Going Underground’s Farhaan Ahmed talks to John Pilger after Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing, where it was decided that Julian would not face a full extradition hearing next year until after the 24th of February.
Every time you think the corporatocracy’s manufactured anti-Semitism hysteria cannot possibly get more absurd, they somehow manage to outdo themselves. OK, stay with me now, because this is a weird one.
Apparently, American Hitler and his cronies are conspiring with some secret group of “Jewish leaders” to stop British Hitler from becoming prime minister and wiping out all the Jews in Great Britain. Weird, right? But that’s not the weird part, because maybe American Hitler wants to wipe out all the Jews in Great Britain himself, rather than leaving it to British Hitler … Hitlers being notoriously jealous regarding their genocidal accomplishments.
No, the weird part is that everyone knows that American Hitler does not make a move without the approval of Russian Hitler, who is also obsessed with wiping out the Jews, and with destroying the fabric of Western democracy. So why would Russian Hitler want to let American Hitler and his goons thwart the ascendancy of British Hitler, who, in addition to wanting to wipe out all the Jews, also wants to destroy democracy by fascistically refunding the NHS, renationalizing the rail system, and so on?
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? In any event, here’s the official story.
In “a recording leaked to The Washington Post,” and then flogged by the rest of the corporate media, Reichsminister des Auswärtigen, Mike Pompeo, told a group of unnamed “Jewish leaders” that American Hitler (i.e., Donald Trump) will “push back” (i.e., intervene) against British Hitler (i.e., Jeremy Corbyn) to protect the lives of Jews in Great Britain if British Hitler becomes prime minister (and is possibly already doing so now). The identities of these “Jewish leaders” have not been disclosed by the corporate media, presumably in order to protect them from being murdered by Corbyn’s Nazi hit squad. Whoever they were, they wanted to know whether American Hitler and his fascist cabinet were “willing to work with [them] to take on actions if life becomes very difficult for Jews” after Jeremy Corbyn seizes power, declares himself Führer of Communist Britannia, and orders the immediate invasion of France.
To anyone who has been closely following the corporate media’s relentless coverage of Jeremy Corbyn’s Nazi Death Cult (i.e., the UK Labour Party) and the global Anti-Semitism Pandemic, it comes as no real surprise that this group of “Jewish leaders” (whoever they are) would want to stop him from becoming prime minister. I doubt that their motives have much to do with fighting anti-Semitism, or anything else specifically “Jewish,” but … well, I’m kind of old-fashioned that way. I still believe there’s a fundamental difference between “the Jews” and the global capitalist ruling classes.
I realize that both the neoliberal establishment and the neo-fascist fringe disagree with me, and that both are determined (for different reasons) to conflate the two in the public’s mind, but that’s my take, and I’m sticking to it. I don’t think the world is controlled by “the Jews.” I think it’s controlled by global capitalism.
Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist. Here’s how the anti-Semitism panic in the United Kingdom looks to me.
After nearly 40 years of privatization and restructuring, British society is on the brink of being permanently transformed into the type of savage, neo-feudal, corporatist nightmare that the USA already is. The global capitalist ruling classes are extremely pleased about this state of affairs. They would now like to finish up privatizing Britain, so they can get on with privatizing the rest of Europe. The last thing they need at this critical juncture is Jeremy Corbyn to become prime minister and start attempting to remake their nascent neoliberal marketplace into a society … you know, where healthcare is guaranteed to all, you don’t need a mortgage to buy a train ticket, and people don’t have to eat out of trash bins.
Unlike in the USA, where there is no functional political Left, and where the non-parliamentary “two-party system” is almost totally controlled by the corporatocracy, in the UK, there are still a few old-fashioned socialists, and they have taken back the Labour Party from the neoliberal Blairite stooges that had been managing the transformation of Britain into the aforementioned neo-feudal nightmare. Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of these socialists. So the corporatocracy needs to destroy him, take back control of the Labour Party, and turn it back into a fake left party, like the Democratic Party in the USA, so they can concentrate on crushing the right-wing populists. Thus, they need to Hitlerize Corbyn, so they can fold him into their official narrative, Democracy vs. The Putin-Nazis.
And, see, this is what makes the corporatocracy’s War on Populism so seemingly psychotic … at least to anyone paying attention.
In the USA, the populist insurgency is primarily a right-wing phenomenon (because, again, there is no Left to speak of). Thus, the neoliberal ruling classes are focused on Hitlerizing Donald Trump, and stigmatizing the millions of Americans who voted for him as a bunch of Nazis. Hitlerizing Trump has been ridiculously easy (he almost Hitlerizes himself), but the ultimate goal is to delegitimize the populist sentiment that put him into office. That sentiment is primarily neo-nationalist. So it’s a one-front counter-insurgency op (i.e., neoliberalism versus neo-nationalism).
In the UK, things are not that simple. There, the neoliberal ruling classes are waging a counter-insurgency op against populist forces on two major fronts: (1) the Brexiters (i.e., nationalism); and (2) the Corbynists (i.e., socialism). They’re getting hit from both the left and right, which is screwing up the official narrative (according to which the “enemies of democracy” are supposed to be right-wing neo-nationalists). So, as contradictory and absurd as it sounds, they needed to conflate both left and right populism into one big scary Hitlerian enemy. Thus, they needed to Hitlerize Corbyn. Presto … Labour Anti-Semitism crisis!
Now, anyone who is isn’t a gibbering idiot knows that Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite and the Labour Party is not a hive of Nazis. It’s a testament to the power of the corporate media that such a statement even needs to be made … but, of course, that’s the point of the smear campaign the neoliberal corporate media have been waging for the last three years.
Smear campaigns are simple and effective. The goal is to force your target and his allies into proclaiming things like, “I am not an anti-Semite,” or “I’ve never had sex with underage boys,” or whatever smear you want to force them to deny. You don’t have to prove your target guilty. You’re just trying to conjure up a “reality” in which every time someone thinks of your target they associate him with the content of your smears.
The corporate media have done just that, to Jeremy Corbyn, to Donald Trump, to Putin, and to assorted lesser figures. They did it to Sanders in 2016. They are doing it now to Tulsi Gabbard. The goal is not only to smear these targets, but also, and more so, to conjure a “world” that reifies the narrative of their smears … a binary “good versus evil” world, a world in which whatever they want to accuse their targets of being linked to (e.g., terrorism, fascism, racism, or whatever) is the official enemy of all that is good.
Since the Brexit referendum and the election of Trump, the ruling classes have conjured up a world where “democracy” is perpetually under attack by a global conspiracy of “Russians” and “Nazis” (just as they previously conjured up a world where it was perpetually under attack by “terrorists”). They have conjured up a post-Orwellian reality in which “democracy” (i.e., global capitalism) is the only alternative to “neo-fascism” (i.e., anything opposed to global capitalism).
And this is why Corbyn had to be Hitlerized, and why Putin, Trump, Assad, Gabbard, Assange, the “Yellow Vest” protesters in France, and anyone else opposing global neoliberalism has to be Hitlerized. Socialism, nationalism … it makes no difference, not to the global capitalist ruling classes. There are always only two sides in these “worlds” that the ruling classes conjure up for us, and there can be only one official enemy. The official enemy of the moment is “fascism.” Therefore, all the “bad guys” are Hitler, or Nazis, or racists, or anti-Semites, or some other variation of Hitler.
The fact that this “reality” they have conjured up for us is completely psychotic makes it no less real. And it is only going to get more insane until the corporatocracy restores “normality.” So, go ahead, if you consider yourself “normal,” and try to force your mind to believe that Jews are no longer safe in Great Britain, or in Germany, or France, or the USA, and that Donald Trump is a Russian asset, and is also literally Adolf Hitler, and an anti-Semitic white supremacist who is conspiring with Israel and Saudi Arabia in their campaign to destroy Iran and Syria, which are allies of his Russian masters, as is Venezuela, which he is also menacing, and that Jeremy Corbyn’s secret plan is to turn the UK into Nazi Germany, with the support of Trump, who is trying to destroy him, and that the Yellow Vests are Russian-backed fascists, and that Julian Assange is a rapist spy who conspired with Russia to get Trump elected, which is why Trump wants to prosecute him, just as soon as he finishes wiping out the Jews, or protecting them from Jeremy Corbyn, or from Iran, or brainwashing Black Americans into reelecting him in 2020 with a handful of Russian Facebook ads.
Go ahead, try to reconcile all that … or whatever, don’t. Just take whatever medication you happen to be on, crank up CNN, MSNBC, or any other corporate media channel, and report me to the Internet Police for posting dangerous “extremist” content. You know, in your heart, I probably deserve it.
The Home Secretary of the United Kingdom did his thing, which was little in the way of disagreement. The superpower has issued a request; the retainer would comply. This week, the US Department Justice Department formally sought the extradition of Julian Assange. The process was certified by Sajid Javid, a man rather distracted of late. He is, after all, seeking to win the hearts of the Conservatives and replace Theresa May as Prime Minster. Boris Johnson, not Wikileaks and press freedom, is on his mind.
The WikiLeaks front man had failed to satisfy Javid that there were exceptions warranting the refusal to sign off on the request. A spokesman explained the matter in dull terms. “The Home Secretary must certify a valid request for extradition… unless certain narrow exceptions to section 70 of the Extradition Act 2003 apply.” Robotic compliance was almost expected.
The exceptions outlined in the section note that the Secretary may refuse to issue a certificate in circumstances where it may be deferred; where the person being extradited is recorded as a refugee within the meaning of the Refugee Convention; or where, having been granted leave to enter or remain in the UK, Articles 2 or 3 of the Human Rights Convention would be breached if removal of the person to the extraditing territory would take place.
The European Convention on Human Rights expressly prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, with Article 3 also prohibiting the extradition of a person to a foreign state if they are likely to be subjected to torture.
Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, is certain that the Wikileaks publisher will suffer grave mistreatment if extradited to the United States. “The British government must not accede to the US extradition request for Julian Assange as he faces a real risk of serious human right violations if sent there.” This will further add substance to the potential breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, a point reiterated by Agnes Callamard, Special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions. Ecuador, she argues, permitted Assange to be expelled and arrested by the UK, taking him a step closer to extradition to the US which would expose him to “serious human rights violations.” The UK had “arbitrary [sic] detained Mr Assange possibly endangering his life for the last 7 years.”
On May 31, Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on torture, concluded after visiting Assange in detention that the publisher’s isolation and repeated belittling constituted “progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”
The issue of Assange’s failing health is critical. An important feature of his legal team’s argument is the role played by the UK authorities in ensuring his decline in physical and mental terms. The argument in rebuttal, disingenuous as it was, never deviated: you will get treatment as long as you step out of the Ecuadorean embassy.
There is also another dimension which the distracted Javid failed to articulate: the sheer political character of the offences Assange is being accused of. Espionage is a political offence par excellence, and the UK-US extradition treaty, for all its faults, retains under Article 4 the prohibition against extraditing someone accused of political offences, including espionage, sedition, and treason. As John T. Nelson notes in Just Security, “Each of Assange’s possible defences are strengthened by the 17 counts of espionage”.
The prosecutors heading the effort against Assange were not content with keeping matters confined to the single count of conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Had they done so, the narrow scope would have made the challenge from Assange’s legal team more difficult. Hacking is an artificial fault line in the world of publishing and revealing classified material; such individuals have been quarantined and treated as standard middle-of-the-road vigilantes who fiddle computer systems.
Assange, as he has done so often, blurred the lines: the youthful hacker as political activist; the more mature warrior of information transparency. The Justice Department’s efforts, at least initially, involved divorcing Assange the publisher from Assange the hacker. According to Steve Vladeck, a legal boffin versed in national security law, “the more the US is able to sell the British government, sell British courts the idea that [the CFAA charge] is the heart of the matter, I think the more of a slam dunk it will be for extradition.”
Assange’s legal team were ready for the Home Secretary’s decision, but their case has been hampered. Supporters such as the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei have been perturbed by the way Assange has been hamstrung in case preparations. “The big problem there is that Julian has no access to the means to prepare his case. And his case, I think, has another two months before its full hearing. He needs more access to the means to prepare his defence against this terrible extradition order.”
The enormity of the case against the Assange team, prosecuted by an assemblage of security machinery wonks and a sociopathic establishment, has presented WikiLeaks with its greatest challenge. In the information war environment, it has thrived; in the legal warfare environment, the circumstances are upended. But the legal grounds are there to defeat the case; the question, more to the point, is where Britain’s scales of justice, rather unbalanced on the issue of dealing with classified information, will be tipped.
“It seems like all the (Tory leadership) candidates are falling over themselves to show who is the most slavishly pro-American .” — Neil Clark on Sajid Javid’s decision to pass Assange extradition request to courts.
It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”
That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.
At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:
Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.
The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind always knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.
Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.
Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.
Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.
Trapped in herd-think
The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.
These are is not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.
British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.
Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.
What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.
If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.
If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.
He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten on with developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.
Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.
His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.
So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone, and the original investigative work of Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.
No judicial authority
* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.
* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”
* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, although she never questioned Assange. He spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case, but was then told by prosecutors he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that suspicions against him were not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.
* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.
* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.
* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.
* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.
Six years of heel-dragging
* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.
* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.
* Ny finally relented on Assange being interviewed in November 2016, with a Swedish prosecutor sent to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, Assange’s Swedish lawyer was barred from being present. Ny was due to be questioned about the interview by a Stockholm judge in May 2017 but closed the investigation against Assange the very same day.
* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request – pursued by Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi – shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.
* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”
* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.
* Despite his interview with a Swedish prosecutor taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subseqently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.
* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.
* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.
Information dark ages
Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.
Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:
In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …
According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …
The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …
In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.
All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet – apart from Stefania Maurizi – has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.
For anyone persuaded by the state-corporate campaign of sneers and smears depicting Julian Assange as a shit-smearing narcissist and rapist, the comments made by Nils Melzer, the UN’s special rapporteur on torture, must be deeply shocking. The BBC headline:
Julian Assange subjected to psychological torture, UN expert says
Melzer is Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow. He also holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Switzerland, where he has been teaching since 2009, including as the Swiss Chair of International Humanitarian Law (2011–2013). Melzer previously worked for 12 years with the International Committee of the Red Cross as Deputy Head of Delegation and Legal Adviser in various zones of conflict and violence. He commented:
I’ve worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I’ve talked to victims of persecution around the world and I’ve seen very serious atrocities.
But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted – not prosecuted, but persecuted – by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.
Melzer added that, because of his treatment, Assange’s health was at serious risk:
We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.
Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is ‘not part of the prison service – someone he can fully trust’ – to avoid his health deteriorating further.
In an interview with The Canary, Melzer described exactly how and by whom Assange has been ‘persecuted’:
The evidence made available to me strongly suggests that the primary responsibility for the sustained and concerted abuse inflicted on Mr Assange falls on the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, the United States and, more recently, also Ecuador…
The consistent and repeated failure of all involved states to protect Mr Assange’s fundamental right to fair judicial proceedings and due process makes the hypothesis of mere coincidence extremely unrealistic and gives a strong impression of bias and arbitrary manipulation. This starts with the secretive grand jury indictment in the United States, continues with the abusive manner in which Swedish prosecutors disseminated, re-cycled and perpetuated their “preliminary investigation” into alleged sexual offences, exacerbates with the termination by Ecuador of Mr Assange’s asylum status and citizenship without any form of due process, and culminates in overt bias against Mr Assange being shown by British judges since his arrest.
The only realistic explanation for this sustained systemic failure of the judiciary is that the United States, and probably also the other involved states, are trying to make an example of Mr Assange before the eyes of the world, not as much as a punishment for whatever real or perceived harm he is alleged to have caused, but as a measure of deterrence for others who might be tempted to imitate Wikileaks and Mr Assange in the future. In these circumstances, Mr Assange has absolutely no chance to get a fair judicial proceeding in any of these jurisdictions.
With admirable candour, Melzer explained to Democracy Now! how he had himself been influenced by the smear campaign:
[I] had been affected by the prejudice that I had absorbed through… public… narratives spread in the media over the years. And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case.
He made the same point on Twitter:
For the record: I never said I considered #JulianAssange “a bad actor” but that, initially, I had been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else, and only saw the real facts once I investigated in detail
This comment instantly recalled the ‘mainstream’ commentators who have seemed so certain in their damning view of Assange. We thought, for example, of Guardian commentator Suzanne Moore, who said of Assange on Twitter in 2012:
He really is the most massive turd.
Tragicomically, Moore then commented to a colleague:
I never met him. Did you?
We tweeted Melzer’s thoughtful tweet to Moore and two other leading lights of the Guardian’s smear campaign below this message:
If one tweet might give Guardianistas like @MarinaHyde @HadleyFreeman and @suzanne_moore pause for thought, perhaps it’s this one from the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Marina Hyde responded:
What a privilege for us ladies to be lectured on our incorrect response to a rape accusation by the men who have famously only read one book (Manufacturing Consent, and they didn’t even understand aspects of that)
Hyde was bluffing about her supposed insight into our misreading of Manufacturing Consent. The late Edward Herman, the book’s lead author, told us repeatedly, ‘Media Lens is doing an outstanding job’, often emailed us in support and regularly sent donations. The book’s co-author, Noam Chomsky, has said: ‘Am really impressed with what you are doing’1 and commented on our latest book, Propaganda Blitz (Pluto Press, 2018): ‘A great book. I’ve been recommending it.’ In response to earlier dismissive remarks on Twitter in 2015, former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald commented to us, copying to Hyde:
Mocking you as conspiracists is how UK journalists demonstrate their in-group coolness to one another: adolescent herd behavior’2
Hyde was similarly bluffing in accusing us of lecturing (in effect, ‘mansplaining’) – we were simply highlighting credible, new expert testimony. And she was also bluffing in making an issue of our gender: obviously, Melzer’s comments stand or fall on their own merits, regardless of the gender of people recommending them. If Hyde imagines the opinion of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is skewed by sexist bias, then she should feel free to supply the evidence.
Sometimes, of course, gender does matter, and it is why we selected just these three Guardian commentators for inclusion in our tweet. As anyone who has been following the smear campaign knows, female journalists have been used by the Guardian and other media to lead attacks on a male political dissident facing accusations of rape; their gender helping to empower and protect the smears. Hyde’s tweet provided an excellent example – male critics can be instantly dismissed as ‘lecturing’ ‘mansplainers’, ‘misogynists’ and ‘rape apologists’. As Chomsky has pointed out, there is very little one can do to defend against these personal attacks:
There’s no way to respond. Slinging mud always works.
‘Poisoned Junk Food’ – Smirks, Giggles and Laughter
In 2013, Hyde responded to Assange’s plight inside the Ecuadorian embassy with a question:
Who in all seriousness can continue to suppress the odd smirk at the thought of Assange, holed up with his sunbed and his computer and his radioactive self-regard…?
Many natural allies will recall the various moments at which they first realised they would have to work incredibly hard not to giggle at the WikiLeaks founder.
Why would one of the most important, courageous and effective truth-tellers of our time merit this kind of vicious mockery? Hyde speculated that the Ecuadorian ambassador might have insisted that Assange be allowed to leave for medical treatment, because ‘she had the terminal ministrations of an NHS geriatric ward in mind’. In other words, perhaps the ambassador wanted him out and even dead. Bitter comments indeed, now that Assange really has been moved to a prison hospital. His defence lawyer, Per Samuelson, said recently that Assange’s state of health was such ‘that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him’.
Samuelson’s comments have been supported by testimony, as well as shocking photos and video, from a fellow inmate inside Belmarsh, London’s highest security prison. The photos were taken of Assange before he fell ill and was moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. Nevertheless, he looks thin and much older than his actual age:
The photos reveal a thin blue mattress within a scarce and very small cell.
The photos of Assange himself reveal considerable weight loss since I last visited him in the Ecuadorian embassy in March.
Over many years, the abuse has poured from Hyde’s keyboard:
Assange… the very name seems a sledgehammer hybrid of ass and angel.
Assange seems quite insufferable, certainly in any sort of long term.
Hyde never tires of smirking, giggling and laughing at Assange’s horrendous situation:
If one subscribes to the view that only an ultimately insufferable narcissist could have had the balls to do what he did, then it was always going to come to this. But when so very few come out of a story well, from star to supporters, perhaps a mirthless laugh is the only option left.
In 2016, Hyde wrote:
For my money he looks more and more like just another guy failing to face up to a rape allegation.
Now that the US is openly seeking Assange’s extradition, having charged him with violating the Espionage Act and computer hacking, it is clear that Hyde was just plain wrong – Assange was not motivated to avoid the Swedish allegations, he was genuinely and rightly acting in fear of US extradition. Melzer commented that he believes Assange ‘has a very strong case, and a very reasonable fear, that if he gets extradited to the Unites States he has no chance to get a fair trial with the level of public and official prejudice that exists there for him’.
Also in 2016, Hyde referred to the ‘latest flare-up of Knightsbridge’s Assange condition’, as if Assange was a disease.
Her gender has not protected the actress Pamela Anderson, a high-profile supporter of Assange, from Hyde’s poison pen. As part of her effort to present Assange as a ridiculous, sleazy figure, Hyde has repeatedly highlighted Anderson’s background in TV. She wrote in February 2017:
The Baywatch star and the Wikileaks founder are being coy about their closeness, stoked by vegan snacks in the confines of the Ecuadorian embassy.
In June 2017, Hyde commented:
The former Baywatch star is in amorous mode online as she extols the virtues of her WikiLeaks hunk.
And again in May 2018:
The ballad of Pammy and Julian Assange – her poor, mournful sea lion – The WikiLeaks emperor has been wrongly accused of so many things, says the former Baywatch star. But can their relationship survive now that the Ecuadorian embassy has cut his internet?
We asked John Pilger for comment. He replied:
I have known Julian Assange since he first landed in the UK. My respect for him as a journalist and free thinker and human being has grown with every landmark of his remarkable achievements and personal struggle. The arrival of WikiLeaks – as publisher and protector of whistleblowers – has revolutionised journalism while shaming those self-endowed with a divine prerogative to guard the boundaries of public knowledge; they include the lazy, the echoes, the agents of power, the over-paid poseurs.
The authenticity and accuracy of WikiLeaks’ disclosures have no equal and achieve what real journalists should aspire to, but rarely do any more. They tell the public what governments and their rapacious vested interests conceal from us. This makes the witch-hunting of Julian beyond contempt. I remember one of his media smearers, speaking to an audience of students, mocking the very idea that Julian could end up in an American Guantanamo. Today, Julian is within the grasp of a vengeful and largely lawless US system, his life at risk. Watch now how the faux-journalists have fallen silent or are writing their tweets and editorials that betray a fear that they may be next for Trump’s wild west justice.
When I visited Julian in Belmarsh prison I was astonished by his courage and resilience but I worried about his vulnerability. He is ill; there is only so much the man can take. Shame on his craven assassins. Let civilised people give him the support he deserves and to which he has every right. What he and Chelsea Manning are enduring is just the beginning of a subversion not only of journalism but of dissent and democracy itself, if we allow it.3
The Canary asked Melzer about the media’s role in the persecution of Assange. He discussed the immense influence of the corporate media:
This enormous power comes with an equally enormous ethical responsibility. Many media outlets and individual journalists have shown a remarkable lack of critical independence and have contributed significantly to spreading abusive and deliberately distorted narratives about Mr Assange.
When the media find it more appropriate to spread humiliating jokes about Mr Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his faeces, than to challenge governments consistently refusing to hold their officials accountable for wars of aggression, corruption and serious international crimes, they demonstrate a deplorable lack of responsibility, decency and respect not only towards Mr Assange, but also towards their own readers, hearers and viewers, whom they are supposed to inform and empower. It is a bit like being served poisoned junk food at a restaurant – a betrayal of trust with potentially serious consequences.
First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady ‘hacker’, ‘sex offender’ and selfish ‘narcissist’ has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.
By making Mr Assange “unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school.’ (Our emphasis)
According to the ProQuest media database, since Melzer reported on Assange’s condition on May 31, the Guardian has mentioned his name in one article.
As Melzer says, corporate media have an astonishing power to influence what we think. We are all vulnerable to the impact of numerous, apparently independent and impartial journalists all insisting that Assange is a vile narcissist, that Jeremy Corbyn is a dangerous anti-semite, that Nicolas Maduro is a brutal dictator, that Gaddafi is planning a vast massacre, that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction that pose a genuine threat to the West, that Iran is working on a ‘nuclear trigger’, and so on.
We are always invited to suspend disbelief – these claims could be accurate. But when a massively hyped state-corporate narrative is ‘too good to be true’ from the perspective of power, then we are all well-advised to suspect the consensus and look much deeper, exactly as Melzer did.
- Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005.
- Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015.
- Email to Media Lens, 10 June 2019.
Julian Assange is being slowly murdered by “Her Majesty’s Prison Service” at Belmarsh prison in the south-east of London. The prison is notorious for holding people who have never been charged with a crime indefinitely. It is also called the British version of Guantanamo, and, typically used to detain so-called terrorists, thus called by the British police and secret service and aped by the British MSM and establishment. Terrorists that become terrorists by continuous and repeated accusations, by media propaganda, but not necessarily by fact. Remember, if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the truth in the minds of the braindead listeners. It’s indoctrination of the public to demonize somebody or a group of people, or a country, who could become dangerous for the empire’s vicious and criminal endeavors. That’s what they are doing with Julian Assange. Exactly the same principal is applied, though on a different scale, against President Putin and against Russia and China. And it seems to work in a brainwashed-to-the-core, western society, ran by their spineless European US-vassalic leadership.
Yes, what is happening to Julian Assange could happen to any journalist who reveals the inconvenient truth about the empire and its minions’ criminal machinations, any journalist – or non-journalist, whistleblower, for that matter – anyone who dares standing up to the AngloZionist atrocities may end up in Guantanamo or Belmarsh which is considered a Type A prison for adult men, meaning, a “serious” prison, where “dangerous” detainees are held for as long as Her Majesty’s Prison Service considers necessary, and prisoners’ treatments are held secret and include torture.
Julian Assange’s case goes even farther than breaking all the rules of “democratic” free speech. The way he is treated is a serious infraction on Human Rights. The US and British governments intend to silence and punish a champion of free speech, torturing him for the world to see, and especially as a deterrent for would-be whistleblowers and other free-speech advocates.
Julian Assange has been condemned to a ‘temporary’ prison sentence of 50 weeks for jumping bail, when he sought and was granted refuge in 2012 in the Ecuadorian Embassy. And why did he jump bail? Because he was about to be extradited to neofascist Sweden, who acting in the name of Washington, accused him with phony rape and sexual misconduct charges, from where he would have most likely been extradited to the US where he might have faced a kangaroo court and a fake trial with a possible death sentence, or indefinite incarceration at Guantanamo.
That’s why he jumped bail and why he escaped to the Ecuadorian Embassy, because western injustice was already then played out with false propaganda, for everyone, but the blind and indoctrinated, to see. Rafael Correa, then President of Ecuador, saw the truth behind it all and granted Julian asylum, and later gave him Ecuadorian citizenship – which in 2018 was revoked by Correa’s traitor and fascist successor, US-implant, Lenin Moreno, who, as a reward, it is said, got an IMF loan of US$ 4.2 billion to help the government carry out its neoliberal economic reform program, meaning undoing much of the social programs of improving economic equality for the Ecuadorian population, implemented during the Correa presidency.
Well, how sick can that be? Unfortunately, acting pathologically or even psychopathically in today’s world is fully accepted. It’s the new normal. This means we are living in an almost-terminally ill, corrupt and utterly brainwashed society – to be precise, western society. “Almost-terminally” means that there is only dim hope of healing for the utter lack of conscientiousness of western society. Hope of western people’s awakening is fading, as it is sliding ever deeper into a bottomless abyss.
Julian Assange was first accused by Washington of fake charges of computer hacking and conspiring to defraud the United States. In fact, what this is all about is the 2010 publication by Wikileaks of the infamous video that circulated the world a million times, depicting the purposeful, malicious ‘collateral killing’ of harmless civilians by the crew of a US Army helicopter – and of other data of atrocious acts of the US military revealed by Chelsea Manning, and published by Wikileaks. Chelsea Manning has been and is herself serving prison sentences.
Despite the fact that this little video has been seen around the world probably by more than a billion people, nobody went on the barricades – on an endless mass-demonstration – to stop the rogue-state and killing machine United States of America from committing its daily and deadly crimes. Nobody. And the killing goes on. And Washington is doing its utmost to silence every future revealing of their atrocities, by silencing Julian Assange, and intimidating any potential future truth-revealer.
They have now 50 weeks, while he is hidden away in a British Guantanamo-like prison, to slowly kill him on behalf of and as a little favor to Washington, so he doesn’t have to be extradited and the US is spared being exposed to the kangaroo trial that Julian would otherwise receive. If he dies a “natural” death in a British prison, Trump may wash his bloody hands in innocence, and those in Congress who want to send a CIA squadron to murder Assange – I kid you not they are not ashamed to openly say so – will also be able to whitewash their criminal and bloody minds. Nobody will ever know what really happened behind Her Majesty’s prison walls. There will be some flareups in the media – and then all quiets down. As usual. The Wikileaks founder will be gone and all potential whistleblowers and truth-seeking journalists will be on their guard. Objective achieved.
In the meantime and to reach that objective, Julian is most likely being tortured, possibly physically and psychologically. Julian Assange has suffered “prolonged exposure to psychological torture”, the UN’s torture expert, Nils Melzer, said in a BBC interview, and urged Britain not to extradite Assange to Washington. According to retired USAF lieutenant colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, he may have been doped with psychotropic drugs, like 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, known as BZ that produces hallucinations, mental confusion and memory loss. This may have been the reason, why he was unable to speak clearly, and to participate in a Swedish Court hearing and had to be transferred to the hospital wing of Her Majesty’s Belmarsh prison. One of the few pictures that emerged at the time of his transfer to the hospital was one of a zombie.
Let’s just hope that I‘m totally wrong with this scenario – and that people’s pressure (at this point it would be a miracle) will pry Julian loose from the lethal fangs of the empire and its minions.
The Western world keeps looking on. Worse, they even support Her Majesty’s Prison Service, to which Julian Assange is subjected. They largely applauded the brutal British arrest of Julian Assange, when the police dragged him out of the Ecuadorian Embassy into a van and off to preventive custody, and hours later he was convicted to 50 weeks on a phony charge for jumping bail.
What can be said – is not better said than by Paul Craig Roberts, “If the world stands for the US / UK / Swedish judicial murder of an innocent man, the world does not deserve to exist another second.” Amen.
Another crude and sad chapter, yet more evidence of a system’s vengeance against its challengers. Julian Assange, like they dying Roman emperor Vespasian, may be transforming into a god of sorts, but the suffering of his mortal physical is finding its mark. While some in the cynical, narcissistic press corps still find little to commend his case, the movement to highlight his fate, and the extra-territorial vengeance of the United States, grows.
Often reviled and dismissed as ineffectual if not irrelevant, the United Nations has offered Assange some measure of protection through its articulations and findings. Ironically enough, powers happy to regard the UN as a mere bauble of international relations in not protecting human rights have dismissed it when action does take place.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, for instance, found in 2016 that the publisher’s conditions of confinement in the Ecuadorean embassy amounted to arbitrary detention. “The Working Group considered that Mr Assange has been subjected to different forms of deprivation of liberty: initial detention in Wandsworth prison which was followed by house arrest and his confinement at the Ecuadorean embassy.”
The Working Group took the long view: to suggest that he had a choice in leaving the embassy at any point was farfetched and myopic. Specific reference to the shoddy Swedish prosecution effort against Assange (“lack of diligence… in its investigations”) was also made, as it compounded the element of arbitrariness. Any request to question him in Sweden could hardly be seen as “benign”. How right they were.
Notwithstanding that, a resounding sneer from the British authorities, a bevy of black letter lawyers, and newspapers followed. “He is not being detained arbitrarily,” The Guardian editorialised with its usual fair-friend weathered disposition. The Working Group’s finding, according to international law authority Philippe Sands, was “poorly reasoned and unpersuasive”. Assange best give up the ghost and face the music.
This week, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, came to a conclusion as unsurprising as it was necessary. After visiting Assange at the maximum security facility at Belmarsh on May 9, the UN official found that the publisher had been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This was all part of him becoming the cause célèbre of “a relentless campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation […] not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.” These governments had, be it through “an attitude of complacency at best, and of complicity at worst […] created an atmosphere of impunity encouraging Mr Assange’s uninhibited vilification and abuse.”
The fresh list of charges from US prosecutors – 17 additions to spice those centred on computer intrusion and conspiracy – alarmed Melzer. “My most urgent concern is that, in the United States, Mr Assange would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The cumulative and crushing effect of the charges – potentially 175 years imprisonment – astonished Melzer. “This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges are added in the future.” To this can be added a nine-year period of systematic judicial abuse, arbitrary confinement, oppressive isolation, harassment, embassy surveillance by Ecuador and the “deliberative collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”
While the conditions in Belmarsh do not currently make the grade of solitary confinement, they have been severe and inhospitable enough to cause concern. Visits by Assange’s legal team are limited and sporadic; access to necessary case files and documents has been curbed, impairing chances of adequately preparing his legal defence.
Melzer also has a dig against the broader effort to attack journalism, with Assange as figurehead. “Since 2010, when WikiLeaks started publishing evidence of war crimes and torture committed by US forces, we have seen a sustained and concerted effort by several States towards getting Mr Assange extradited to the United States by prosecution, raising serious concern over the criminalisation of investigative journalism in violation of both the US constitution and international human rights law.”
Medical experts who accompanied Melzer on his visit also expressed opinions on Assange’s health, finding that his health had been “seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years.” Physical ailments were found alongside the “symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, taking a dog-eared leaf out of the book of excuses used against the Working Group, dismissed Melzer’s findings. Assange always had an unimpaired, free choice (that word again). “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgments without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”
The BBC also noted the views of a justice ministry spokesperson, keen to disabuse sceptics that the British justice system might be suffering from judicial wear and tear. The UK did not, it was asserted, participate in torture; its judges were independent and rights to appeal could be exercised.
The response to Hunt from the good professor was sharp: Assange “was about as ‘free to leave’ as a [sic] someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool.” In his view, “UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”
Melzer’s words suffice as a damningly grim biography on the treatment levelled at Assange and the broader enterprise of publishing. For two decades, having worked with “victims of war, violence and political persecution,” the rapporteur had “never seen a group of democratic States gang 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.”
I have been a proud member of the National Lawyers Guild for over 30 years, beginning in law school, and serving as union staff of the SF/Bay Area Chapter for over a decade. The Guild was founded in 1937 as an organization of lawyers to defend FDR’s New Deal, and was the first racially integrated Bar Association. Its preamble states that it is:
…an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system…which shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
The Guild is unique as a multi-issue progressive legal organization which strives to integrate both political and legal action, recognizing that many victories which appear to be won in the courts are actually won in the streets. Unlike the ACLU, it also takes positions on foreign policy issues.
My employment as Program Director ended about a year after 9-11 because some in the organization disapproved of my work with Arab and Muslim groups, which included setting up a hotline for those contacted by the FBI and (then) INS. I was even reprimanded for spending too much time supporting fearless people’s lawyer Lynne Stewart, because she defended Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, even though defending unpopular defendants is central to the purposes of the Guild.
Although I left the Guild’s employ due to political differences, I remain a dues-paying member because I still identify with the principles of the organization and believe there is room for struggle about those principles. However, the Trump-era brought in a new McCarthyism to which the Guild, shockingly, has fallen prey.
In September of last year, the Black Agenda Report printed an article entitled “We Love the CIA or How the Left Lost its Mind,” which exposed the Guild’s politics at the time:
Another casualty is the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), which prides itself on having resisted Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s. Riva Enteen, longtime NLG member and former program director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter writes:
Last year the NLG refused to schedule a convention panel on Russiagate, with proposed speakers Cynthia McKinney and Ray McGovern. The Executive Committee also refused, ‘because of our relations with Russia,’ to issue a statement condemning the requirement that RT register as a foreign agent. This year it is still not addressing the legal or McCarthyesque aspects of Russiagate at its upcoming convention.
The Guild’s subsequent position on Julian Assange is still more troubling. Four days after Assange was arrested and dragged from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, I asked the Guild’s director if we could issue a statement of support for Assange and Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned for refusing to go before a Grand Jury to testify against Assange.
The director said:
We haven’t been working on the Assange or Manning cases and unfortunately do not have the capacity to adequately write a statement.
So two long-term Guild members, both also in leadership of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (which strongly supports Assange and Manning), wrote a statement of support for Assange and Manning on behalf of the Guild.
Then followed a month of excuses from the president and director:
The Executive Committee decided that [the] statement wasn’t specific enough to what we wanted to put out as an organization.
Her statement didn’t follow our guidelines. I’m attaching our media guidelines here, so you can see more of what I mean.
Issues need to come from committees, and further committee work.
It also needs some punchy language, like a quotation.
Finally, after prodding, the Guild president on May 13 admitted:
The delay has been that Julian Assange is, for many of us in the NLG, a figure we would be hesitant to unconditionally support. Wikileaks released material harmful to Hilary Clinton before the election, and is part of why Trump secured the presidency. Also, earlier today Sweden re-opened the rape case against Assange. And he behaved in the Ecuadorian embassy in ways that seem very disrespectful of staff there. So, while it’s important to support whistleblowers, an uncritical statement about Assange right now doesn’t seem appropriate.
As a feminist for over 50 years, I am outraged that male Guild members have said that as feminists, they can’t support Assange. Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape should put the issue to rest for anyone paying attention:
The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?
As to his behavior at the Embassy, I am embarrassed to even address it. The Embassy was the most watched place on the planet, so if there was anything unsavory, we certainly would have seen it.
But what on earth do his alleged untidiness or ill treatment of his cat, even if they were true, have to do with Wikileaks, the revolutionary media organization he founded? As historian, former UK diplomat and blogger Craig Murray recently wrote in Consortium News:
Julian Assange revolutionized publishing by bringing the public direct access to massive amounts of raw material showing secrets the government wished to hide. By giving the public this direct access he cut out the filtering and mediating role of the journalistic and political classes. Contrast, for example, the “Panama Papers,” which — contrary to promises —only ever saw less than 2 percent of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM intermediaries. Or compare WikiLeaks to the Snowden files, the vast majority of which have now been buried and will never be revealed, after foolishly being entrusted to The Guardian and The Intercept. Assange cut out the intermediary role of the mediating journalist and, by allowing the people to see the truth about how they are governed, played a major role in undercutting public confidence in the political establishment that exploits them.
There is an interesting parallel with the reaction to the work of Reformation scholars in translating the Bible into vernacular languages and giving the populace direct access to its contents, without the mediating filters of the priestly class. Such developments will always provoke extraordinary venom from those whose position is threatened. I see a historical parallel between Julian Assange and William Tyndale in this respect. It is something worth bearing in mind in trying to understand the depth of the state’s hatred of Julian.
The crux is that the Guild is taking the position that because Assange released information that may have hurt Clinton’s campaign, it will withhold support for him. Assange was a hero to the Guild when he exposed Bush’s war crimes, but is now vilified because he’s seen as hurting Clinton. The Guild is subordinating its principles for partisan electoral considerations, which means political differences.
Following the president’s comment, I sent two links to help clarify some of her concerns. The excerpt below is from the article “How many times must Assange be proven right?” by Caitlin Johnstone:
It’s impossible to tell the same group of people day after day that Assange is an evil Nazi Putin puppet rapist who smells bad and mistreats his cat, and then persuade them to respond to a depraved Trump administration agenda against that same person with an appropriate level of resistance.
On the eve of the 2016 election, Assange explained why he released the DNC and Podesta emails:
Our organization defends the public’s right to be informed. This is why, irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election, the real victor is the US public which is better informed as a result of our work.
The president is now claiming to be victimized by me. Her email, addressed Riva (and all), says, It would be amazing if I could stop being treated like the enemy here. The president was reassured that she is not the enemy, and that “we are all working for the same thing ultimately.” I replied that maybe “we are all working for the same thing”, but the words from the president reflect the need for political struggle, not accusing me of making her the enemy.
Ultimately, the great problem is not the current Guild president, but the 82-year old organization that is losing its political compass. Nor is this problem unique to the Guild; Trump’s election, “Russiagate,” and the smear campaign against Assange have deluded and disoriented many organizations and individuals with profoundly critical and activist traditions.
On the eighth of April, shortly before London police forcibly carried WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy, a doctor named Sondra S Crosby wrote a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting that the office look into Assange’s case. Today, following a scorching rebuke of multiple governments by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, mass media outlets around the world are reporting that Julian Assange has been found to be the victim of brutal psychological torture.
Melzer, who by his own admission began his investigation as someone who had “been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else” regarding Assange, speaks of Assange’s plight with the fresh-eyed ferocity of a man who has not been immersed in a soul-corroding career in establishment politics or mass media. A man has not been indoctrinated into accepting as normal the relentless, malicious character assassinations of the western political/media class against a publisher of inconvenient facts about the powerful. A man who, when looking deeply and objectively into the facts with uncorrupted vision, was able to see clearly just how unforgivably abusive Assange’s treatment has been.
“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,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”
Melzer condemned attempts to extradite Assange to the US under the Espionage Act, as well as what he called “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”
“According to the expert, this included an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, but also by senior political figures, and even by judicial magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange,” the OHCHR statement reads.
“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination,” Melzer said.
“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” said Melzer. “Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”
“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” Melzer said. “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr. Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” Melzer added.
It is hugely significant that a UN expert has included the massive anti-Assange smear campaign in his assessment of psychological abuse. For far too long this devastating psychological weapon of the powerful has gone fully normalized and unacknowledged for the damage and suffering it causes, and now an authoritative voice has pointed it out and called it into public consciousness for the depraved manipulation that it is. It’s a very interesting development to see western governments and their media stenographers condemned in this way for their participation in such savagery.
Responses to Melzer’s findings have been explosive. Virtually every major media outlet in the English-speaking world has been carrying headlines about this story, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Fox News to CNN to the Guardian to the BBC to the Herald Sun. An attempt to regain control of the narrative by the accused governments, therefore, was, of course, quick to follow.
“This is wrong,” tweeted Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in response to the story. “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgements without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”
Abusers always demand the right to conduct their abuse in private.
Hunt, who’d just returned from hanging out with the Trump administration’s warmongering psychopath John Bolton, received a direct response from Melzer himself.
“With all due respect, Sir: Mr Assange was about as ‘free to leave’ as a someone sitting on a rubber boat in a shark pool,” Melzer tweeted. “As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”
.@NilsMelzer is the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture. He is "extremely worried" about Julian Assange's health, and says it's clear he's been psychologically tortured. He adds that Assange "seems to have rapidly deteriorated" in recent weeks. pic.twitter.com/z4Uap9X5Tn
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) May 31, 2019
We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange,” reads a statement by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “The Special Rapporteur has not been in contact with the Australian Government to raise these concerns directly. The Australian Government is a staunch defender of human rights and a strong advocate for humane treatment in the course of judicial processes. We are confident that Mr Assange is being treated appropriately in Belmarsh Prison.
Assange has, in fact, grown so ill in Belmarsh Prison that he is reportedly unable to carry out a lucid conversation, and has been losing a drastic amount of weight. His failing health has been an established fact for a year and a half, with doctors warning at the beginning of last year that conditions in the Ecuadorian embassy are placing his physical well being in serious danger, and has the entire time been pathetically ignored by the government of Assange’s home country.
Menzer’s report is an indictment on our entire society. It’s an indictment of the US-centralized western power alliance. It’s an indictment of the politicians, opaque government agencies and plutocrats who lead that alliance. It’s an indictment of the mass media who regurgitate whatever their government tells them to into the minds of a credulous populace. It’s an indictment of everyone who has ever helped spread the smear campaign against Assange, wherever they may have spread it; every remark, every social media comment, every share and retweet. The entire abusive construct has been outed as exactly what it is, from top to bottom.
So things have been severely shaken up. A massive smear campaign spanning all western nations across all political sectors has been pulled into the spotlight of public consciousness, mass media outlets who’ve devoted huge amounts of resources to assassinating Assange’s character have been forced to report a major revelation coming directly from the United Nations, Assange supporters can now officially say with full authority that his persecutors have literally tortured him, and establishment narrative managers are fighting on the back foot.
And right now all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude toward Dr Crosby for writing to the UN after examining Assange, gratitude toward Nils Melzer for going to visit him in Belmarsh with an open mind and a compassionate heart, and, most importantly, gratitude toward Julian Assange. Gratitude to him for never giving up this fight.
I mean, think about it. Imagine if Assange had just gone to Sweden when he was told to? He would have surely been extradited to the United States years ago, wrongfully prosecuted in an Eastern District of Virginia court proceeding impossibly rigged against him, and by now the world would have all but forgotten him. He could have laid down, he could have given up, he could have died in that embassy in any number of ways. He had so many off-ramps he could have taken from the psychological torture that he has been subjected to since exposing US war crimes in 2010, but he chose to stand and fight instead. He decided that if they wanted his head, they were going to have to work for it.
Because of that decision, because Julian Assange decided to stand his ground and trade blows toe-to-toe with the most powerful empire in the history of human civilization, he forced them to expose themselves. He forced the oppression machine to reveal its true face, by coordinating across national borders to drag him bodily out of the embassy, locking him in a cage, waging a war upon the free press with outrageous espionage charges, and finally being found guilty of torturing a journalist for publishing factual documents about the powerful.
We have all that information now. It can’t be unseen. Because Assange chose to fight, we now have that evidence and we can use it to help wake people up to the true face behind the smiling mask of “liberal democracy” we’ve all been told to believe in since grade school. Even while imprisoned, sick, and barely even able to speak, Julian Assange is still exposing these bastards for what they are.
Don’t let his example go to waste.
• First published at Caitlin Johnstone.com