Category Archives: United Kingdom

Buried In Broad Daylight: The “Free Press” And The Leaked OPCW Report On Douma

A defining feature of the propaganda system is that facts supporting the agenda of Western power are pushed to the forefront of the ‘mainstream’ media, while inconvenient facts are buried. A prime example is the shameful media silence in response to a devastating document leaked from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discussed in a recent media alert. The document, an engineering assessment of two chlorine cylinders found at two separate locations after an attack on the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, 2018, casts serious doubt on the official narrative that Syrian government forces had dropped them from helicopters. The claim that Assad had used chemical weapons ‘against his own civilians’ was used by the US, UK and France to ‘justify’ missile strikes on ‘chemical weapons facilities’ on April 14, 2018.

One of the cylinders was found on top of a four-storey building with its front end lodged in a hole in the roof. The other cylinder was found lying on a bed in the top-floor room of an apartment with a crater-like opening in the roof. Engineering analysis – based on measurements, photographs and computer modelling – were conducted on the two cylinders and the scenes where they were found. The aim was to ‘evaluate the possible means by which these two cylinders arrived at their respective locations as observed.’ The leaked report, signed by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW engineer with many years’ experience, concluded:

In summary, observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft. [Our emphasis.]

But this dissenting engineering analysis was excluded from the final OPCW Fact-Finding Mission report presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, 2019.

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose main expertise is in ballistic missiles, gave an initial assessment of the leaked OPCW report on May 21, and agreed with its conclusion. He summarised:

Observations at the scene of the two locations, together with subsequent analysis, suggest that there is a higher probability that both cylinders were manually placed at those two locations rather than being delivered from aircraft.

In short:

Two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. [Our emphasis.]

On June 4, Postol released a more in-depth assessment which completely rejected the propaganda claim that the cylinders could only have been dropped from Syrian government helicopters. This strengthens the conclusion that the April 2018 Douma attacks were indeed staged, presumably by Syrian rebels attempting to provoke a Western military response against Assad (and perhaps even with Western connivance).

Postol noted the glaring discrepancies between the OPWC report that was submitted to the UN (minus the dissenting analysis of the leaked document) and the facts on the ground:

The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.

Postol expanded:

An important characteristic of concrete is that it is brittle. By definition, such a material is not flexible but will develop cracks and fail catastrophically when subjected to stresses that are sufficiently large. Concrete can be substantially strengthened [as in this case] by embedding reinforcing steel rebar or other strong but flexible materials within it. The rebar performs the function of maintaining the strength of the material when it is flexed rather than failing catastrophically as is the case with the surrounding brittle material.

He added:

A very important additional phenomenon associated with the impact of an object can be the creation of a hole due to a process that is generally referred to as “tunneling.” Because the breach created by the penetrating object results in the crushing and pushing of brittle concrete as the object moves forward, the diameter of the hole produced by the impact of the object will be very close to that of the penetrating object. This means that a hole created by a 40 cm diameter chlorine cylinder should be close to 40 cm in diameter…

But this was not the case:

The diameter of the hole is nearly twice that of the cylinder and the steel rebar that was supposed to stop the cylinder from penetrating through the roof is instead completely shattered and bent away from the forward direction by more than 60°… This photograph shows that the crater was produced by an explosion on the roof which had nothing to do with the impact of a chlorine cylinder. These discrepancies simply mean that the cylinder was placed on the roof after the hole was produced by the explosion of a mortar shell or artillery rocket.

Postol provided much more detail, but this was his summary:

There is absolutely no doubt that the OPCW finding that the chlorine cylinder found at what it identifies as Location 2 did not produce the hole in the roof that allegedly led to the killing of more than 30 people that the OPCW claims were trapped and poisoned in the building. The OPCW’s own science-based technical analysis does not come close to matching what was observed at Location 2.

The only possible conclusion is that ‘chemical weapons attacks’ at the two sites where the cylinders were found must have been staged.

Postol praised the high-quality analysis presented in the leaked OPCW document. But he was damning about senior OPCW management who had disregarded the dissenting engineering assessment and instead presented a deeply biased and misleading final report to the UN:

The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.

On June 3, Labour MP Chris Williamson submitted a parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, with reference to investigations suggesting that reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government in Douma in April 2018 were staged and with reference to reports that OPCW expert advice was redacted from its final report, whether he has made a reassessment of the decision to bomb targets in Syria in 2018.

In an interview with Afshin Rattansi on RT’s Going Underground, Williamson rightly pointed to the insidious part played by the ‘mainstream’ media:

The hysterical mainstream media at the time a year ago who seemed to be clamouring for military airstrikes have been incredibly silent about this [leaked OPCW report]. I remember having a very rough interview on Channel 4 about the whole issue. And yet they seem to, as far as I’m aware, have failed to follow up now with this quite damning revelation which has been brought to light by a whistle-blower.

He added:

What is very regrettable today is the tradition that we used to take for granted, that investigative journalists – serious journalists like John Pilger – seem to be sadly lacking these days.

Williamson also cited Robert Fisk – ‘a very unusual animal these days’ – who reported from Douma last April, after interviewing civilians in the vicinity of the alleged chemical weapon attacks. A senior Syrian doctor, Dr Assim Rahaibani, told him that the ‘gas’ video that had so horrified the world showed patients who had been overcome, not by gas, but by oxygen starvation:

I was with my family in the basement of my home three hundred metres from here on the night but all the doctors know what happened. There was a lot of shelling [by government forces] and aircraft were always over Douma at night – but on this night, there was wind and huge dust clouds began to come into the basements and cellars where people lived. People began to arrive here suffering from hypoxia, oxygen loss. Then someone at the door, a “White Helmet”, shouted “Gas!”, and a panic began. People started throwing water over each other. Yes, the video was filmed here, it is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia – not gas poisoning.

BBC Syria producer Riam Dalati said earlier this year via Twitter that:

After almost six months of investigation, I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.

He subsequently set his Twitter status to ‘private’. Moreover, in a now deleted tweet, he stated two days after the Douma attack:

Sick and tired of activists and rebels using corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption. Then they wonder why some serious journos are questioning part of the narrative.

As far as we know, BBC News has never given proper coverage to the serious doubts surrounding the alleged ‘chemical weapons’ attack on Douma, other than to ascribe such doubts to Syrian and Russian government claims of ‘fabrication’. As we saw with Iraq and Saddam’s ‘denials of WMD’, a powerful propaganda technique to dismiss facts, evidence and truth is to make them come out the mouths of Official Enemies.

The BBC Goes Quiet

That the OPCW may be so compromised as to present a misleading report to the UN Security Council that could be used as post-facto ‘justification’ for a Western military attack is, to say the least, an extremely grave matter. Indeed, it casts doubt on the whole integrity of an important international organisation. Ted Postol said in an interview with Sharmini Piries of The Real News Network that he believes the official OPCW report into an alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, 2017 – almost exactly one year before the Douma attack – may also have been ‘severely compromised’.

As Tim Hayward, a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), the group of independent scholars and researchers that originally published the leaked OPWC document, noted:

While Western politicians and news media echo tropes about obstructive Russia & outlaw Syria, States of Non-Aligned Movement and China share their concerns about politicisation and polarising of OPCW.

Hayward added:

Suppressed OPCW document undermines the claimed justification for Western missile strikes on Syria in April 2018, and it reveals an organisation in need of radical reform.

Regardless of the findings of the official and leaked OPCW reports, the leaders of the US, UK and France, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were guilty of launching an unprovoked military attack on another country in violation of the UN Charter; the ‘supreme international crime’, in the words of the post-WW2 Nuremberg judgment. These are issues that would, in a sane media system, be extensively reported and debated.

However, as we wrote over three weeks ago in our earlier media alert, other than the small-circulation, left-wing Morning Star, the damning leaked document has been mentioned in just two articles in the national press: one by Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday and one in the Independent by Robert Fisk. Remarkably, but unsurprisingly, this remains the case at the time of writing. Nor is there a single mention of it anywhere on the BBC News website. Hitchens has also submitted questions direct to the OPCW which appear to have been ignored by the body.

Our repeated challenges to senior BBC journalists, including Kamal Ahmed, the BBC’s head of news, have met with a stony silence, with one exception. Lyse Doucet, the BBC’s chief international correspondent, replied via Twitter on May 24:

Thanks for your message. I am in Geneva today, in Sarajevo and Riga last week, and heading to Gulf next week. It’s an important story. Will make sure programmes know about it. As you know, UK outlets focused on May & Brexit last few days. [Our emphasis.]

Let us set aside the implausible argument that ‘UK outlets focused on May & Brexit’ should preclude any coverage of a vital reappraisal of the West’s ‘justification’ of an attack on Syria; or the notion that senior editors at the BBC, with its vast monitoring resources, would have to be informed by Doucet of the leaked document. But, if we were to take Doucet’s words at face value, she would surely be happy to respond to our follow-up query, asking for an update. Seemingly not. She has now retreated behind the wider, blanketing BBC silence.

And yet, last week, evidence emerged that the BBC is well aware of the leaked document. In a live-streamed panel debate at the annual meeting of GLOBSEC, a global security thinktank, on June 6, the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner asked OPCW director-general Fernando Arias about the Independent report ‘by someone called Robert Fisk’. Was this an example of fake news? In his evasive reply, Arias stated that:

All the information given by any inspectors is considered but sometimes it is not fit to the conclusion. [Our emphasis.]

This remarkable admission that serious evidence and analysis were disregarded because it does ‘not fit the conclusion’ went unchallenged by the BBC’s Gardner and everyone else in the room. It echoed the infamous statement in the 2002 Downing Street memo on plans to invade Iraq that ‘the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.’ The focus of Arias’s concern was to defend the OPCW and to identify the whistle-blower, stating that:

‘”actions had to be taken” following the leak…” I stand by the impartial and professional conclusions” of the full OPCW report.’

On June 12, Peter Hitchens, mentioned earlier for his excellent reporting on Syria, challenged Gardner on whether he had reported his exchange with the OPCW director-general. Later that day, Hitchens tweeted:

BBC this afternoon stated that @FrankRGardner has *not* reported on the exchange, indeed BBC as a whole, despite vast resources paid for by licence holders, has yet to report at all on this major development.

The only response to the leaked OPCW report by a Guardian journalist so far appears to have been this remarkable outburst from George Monbiot on Twitter:

The Assad apologists are out in force again, and baying for blood. It’s chilling to see how they latch onto one person’s contentious account of a single atrocity, while ignoring the vast weight of evidence for chemical weapons use and conventional massacres by the govt. #Syria

Monbiot added:

They seek to exonerate one of the bloodiest mass murderers on the planet, denying his crimes and whitewashing his record. In doing so, they share some of the blame for his ongoing mass killing of Syrian people.

As we, and many other people, pointed out, this was an inexplicably irrational response to an obviously important, indisputably authentic, highly credible, leaked document that was not at all ‘one person’s… account’. The leaked material simply has to be taken seriously and investigated, not dismissed out of hand. We are, after all, talking about possible war crimes under Trump, the famously dangerous, fascist US President every liberal journalist is supposed to be determined to excoriate at every possible turn. Why should we not, then, describe Monbiot as a ‘Trump apologist’?

Last year, during an exchange about Syria, Hitchens told Monbiot what we had already concluded about him:

This is important. I have until now regarded you as a fundamentally decent and honest person (and defended you against those who have argued otherwise). But your behaviour in this matter is causing me to reconsider this opinion. Please argue honestly.

The near-total ‘mainstream’ media blanking of the leaked OPCW document is a genuinely disturbing sign of growing corporate media conformity and totalitarian-style mendacity. In the age of social media – with netizens repeatedly challenging the likes of the BBC’s Lyse Doucet and the Guardian‘s George Monbiot – the stonewalling, and the denial of newsworthiness, is happening in plain sight. Corporate journalists know that it is important, they know that we know that it is important, they know that we are asking why they are ignoring it, and they are ignoring us anyway, with the whole act of censorship swathed in silence. As the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko once said:

When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics

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.

Abuses Show Assange Case was Never About Law

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.

“Mirthless Laugh”: The Persecution And Torture Of Julian Assange

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…?

And:

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.

And:

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.

  1. Chomsky, email to Media Lens, September 14, 2005.
  2. Greenwald, Twitter, 25 August 2015.
  3. Email to Media Lens, 10 June 2019.

What is so rare as a – fake news – day in June? *

While the continued mental assault on what is left of public consciousness still features the idiot fiction of Russiagate, or how the evil Putin arranged to trash our great American democracy and defeat holy mother Hillary on behalf of cursed father Donald, the month of June offered not one but two major fictional treatments of historic reality to further reduce innocent minds to enslaved mentalities. The fables of D-Day, celebrated every year in glorification of a war actually won by the Soviet Union but taught as America’s gift to the global marketplace, and the unholy terror alleged by evil China in the infamous Tiananmen uprising treated here as a story worthy of creation by Disney, Spielberg, Mother Goose and Ronald Reagan combined.

While American troops paid a heavy price and contributed mightily to the victory over Germany in WW2 with the attack on the French coast memorialized as D-Day, that beachhead of some 50 miles was dwarfed by the 1500 mile wide eastern front where Russia absorbed more death and destruction than any other nation in that massive bloodbath. D-Day was a much belated response from America and Britain to endless pleas that an attack be conducted in the west to spare some of the terrible toll on Russia. That nation suffered as many as 20 million dead, entire cities and villages reduced to giant cemeteries and rubble while   a post war fairy tale was spread of American GIs rescuing Europe, giving candy bars to children, creating fictional democracy and real pregnancy wherever they went.

French brutality towards its women who allegedly fraternized with the German enemy, many doing so to help their families survive, was covered somewhat in newsreels released here. But American troops impregnating hordes of French women, reducing many to prostitution under conditions of wartime poverty and hardship, was hardly mentioned. The entire history of that so-called “great” war is as smothered in propaganda and fiction as any story of American conflict and we still pay a price of belief in alleged glory participating in an orgy of mass murder that may have taken the lives of far more than fifty million and was deemed totally unnecessary by many critics at the time. They, of course, were quickly labeled as fascists, communists or non-sectarian free thinkers and dismissed from any hearing by the public. Critical thinking about ruling propaganda has no place in a democracy. And boiled excrement makes for a nutritious meal.

While that war put America, untouched by any of its horror on our mainland while Europe and the Pacific were nearly destroyed, at the top of the industrial pyramid of capital by its end, its controlling global position has lasted until the present historic moment. This finds the world reeling under a series of political, economic and environmental breakdowns all due to the reduction of humanity to commodity consumers in a vast shopping mall that is reducing the planet to a garbage dump, and an ever growing ghetto of multitudes reduced to poverty while a small group enjoy riches beyond the wildest fantasies of past or present royalty.

That reality has produced many conditions of revolutionary aspirations among people disgusted with the status quo, none of those having succeeded yet but some coming closer to ideals growing more necessary as more of humanity sees the potential horror of continued operation as an anti-human system of alleged democracy passing for a market place in which the rich and poor enjoy supposed equal access to the fruits of life. This political economic religious fanaticism is coming face to face with the political economic science that finds anti-social reality reducing humanity to a future that threatens to be much shorter than its past. The controlling mindset that perpetuates the madness plays a further role in the second June historic moment treated as myth by western mind management. What is called the Tiananmen “massacre” has destroyed more western consciousness than any eastern bodies allegedly taken in that event.

When Chinese seekers of more democracy and less corruption rose in protest against their government much of the organization came from outside China, in the tradition of so-called “color revolutions” of the present promoted by western capital’s agents both in and outside the country supposedly experiencing the call for freedom. More recently the events in the Ukraine were similar when an elected government was overthrown with open American involvement in league with some former Ukrainian fascists, but the 1989 demonstrations in China were not only given great coverage then but memorialized with still unsubstantiated death tolls and alleged horrors claimed which rarely if ever mention Chinese troops attacked and beaten to death by mobs of supposedly peaceful demonstrators. While originally claiming thousands killed, more recently the toll has been carefully lowered by some to hundreds, but others still shriek that thousands were murdered by the bloody monsters in China. There is as much evidence for this number of deaths as there is for Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, Israel’s great suffering at the hands of murderous Palestinians, and the injustice experienced by American women when Trump leaves the toilet seat up.

Widespread belief in these two summer fantasies of history would not last ten minutes in a nation with a truly free press able to widely distribute the stories of what actually took place, what behind the scenes activities played a role in both, and what the outcomes have actually produced. The duplicity and disinformation of much that passes for reality in the hands of stenographers and paid agents for power has led to some not believing anything they are told about anything, which is understandable but only leads to acceptance in often almost as maniacal and far fetched conclusions reached by far too many of us. But at least doubt may cause many to try to look further and find out more of what has really been kept from us and not simply relying on new fables and follies to explain old ones. A place to begin might be these two giant creations of mass mythology that could help us all learn more about the real world rather than the one presented to us by the owners and operators of our supposed democracy.

* James Russell Lowell, amended by Frank Scott

Snubs, Bumps and Donald Trump in Britain

He may not be popular in Britain, but he still has shavings of appeal.  For a country that has time for Nigel Farage, pro-Brexit enthusiast and full-time hypocrite (he is a member of the European Parliament, the very same institution he detests), President Donald Trump will garner a gaggle of fans.

One of them was not the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, trenchant in his belief that the US president should never have been granted a state visit.  “It’s quite clear that Theresa May was premature in making this invitation, and it’s backfired on her.” But Trump’s tendency to unhinge his critics is not so much levelling as lowering: Khan’s coarse remarks a day before Trump arrived were timed to create a Twitter scene.

Trump, he wrote spitefully in The Guardian, was leading a push from the right “threatening our hard-won rights and freedoms and the values that have defined our liberal, democratic societies for more than seventy years.”  The UK had to stop “appeasing” (that Munich analogy again) dictatorial tendencies.  (Oblivious, is Khan, to the illustrious record Britain has in providing receptions and banquets for the blood thirsty and authoritarian.)

This semi-literate historical overview had the desired result.  Just prior to landing in London, Trump tweeted that Khan “who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘hasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom.”  For good measure, Trump insisted that the mayor was “a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me…”

The mood was set, and the presence of the president overseeing Britain’s increasingly feral political scene reminded The New York Times of boardroom takes of The Apprentice (reality television, again) though it came uncomfortably close to an evaluation of the “rear of the year” or a wet t-shirt competition of the fugglies.  This was aided by the absence of a one-to-one meeting between Trump and the soon to depart Theresa May, there being no preliminary meeting in Downing Street.

Trump felt at home, sizing up candidates to succeed May as British prime minister.  While he could muster choice words to describe Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove barely registered. “Would do a good job, Jeremy?  Tell me.”

A few candidates did their best to impress, a spectacle that did, at points, verge on the grotesque.

The Conservative Party is deliriously panicked: Farage’s Brexit Party is proving so threatening its pushing the old guard to acts of pure desperation.  This is riveting, if troubling stuff for political watchers such as Tim Bale of Queen Mary, University of London.  “A lot of the constraints have come off British politics.  Whether they’ve come off permanently, or whether it’s because the Conservative Party is at panic stations, is something only time can tell.”

Foreign secretary Hunt was particularly keen to show his wet shirt to the ogling Trump.  He no doubt felt he had to, given that Johnson had already been praised as a person who “would do a very good job” as British prime minister. To repay Trump for his acknowledgment, Hunt dismissed the views of the London mayor.  “I agree with [Trump] that it is totally inappropriate for the Labour party to be boycotting this incredibly important visit.  This is the president of the United States.”

The situation with Johnson cannot but give some amusement.  Trump, rather memorably, had been a subscriber to the theory that parts of London had become a dystopian nightmare replete with psychotic, murderous residents of the swarthy persuasion.  Johnson, for all his faults, was happy to give Trump a nice slice of demurral on his city when mayor.  He also opined that Trump was “clearly out of his mind” in making the now infamous suggestion on December 7, 2015 for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”   But politics is an odd stew, throwing together a strange mix of ingredients.  For his part, Johnson declined an invitation to see Trump in person, preferring the comforting distance of a 20-minute phone call.

Away from rear of the year proceedings were those who had consciously boycotted any event associated with Trump.  Prince William and Prince Harry preferred to avoid a photo opportunity with the president at Buckingham Palace.  Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party preferred to join protests against Trump over attending the state banquet.  The act will no doubt be seen as admirable in some quarters, but hardly qualifies as those of a potential future prime minister.  “Corbyn,” noted The Independent, “has again dodged the stately bullet and had instead taken the easy way out.”  To the echo chamber he went.

Beyond the visit, more substantive matters are going to be troubling for diplomats in the UK Foreign Office.  One of the things touted during the Tuesday press conference was the prospect of a trade agreement between a Britain unshackled from the EU, and the United States.  Trump even went so far as to press May to stay longer for the negotiations.  Not one for briefings, he ventured a suggestion: “I don’t know exactly what your timing is but, stick around, let’s do this deal.”

The issue is fascinatingly premature: Britain, having not yet left the EU, let alone on any clear basis, faces an orbit of sheer, jangling confusion for some time to come.  In terms of numbers, the issue is also stark: the UK has the EU to thank for half of its trade; the United States comes in at 14.7 percent.

The troubling feature of any free trade proposal coming out of the Trump administration will be its rapacity, or, as Trump likes to call it, “phenomenal” scope.  Nothing will be exempt.  Agriculture and health are two fields of contention.  Access for US exports will entail easing limitations on animal feed with antibiotics and genetically modified crops.  More headaches, and bumps, await the relationship between troubled Britannia and groping Uncle Sam.

The Murdering of Julia Assange

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.

Findings of Torture: The UN Rapporteur and Julian Assange

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.”

Europe in Irreversible Decay

Europe, an “old” colonialist continent, is decaying, and in some places even collapsing. It senses how bad things are going. But it never thinks that it is its own fault.

North America is decaying as well, but there, people are not even used to comparing. They only “feel that things are not going well”. If everything else fails, they simply try to get some second or third job, and just survive, somehow.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the establishment is in panic. Their world is in crises, and the ‘crises’ arrived mainly because several great countries, including China, Russia, Iran, but also South Africa, Turkey, Venezuela, DPRK and the Philippines, are openly refusing to play in accordance with the script drawn in Washington, London and Paris. In these nations, there is suddenly no appetite for sacrificing their own people on the altar of well-being of Western citizens. Several countries, including Venezuela and Syria, are even willing to fight for their independence.

Despite insane and sadistic embargos and sanctions imposed on them by the West; China, Russia and Iran are now flourishing, in many fields doing much better than Europe and North America.

If they are really pushed any further, China, Russia and their allies combined, could easily collapse the economy of the United States; an economy which is built on clay and unserviceable debt. It is also becoming clear that militarily, the Pentagon could never defeat Beijing, Moscow, even Teheran.

After terrorizing the world for ages, the West is now almost finished: morally, economically, socially, and even militarily. It still plunders, but it has no plan to improve the state of the world. It cannot even think in such terms.

It hates China, and every other country that does have progressive, internationalist plans. It smears President Xi Jinping and his brainchild, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but there is nothing new and exciting that the West is able to offer to the world. Yes, of course, those regime changes, coups, military interventions and theft of natural resources, but anything else? No, silence!

*****

During my two weeks long working visit to Europe, in the Czech Republic (now renamed to Czechia), a country that enjoys a higher HDI (Human Development Index defined by UNDP) than Italy or Spain, I saw several young, decently dressed men, picking through garbage bins, right in front of my hotel, looking for food.

In Pilsen, Czechia, people raiding garbage in order to eat

I saw young Europeans kneeling and begging in Stuttgart, the second richest city in Germany (where both Mercedes and Porsche cars are produced).

This used to be proud Communist factory Skoda in Pilsen

What I observed in all seven countries of the EU that I visited, was confusion, but also indifference, extreme selfishness and almost grotesque idleness. In great contrast to Asia, everybody in Europe was obsessed with their ‘rights’ and privileges, while no one gave a slightest damn about responsibilities.

When my plane from Copenhagen landed in Stuttgart, it began to rain. It was not heavy rain; just rain. The Canadair jet operated by SAS is a small aircraft, and it did not get a gate. It parked a few meters from the terminal and the captain announced that ground staff refused to bring a bus, due to lightning and the downpour. And so, we stayed inside the plane, for 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half an hour. The lightning ended. The drizzle continued. 40 minutes, no bus. One hour later, a bus appeared. A man from the ground staff emerged leisurely, totally wrapped in plastic, protected hermetically from rain. Passengers, on the other hand, were not even offered umbrellas.

“I love myself”, I later read graffiti in the center of the city.

The graffiti was not far from the central train station, which is being refurbished at the cost of several billion euros, and against the will of the citizens. The monstrous project is marching on at an insanely lazy pace, with only 5-6 construction workers detectable at a time, down in the tremendous excavations.

Stuttgart is unbelievably filthy. Escalators often do not work, drunkards are all over, and so are beggars. It is as if for decades, no one did any face-lift to the city. Once free museums are charging hefty entrance fees, and most of the public benches have disappeared from parks and avenues.

The decay is omnipresent. The German rail system (DB) has virtually collapsed. Almost all trains are late, from the ‘regional’; to the once glorified ICE (these German ‘bullet trains’ are actually moving slower, on average, even in comparison to some Indonesian inter-city expresses).

The services provided everywhere in Europe, from Finland to Italy, are grotesquely bad. Convenience stores, cafes, hotels – all are understaffed, badly run and mostly arrogant. Humans are often replaced by dysfunctional machines. Tension is everywhere, the bad mood omnipresent. Demanding anything is unthinkable; one risks being snapped at, insulted, sent to hell.

I still remember how Western propaganda used to glorify services in the capitalist countries, when we were growing up in the Communist East: “The customer is always treated like a god”. Yes, right! How laughable.

For centuries, “European workers” were ‘subsidized’ by colonialist and neo-colonialist plunder, perpetrated in all non-white corners of the world. They ended up being spoiled, showered with benefits, and unproductive. That was fine for the elites: as long as the masses kept voting for the imperialist regime of the West.

“The Proletariat” eventually became right-wing, imperialist, even hedonistic.

Old German lady beggar and a pigeon

I saw a lot this time, and soon I will write much more about it.

What I did not witness, was hope, or enthusiasm. There was no optimism. No healthy and productive exchange of ideas, or profound debate; something I am so used to in China, Russia or Venezuela, just confusion, apathy and decay everywhere.

And hate for those countries that are better, more human, more advanced, and full of socialist enthusiasm.

*****

At Sapienza University in Rom

Italy felt slightly different. Again, I met great left-wing thinkers there; philosophers, professors, filmmakers, journalists. I spoke at Sapienza University, the biggest university in Europe. I lectured about Venezuela and Western imperialism. I worked with the Venezuelan embassy in Rome. All of that was fantastic and enlightening, but was this really Italy?

Author with great Marxist Italian professor Luciano Vasapollo

A day after I left Rome for Beirut, Italians went to the polls. And they withdrew their supports from my friends of the 5-Star-Movement, leaving them with just over 17%, while doubling the backing for the extreme right-wing Northern League.

This virtually happened all over Europe. UK Labor lost, while right-wing Brexit forces gained significantly. Extreme right-wing, even near-fascist parties, reached unexpected heights.

It was all “me, me, me” politics. An orgy of “political selfies”. Me had enough of immigrants. Me wants better benefits. Me wants better medical care, shorter working hours. And so on.

Who pays for it, no one in Europe seems to care. Not once did I hear any European politicians lamenting about the plundering of West Papua or Borneo, about Amazonia or the Middle East, let alone Africa.

Rome at night

And immigration? Did we hear anything about that nuisance of European refugees, millions of them, many illegal, that have descended in the last decades on Southeast Asia, East Africa, Latin America, and even Sub Continent? They are escaping, in hordes, from meaninglessness, depressions, existential emptiness. In the process, they are stripping the locals of land, real estate, beaches, everything.

“Immigrants out”? Fine; then European immigrants out from the rest of the world, too! Enough of the one-sidedness!

The recent EU elections clearly showed that Europe has not evolved. For countless dark centuries, it used to live only for its pleasure, murdering millions in order to support its high life.

Right now, it is trying to reshuffle its political and administrative system, so it can continue doing the same. More efficiently!

On top of it, absurdly, the world is expected to pity that overpaid and badly performing, mainly right-wing and lethargic European proletariat, and sacrifice further tens of millions of people, just in order to further increase its standard of living.

All this should not be allowed to happen. Never again! It has to be stopped.

What Europe has achieved so far, at the expense of billions of lives of “the others”, is definitely not worthy of dying for.

Beware of Europe and its people! Study its history. Study imperialism, colonialism and the genocides it has been spreading all over the world.

Let them vote in their fascists. But keep them away. Prevent them from spreading their poison all over the world.

They want to put the interests of their countries first? Wonderful! Let us do exactly the same: The people of Russia first, too! China first! And, Asia, Africa, Latin America first!

• First published by NEO – New Eastern Outlook

• All photos by Andre Vltchek