prosecutor’s ears, and the case was duly thrown back at the board chairman of Reprieve.  It suggested another angle in the prosecution strategy: Assange’s frail mental health should not prevent him from being extradited to the US.  Eric Lewis suggested that the ECHR case should be distinguished from Assange’s.  For one thing, more material on the sinister nature of such supermax facilities had come to light since 2012. He also suggested that mental health was not a crucial factor being debated in the Babar case.

Unfortunately, this ignored the fact that three defendants relied on their mental health as relevant in the challenge.  Such health, noted the ECHR, had not prevented them being confined to “high-security prisons in the United Kingdom.”  The submission from Dr Paul Zohn, a psychologist assigned to assess ADX Florence, gave it a few good licks of decency.  “Care was provided by one psychiatrist and two psychologists who made regular rounds through the housing units at ADX.”  The inmates were not short of treatment programs.  “On the basis of Dr Zohn’s application, it would not appear that the psychiatric services which are available at ADX would be unable to treat such [mental health] conditions.”  There would be no violation of Article 3 should the inmates find themselves detained at ADX.

Despite the judicial heads reaching that conclusion, history is an instructive and refuting guide.  Babar Ahmad subsequently described his experience.  “During the supermax prison time in America, for two years I lived through complete hell.  Those two years were the darkest days of my life… I saw one suicide attempt a week, three suicide attempts in one day.”  The ECHR had also ignored US efforts in preventing the United Nations from evaluating the conditions present in such carceral facilities.  As the UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Méndez, told the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016, “My request to visit the United States of America has been pending for five years over the terms of reference in order to obtain access to all places of detention.”

The application of SAMs has also been deemed, as the Center for Constitutional Rights and Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School did in their 2017 report, “the darkest corner of the US federal prison system, combining the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world.”  Restrictions involve “gag orders on prisoners, their family members, and their attorneys, effectively shielding this extreme use of government power from public view.”

Given that the US Attorney General has sole discretion to use SAMs, the procedural protections accepted as adequate in Babar Ahmad would have to be reconsidered.  No adequate reason is needed for their imposition, even in a pre-trial setting; the Attorney General’s citing of the relevant charges is considered sufficient and besides, national security considerations are always elastic.  In the words of the CCR report, “They cannot challenge the SAMS designation until after they are placed under SAMs.  Even then, like all federal prisoners, they risk having their cases dismissed for failure to exhaust the effectively meaningless Administrative Remedy Program.”

In this punitive nightmare, prisoners can be subject to such administrative measures indefinitely.  Assange might also face the prospect of continued obstruction to legal counsel, hobbling his means of mounting challenges.  Most troublingly, the use of SAMS can become a punitive bargaining tool, coercing the accused into pleading guilty and cooperating with the authorities.

For prosecutor Lewis, the Babar Ahmad case enabled him to quibble and disagree about the degrees of justifiable cruelty and mental harm that might be visited upon Assange.  To assist his cause, he doubted the expert witness’ qualifications on assessing whether Assange would receive appropriate medical care in the US prison system.  “The bullying prosecutor,” observed journalist John Pilger, “is reduced to insulting the integrity of expert witnesses.”  The witness was also challenged for his lack of impartiality, which had the genuine tone of a pot-calling-the-kettle-black moment.

Eric Lewis stood firm.  While admitting to not being a psychiatrist or a warden, he was “an expert in the US prison system.”  Nor was bias a problem: his views since 2019 on extraditing Assange had not changed.

The testimony sought to drag the matter back to Assange as a special case.  While it did not fall within the category of terrorism, the authorisation of SAMs by Attorney General William Barr would engage the offices of the CIA, whose current director, Gina Haspel, did a nice line in operating black sites sanctioning the use of torture.  As Kevin Gosztola reports, “Haspel is complicit in some of the very examples of US torture that WikiLeaks exposed, and yet she would be able to play a role in determining how he was controlled and silenced while awaiting trial.”  Whether detained at the Alexandria Detention Center awaiting trial, where he would face solitary confinement, or convicted and sent to H Block at ADX Florence, Assange might well find himself on “the only known black site on American soil”.

As with other witnesses, Eric Lewis also reminded the court of various comments by Trump administration officials (former CIA director Mike Pompeo; former Attorney General Jeff Sessions) that indicated a definite and aggressive shift towards prosecuting Assange from that of the Obama administration.  The stuttered nature of the indictment process suggested a certain malice of prolongation: charges fitted to gain the lengthiest sentences.

Towards the end of the day’s proceedings, journalists found themselves cut off from the video link to the court, only to then be informed of its abrupt close.  Stefania Maurizi wondered whether this might be due to technical challenges facing UK courts or hacking.  Either way, it was symbolically apt for a trial that is turning, with each day, into a distorted parody of justice.

The post Assange’s Fifth Day at the Old Bailey: Supermax Prisons and Special Administrative Measures first appeared on Dissident Voice.

White Allies For Black Lives Matter

We’re now emerging from an intense period of racial justice protests that began after the killing of George Floyd. It was exhilarating and pride-inspiring to witness the multitudes in the Lehigh Valley (Pa) who “took it to the streets” on behalf of racial equality, especially the waves of Black and white young people. According to the Pew Research Center, some 15 million adults participated in the protests which makes it the largest movement in American history. In terms of interracial composition, three times as many whites as Blacks participated and the percentage of Hispanics was higher than that for Black people. Further, so many young people participated that it could be rightly characterized as a generational revolt. But, will these events remain a historic “moment” or the start of an ongoing liberation movement?

After an interminable and unconscionably overdue response, we saw significant white allyship and we finally realized that white people must listen to Black voices and be accountable. However, in that vein, a key question remains: which voices should white allies heed? As Black activist Eric Jenkins reminds us, no organization speaks for all Black people and some Black-led organizations are totally disconnected from the lives of the Black working class. As Jenkins notes, some traditional Black organizations are even leery to accept white activists lest it disrupt their relationship with the dominant white power structure.

So, should white allies listen to the voices of the “go-along to get-ahead” types, like the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), composed of 55 members? The late Bruce Dixon, an editor at Black Agenda Report, characterized the CBC as part of the “Black Political Class,” whose first allegiance is enabling the 1% to rule, a class to which most Black Americans do not belong. “Blackness,” here, is just an image brandished to banksters, military contractors and corporate interests.” As Dixon asserted, CBC takes its marching orders from the Democratic Party and obscene gobs of cash donations from white corporate sponsors in exchange for safe Congressional seats, cushy lifestyles and undeserved status. Aside from rhetoric, they do nothing to advance the interests of 40 million Black citizens,

Should we listen to the Black voices those attempting to co-opt and neuter the system transforming potential Black Lives Matter by diverting it simply into voting for Democrats. As a Facebook friend recently wrote, “The Democratic Party is now “An upper-middle class party that’s singing ‘We Shall Overcome’ fifty years too late.”

Or, rather, should we be attentive to Black voices in our midst who echo the powerful legacy of social and political transformation derived from Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, Paul Robeson to W.E.B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Audre Lorde to more recent voices like bell hooks, Margaret Kimberley, Keenanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Mary Hooks? Their work strongly suggests they would all advocate a gradual merging of BLM demands like “Stop Killing Black People,” ending mass incarceration (one in three Black boys can expect to be locked up during their adult lives) and abolishing institutional and cultural racism with demands to dismantle capitalism in all its predatory forms. The aforementioned social justice activists knew that a reckoning with America’s history of racism and economic injustice can never be realized without joining both sets of demands.

For example, as Martin Luther King matured as a leader, thinker and radical activist, be became openly anti-capitalist (and anti-U.S. imperialism). In a speech to his staff in South Carolina, just one month before his assassination on April 4, 1968, Dr. King spoke approvingly about the new and dynamic young radicals in the movement who understood that “only by structural change can current evils be eliminated because the roots are in the [capitalist] system rather than in men or in faulty operations…they all understand the need for direct, self-transforming and structural transformation. This may be their most creative collective insight.”

Finally, meaningful change will only come about when tens of thousands of people are willing to engage in large-scale civil disobedience and risk arrest in the revolutionary tradition of Dr. King. Is there any doubt that were he alive today he would be all about grass-roots organizing and planning another rally for the indefinite occupation of Washington, DC. This type of movement is the worst nightmare for those who own and rule the country. Doing anything less than attempting to bring their apparition to life would be wasting a convergence of favorable factors that may not appear again.

Britain’s War on Truth and Dissent

A man is confined for seven years of his life to a diplomatic compound, fearing arrest for exposing some of the worst war crimes and financial misdoings of the past two decades, only to be stripped of his asylum status in a blatant mockery of international law before being locked away in a high security prison to await extradition and a possible life sentence. The press has obediently mounted a campaign to discredit the man, accusing him of every imaginable cardinal sin, and everyone who speaks out is accused of treachery.

To most of us, this sounds like a horror story from behind the Iron Curtain, some cartoonish portrayal of the Evil Empire whose citizens live a lie and where dissidents disappear without trace.

But this isn’t the Evil Empire, not according to Reagan at least. This is twenty-first century Britain, whose ancient democratic institutions lie at the heart of her national identity.

The man, needless to say, is Julian Assange who today pays the price for defying the institutional rot at the heart of Western governments; a rot we pretend does not exist.

Documents showing the medieval depravity that is Guantanamo Bay, details of a dirty multi-million dollar scheme to snatch up mining rights in the Central African Republic and, of course, Collateral Murder, the haunting video which shows Iraqi civilians being shot from an American helicopter while the pilots maniacally laugh at ‘these dead bastards’. Assange and Wikileaks revealed this and much more.

Those embarrassed by the revelations have chosen to defame him. They claim that Ecuador’s decision to revoke Assange’s asylum status had something to do with how he behaved in the embassy. They would have us believe that the British police spent £12.6 million to bring him to justice for – extremely dubious and now dismissed – allegations of rape in a country where sexual assault claims are routinely ignored by the authorities. They would accuse him of serving Russian interests, of being a spy and conspiring to hack into a government computer, even though Assange did nothing that would not have been done by any other investigative journalist.

His trial was inherently unfair from the outset with Assange deprived of vital legal documents and communications with his legal team apparently spied on by Spanish contractors for the CIA. The judge, Emma Arbuthnot, had a clear conflict of interest as her husband has previously been exposed by Wikileaks.

Since his incarceration at HM Prison Belmarsh he has reportedly lost 15 kilograms and shown signs of ‘full-fledged psychological torture’. His family fears that he will die in jail.

Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture who visited Assange at Belmarsh, went as far as saying, ‘In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law.’ Yet even esteemed jurists like Melzer have faced torrents of abuse and intimidation for merely stating the obvious: speaking the truth to power – that is Assange’s crime.

If the extradition goes ahead it will violate current provisions that exempt political prisoners from being extradited. It will also create fundamental legal obstacles to investigative journalism, silencing those who expose the most abhorrent acts of government cruelty and greed.

Two years ago, the British Government narcissistically took the high ground over the apparent involvement of the Russian state in the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. It bears restating that Skripal was an ex-GRU agent who turned to work for the MI6 and blew the cover of 300 former comrades-in-arms. He was no dissident and no hero. And he certainly did serve foreign interests.

The event triggered among the largest expulsions of foreign diplomats in history and became a symbol of Russian authoritarianism and intolerance of dissent. The Russian government denied involvement and responded by expelling Western diplomats.

Yet today Britain conducts a show trial designed to crush a man who exposed atrocities and corrupt financial dealings, and to set an example for others. It does not even need to resort to covert measures – the public and the press don’t care.

Assange will be locked away and silenced for the rest of his life, while our governments continue to sow chaos and suffering across the world in our name.

Prison: Therapeutic Centers Or Academies of Crime?

We may know where one is, we may regularly pass by one, but most of us will never go to prison. Dark Islands of Confinement, existing in a space separated from the rest of society, where men, women and youths are locked up, often poorly treated, seldom rehabilitated.

Black men and people from Asian and minority ethnic groups including tribal peoples, make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population in many countries. In America, where incarceration based on race is routine, Prison Policy found that “Black Americans make up 40% of the incarcerated population despite representing only 13% of U.S. residents.” In Britain, Government statistics show that, “people of minority ethnicities made up 27% of the prison population compared with 13% of the general population.” This figure increases further in young offenders’ institutions (YOI), where about 51% of boys aged 15–17 and young men, aged 18–21, are from black minority ethnic backgrounds, nearly four times the BAME proportion of the wider UK population. In addition between 2018/19, black people were eight times more likely than white to be stopped and searched, and police are five times more likely to use force against black people than white people.

Globally there are around 10.35 million people in prison (World Prison Population List), half of who are held in just three countries – the USA, China and Russia. With 2.2 million people behind bars America has the highest number of prisoners in the world; 655 people per 100,000, in Russia its 615 per 100,000.

At the other end of the scale is Norway, a world leader in prison reform. The total prison population is 3,207, equating to 60 people per 100,000 – over 10 times lower than the US and Russia and five times lower than Britain (87,900 behind bars – 148 per 100,000). Norway also has among the lowest re-offending rates in the world at 20% – by comparison in the US 76.6% re-offend and are re-arrested within five years; in the UK it’s almost the same.

These stark statistical differences reflect alternate approaches in the judicial system, the prison environment and in the nature of the society, the values and ideals, as well as levels of wealth and income inequality, which are much lower, and the overall atmosphere in which people live.

Prison officers are well-trained professionals, not merely ‘guards’. The Governor of Norway’s maximum security Halden Prison told the BBC “We make sure an inmate serves his sentence but we also help that person become a better person. We are role models, coaches and mentors.” Staff and inmates take part in activities together: “they eat together, play volleyball together, do leisure activities together and that allows us to really interact with prisoners, to talk to them and to motivate them.”

Prisons are well designed, well resourced and properly maintained, humane places in which inmates can study, learn skills and prepare themselves for a new life on release; centers of rehabilitated and education, rather than hostile places in which retribution is sought and punishment meted out. This rather crude, but widespread approach is based on the misguided belief that tough sentencing and a rigid penal system will act as a deterrent.

Is fear a deterrent?

The idea of prison as punishment posits the power of fear to change behavior. It is part of a broader ideological approach that believes in competition, together with reward and punishment as effective means of motivation, of manipulating behavior to achieve the goal, whatever that may be – obedience and conformity for one thing. It is a common technique in the world of business, is widely employed by parents and to a lesser degree teachers when faced with ‘difficult’, children, usually meaning children who won’t conform.

It is an approach that ignores, disregards or has no time for underlying causes – social, psychological and behavioral, and determines, that criminals should be punished. And while this approach appears justified, and commonly has public support, all the evidence suggests that not only does this method not deter criminals or, as re-offending rates show, change behavior, but it feeds into a societal atmosphere of intolerance and judgment, strengthening embedded divisions.

Instead of institutions of retribution, prisons should be refashioned as Therapeutic Centers for Change in which the criminal takes responsibility for their actions but is not made to feel guilty, or despised. An approach that looks at the range of influences that lead a young person into crime and to joining a criminal gang. Communities in which inmates are offered educational and therapeutic support; the whole focus of activity should be to rehabilitate, educate and heal, with the aim of releasing people back into society better educated and (psychologically) better equipped to deal with the demands of life. As in the Norwegian model, prisoners need to be shown respect and compassion and prisons need to be well resourced, funded by the state – private companies have no place in prisons or anywhere else in the criminal justice system – and staffed properly with trained personnel.

Wealth, crime and confinement

The underlying causes of crime and anti-social behavior are complex, but study after study shows that poverty, poor education and lack of parental guidance (specifically a stable father), are key factors. Education is consistently hailed as key to release from poverty and social deprivation, and therefore crime. The education a child/young person receives, however, including extra tutoring, access to the Internet, parental support, exposure to the arts, freedom to travel, is conditional upon their social/economic background. Varied levels of opportunity are one aspect of a world defined by inequality.

Inequality is an issue of social justice. It is not simply a financial issue. It is inherent in the socio-economic order and impacts on all areas of life (including political influence – with wealth goes power), enabling broader social imbalances to prevail. Restricting social mobility, condemning those born into poverty, to, by and large – there are always exceptions – remain there. Interestingly there is a correlation between levels of inequality and crime. Homicides, suspicion and fear of others are higher in countries where differences in wealth/income/opportunities are most pronounced, as are child pregnancies and mental illnesses in addition to a range of other social issues.

Operating under the same socio-economic model all countries suffer from inequality. Comparing levels of inequality is not straightforward. South Africa often tops the list, with China and India close behind but according to inequality.org the US, is the “most top heavy, with much greater shares of national wealth and income going to the richest 1 percent than any other country.” America is also the prison capital of the world and has more people serving life sentences than anywhere else: 30% of the estimated global number.

All is interconnected; prisons and crime are consequential elements within a societal structure of injustice and prejudice, which requires fundamental change. The current outdated, habitual and in many cases shameful methods need to be reviewed, the interconnections revealed and alternate approaches developed.

Such an examination must seek to understand the psychological impact that certain habitual methodologies and relentlessly promoted values have; the widespread use of competition, reward and punishment; the impact of fear, its relationship with desire and comparison; the reductive construct of the self. It must also examine the social conditions people are exposed to. Education and housing, the lack of access to the arts and the impact of materialistic values relentlessly promoted by corporations and governments, as well as the behavior such ideals encourage and the focus on material success. Probably not everyone can be rehabilitated, but many can and all deserve the chance.

A radical shift is needed, rooted in the recognition that humanity is one, that prejudice has no place in our consciousness or society and that the seed of all that is good rests within each and every human being. In order for that to flourish the creation of environments free from competition, judgment and hatred is required; stimulating spaces (home, school/university, the workplace, prisons and society as a whole) built on compassion, understanding and tolerance.

Overcoming Civil Discourse and Other Illusions of Democracy for the 1%


Festishizing democracy

The U.S. racist-capitalist class and its ideological apparatus fetishize the word democracy. Using fatuous appeals to civil discourse, it sponsors the illusion that democracy is the most advanced political system in human history. In addition to voting for their representatives, people supposedly engage with civil society through which they achieve greater social goods through voting, civic involvement, and giving “voice” to their desires. Once people make a case for change and opinions are expressed in civil discourse, society theoretically modifies and incorporates new changes. In this idealized state, society no longer needs conflict or struggle. When groups or classes resort to struggle or fail to act passively, they are earmarked as dangerous and excluded from designations of civil discourse. (Note: this particular rule applies only to #BlackLivesMatter or Occupy protesters, not to heavily armed white “stay home” protesters or fascist Bolivian or Venezuelan coup plotters.)

Such is the idealized state. Reality is quite different. In truth, the most advanced form of democracy is confined to the already-powerful, the 1% minority of extremely wealthy people and members of the dominant racial group. The wealthiest groups maintain their power to use the state to enact their political, economic, and social agendas. For the 99%, however, there is an expectation that we consent to and ratify the domination of U.S. society by its racist capitalist rulers through these non-struggle forms, through minor tweaks and improvements.

Despite the ideals of democracy, most eligible Americans vote only occasionally; many who try to vote are denied access through various racist mechanisms. Most Americans are cynical about both the government and their impact through civic participation. Few people have the millions of dollars required to influence the political process. Economist Michael Zweig shows in The Working-Class Majority, the actual number of people who make up the U.S. ruling class is so small that they could fit easily into Yankee Stadium. The truth is that the U.S. political-economic system, as it is currently constituted, even at its most democratic, cannot be more than what it is. Belief in leaving the system intact and achieving a more “perfect union” is part of the illusion.

Sociologist Jennifer M. Silva shows in We’re Still Here, few working-class people any longer believe in the capacity of people in their position to make change through existing democratic processes. Anti-communism of the Cold War period, neoliberal assaults on organized labor, and the empowerment of corporations today with human rights undermined this capacity. Above all, the perpetual animation of racist whiteness allying white workers with white millionaires in their political and cultural values creates a toxic poison causing white workers to betray themselves. Many acquire a psychological reward, as W.E.B. Du Bois first showed in Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880, from witnessing the abusive power and corrupt enrichment of white millionaires and billionaires, value given to brutal symbols of white national identity and culture, and the racist and xenophobic equation of “American” with white.

Silva seems to demonstrate, by contrast, that Black and Brown workers tend to be more optimistic about their lives and political roles. Perhaps this optimism is shaped by the inclination of U.S. working-class people of color to frequently view struggle and life with what scholar John D. Marquez, in Black-Brown Solidarity, has called a “collective consciousness” rooted in shared conditions of oppression and exploitation. Moreover, the history of a valiant progressive struggle closely links many communities of color with a more firmly rooted refusal to accept dominant illusions about democracy condition this experience. Some polls suggest that African Americans are more likely than whites to have an unfavorable view of capitalism and are more likely to be members of unions than white workers. Latinx workers represent the fastest-growing ethnic demographic group in the labor movement. They have been consistently at the forefront to reshape citizenship rights, worker relations with capital, and dominant value systems. The humanizing effect of organized labor and collective struggle on white workers, research shows, when they gain union membership experience less racist resentment. (Notably, in the most densely unionized section of the workforce, the “protective sector” [police, prison guards, etc.], this humanizing impact fails to take root in any meaningful manner.)

In the end, most workers, even many unionized workers, struggle paycheck-to-paycheck. They suffer the financial consequences of unnecessary cycles of unemployment; they fear sickness and stalking poverty. Often, they cannot imagine how their children, in the present conditions, will achieve a better life, and they suffer the emotional torture of knowing their losing struggles mirror their powerlessness. For large numbers of white workers, Trump’s authoritarianism, as inept and shamelessly racist as it is, stands in as the antidote for powerlessness. Cynicism, fueled by mythological individualism and exclusion, is fostered and manipulated by and aids the cause of the most powerful.

Imperialism, capitalism, racism

Democracy for the wealthy few has been a murderous disaster. Over the past 70 years, each decade, with its democratic ideals in hand, the U.S. has started at least one, sometimes more than one, major military conflict. Conservative estimates of the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan have so far reached between 1 million (directly) and 3 million (indirectly), just since 2001. U.S. war and “smart” sanctions in Iraq between 1991-2003 likely caused the deaths of at least 1 million people. Almost 8 million people died in Vietnam and neighboring Southeast Asian countries due to the U.S. invasion. Estimates of the number of deaths in the Korean War hover around 4 million. These numbers do not count the half of million Communists murdered by the U.S. propped-up South Korean regime or the 1 million Communists murdered with CIA direction and resources in Indonesia. Wars have been fought to promote democracy, for racist-capitalist domination of markets, geo-political power, corporate profits, or natural resources. Besides, dozens of other manufactured interventions in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East have established U.S.-backed or controlled dictatorships and undemocratic regimes. In all, U.S. imperialism has killed more than 16 million people since 1950 alone and has forced tens of millions to flee their homes.

Those choices have also cost the U.S. trillions of dollars in resources and vast amounts of goodwill. Very few people in the world regard the U.S. government, its racial capitalism, or its military in a friendly or uncritical fashion. Democracy for the minority means that the U.S. state machinery, in a democratic manner, will pass a 2020 military budget of $740 billion (a process that hides the real cost of war, intervention, and the violent subversion of other country’s sovereignty) with almost no criticism of the waste and irresponsibility of such spending.

Democracy for the 1% means that lobbyists for health insurance and medical corporations use democratic measures to block a streamlined public universal healthcare system consistently. Tens of millions of Americans are still excluded from health coverage, or pay massive costs for prescription drugs and medical procedures, even during a pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 people. The CEO of Gilead Sciences, which developed an antiviral treatment for COVID-19 using public resources, recently announced that his company’s drug will cost $3120 per vial. Gilead’s stock prices and profit margins promise better returns, while about 130,000 people in the U.S. alone, disproportionately people of color, are dead.

Democracy for the minority has seen explosive growth since the 1970s of racist police and criminal justice systems. Seventy years ago, the U.S. used a progressive tax on wealth to build a low-cost, world-class university system, sent people to the moon, and built highways, bridges, and tunnels. Today, militarized police forces and an expensive military machine dominate our lives. These systems brutalize and disproportionately imprison millions of African Americans and Latinx people. In early July, numerous media reports showed a widespread police culture of mocking the victims of police repression and racist violence. In the country with less than 5% of the world’s population, the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of imprisonment, far surpassing countries the U.S. government regularly demonize as undemocratic. About 7 million Americans are in prison or are under court-ordered surveillance through parole or probation. Further, as scholar and activist Angela Davis has shown in Are Prisons Obsolete?, the democratic process has created a criminal justice system dictated by privately-owned corporations that have a profit motive for expanding the number of arrested, convicted, and imprisoned people. As scholar Alex S. Vitale shows in The End of Policing, state and local governments, rather than fund high-quality public education, use up their limited resources to pay private security companies to train police to adopt a racist “warrior mentality” to confront and control non-white populations.

Democracy for the wealthy few means that one corrupt man was able to use his wealth to gain control of the machinery of the U.S. state, to manipulate his power to enrich his family and businesses, promote an agenda of “white power” and authoritarianism, and consistently lie to the American people and the world. When he was caught and tried for his crimes, he democratically squirmed away from conviction and punishment.

That is what democracy looks like.

Uprising and overcoming democracy

The May-June Uprising against racist police brutality, which began in Minneapolis as the protest of the murder of George Floyd, has also become a struggle against cynicism. It is becoming a struggle to “overcome democracy,” as Lenin, in State and Revolution, described the working-class movement’s ultimate goal. Under capitalism, he reasoned, democracy will always mean domination by the 1%. The socialist-oriented, working-class majority must overcome it. Today’s uprisings have become both a struggle against Trump’s abuse of power and a fight to overcome the democracy that operates by and for the white supremacist, wealthy few. Thus, the uprising has become a mass demand to reshape power relations more broadly, wrest control of all resources from the dominant racist-capitalist minority, and redirect the state’s machinery to serve the needs of the majority of the people.

It is tempting to follow the arguments of some Marxists who argue that a distinction between bourgeois democracy and socialist democracy must be made. For example, the late historian Ellen Meiksins Wood in Democracy Against Capitalism poses, without citing or discussing Lenin, what she sees as the political concept of democracy against the fundamentally economic concept of capitalism. She offers a socialist critique of democracy. Wood argues that democracy refers to all “extra-economic goods” or “political goods.” Political struggles around “extra-economic goods,” she avers, “remain vitally important, but they have to be organized and conducted in the full recognition that capitalism has a remarkable capacity to distance democratic politics from the decisive centres of social power and to insulate the power of appropriation and exploitation from democratic accountability.”

Wood’s idea shares some important affinities with Lenin’s metaphor of democracy as “the shell of capitalism.” Lenin writes, “A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism.” Capitalism uses this shell to protect itself, to conceal its relations, to hide its core truths behind a covering of dynamic political activity, speech, campaigns, and discourse. It is the appearance of freedom and dynamic discourse that “insulates” the true power of capitalist domination of the state. In the end, Wood distinguishes a fuller democracy associated with socialism and a limited version associated with capitalism––as if the political forms of the latter are simply extended for a greater portion of the population but essentially remain the same.

Creating a distinction between two types of democracy isn’t, however, Lenin’s purpose in State and Revolution. His doesn’t claim that democracy functions improperly under capitalism; it is, at its best, the limit of political maturity under capitalist social relations of production. Instead of distinguishing bourgeois democracy from socialist democracy, Lenin’s shows that Marxism envisions a revolutionary process that originates in capitalism (and its political forms) but which are seized, subordinated, and then supplanted by new working-class created and controlled political forms that better empower and fortify the public ownership, administration, and planning for development the enterprises, institutions, resources, and communities of the future.

We are witnessing in this Uprising an attempt to create in embryonic form the tools that may turn the struggle from one of extending democracy to one of overcoming democracy. Lenin called for workers to claim existing democratic machinery but to refuse to settle for merely holding onto that machinery. Without a process of overcoming democracy, a mass uprising that aims to secure power for the majority will fail, and the dominant minority will return to power. History shows us that the neoliberal class strategy implemented in the 1970s and 1980s restored the full racist-capitalist domination despite the communist and social democratic insurgencies in the 1930s through the 1960s. Through this uprising, in its resistance to racist police brutality––the truncheon of the racist capitalist class that dominates the U.S. state––the people seek to extend citizenship rights. But also, they seek to convert that mechanism of power into a tool to reconstruct themselves as rulers not as the ruled, or as subjects who consent to the democracy of racist capital.

The Big Plantation

European Left-wing political scientists find difficult to understand that the colonial contradiction is at the heart of our present, they think it’s a conceptual error, something anachronistic, that the joyful postmodernity – the one that delivers their Macs to them at home – has gone beyond all that, and that Trump or Bolsonaro are racist accidents of History, or of the “free world”. It’s just the opposite. Under the advertising varnish of capitalist globalization, the deep History of our world has never disappeared, it has even come back to the surface, even stronger. The revolt that is happening in the United States is the same one that founds the resistance of the Venezuelan people.
— Thierry Deronne, Algeria Resistance Mohsen Abdelmoumen’s blog, 2020

Everyone is a philosopher, though in his own way and unconsciously, since even in the slightest manifestation of any intellectual activity whatever, in ‘language’, there is contained a specific conception of the world, one then moves on to the second level, which is that of awareness and criticism.
— Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks

Three of the four police officers involved in the murder of George Floyd were previously employed as stock boys by TARGET and Home Depot, and two had worked at McDonalds. One stocked for a grocery store. One didn’t graduate high school. In other words these were economically part of that large temp minimum wage work force that is now increasingly unemployed. The fourth, officer Kueng, whose file was redacted, was apparently more middle class, from a nice family and who graduated with some distinction from his high school. It’s interesting, first off, why his file was redacted.

But one of them had served in the military, Derek Chauvin, the man now charged with the murder. Chauvin also had 17 complaints filed against him for excessive force before he kneeled on George Floyd’s neck.

There are a couple things to consider here. One is why these men are not on the side of the people they abuse (and murder)? The answer is multi-fold. One is a culture of machismo and violence that saturates American society. Another is that the United States was a slave owning nation where twelve presidents owned slaves. Racism and Calvinist and Puritan values have never left this society. And it was founded (and it’s in the constitution) as an unequal and anti-democratic republic. Owners of property were established as privileged. And so it has continued. But it also has the allure of the uniform. Now it’s understandable that being a cop and being handed a gun and impunity to harass and abuse the public is preferable to flipping burgers. One job is utter humiliation while the other is validated as heroic by popular culture.

Domestic police departments tend to hire military veterans before those without military service.

The Obama administration helped expand the preference: in 2012, the Department of Justice provided tens of millions of dollars to fund scores of vets-only positions in police departments nationwide. Official data on the impact of veteran-cops is scarce. Nearly all of the 33 police departments contacted by The Marshall Project declined to provide a list of officers who had served in the military, citing laws protecting personnel records, or saying the information was not stored in any central place. The Justice Department office that dispenses grants to hire cops and study policing said it has no interest in funding research into how military experience might influence police behavior.
— Simone Weichselbaum and Beth Schwartzapfel, The Marshall Project, May 30, 2017

Those with special forces training tend to go into Private Security. One in four soldiers in theatre in Afghanistan are private contractors. The wars of empire are increasingly being outsourced.

During the Obama administration, the Pentagon has been equipping US police departments across the country with a staggering amount of military weapons, combat vehicles, and other equipment, according to Pentagon data.

According to a New York Times article published last week, at minimum, 93,763 machine guns, 180,718 magazine cartridges, hundreds of silencers and an unknown number of grenade launchers have been provided to state and local police departments since 2006. This is in addition to at least 533 planes and helicopters, and 432 MRAPs — 9-foot high, 30-ton Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicles with gun turrets, and more than 44,900 pieces of night vision equipment, regularly used in nighttime raids in Afghanistan and Iraq. Much of the lethal provisions have gone to small city and county police forces. The recent militarization is part of a broader trend. According to Eastern Kentucky University professor Peter B. Kraska — who has studied this subject for two decades — as of the late 1990s, about 89 percent of police departments in the United States serving populations of 50,000 people or more had a PPU (Police Paramilitary Unit), almost double of what existed in the mid-1980s. Their growth in smaller jurisdictions (agencies serving between 25 and 50,000 people) was even more pronounced. Currently, about 80 percent of small town agencies have a PPU; in the mid-1980s only 20 percent had them. The domestic military ramp-up is far from being in proportion to any perceived threat to public safety. The Times notes that, “today, crime has fallen to its lowest levels in a generation… the number of domestic terrorist attacks has declined sharply from the 1960s and 1970s.” And yet, “police SWAT teams are now deployed tens of thousands of times each year, increasingly for routine jobs.
— Zac Corrigan, WSWS, June 2014

Couple this to the growing social inequality in the country, where 15% live below the poverty line (in 2015, and which no doubt is closing in on double that post Covid), and where on the heels of the pandemic hysteria and government fearmongering, which resulted in a nation wide (and global) house arrest, the problems with a militarily trained and equipped domestic police force, one drawing its officers from the low end of the educational spectrum, and one that provides at best rudimentary training, is obvious.

A Buddhist friend of mine was mentioning that at her retreat one of the Tibetan teachers observed that Covid-19 and the authoritarian policies it has engendered will unleash cataclysmic dark forces. Spiritual forces, so I take it. Or anti-spiritual, actually. And this is how it feels. And this is beyond the clear fascist agenda in play, but extends into realms of psychic transformation for the bourgeoisie in particular. The anxiety and fear that has grown silently for this privileged class, grown steadily over the last twenty years, is now cracking open and the toxic emotional slag of the atrophied inner lives is spilling out on the rest of society at large. It feels or is felt most deeply, from my anecdotal experience, in the white bourgeoisie’s fear of the other.

And I have not felt this sort of collective confusion, anxiety, and fear since the days of Vietnam. Things surface for people. The psychological effects of this lockdown are being wildly underestimated (especially in the long term for children). The difference from the Vietnam war is five decades of screen damage and an accelerated transference of wealth to the top 1%. The reality of such profound economic inequality is impossible to deny now, and the staggering numbers of homeless across the country eventually can’t be NOT seen.  It finally starts to serve as a psychic wound, a constant silent witness to the crimes of the system.

The ruling class, or certainly at the least one corner of it, launched the ‘Covid-19 panic’ as a means to shut down western society. No matter if the virus is man made or accidental or just a naturally occurring zoonotic virus… it served as a prop for their agenda. The ultimate plan remains a bit opaque but it likely includes a wholesale eradication of what is left of civil liberties, intensification of an already draconian surveillance state, and a transformation and rebranding of the meager welfare state into something fit for 7th century serfs, only far worse actually. This is the world of Bill Gates’ moist nocturnal dreams, and those elite new green capitalists, royal families, and digital billionaires. It should be noted that global health bureaucracies like WHO and the CDC are political organizations first. Both have deep and long standing ties to big Pharma and various other corporate interests. The WHO is privately funded (Gates essentially owns it and directs policy) and the CDC is actually a part of the Health and Human Services department of government. And the current head of the CDC is a former pharmaceutical company executive and a guy who worked with John Bolton drawing up the National Biodefense Strategy for president Trump. Anthony Fauci is the creepy and slimy little front man for all the agencies involved in urging governments around the world to shut down (they like the term lockdown for its prison connotations). Without digressing too much here, what is relevant is that when one starts to wonder how it is allowed for known white nationalists and Klansmen to openly serve as police officers, the answer is not that the de-centralized nature of state and city police departments are hard to reform or clean up but rather that the very top office holders in criminal justice share sympathy with the racists.

We are watching in real time the normalizing of martial law and the suspension of democracy. And these measures have given a bit of a boost to the beleaguered and increasingly brutish police departments across the country. When not even a high school diploma is necessary to be given a badge and gun, when the police recruit from the ranks of malcontent and angry TARGET stock boys and blank McDonald counter people, there must be a logic at work, and I suspect there is. First, flipping burgers is the only thing many young men and women have open to them. I’ve done that kind of work. And I hated it, too. But the domestic police, those city departments fresh with new military hardware, don’t want empathic or imaginative young men, they want the emotionally dead. As a side point here, I know martial arts masters who can train you to subdue the wildest suspect without any harm. Adroitly and calmly — but it would require a few months training, not a few hours. But that is not what the departments want. They want crude clumsy tactics, ones that instill fear and which cause pain and suffering and sometimes death. Those few percent of military trained special force guys, they don’t go the Minneapolis police department, or San Diego, or Toledo or Indianapolis. They go into high end private security.

This is not even to touch on the wide spread use of steroids.

When it came to incarceration, the US prison population had reached a staggering 2.4 million people by 2014. Out of this number — which accounted for a full quarter of the entire world’s prison population — 38 percent of inmates were black, even though as mentioned black people made up just 13.3 percent of the entire population. Compare this to whites, who made up 35 percent of the US prison population while constituting just under 78 percent of the country’s population. Mass incarceration was brought into being by Bill Clinton with the passage of his omnibus crime bill in 1994. Obama, over his two terms, did nothing to address what prison reform activists had long described as the new plantation.
— John Wight, Medium, 2020

The police today are increasingly used for purposes of optics, as much as any real police work. Most crimes go unsolved and for uniformed cops in their black and white (usually) Cruisers the job description is essentially to function as an occupying force in poor neighborhoods. They carry out parole checks, harass and detain the poor, often on a whim. Most acutely in black inner cities. `They are a new gestapo. They are there to brutalize and frighten what is seen as a surplus population. The essence of America’s slave legacy is found right there, in the grim counter insurgency tactics of domestic police departments on the streets of black inner cities. For important work, for the protection of important persons and prestige property the ruling class have turned to private security. That leaves the uniformed cops, badly paid, with minimum job security actually, as tools for enforcing racial oppression. And if any more proof were needed, one need only check the hyper incarceration rate in America’s prisons, and further, the results of the Innocence Project. The numbers of falsely convicted men and women is staggering, it is mind numbing and a spiritual stain on this society that can never be washed away. It is the overriding and ineradicable symbol of a savage culture of strict class separation, a separation enforced with lethality and pointless cruelty. For the hyper incarceration starts right there, on the same streets where Eric Garner was choked, or Tamir Rice was shot, where George Floyd was murdered, and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile and hundreds of others have suffered and died. One topic not discussed enough is post arrest custodial deaths.

In properly staffed households throughout the world, the bodyguard is the new nanny, fear of terrorism, a volatile political climate and a pervasive sense that the wealth creation of a few has come at the expense of the many have made paranoia the norm.
Town and Country, December 2016

We learned that the contractors in our sample are predominantly white man in their 40s who chose contracting as a second career. Most are veterans with significant military experience. Among those contractors who were previously deployed as service members, many are former officers and about half of them are Special Forces veterans. They are more likely to have a college degree than their active-duty counterparts, but less likely than their fellow veterans in the general population. They come from parts of the U.S. or United Kingdom with higher unemployment rates and fewer job opportunities—not the areas with the strongest traditions for military service.
— Ori Swed and Thomas Crosbie, Pacific Standard, “The Demographics of America’s Private Military Contractors”. March 2019

In 2009, after Obama was elected, the Department of Homeland Security and FBI jointly wrote an intelligence study on white extremism in domestic police departments.  Janet Napolitano, then DHS head, quickly and quietly swept the report under the proverbial rug. Back in 1991 Los Angeles U. S. District Judge Terry J. Hatter Jr found that sheriffs at the Lynwood substation were engaged in what he called ‘racial hostility’ and ‘terrorist tactics’ against Latino and Black prisoners. And that the top brass for the Sheriffs’ department were well aware of this. In 2006 the FBI released a redacted memorandum warning of white nationalists in domestic police departments. Or look up the Joe Burge case in Chicago. In departments in Florida, Texas, and Ohio, there were active Klansmen in police departments. It is common knowledge that across the country police culture is profoundly racist and reactionary. The educated classes in the U.S. have internalized the Hollywood version of all this. Just think how many hours of cop shows (all them, literally) you have watched and how every single one signs off on a fantasy version of police heroism …the thin blue line metaphor, and how it is only these handsome and beautiful (if slightly flawed, you know, human) public servants are protecting you and your family from the vicious underclass, from drug dealing gangs, all minority, and where all them, literally, portray inner cities are lawless wastelands without culture, brutish and bestial. This has led to the new narrative archetype of ‘taking the wrong off-ramp’. These are openly racist stories but the public has come to digest such pseudo storytelling in a sort of pattern recognition manner. And nearly every single cop show features one or more military veterans. Usually special forces, but not always. Service in the military is a signifier for virtue and honour.

Forward to 2019, and Los Angeles again, this time in the incorporated mostly black city of Compton in south LA. The details of the Ryan Twyman killing, by sheriffs again, is perhaps the most perfect example of American white supremacism and, when empowered, the violent consequences.

Ryan Twyman was unarmed inside a parked car when two Los Angeles sheriff deputies approached and fired 34 rounds. Video of the entire incident, which happened in roughly 50 seconds, was as shocking as many police brutality cases that have gone viral in the US. But the killing of the 24-year-old father of three barely made the news. On that day, his death was far from unique: officers across LA shot five people in five separate incidents in just over 24 hours. Only one person survived. Families and activists said the bloodshed on 6 June provided a terrifying illustration of the culture of police violence and a system that trains officers to kill – while ensuring they won’t face consequences.
— Sam Levine, Guardian, August 2019.

This is not what you see on the new FOX cop show Deputy. Watch a few episodes and get back to me. But that is hardly a unique phenomenon. There is SWAT, Chicago PD, the various Law & Order franchises, or Criminal Minds. I could go on and on, obviously. The problem is not the violence depicted, for Shakespeare is violent. It is the naked propaganda and the racism. Anti-black racism at the very top but today Islamaphobic narratives abound as well, often with pro Israeli sub plots. Military shows follow the same blueprint.

The point is that you cannot separate the Imperialist wars of aggression across the planet, which serve as recruitment pools for domestic police and private security and you cannot separate the counter insurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Syria, not to mention the covert activities against Venezuela and Bolivia both of which involved at least some uniformed military personnel, from the sadistic actions of America’s police. Nor can you separate these aggressions from the jingoistic entertainments (recruitment shows for the military and police) from Hollywood. These foreign policy actions remain largely accepted and popular. The country may hate Trump, with good reason, but his foreign policy is so far actually less lethal than Obama’s or Bush’s or Clinton’s. In any event every President gets a bump in approval ratings when he kills a dark skinned foreigner either by drone or by military actions. The public didn’t much care at all about Fallujah, and the architect of that butchery, Jim ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, former Secretary of State for Trump before being fired, is now a darling of the white educated liberals who are so incensed about the prez’ and his failure to lock down the country even more, harder, and certainly for longer. They are quite happy to cheer and identify with the FBI and war criminals like Mattis. That exaggerated hatred of Trump contains a number of contradictions. But for the purposes of this discussion the central one is that of soft or disguised racism vs. overt white sheets MAGA racism.

White paternalism knows no bounds. And the inherent tokenism of the educated white American has sort of reached its own, from their perspective, cultural horizon event. Another way of saying it is truly the death of irony epoch.

That Americans approve of military violence against the poor nations of the world suggests why the police in America are so steadfastly racist and white supremacist. They are hugely supported. Now, there is with the murder of Floyd a lot of discussion of defunding the police. The problem being, as many have pointed out, this would only increase privitization of security. The US spent 100 billion on domestic policing last year, give or take. And around 80 billion on prisons. The US defense budget is four or almost five times that amount. So it would seem critical to defund the military right along with the police. It is clearly a positive to reallocate cop money to mental health and community infrastructure and education. But this is the nefarious aspect of Covid-19 and the lockdown. In Philadelphia the proposed budget cuts, due to the massive effects of the lockdown, include cutting nearly all sanitation workers down to almost nothing, cutting stuff like soap in hospitals and upkeep of school and city buses. The Covid lockdown was a tool of the ruling class.

There is much press now given to polls showing American support for the Floyd protests. Except those polls are misleading.

Forty-five percent of respondents told Morning Consult that, on the whole, most of the protesters are peaceful and desire meaningful social reform, while 42 percent said most protesters are trying to incite violence or destroy property. In Monmouth’s poll, only 17 percent felt the actions of the protesters were fully justified, 37 percent said they were partially justified and 38 percent said they weren’t justified at all. And the Reuters/Ipsos survey found that most Americans (72 percent) didn’t think violent protests were an appropriate response to Floyd’s killing, and that property damage caused by protesters undermined their goals (79 percent). Morning Consult’s survey also found that Americans were less supportive of the protests when they were specifically asked about black people protesting.
— Five Thirty Eight

It’s that last sentence, you see. Whatever grass roots movements achieve is always going to run up against that last sentence. But I’m not cynical about defunding cops. It is a concrete material step in developing alliances in the working class. The movements for prison abolition and defunding are doing the ground work for alliance formation. It has to start somewhere. And they are the front edges of suggesting property and capitalism are the source of most all of their problems. Gramsci envisioned the ‘hegemonic’ struggle as two-pronged:  one to educate the working class from ideas that chain them to the existing order and their own exploitation, and two, to bring other ‘subaltern’ classes into what he called a ‘bloc’ with the working class.

I only see the average American remains bizarrely ignorant of US foreign policy. How many people know of Hillary Clinton’s coup in Honduras? I suspect not many. The violence against the global south has not abated for sixty years (okay, for three hundred). From AT&T to United Fruit to Dole Pineapple, the business interests of corporate America have stood on the backs of the developing world (sic). What would actually happen if police were defunded? What would massive upticks in privatized security look like? Possibly something out of Robocop. And that is the danger today, that is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Take a look at Alabama, which sits up top in the U.S. alphabetically and in the middle, population-wise: Since 1996, Alabama police departments have received $78,534,297.32 in planes, helicopters, rifles, and mine-resistant vehicles. How is there so much stuff to dole out? After 9/11, U.S. military funding increased 50 percent. In fact, the average American has paid $23,386 in taxes to support the military and its war efforts since 2001. All that spending has translated to a lot of extra mine-resistant vehicles, which local police now own.
— AC Shilton, Fatherly, 2020

Over the last thirty years funding for domestic police has grown over 400% according to the Justice Policy Institute. And there are millions of dollars shortfall for public education. The problem there is that public education sucks bad anyway. It is almost worse than no education, frankly (and, yes, I know there are exceptions). And this takes us back to the shelf stockers at Tesco and TARGET. The elite Universities and prep schools are available for the rich, and increasingly the very rich only. And which serves as yet another factor in the acute resentment that seems to fuel so much American discourse. And while private schools are better (how could they be worse?) the problem is the culture at large. It’s not only a reflexive and embedded and indelible racism, it is an anti intellectualism, and fast eroding literacy. And then there are the screens. The pernicious effects of social media (which really is a machine for creating resentment and/or guilt) and smart phones, aps, algorithms … the entire attention economy, has produced a populace of emotional deadness, of crippling anxiety and insecurity about self, and it has done nothing to even mitigate in the slightest of ways the Imperialist project and what is called American Exceptionalism. The cops that killed George Floyd, if prosecuted, will be exceptions that change nothing. Most cops serve with impunity. American soldiers shoot at Iraqi civilians as sport, amusement. The vicious IDF, fresh from killing teenagers, comes to the U.S. to teach domestic departments better how to instill terror and pain, nothing more. There is no secret magic Zionist martial art or mind control. It’s just brute terrorizing. As it has always been for fascists. And as it has always been for plantations and chain gangs.

“The World Cannot Breathe!” Squashed by the U.S., a Country Built on Genocide and Slavery

More than two centuries of lies are now getting exposed. Bizarre tales about freedom and democracy are collapsing like houses of cards.

One man’s death triggers an avalanche of rage in those who for years, decades and centuries, have been humiliated, ruined, and exterminated.

It always happens just like this throughout the history of humankind – one single death, one single “last drop”, an occurrence that triggers an entire chain of events, and suddenly nothing is the same, anymore. Nothing can be the same. What seemed to be unimaginable just yesterday, becomes “the new normal” literally overnight.

*****

For more than two centuries, the country which calls itself the pinnacle of freedom, has been, in fact, the absolute opposite of that; the epicenter of brutality and terror.

From its birth, in order to ‘clear the space’ for its brutal, ruthless European settlers, it systematically liquidated the local population of the continent, during what could easily be described as one of the more outrageous genocides in the human history.

When whites wanted land, they took it. In North America, or anywhere in the world. In what is now the United States of America, millions of “natives” were murdered, infected with deadly diseases on purpose, or exterminated in various different ways. The great majority of the original and rightful owners of the land vanished. The rest were locked up in “reservations”.

Simultaneously, the “Land Of The Free” thrived on slavery. European colonialist powers literally hunted down human beings all over the African continent, stuffing them, like animals, into ships, in order to satisfy demand for free labor on the plantations of North and South America. European colonialists, hand in hand, cooperated in committing crimes in all parts of the world.

What really is the United States? Is anyone asking, searching for its roots? What about this? A simple, honest answer: The United States is essentially the beefy offspring of European colonialist culture, of its exceptionalism, racism and barbarity.

Again, simple facts: huge parts of the United States were constructed on slavery. Slaves were humiliated, raped, tortured, murdered. Oh, what a monstrous way to write the first chapters of the country’s history!

The United States, a country of liberty and freedom? For whom? Seriously! For Christian whites?

How twisted the narrative is! No wonder our humanity has become so perverse, so immoral, so lost and confused, after being shaped by a narrative which has been fabricated by a country that exterminated the great majority of its own native sons and daughters, while getting insanely rich thanks to unimaginable theft, mass-murder, slavery,  and later  the semi-slavery of the savage corporate dictatorship!

The endemic, institutionalized brutality at home eventually spilled over to all parts of the planet. Now, for many decades, the United Stated has treated the entire world as full of its personal multitude of slaves. What does it offer to all of us: constant wars, occupations, punitive expeditions, coups, regular assassinations of progressive leaders, as well as thorough corporate plunder. Hundreds of millions of people have been sacrificed on the grotesque U.S. altar of “freedom” and “democracy”.

Freedom and democracy, really?

Or perhaps just genocide, slavery, fear and the violation of all those wonderful and natural human dreams and of human dignity?

*****

Then one single death of a man whose neck got crushed by the knee of a ruthless cop and the country has exploded. Hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy fighters and activists are now flooding the streets of Minneapolis, Washington D.C., New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and other U.S. cities.

The death of Mr. George Floyd is a symbol, really, as black people get murdered in the most despicable way, almost every day. From January 2015 to date, for instance, 1,250 African-American citizens have been shot and killed by the police in our democratic U.S.A.

In the “Country of Freedom”, 2.3 million human beings are rotting away alive in the increasingly privatized prisons. The U.S. prisoner rate is the highest in the world. Holding people behind bars is big business. Minorities form a disproportionately high percentage of the detainees.

*****

And that is not all. Actually, the entire world has already become one huge prison. Look around: the whole planet is now being monitored, policed in that very special and thorough U.S. way; policed, brutalized, and if it dares to protest — pitilessly chastised.

Essential terms are all being twisted. The country abusing its own people, as well as the entire world, is defined by its own corporate mass media and propaganda system, as “free” and “democratic”. Those nations that are defending their own people against the brutal diktat of the empire, are insulted, called ‘regimes’ and ‘dictatorships’.

I have already described this madness in my 800-page book, “Exposing Lies of the Empire”, after witnessing some of the deadliest trends being spread by the United States in some 160 countries.

The murder of George Floyd unleashed resistance; it opened many eyes. In the United States, and everywhere else. Mr. Floyd, African-Americans, Native Americans and other oppressed people in the United States are brothers and sisters of those billions of men and women who are to this day, colonized, brutalized and murdered by the Empire all over the world.

Let this be the beginning of a new wave of the global liberation struggle!

Now more and more people can finally see what few of us have been repeating for years: The entire world has its neck squashed by the U.S. boot. The entire world “cannot breathe”! And the entire world has to fight for its right to be able to breathe!