Chelsea Manning could be jailed for another 400 days and owe $144,00 because of an unprecedented decision by Bush-Appointed Judge Tenga. Kevin Gosztola discusses the latest development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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
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.
“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.
The attorney of WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange’s has revealed that he was too ill to appear in a video chat for his extradition hearing. Assange has spent the past seven weeks at Belmarsh prison, where his health has continued to deteriorate. The WikiLeaks founder faces extradition to the US over “espionage” charges dating back to 2010. Former UK MP George Galloway joins In Question to break this all down.
“I have no confidence whatsoever in the British justice system” says Craig Murray after Wikileaks are ‘gravely concerned’ over sharp decline in Julian Assange’s health.
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 already 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 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 back to 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 – 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, during which time Assange was questioned and spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case. He was then told by prosecutors that he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that any offence they believed he had committed was 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 interviewing Assange in November 2016, coming to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, she barred Assange’s lawyer from being present. That was a gross irregularity that Ny was due to be questioned about in May 2017 by a Stockholm judge. Apparently rather than face those questions, Ny decided to close the investigation against Assange the very same day.
* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request 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 Ny taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subsequently 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 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.
Relying on the corporate media, including BBC News, to provide a reliable account of the world is literally a matter of life or death, on many levels.
Imagine, for example, a Russian dissident living in the UK who had published copious evidence of Russian war crimes, and who had then sought political asylum in an embassy in London. Imagine if that dissident were then expelled from the embassy, under pressure from Russia, immediately imprisoned in a high-security prison here and faced with the prospect of extradition to Russia to face life imprisonment or the death sentence. There would be a massive uproar in the Western media. Western political leaders would issue strong statements of disapproval and demand the freedom of a brave dissident. The case of Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks, is much worse. He is being pursued relentlessly by a powerful country, the United States, of which he is not even a citizen.
US prosecutors are now reportedly helping themselves to Assange’s possessions, including medical records and two manuscripts. Baltasar Garzon, international legal co-ordinator for the defence of Assange and WikiLeaks, urged international bodies to intervene in what he called: “an unprecedented attack on the rights of the defence, freedom of expression and access to information.”
It is extremely worrying that Ecuador has proceeded with the search and seizure of property, documents, information and other material belonging to the defence of Julian Assange, which Ecuador arbitrarily confiscated, so that these can be handed over to the agent of political persecution against him, the United States.
The US is undoubtedly looking for evidence to build a bogus case against Assange to lock him away for life for alleged crimes against the world’s number one rogue state. As Noam Chomsky has long observed, the US behaves like the Mafia writ large. You go against their power at your peril.
The incentives for Ecuador, under a Washington-friendly government led by Lenín Moreno since 2017, to behave in this appalling manner are obvious. A report in The Canary spelled it out: “Ecuador is raking in new [trade] deals with the UK and US after handing over Julian Assange.”
In Sweden, surely under US pressure, prosecutors have now applied for a warrant for Assange’s arrest. Craig Murray provided the vital background to this latest disgraceful development, pointing to the: “incredible and open bias of the courts against Assange […] since day 1.”
The former British diplomat is clear about the crucial importance of the work of WikiLeaks and Assange:
Julian Assange revolutionised 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.
Murray pointed out the contrast with the Panama Papers, detailing how the super-rich hide their money, covered by the Guardian and other ‘mainstream media’ outlets with great fanfare. However, contrary to media promises, such coverage:
only ever saw less than 2% of the raw material published and where major western companies and individuals were completely protected from revelation because of the use of MSM [“mainstream” media] 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.
John Pilger, a staunch defender of Assange and WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, as all journalists should be, said via Twitter:
The filthy war on Julian #Assange and Chelsea Manning, whose heresy is to have revealed the crimes of great power, intensifies. Craven Sweden plays to its theatre of darkness while Assange the prisoner is denied even his glasses.
Manning is yet again back in prison, following a brief spell of freedom. She has steadfastly refused to testify to a secret grand jury in Virginia that is attempting to entrap her into revealing incriminating evidence about her past communications with WikiLeaks. The reluctance of corporate journalists, and even human rights groups, to support Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks is symptomatic of a broken political system still masquerading as ‘democracy’.
Missing Headlines on Douma
The freedom of the Western media, then, is a cruel deception. In reality, the corporate media has paved the way for war after war: Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen; and possible future wars in Venezuela and Iran. On and on it goes. Last week, a leaked document from the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), directly contradicted the concocted ‘consensus’ that Syrian President Assad’s forces dropped canisters containing poison gas from helicopters over Douma on April 7, 2018, killing dozens of civilians. The claim was crucial to the justification given by Western governments for launching air strikes on Syria one week later, relayed dutifully by the Guardian in its headline: “Syria: US, UK and France launch strikes in response to chemical attack.”
The leaked report was published by the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media (WGSPM), a group of independent scholars and researchers, and signed by Ian Henderson, an engineering expert who, as independent journalist Caitlin Johnstone noted, has been listed in leadership positions on OPCW documents as far back as 1998 and as recently as 2018. The report 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.
WGSPM concluded in their analysis of the leaked engineering report that it is: “beyond reasonable doubt that the alleged chemical attack in Douma on 7 April 2018 was staged.”
Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gave his initial assessment of the leaked report and concurred that the alleged chemical attack was staged:
The OPCW engineering assessment unambiguously describes evidence collected by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) that indicates two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. The holes in the reinforced concrete roofs that were supposedly produced by high-speed impacts (impact at speeds of perhaps 100 m/s or more, 250 mph) of industrial chlorine canisters dropped from helicopters were instead created by earlier explosions of either artillery rockets or mortar shells. In one event a chlorine canister that was damaged on another occasion was placed on the roof with its head inserted into an existing crater hole, and in the other case a damaged chlorine cylinder was placed on a bed supposedly after it penetrated the building roof and bounced from its original trajectory into a bed. In both cases the damage to the chlorine cylinders was incompatible with the damage to the surroundings that was allegedly caused by the cylinder impacts.
Shockingly: “35 deaths that were originally attributed to these staged chlorine events cannot be explained and it cannot be ruled out that these people were murdered as part of the staging effort.”
Postol emphasised: “the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.”
But the dissenting engineering analysis was ‘entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council’. Postol concluded:
This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.
Caitlin Johnstone commented:
This should be a major news headline all around the world, but of course it is not. As of this writing the mass media have remained deathly silent about the document despite its enormous relevance to an international headline story last year which occupied many days of air time. It not only debunks a major news story that had military consequences, it casts doubt on a most esteemed international independent investigative body and undermines the fundamental assumptions behind many years of western reporting in the area.
The OPCW confirmed that the document is genuine. However, rather than address the serious questions about its omission in its official report to the UN, the OPCW merely said that they would now be ‘conducting an internal investigation about the unauthorised release of the document in question.’ They added that they would not be commenting further ‘at this time’.
Journalist Peter Hitchens asked:
What is going on at the OPCW? It is a valuable organisation, containing many fine people, with a noble purpose, but has it been placed under pressure, or even hijacked, by political forces which seek a justification for military intervention in Syria? Given that a decision between war or peace, affecting the whole world, could one day hang on its judgements, I think the whole world is entitled to an inquiry into what is happening behind its closed doors.
Our searches of the ProQuest newspaper database confirm that there has not been a single mention of this devastating document in any ‘mainstream’ US or UK national newspaper except in an opinion column by Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday. It is truly remarkable, but predictable, that corporate media journalists have ignored an expert assessment that casts serious doubt on the official narrative on Douma and, therefore, the West’s ‘justification’ for bombing Syria.
There is no mention on the BBC News website of the leaked OPCW report. This is consistent with the ‘public’ broadcaster’s central role in maintaining and supporting the case for UK state policies. As Caitlin Johnstone astutely observed, the BBC’s preferred mode when it comes to foreign policy is fact-free war propaganda. Even when the press reported fresh US claims of a ‘possible Assad chemical attack in Syria’ – likely a propaganda effort intended to deflect attention from the leak – journalists managed to avoid mentioning the newly published OPCW report.
A news article in the small-circulation Morning Star is the only other exception to the craven silence in the national press. The overwhelming media acquiescence for Western foreign policy is surely a performance that the old Soviet press of Pravda, Izvestia, et al. could only have dreamt of.
But the greatest calamity resulting from the myth of a free and fair media is the inexorable rush towards climate breakdown. In 1982, Exxon scientists predicted that atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide would reach 415 parts per million (ppm) by around this year; which is exactly what has happened. In pre-industrial times, the concentration was much lower; around 280 ppm. The last time it was this high was 2.5 to 5 million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, well before modern humans evolved. Global sea level was 25m higher than now and global temperatures were 2-3 degrees Celsius higher.
As Kyla Mandel noted in an article for ThinkProgress:
Despite this knowledge, the company chose not to change or adapt its business model. Instead, it chose to invest heavily in disinformation campaigns that promoted climate science denial, failing to disclose its knowledge that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain untapped in order to avert catastrophic climate change.
Over ten years ago, in January 2009, New Scientist reported that: “Billions could go hungry from global warming by 2100.”
As we have documented in media alerts and books since then, there has been warning after warning from reputable scientists, and things are worse now than they were in 2009. Governments have not merely ‘done nothing’; they have promoted and perpetuated corporate policies that are destroying the planet’s ecosystems and unleashing climate instability.
The World Health Organisation states that climate change is already leading to 150,000 deaths annually around the world. Researchers fear that the number may well double by 2030, even if serious emissions reductions begin today. Relevant factors include malnutrition, heat stress and increased incidence of diseases such as malaria. Death rates will likely worsen even further because of population displacement, reductions in labour productivity from farmers trying to work in hotter conditions, and disruptions to health services because of destructive weather and climate. Climate change could also force more than 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, increasing their vulnerability to ill health and disease.
The corporate disinformation campaign to block or slow action to tackle climate breakdown has therefore already led to huge numbers of people dying and suffering from illness. It will only get worse, potentially leading to a mass extinction of species, including humans.
When will senior BBC News editors and journalists, funded by the public licence fee, make the climate emergency central to their reporting? How long before economics and business correspondents notice the utter absurdity of ignoring climate breakdown in their reports, day after day? Last December, we asked BBC News business editor Simon Jack when he would address the climate crisis. He had never responded to us before. He replied this time: “Very soon.”
Over four months later, he published a piece on his blog titled, ‘UK’s biggest money manager warns on climate catastrophe’.
The world is facing a climate catastrophe and businesses around the world must address it urgently or face the ultimate sanction for a public company, shareholders who refuse to back them any more.
That is not a message from an environmental action group but from the largest money manager in the UK, Legal & General Investment Management, which manages £1 trillion worth of UK pension fund investments.
Its climate warning was the top of a list of concerns about the way companies are run.
A serious message indeed; surely there could be nothing more pressing. ‘Climate catastrophe’; ‘top of a list of concerns’, ‘ultimate sanction’. Would this mark a sea change in the business editor’s reporting? Seemingly not. Simon Jack’s reporting since then has been business as usual.
Our previous media alert highlighted the valiant campaigning and protests by Extinction Rebellion, and at least some degree of serious media coverage has been generated recently. But peaceful protests need to proliferate, intensify and seriously disrupt government policies and industry practices that are continuing to pump up dangerous global levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
Bill McKibben and Elizabeth Kolbert, two well-respected writers on climate, believe that although ‘the political tide could be turning on climate change’, they are both deeply concerned that it is too little, too late.
McKibben, whose book The End of Nature was published thirty years ago, told journalist David Remnick in a New Yorker interview:
The argument about climate change was over by the early nineteen-nineties, when scientists had reached a very robust consensus. We’d won the argument. We were just losing the fight, because the fight was not about data and reason and evidence. It was about the thing that fights are always about: money and power.
Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction about the human-driven mass loss of species, warned in the same interview:
We have not yet experienced the full impact of the greenhouse gases we have already put up there. And once we do [in] a decade or so, there’s a sort of a long tail to that, we will have put up that much more. So we’re always chasing this problem […] Once we decide, “Oh, we really don’t like this climate,” you don’t get the old climate back for […] many, many, many generations. So we are fighting a very very, very uphill battle. […] maybe we can avoid the worst possible future. But I don’t think at this point we can avoid a lot, a lot, a lot of damage.
The outlook is so pessimistic that the best McKibben can hope for is that global warming is slowed down ‘to the point where it doesn’t make civilizations impossible.’ But it is ‘an open question’ as to whether even that is attainable.
There are scientists who tell you we’re already past that point. The consensus, at least for the moment, is that we’ve got a narrow and closing window, but that if we move with everything we have, then, perhaps, we’ll be able to squeeze a fair amount of our legacy through it.
This is terrifying, and it should drive media coverage of the problem with huge urgency and scope. The real prospect that all of humanity’s achievements – in art, science, music, literature, philosophy – might be wiped out of existence, should compel dramatic action.
Journalist Jonathan Cook, freed from the need to kowtow to state or corporate interests in his reporting, states our predicament clearly and honestly:
‘Climate collapse is so close at hand, the window to avert our fate so narrow, that only the insane, the deeply propagandised and those so alienated from the natural world that they have lost all sense of themselves and what matters can still ignore the reality. We are teetering over the precipice.’
Now is the time, says Cook, for ‘genuine populism’: a widespread, grassroots struggle to overturn ‘turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism’, including the corporate media, before it destroys us all.
In December 2010, Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore commented on Julian Assange in the Mail on Sunday:
‘Indeed it’s difficult to get a clear picture of the complaints by two women he had sex with in Sweden in August… The sex appears to have been consensual, though his refusal to use condoms was not. His behaviour looks bad rather than illegal but who really knows? The Swedish prosecutors themselves say they believe these women’s stories but don’t believe these are crimes.’
‘Who really knows?’ The answer, of course, was and is that, in the absence of a trial, nobody except the people directly involved knows what really happened.
If Moore was somewhat reasonable in 2010, her stance had changed by June 2012, when Assange sought political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy – a time when, still, nobody really knew what had happened. She tweeted:
‘Seems like Assange’s supporters did not expect him to skip bail? Really? Who has this guy not let down?’
She added: ‘I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.’
As discussed in Part 1, the nub of this ‘mainstream’ scorn was the belief that Assange’s concerns about extradition were a cowardly excuse for fleeing possible sex crimes – fears of extradition were a nerdish, paranoid fantasy. Moore wrote in 2011:
‘The extradition hearing last week involved massive showboating on both sides. Assange supporters were gathered outside the courts dressed in orange Guantanamo Bay jumpsuits. Does anyone seriously believe this is what will happen to Assange?’
It is a bitter irony, then, that Assange is currently trapped in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, which has been described as ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’.
The fact that Assange has now been arrested at the request of the US seeking his extradition over allegations that he conspired with Chelsea Manning, means that Assange’s claimed motive for seeking political asylum now appears very credible indeed – he was right about US intentions.
Assange can now be depicted as a cowardly fugitive from Swedish justice only by someone finding it outrageous that he should resist extradition by the Trump regime to spend the rest of his life in jail, or worse.
In other words, if corporate journalists are responding to the facts, rather than power-serving prejudice, recent events should have moderated their stance towards Assange. It is easy to check.
‘Everyone’s Least Favourite Squatter’
Suzanne Moore commented in the New Statesman after the arrest:
O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met” as normal people call them.
In other words, Assange remains the same wretched, risible figure he was before Moore came to know he had been arrested on charges relating to US extradition. She added bizarrely on Twitter:
‘Assange supporters. Cunt soup babbling about on press freedom.’
In an article for the Sunday Times on April 14, James Ball claimed that:
‘Julian Assange is the architect of his own downfall. Bullish and grandiose yet plagued by paranoia, the WikiLeaks boss is his own worst enemy.’
Ball briefly worked for WikiLeaks, with Assange as his boss, between late 2010 and early 2011. His departure from the organisation was acrimonious. As we mentioned in Part 1, the Guardian has a shameful record in its treatment of Assange. Ball was always happy to act as chief attack dog for the paper. A piece in January 2018 was titled, ‘The only barrier to Julian Assange leaving Ecuador’s embassy is pride’. Below it were the words, ‘The WikiLeaks founder is unlikely to face prosecution in the US’; an assertion that has clearly not aged well. Ball even made the poisonous assertion that:
most of those who still support Assange are hard-right nationalists – with many seeing him as a supporter of the style of politics of both Trump and Vladimir Putin.
John Pilger described Ball as a ‘despicable journalist’; a ‘collaborator’ with those in power who have been attacking WikiLeaks and Assange. Ball has repeatedly stated that he opposes Assange’s extradition to the US. But for years he depicted him extremely unfavourably, and continues to disparage Assange as ‘a dangerous and duplicitous asshole’ after his arrest.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, ‘centrist’ Labour MP, Jess Phillips, commented:
‘Finally Julian Assange, everyone’s least favourite squatter, has been kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy and into custody on charges of skipping bail after accusations of sexual violence in Sweden.
‘I am sure we will all miss his speeches from the balcony of the embassy as if he were about to launch into Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.
‘Assange, once beloved for leaking the secrets of global governments, has essentially been reduced to a grumpy, stroppy teenager.
‘He never left his room, thought he was the best thing since sliced bread and had his internet taken away when he was naughty.’
Phillips offered one serious assertion:
‘His arrest ended a seven-year stint in the embassy, which he chose. He didn’t have to stay there…’
The obvious fact that the US superpower really was, all the time, out to get him, strongly suggests he did have to stay there and wasn’t motivated to avoid facing the far less threatening Swedish accusations.
In 2015, Phillips told the Guardian:
The difference between me and some of my colleagues – not all of them – is that I protect myself by shooting things out. So if I see something that I don’t like I will say it. I won’t sit in some little cabal and whisper about it … I will go up to Seumas Milne and say: “Why on earth are you friends with George Galloway? Your personal friendships are fine but if I see you are moving in any way to get Galloway nearer to this party, I’m going to go for you.” I’ll just say that to him.
Phillips has certainly gone for Assange.
Other ‘mainstream’ reaction was a close copy of comments made when Assange first entered the embassy in 2012 (see our media alert, ‘Incinerating Assange’). Despite reports of an alarming decline in his health after seven years trapped in the embassy, journalists mercilessly mocked Assange’s appearance. Ashley Cowburn, political correspondent for the Independent tweeted (and then deleted after we noted them) two pictures before and after Assange entered the embassy, commenting:
‘Political journalists pre and post-Brexit.’
David Aaronovitch of the The Times‘ 101st Chairborne ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ Division, tweeted with the same compassion that guides his relentless warmongering:
‘I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.’
Jessica Elgot, political editor of the Guardian, joined the fun:
‘Apparently Julian Assange’s internet access has been cut off since March so he probably thinks we’ve left the EU’
Journalist Chris Cook, formerly of BBC’s Newsnight and the Financial Times, referenced an elderly, bearded character from the BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses:
‘Justice for Uncle Albert.’
ITV Political Editor, Robert Peston, formerly BBC Business Editor, retweeted an image of Christ with his hand raised in blessing paired with a photograph of Assange making a ‘victory sign’ from inside a prison van. Side-on, Assange’s gesture bore a vague resemblance, but Christ was assuredly not signalling ‘V’ for victory. Like so much ‘mainstream’ humour, the tweet was embarrassingly unfunny, strangely callous.
The Daily Express devoted a whole article to comedy takes of this kind:
‘HILARIOUS Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder’s arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – here are the best ones.’
‘Assange does not leave behind the physical and psychological sequelae of his confinement at the embassy. The harms follow him; they are irreparable.’
The Scotsman supplied more evidence that journalists perceive enemies targeted for destruction by the state as the same ‘Bad Guy’ regenerating over and over again, like Doctor Who. Dani Garavelli wrote of Assange’s arrest:
‘For me, however, the scene brought back memories of Saddam Hussein emerging from his spider hole in Operation Red Dawn…’
No doubt based on impeccable sources, Garavelli added:
‘His dishevelment had more to do with his questionable personal hygiene than his living conditions.’
The Daily Mail published a deeply totalitarian article titled:
‘Assange inside his fetid lair: Revealed, the full squalid horror that drove embassy staff to finally kick him out
‘EXCLUSIVE: Photos of Julian Assange’s “dirty protests” have been revealed’
The ‘Exclusive’ featured pictures of a single unwashed plate, several mugs in a sink and a squeaky-clean toilet.
The BBC’s Jon Sopel North America Correspondent tweeted:
‘#Ecuador president #LeninMoreno tells me #JulianAssange smeared the walls of the embassy with feces and that is why they revoked his asylum. The #WikiLeaks leader exhausted their tolerance, the president told me @BBCBreaking’
Among others, the claim has also been reported by CNN, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, Vox, ABC News, Reuters, the Associated Press, Daily Mail, Fox News, NBC News,the Independent, the Daily Beast, the Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. Reporter Charles Glass described the surveillance he witnessed in the embassy:
‘He [Assange] made coffee, glancing up at surveillance cameras in the tiny kitchen and every other room in the embassy that recorded his every movement.’
Alexander Rubinstein of Mint Press News concluded:
‘Assange was under total surveillance while in the embassy. They didn’t release the footage of him smearing his poop on the walls because it simply doesn’t exist. It’s a crock of shit.’
Ostensibly ‘alternative’ Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar – who has published numerous opinion pieces in the Guardian and Independent, and who is a favoured guest on flagship BBC shows like Daily Politics, Question Time, the Andrew Marr Show and Newsnight – tweeted:
‘Just sayin’ it’s possible to think that Julian Assange is a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob *and* that his arrest has incredibly worrying implications for the treatment of those who blow the whistle on gross abuses of state power.’
Sarkar revealed the depth of her knowledge when she wrote:
‘His arrest today came *after* the investigations into rape and the Swedish arrest warrant were dropped.
‘That doesn’t mean he’s innocent of those charges.’
Anyone who knows anything about Assange knows that he has never been charged. But Sarkar’s damning comments on a leading truth-teller facing the wrath of the US state, play extremely well with the ‘mainstream’ gatekeepers selecting BBC guests and Guardian contributors. Sarkar deleted the tweet smearing Assange, not because she regretted her appalling comments, but because ‘ugly stuff defending sexual assault itself has been turning up in my work inbox’ from ‘men’.
On April 11, we tweeted:
‘”Whatever you think of [Assange]…” means, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of *them*. I’m not rejecting the respectable, mainstream narrative.”‘
Synchronistically, one day later, Owen Jones wrote in the Guardian under the title:
‘Whatever you think of Julian Assange, his extradition to the US must be opposed’
The Guardian‘s George Monbiot tweeted:
‘Whether or not you like Assange’s politics (I don’t), or his character (ditto)…’
At the risk of being annoying, we responded:
‘George, how much time have you spent with Assange and his unpleasant character?’
We received no reply.
Before the arrest, Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson commented on WikiLeaks’ complaints about police spying on Assange inside the embassy:
‘WikiLeaks – it all adds up to WikiLeaks whining about their privacy being invaded. Can’t quite see how this deserves airtime on @Channel4News Am I wrong?’
One day later, when Thomson found himself reporting Assange’s arrest, we asked: ‘Was he “whining”, Alex?’
‘Yes – clearly’
In fact, Assange was making a political protest, calling on the UK to resist Trump’s attempt at extradition that might see him spending the rest of his life in jail.
A select few journalists managed to retain their dignity in the face of this callous corporate herdthink. To his credit, Andrew Buncombe of the Independent tweeted:
‘There’s been an oddly mocking tone to much of the reporting about Assange, whose organisation has revealed more US state crimes than most journalists. Arrest sets an appalling precedent.’
Odd is the word. Buncombe’s tweet brought to mind a comment made by the BBC’s World Affairs Editor, John Cody Fidler-Simpson CBE, about ‘mainstream’ journalism:
‘There’s something slightly wrong with most of us, don’t you feel? We’re damaged goods, usually with slightly rumpled private lives and unconventional backgrounds. Outsiders, looking in at others from outside.’ (‘Travels with Auntie’, Lynn Barber interviewing John Simpson, Observer, 24 February 2002)
The Guardian‘s Ewen MacAskill commented:
‘US did not waste any time putting in extradition request for Assange. Terrible precedent if journalist/publisher ends up in US jail for Iraq war logs and state department cables.’
Remarkably, some supposedly independent, neutral corporate media openly identified with the state. The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal:
‘Julian Assange has done much harm to American interests over the last decade, and on Thursday the WikiLeaks founder moved a large step closer to accountability in a U.S. court.’
Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times:
‘Assange’s publishing of confidential data gravely harmed our interests. In the US he is seen as a terrorist. But a tranche of protesters still believe he is a guardian of truth — and that any wickedness in the world always emanates from the West.’
As Glenn Greenwald commented:
‘If you’re cheering Assange’s arrest based on a US extradition request, your allies in your celebration are the most extremist elements of the Trump administration, whose primary and explicit goal is to criminalize reporting on classified docs & punish WL for exposing war crimes.’
To add weight to the media campaign, more than 70 MPs and peers wrote to Home Secretary Sajid Javid and the shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, urging them to focus attention on the Swedish investigations that Assange would face should the case be resumed at the alleged victim’s request. The letter was ‘coordinated’ by ‘centrist’, anti-Corbyn Labour MP Stella Creasy who, appropriately enough, ‘Generally voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas.’ Jonathan Cook commented astutely:
‘The 70 MPs who signed the letter to Javid hope to kill two birds with one stone.
‘First, they are legitimising the discourse of the Trump administration. This is no longer about an illegitimate US extradition request on Assange we should all be loudly protesting. It is a competition between two legal claims, and a debate about which one should find legal remedy first.
‘It weighs a woman’s sexual assault allegation against Assange and Wikileaks’ exposure of war crimes committed by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. It suggests that both are in the same category, that they are similar potential crimes.
‘But there should only be one response to the US extradition claim on Assange. That it is entirely illegitimate. No debate. Anything less, any equivocation is to collude in the Trump administration’s narrative.’
As we have documented, Jeremy Corbyn has been subject to a similarly relentless, cross-‘spectrum’ political and media campaign attacking him for leading Labour towards electoral disaster, for being a serious threat to UK national security, for conspiring with Putin, and above all, of course, for being a menacing anti-semite.
And yet the facts speak for themselves: Corbyn has been a tremendous electoral success; the idea that Trump, let alone Corbyn, ‘colluded’ with Putin has proved laughable; and the idea that Corbyn and Labour have an anti-semite ‘crisis’ simply defies the known facts of racist prejudice in the leading political parties and wider society.
If the smears are fake, what is driving them? A clue is provided in a tweet by The Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald:
‘The only 2 times I can remember establishment liberals like @HillaryClinton… uniting with and cheering Trump Admin is when (a) he bombed Syria and (b) they indicted Assange… That says a lot about their values.’
It does indeed. Beyond the relentless fake news, these same ‘values’ are driving the attempts to destroy both Corbyn and Assange.
After Julian Assange’s arrest and the resulting explosion of the internet last weekend, I attempt to pick up some of the pieces.
This past week has been one of those weeks when the internet seemed to explode, as it does every so often. Analyzing the patterns in which the rubble hit the ground after the blast, there is an overwhelming sense of mass confusion. Questions and condemnations are everywhere. Who does he really work for? What are his real interests? Who wants to extradite him, and why?
In one moldy crevice of the internet we have people convinced that he couldn’t possibly be a rapist, he was set up, the women are crisis actors. In another fetid corner are those loudly proclaiming that because he may be guilty of these accusations, who cares if he’s extradited to the US for entirely other reasons?
And then, in still another myopic little hole, the loyal Democrats, convinced that anyone who calls out Hillary Clinton as an imperialist stooge of Goldman Sachs must therefore be working for both Putin and Trump. And, therefore, so what if Julian Assange is thrown to the wolves in Alexandria, Virginia, along with Chelsea Manning?
I get the powerful sense that people don’t know what to believe. When faced with a situation where there are many different interests involved, putting forward different perspectives for their own particular reasons, there is a tendency for people to retreat into irrational little corners and shout obscenities at anyone who tries to talk to them.
It is, however, through the opposite of this kind of retreat and shout mentality where we can begin to understand the world around us. It’s imperative that you first turn off your TV. With talk radio or talk TV like Fox or MSNBC, all you get is repetition of positions, rather than analysis of real information. But repetitive propaganda of a liberal, conservative, fascist, socialist, or other nature is not what we need. To understand the world, you need more information, not less — a broader array of angles from which to view the same situation, not more ways to beat a dead horse.
Cutting to the chase, Julian Assange is wanted by the forces of empire in Washington, DC, both Democratic and Republican, because he helped expose US war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This is no longer a suspicion, but we can now say since his arrest in London it is a fact. Whatever he thinks of the relative pros and cons of the two ruling parties in the US, however he has treated people on an interpersonal basis, whether or not his organization has accepted donations from the right or wrong people now or historically — while all of these questions are certainly relevant broadly, they are not relevant to the basic reason why the US has been trying to resuscitate the moribund Espionage Act of 1920 to go after whistle-blowers and journalists — or, in the case of Julian Assange, whistle-blower/journalists.
Chelsea Manning got 35 years. Her future at this point is very uncertain. There is no reason to suspect that the Justice Department will be seeking any less of a punishment in their case against Assange, which is being pursued for the exact same so-called crimes — the crime of exposing war crimes. This is why Julian Assange should be defended.
Never has the mass media been so thoroughly discredited by official documents which directly contradict the official propaganda, mouthed by political leaders and parroted by ‘leading’ journalists.
Washington is particularly intent on capturing JA because his revelations have had a particularly powerful impact on the US public, political critics, the alternative media and human rights groups in turning them against US wars in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa and Latin America.
We will proceed by discussing what JA and WL accomplished and why the particular ‘cutting edge’ of their reportage disturbed the government.
We will then discus the ‘ongoing’ conflicts and the failure of the White House to score a decisive victory, as factors which has led Washington to intensify its efforts to make JA an ‘example’ to other journalists – demanding that they should ‘shape up’ or pay the consequences including imprisonment.
Context for Whistleblowing
By the end of a decade of war, opposition to the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan had spread to sectors of the military and civilian establishment. Documents were leaked and critics were encouraged to hand over reports revealing war crimes and the toll in human lives. WL, under Assange’s leadership, were the recipients of hundreds of thousands of documents which poured in from military analysts, contractors and civilian office holders disgusted by official and mass media lies which perpetrated and covered up war crimes.
As the wars dragged on, and new ones were launched in Libya and Syria and liberal Congress-members were impotent and unwilling to expose the Obama/Clinton regimes’ lies and the falsifications accompanying the murder of President Gaddafi, WikiLeaks and JA publicized documents which revealed how the US planned , implemented and fabricated Humanitarian Wars to ‘save people’ …by bombing them!
The major networks and prestigious press, following the official line, but WL documents discredited them.
The Pentagon, the CIA, the Presidency and their Congressional supporters panicked – as their covert activities came to light.
They resorted to several desperate moves all directed to silence free speech. They accused the investigative journalists of ‘espionage’ – working for Russia or Islamic terrorists or simply being ‘traitors for cash’.
As WL message gained legitimacy, Washington turned to the judiciary in search of rulings to muzzle their critics. Free speech was criminalized. But WL continued. New and more critical whistleblowers came on the scene; Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, William Binney and others provided new devastating evidence of Washington’s gross distortions and fabrications regarding civilian deaths.
In the Pentagon’s eyes, Julian Assange was The Enemy because he refused to be bought or intimidated. WL successfully aroused distrust of the mass media and distrust of the official war news’ spread among the public.
The Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence apparatus sought the ‘internal’ spies feeding documents to WL. Julian Assange was targeted for arrest in the belief that ‘beheading’ the leader would intimidate other investigative journalists. JA fled for his life, and sought and received asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK.
After seven years of pressure the US succeeded in having the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno violate his own country’s constitution and allow the British police to seize JS, jail and prepare him for extradition to Washington where the regime will find the appropriate judicial setting to condemn him to life imprisonment or… worse.
The war crimes committed by Washington are of such dimension that they have eroded the passive and submissive ethos of their public servants; having lost the trust, the government relies on threats, expulsions and criminal trials.
Investigative journalists are under pressure from the chorus of press prostitutes and face criminal trials.
Today Free speech means ‘free’ to follow the State.
Julian Assange’s upcoming trial is about more than free speech. It is about Washington’s ability to pursue global wars, to apply illegal sanctions against independent countries and to recruit vassal states without opposition. Washington, without public awareness, will be able to launch trade wars, and slander competitors with impunity. Once whistleblowers are silenced and/or jailed anything goes.
In the present period many journalists have lost their ability to speak truth to power, and young writers who seek outlets and role models, face the threat of censorship enforced by egregious punishment. The White House seeks to convert the country into an echo chamber of lies for ‘humanitarian’ wars and ‘democratic’ coups.
Today the US government pursues a war against Venezuela. Treasury seizes its resources and wealth and State appoints its president in the name of ‘democratic values’. The Trump regime is starving the Venezuelan people into submission in the name of a humanitarian mission, a ploy which is only contested by few journalists in the alternative media.
Washington is jailing JA to ensure that the crimes against Venezuela will continue with impunity.