“I Am Greta” isn’t About Climate Change. It’s About the Elusiveness of Sanity in an Insane World

BY JONATHAN COOK

Photograph Source: Nick from Bristol – CC BY 2.0

Erich Fromm, the renowned German-Jewish social psychologist who was forced to flee his homeland in the early 1930s as the Nazis came to power, offered a disturbing insight later in life on the relationship between society and the individual.

In the mid-1950s, his book The Sane Society suggested that insanity referred not simply to the failure by specific individuals to adapt to the society they lived in. Rather, society itself could become so pathological, so detached from a normative way of life, that it induced a deep-seated alienation and a form of collective insanity among its members. In modern western societies, where automation and mass consumption betray basic human needs, insanity might not be an aberration but the norm.

Fromm wrote:

“The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.”

Challenging definition

This is still a very challenging idea to anyone raised on the view that sanity is defined by consensus, that it embraces whatever the mainstream prefers, and that insanity applies only to those living outside those norms. It is a definition that diagnoses the vast majority of us today as insane.

When Fromm wrote his book, Europe was emerging from the ruins of the Second World War. It was a time of reconstruction, not only physically and financially, but legally and emotionally. International institutions like the United Nations had recently been formed to uphold international law, curb national greed and aggression, and embody a new commitment to universal human rights.

It was a time of hope and expectation. Greater industrialisation spurred by the war effort and intensified extraction of fossil fuels meant economies were beginning to boom, a vision of the welfare state was being born, and a technocratic class promoting a more generous social democracy were replacing the old patrician class.

It was at this historic juncture that Fromm chose to write a book telling the western world that most of us were insane.

Degrees of insanity

If that was clear to Fromm in 1955, it ought to be much clearer to us today, as buffoon autocrats stride the world stage like characters from a Marx Brothers movie; as international law is being intentionally unravelled to restore the right of western nations to invade and plunder; and as the physical world demonstrates through extreme weather events that the long-ignored science of climate change – and much other human-inspired destruction of the natural world – can no longer be denied.

And yet our commitment to our insanity seems as strong as ever – possibly stronger. Sounding like the captain of the Titanic, the unreconstructed British liberal writer Sunny Hundal memorably gave voice to this madness a few years back when he wrote in defence of the catastrophic status quo:

If you want to replace the current system of capitalism with something else, who is going to make your jeans, iPhones and run Twitter?

As the clock ticks away, the urgent goal for each of us is to gain a deep, permanent insight into our own insanity. It doesn’t matter that our neighbours, family and friends think as we do. The ideological system we were born into, that fed us our values and beliefs as surely as our mothers fed us milk, is insane. And because we cannot step outside of that ideological bubble – because our lives depend on submitting to this infrastructure of insanity – our madness persists, even as we think of ourselves as sane.

Our world is not one of the sane versus the insane, but of the less insane versus the more insane.

Intimate portrait

Which is why I recommend the new documentary I Am Greta, a very intimate portrait of the Swedish child environmental activist Greta Thunberg.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=i74n4BUYgHI%3Ffeature%3Doembed

Before everyone gets started, let me point out that I Am Greta is not about the climate emergency. That is simply the background noise as the film charts the personal journey begun by this 15-year-old girl with Asperger’s syndrome in staging a weekly lone protest outside the Swedish parliament. Withdrawn and depressed by the implications of the compulsive research she has done on the environment, she rapidly finds herself thrust into the centre of global attention by her simple, heart-felt statements of the obvious.

The schoolgirl shunned as insane by classmates suddenly finds the world drawn to the very qualities that previously singled her out as weird: her stillness, her focus, her refusal to equivocate or to be impressed.

Footage of her father desperately trying to get her to take a break and eat something, if only a banana, as she joins yet another climate march, or of her curling up in a ball on her bed, needing to be silent, after an argument with her father over the time she has spent crafting another speech to world leaders may quieten those certain she is simply a dupe of the fossil fuel industries – or, more likely, it will not.

But the fruitless debates about whether Thunberg is being used are irrelevant to this film. That is not where its point or its power lies.

Through Thunberg’s eyes

For 90 minutes we live in Thunberg’s shoes, we see the world through her strange eyes. For 90 minutes we are allowed to live inside the head of someone so sane that we can briefly grasp – if we are open to her world – quite how insane each of us truly is. We see ourselves from the outside, through the vision of someone whose Asperger’s has allowed her to “see through the static”, as she too generously terms our delusions. She is the small, still centre of simple awareness buffeted in a sea of insanity.

Watching Thunberg wander alone – unimpressed, often appalled – through the castles and palaces of world leaders, through the economic forums of the global technocratic elite, through the streets where she is acclaimed, the varied nature of our collective insanity comes ever more sharply into focus.

Four forms of insanity the adult world adopts in response to Thunberg, the child soothsayer, are on show. In its varied guises, this insanity derives from unexamined fear.

The first – and most predictable – is exemplified by the right, who angrily revile her for putting in jeopardy the ideological system of capitalism they revere as their new religion in a godless world. She is an apostate, provoking their curses and insults.

The second group are liberal world leaders and the technocratic class who run our global institutions. Their job, for which they are so richly rewarded, is to pay lip service, entirely in bad faith, to the causes Thunberg espouses for real. They are supposed to be managing the planet for future generations, and therefore have the biggest investment in recruiting her to their side, not least to dissipate the energy she mobilises that they worry could rapidly turn against them.

One of the film’s early scenes is Thunberg’s meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron, shortly after she has started making headlines.

Beforehand, Macron’s adviser tries to pump Thunberg for information on other world leaders she has met. His unease at her reply that this her first such invitation is tangible. As Thunberg herself seems only too aware when they finally meet, Macron is there simply for the photoshoot. Trying to make inane small talk with someone incapable of such irrelevancies, Macron can’t help but raise an eyebrow in discomfort, and possibly mild reproof, as Thunberg concedes that the media reports of her travelling everywhere by train are right.

Cynically insane

The third group are the adults who line the streets for a selfie with Thunberg, or shout out their adulation, loading it on to her shoulders like a heavy burden – and one she signally refuses to accept. Every time someone at a march tells her she is special, brave or a hero, she immediately tells them they too are brave. It is not her responsibility to fix the climate for the rest of us, and to think otherwise is a form of infantilism.

The fourth group are entirely absent from the film, but not from the responses to it and to her. These are the “cynically insane”, those who want to load on to Thunberg a burden of a different kind. Aware of the way we have been manipulated by our politicians and media, and the corporations that now own both, they are committed to a different kind of religion – one that can see no good anywhere. Everything is polluted and dirty. Because they have lost their own innocence, all innocence must be murdered.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=NatCounterPunch&dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1176513294686982145&lang=en&origin=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.counterpunch.org%2F2020%2F11%2F20%2Fi-am-greta-isnt-about-climate-change-its-about-the-elusiveness-of-sanity-in-an-insane-world%2F&siteScreenName=NatCounterPunch&theme=light&widgetsVersion=ed20a2b%3A1601588405575&width=500px

This is a form of insanity no different from the other groups. It denies that anything can be good. It refuses to listen to anything and anyone. It denies that sanity is possible at all. It is its own form of autism – locked away in a personal world from which there can be no escape – that, paradoxically, Thunberg herself has managed to overcome through her deep connection to the natural world.

As long as we can medicalise Thunberg as someone suffering from Asperger’s, we do not need to think about whether we are really the insane ones.

Bursting bubbles

Long ago economists made us aware of financial bubbles, the expression of insanity from investors as they pursue profit without regard to real world forces. Such investors are finally forced to confront reality – and the pain it brings – when the bubble bursts. As it always does.

We are in an ideological bubble – and one that will burst as surely as the financial kind. Thunberg is that still, small voice of sanity outside the bubble. We can listen to her, without fear, without reproach, without adulation, without cynicism. Or we can carry on with our insane games until the bubble explodes.

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jonathan-cook.net/

Posted in Environment, Health, UK0 Comments

UK: Covid -19 Update

WMNow - Stay updated Get involved
We’ve set up our weekly Coronavirus updates again packed full with all the latest information from your local police.

Please feel free to help us spread the word by sharing these messages, our video and the information we issue through our social media channels.  

Watch our latest video which shows how our officers are policing the new lockdown:
https://youtu.be/M-mPjGzMjUQ
Changes to our service

Although we are now in our third lockdown we want to reassure you that we’re still here to protect you and keep you safe.

Thank you for working with us during these difficult times. We do not underestimate the impact the previous lockdowns have had on you.
We’re doing all we can to protect our staff and minimise the spread of the virus. This means at times we may have fewer team members in our contact centres. Our staff are helping out as much as they can by working from home, but at busy times, you may find it takes a little longer to get in touch, especially if you try to call us.

How you can help 
It’s really important we keep our emergency 999 phone lines free to help those most in need.
So here are some other ways you can help us to help you:
http://our website
We find that many of the calls we receive can be resolved online. So for all non-emergencies please try visiting our website first.

Here you can:

Search for advice on a range of issues
Report crime such at theft, criminal damage or burglary
Speak to us on live chat between 8am to midnight
Report potential COVID-19 breaches
You’ll find that everything you can do by calling 101, you can also do on our website and Live Chat.

You can contact us on Live Chat where specially trained officers can provide support and help keep you safe. Remember, in an emergency always call 999.

Thank you for continuing to follow the government advice by staying at home and only going outside for essential food, health, work and education.

If home doesn’t feel safe
We know that home is not the safest place for everyone right now. If you feel frightened by the person you live with, you are allowed to leave your home.  Local refuges are open and are taking people in.
You can contact us on Live Chat where specially trained officers can provide support and help keep you safe. Remember, in an emergency always call 999.

Thank you for your support
The great relationship between police and communities has never been brought more sharply into focus than it has in recent months.  Moving into a third lockdown has been tough for all of us, but what’s shone through is the way you continue to co-operate with us and we can’t thank you enough for that.
We do not underestimate the impact the lockdowns have had on you, but we know through everyone’s co-operation, we can once again reduce the spread of the virus and protect the NHS from being overwhelmed.
You’ll have seen stories in the news about people who have flouted the rules, and times we’ve needed to clamp down.
Please bear in mind, they are only a tiny minority of people and the majority of us here in Birmingham are doing everything we can to help, by making personal sacrifices and sticking to the rules.  We’re using our powers to stop significant breaches and are continuing to educate the minority who put others at risk.

Visit our http://coronavirus help page coronavirus help page to see how we’re supporting you through this health emergency and how to report anyone not following the guidelines.


kind regards
Message Sent By
Stefanie Sadler (Police, Engagement & Consultation officer, Birmingham Partnerships)

Posted in UK0 Comments

The UK’s hidden hand in Julian Assange’s detention

Julian Assange
Nazareth-based Jonathan Cook writes:

It now emerges that the last four years of Julian Assange’s effective imprisonment in the Ecuadorean embassy in London have been entirely unnecessary. In fact, they depended on a legal charade.

Behind the scenes, Sweden wanted to drop the extradition case against Assange back in 2013. Why was this not made public? Because Britain persuaded Sweden to pretend that they still wished to pursue the case.

In other words, for more than four years Assange has been holed up in a tiny room, policed at great cost to British taxpayers, not because of any allegations in Sweden but because the British authorities wanted him to remain there. On what possible grounds could that be, one has to wonder? Might it have something to do with his work as the head of Wikileaks, publishing information from whistleblowers that has severely embarrassed the United States and the UK.

In fact, Assange should have walked free years ago if this was really about an investigation – a sham one at that – into an alleged sexual assault in Sweden. Instead, as Assange has long warned, there is a very different agenda at work: efforts to extradite him onwards to the US, where he could be locked away for good. That was why UN experts argued two years ago that he was being “arbitrarily detained” – for political crimes – not unlike the situation of dissidents in other parts of the world that win the support of Western liberals and leftists.

According to a new, limited release of emails between officials, the Swedish director of public prosecutions, Marianne Ny, wrote to Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service on 18 October 2013, warning that Swedish law would not allow the case for extradition to be continued. This was, remember, after Sweden had repeatedly failed to take up an offer from Assange to interview him in London, as had happened in 44 other extradition cases between Sweden and Britain.

Ny wrote to the CPS:

We have found us to be obliged to lift the detention order… and to withdraw the European arrest warrant. If so, this should be done in a couple of weeks. This would affect not only us but you too in a significant way.

Three days later, suggesting that legal concerns were far from anyone’s mind, she emailed the CPS again: “I am sorry this came as a [bad] surprise… I hope I didn’t ruin your weekend.”

In a similar vein, proving that this was about politics, not the law, the chief CPS lawyer handling the case in the UK, had earlier written to the Swedish prosecutors: “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

In December 2013, the unnamed CPS lawyer wrote again to Ny: “I do not consider costs are a relevant factor in this matter.” This was at a time when it had been revealed that the policing of Assange’s detention in the embassy had at that point cost Britain £3.8 million. In another email from the CPS, it was noted: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

These are only fragments of the email correspondence, after most of it was destroyed by the CPS against its own protocols. The deletions appear to have been carried out to avoid releasing the electronic files to a tribunal that has been considering a freedom of information request.

Other surviving emails, according to a Guardian report last year, have shown that the CPS “advised the Swedes in 2010 or 2011 not to visit London to interview Assange. An interview at that time could have prevented the long-running embassy standoff.”

Assange is still holed up in the embassy, at great risk to his physical and mental health, even though last year Sweden formally dropped an investigation that in reality it had not actually been pursuing for more than four years.

Now the UK (read US) authorities have a new, even less credible pretext for continuing to hold Assange: because he “skipped bail”. Apparently, the price he should pay for this relatively minor infraction is more than five years of confinement…

Remember too that, according to the UK Foreign Office, Ecuador recently notified it that Assange had received diplomatic status following his successful application for Ecuadorean citizenship.

As former British ambassador Craig Murray has explained, the UK has no choice but to accept Assange’s diplomatic immunity. The most it can do is insist that he leave the country – something that Assange and Ecuador presumably each desire. And yet the UK continues to ignore its obligation to allow Assange his freedom to leave. So far there has been zero debate in the British corporate media about this fundamental violation of his rights.

One has to wonder at what point will most people realise that this is – and always was – political persecution masquerading as law enforcement.

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Julian Assange and the fate of journalism

WikiLeaks

By Lawrence Davidson

Julian Assange

Julian Assange is the Australian founder of WikiLeaks, a website dedicated to the public’s right to know what governments and other powerful organisations are doing. WikiLeaks pursues this goal by posting revelatory documents, often acquired unofficially, that bring to light the criminal behaviour that results in wars and other man-made disasters. Because WikiLeaks’ very existence encourages “leaks”, government officials fear the website, and particularly dislike Julian Assange.

Essentially, WikiLeaks functions as a wholesale supplier of evidence. Having identified alleged official misconduct, WikiLeaks seeks to acquire and make public overwhelming amounts of evidence – sometimes hundreds of thousands of documents at a time – which journalists and other interested parties can draw upon. And since the individuals and organisations being investigated are ones ultimately responsible to the public, such a role as wholesale supplier of evidence can be seen as a public service.

Unfortunately, that is not how most government officials see the situation. They assert that government cannot be successful unless aspects of its behaviour are conducted in secret. The fact that those aspects in question thereby lose any accountable connection to the public is discounted. The assumption here is that most citizens simply trust their governments to act in their interests, including when they act clandestinely. Historically, such trust is dangerously naive. Often government officials, even the democratic ones, feel no obligation to their citizens in general, but rather only to special interests.

One reason for this is that large and bureaucratic institutions that last for any length of time have the tendency to become standalone institutions – ones with their own self-referencing cultures, loyalty to which comes to override any responsibility to outside groups other than those with particular shared interests. In other words, long-lasting institutions/bureaucracies take on a life of their own.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that many governments look upon WikiLeaks as a threat to institutional wellbeing. And so, in an effort to cripple WikiLeaks and have their revenge on Assange, the United States and the United Kingdom, with the cooperation of Sweden, first sought to frame Assange (2010) on a sexual assault charge. This having failed, Assange was still left liable for jumping bail in the UK in order to avoid seizure and deportation to the US, where he would certainly be put on trial for revealing secrets. He escaped to the Ecuadorian embassy in London (2012), where he was given asylum. As of this writing, he is still there. However, a recent change in government in Quito has led to discussions between Ecuador and the UK that may well lead to Assange’s eviction from the embassy.

The ideals of journalism

Some of the anger over Assange’s fate has been directed at the journalistic profession which he has sought to serve. After all, Assange has ardently supported the notions of free speech, free press and the public’s right to know. Nonetheless, as the documentary filmmaker John Pilger, a supporter of Assange, has noted,

@@There has been no pressure [in support of Assange] from media in the United States, Britain, Australia or pretty much anywhere except in [media] programmes… outside the mainstream… “The persecution of this man has been something that should horrify all free-thinking people.@@

He is quite right. Unfortunately, there never have been many brave free-thinkers about, so no one should be surprised at Assange’s poor prospects.

This brings up the difference between the ideals of the journalistic profession and the reality within which it operates. There is a model of journalism that presents it as a pillar of democracy. The journalist is a tough and persistent person who digs up facts, asks hard questions and explains the truth to his or her readers/viewers. Few seem to have noticed that, to the extent that this picture is accurate, the ideal model has alienated those readers/viewers who cannot tell the difference between “the truth” and their own opinions. Recently, this alienation has opened the entire media industry to the charge that it is really the “enemy of the people” because it peddles “fake news” – that is, news that belies one’s opinions.

To bring the idealistic journalist in line with real public expectations, editors put pressure on media workers to compromise their professional ideals. The result is most often manipulated reports aimed at fitting the particular outlook of the particular media operation’s target audience. Thus, it is simply wrong to think that, on the average, those who investigate, do research, write about things, and report through the various media are any braver or, ultimately, any more principled than the rest of the population. As Julien Benda showed us in his 1928 book, The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, while it is in fact the job of those who research and report to remain independent of the ideologies and biases of both their community and their government, the truth is that most often these people end up serving power. This is particularly the case when there is an atmosphere of patriotic fervor, or just plain pressure from sources that can hurt one’s career. At that point you will find that bravery does exist but it is the exception and not the rule – and the brave will, more often than not, stand alone.

That is what is happening in the case of Julian Assange. Many American news outlets are willing to selectively use the documented evidence made available by WikiLeaks. To do so is to draw on what the website has placed in the public domain. But they will not stand up and publicly defend the “whistleblower” who makes the information public. I imagine publishers, editors, and media moguls, and the vast majority of those they employ, just don’t have the courage to support the individual who breaks some unprincipled law or regulation designed to enforce silence in relation to official crimes and hypocrisy.

A shared problem

The United States is certainly not the only country facing this dilemma. To one extent or another this is a shared problem in all those lands claiming to have a free press. For example, a similar problem has long existed in Israel. Here one finds a whole ethnicity whose journalists are open to persecution.

Take the case of Omar Nazzal, a member of the board of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate. In a 10 August 2016 report appearing in the online blog +972 Magazine, and entitled “Israeli journalists silent as their Palestinian colleagues are jailed”, we are told that Nazzal was taken into custody by Israeli forces in April 2016, without charges. Like Assange, there has been an attempt, after the fact, to claim that Nazzal is a criminal. The Shin Bet, one of those Israeli security forces that only the naive or venal take at face value, claims that he is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which they consider to be a terrorist organisation. No proof of this charge has been publicly presented (Shin Bet claims the “proof” is secret) and Nazzal denies any affiliation. As it turns out, the real reason he was arrested somewhat parallels Assange’s activity. At the time of his seizure, Nazzal was on his way to Sarajevo for a meeting of the European Federation of Journalists. No doubt, the Israelis did not want him telling true, documentable, stories to an organisation of European journalists. Most Israeli Jewish journalists, like their American counterparts, remain silent. So do their respective publics.

Conclusion

One might ask just how seriously “the public” wants a media that tells them “the truth”. The most watched cable news channel in the US is Fox News, a media ally of Donald Trump that has no demonstrable interest in objective facts. It is more likely that Americans (and others) chose their news outlets on the basis of which one most often tells them what they want to hear – in other words, the search for “accurate” reporting is really driven by a desire for confirmation of bias.

Under these circumstances it is easy to understand why a for-profit media industry need not be beholden to the general citizenry or any ideal of supplying fact-based news. This situation puts truth tellers like Assange, and in the case of Israel, Omar Nazzal, in a bad position. They will have their defenders but they will be outside the mainstream – because truth itself is also outside the mainstream. That is their predicament, and ours as well.

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Guardian escalates its vilification of Julian Assange

Guardian and Assange
By Jonathan Cook

It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to the Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

Faced with the backlash, the Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.

… damaging contents of the emails. show that [Democratic] Party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

The Guardian’s latest story provides a supposedly stronger foundation for an existing narrative: that Assange and WikiLeaks knowingly published emails hacked by Russia from the Democratic Party’s servers. In truth, there is no public evidence that the emails were hacked, or that Russia was involved. Central actors have suggested instead that the emails were leaked from within the Democratic Party.

Nonetheless, this unverified allegation has been aggressively exploited by the Democratic leadership because it shifts attention away both from its failure to mount an effective electoral challenge to Trump and from the damaging contents of the emails. These show that party bureaucrats sought to rig the primaries to make sure Clinton’s challenger for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, lost.

To underscore the intended effect of the Guardian’s new claims, Harding even throws in a casual and unsubstantiated reference to “Russians” joining Manafort in supposedly meeting Assange.

Manafort has denied the Guardian’s claims, while Assange has threatened to sue the Guardian for libel.

“Responsible for Trump”

The emotional impact of the Guardian story is to suggest that Assange is responsible for four years or more of Trump rule. But more significantly, it bolsters the otherwise risible claim that Assange is not a publisher – and thereby entitled to the protections of a free press, as enjoyed by the Guardian or the New York Times – but the head of an organisation engaged in espionage for a foreign power.

The intention is to deeply discredit Assange, and by extension the WikiLeaks organisation, in the eyes of right-thinking liberals. That, in turn, will make it much easier to silence Assange and the vital cause he represents: the use of new media to hold to account the old, corporate media and political elites through the imposition of far greater transparency.

The Guardian story will prepare public opinion for the moment when Ecuador’s right-wing government under President Lenin Moreno forces Assange out of the embassy, having already withdrawn most of his rights to use digital media.

It will soften opposition when the UK moves to arrest Assange on self-serving bail violation charges and extradites him to the US. And it will pave the way for the US legal system to lock Assange up for a very long time.

…  Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

For the best part of a decade, any claims by Assange’s supporters that avoiding this fate was the reason Assange originally sought asylum in the embassy was ridiculed by corporate journalists, not least at the Guardian.

Even when a United Nations panel of experts in international law ruled in 2016 that Assange was being arbitrarily – and unlawfully – detained by the UK, Guardian writers led efforts to discredit the UN report. See here and here.

Now Assange and his supporters have been proved right once again. An administrative error this month revealed that the US justice department had secretly filed criminal charges against Assange.

Heavy surveillance

The problem for the Guardian, which should have been obvious to its editors from the outset, is that any visits by Manafort would be easily verifiable without relying on unnamed “sources”.

Glenn Greenwald is far from alone in noting that London is possibly the most surveilled city in the world, with CCTV cameras everywhere. The environs of the Ecuadorian embassy are monitored especially heavily, with continuous filming by the UK and Ecuadorian authorities and most likely by the US and other actors with an interest in Assange’s fate.

The idea that Manafort or “Russians” could have wandered into the embassy to meet Assange even once without their trail, entry and meeting being intimately scrutinised and recorded is simply preposterous.

According to Greenwald:

If Paul Manafort… visited Assange at the embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that. 

Former British ambassador Craig Murray also points out the extensive security checks insisted on by the embassy to which any visitor to Assange must submit. Any visits by Manafort would have been logged.

In fact, the Guardian obtained the embassy’s logs in May, and has never made any mention of either Manafort or “Russians” being identified in them. It did not refer to the logs in its latest story.

Murray says:

The problem with this latest fabrication is that [Ecuador’s President] Moreno had already released the visitor logs to the Mueller inquiry. Neither Manafort nor these “Russians” are in the visitor logs… What possible motive would the Ecuadorean government have for facilitating secret unrecorded visits by Paul Manafort? Furthermore, it is impossible that the intelligence agency – who were in charge of the security – would not know the identity of these alleged “Russians”.

No fact-checking

It is worth noting it should be vitally important for a serious publication like the Guardian to ensure its claims are unassailably true – both because Assange’s personal fate rests on their veracity, and because, even more importantly, a fundamental right, the freedom of the press, is at stake.

Given this, one would have expected the Guardian’s editors to have insisted on the most stringent checks imaginable before going to press with Harding’s story. At a very minimum, they should have sought out a response from Assange and Manafort before publication. Neither precaution was taken.

I worked for the Guardian for a number of years, and know well the layers of checks that any highly sensitive story has to go through before publication. In that lengthy process, a variety of commissioning editors, lawyers, backbench editors and the editor herself, Kath Viner, would normally insist on cuts to anything that could not be rigorously defended and corroborated.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them.

And yet this piece seems to have been casually waved through, given a green light even though its profound shortcomings were evident to a range of well-placed analysts and journalists from the outset.

That at the very least hints that the Guardian thought they had “insurance” on this story. And the only people who could have promised that kind of insurance are the security and intelligence services – presumably of Britain, the United States and / or Ecuador.

It appears the Guardian has simply taken this story, provided by spooks, at face value. Even if it later turns out that Manafort did visit Assange, the Guardian clearly had no compelling evidence for its claims when it published them. That is profoundly irresponsible journalism – fake news – that should be of the gravest concern to readers.

A pattern, not an aberration

Despite all this, even analysts critical of the Guardian’s behaviour have shown a glaring failure to understand that its latest coverage represents not an aberration by the paper but decisively fits with a pattern.

Glenn Greenwald, who once had an influential column in the Guardian until an apparent, though unacknowledged, falling out with his employer over the Edward Snowden revelations, wrote a series of baffling observations about the Guardian’s latest story.

First, he suggested it was simply evidence of the Guardian’s long-standing (and well-documented) hostility towards Assange.

The Guardian, an otherwise solid and reliable paper, has such a pervasive and unprofessionally personal hatred for Julian Assange that it has frequently dispensed with all journalistic standards in order to malign him.

It was also apparently evidence of the paper’s clickbait tendencies:

They [Guardian editors] knew that publishing this story would cause partisan warriors to excitedly spread the story, and that cable news outlets would hyperventilate over it, and that they’d reap the rewards regardless of whether the story turned out to be true or false.

And finally, in a bizarre tweet, Greenwald opined, “I hope the story [maligning Assange] turns out true” – apparently because maintenance of the Guardian’s reputation is more important than Assange’s fate and the right of journalists to dig up embarrassing secrets without fear of being imprisoned.

Deeper malaise

What this misses is that the Guardian’s attacks on Assange are not exceptional or motivated solely by personal animosity. They are entirely predictable and systematic. Rather than being the reason for the Guardian violating basic journalistic standards and ethics, the paper’s hatred of Assange is a symptom of a deeper malaise in the Guardian and the wider corporate media.

Even aside from its decade-long campaign against Assange, the Guardian is far from “solid and reliable”, as Greenwald claims. It has been at the forefront of the relentless, and unhinged, attacks on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for prioritising the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s right to continue its belligerent occupation. Over the past three years, the Guardian has injected credibility into the Israel lobby’s desperate efforts to tar Corbyn as an anti-semite. See herehere and here.

Similarly, the Guardian worked tirelessly to promote Clinton and undermine Sanders in the 2016 Democratic nomination process – another reason the paper has been so assiduous in promoting the idea that Assange, aided by Russia, was determined to promote Trump over Clinton for the presidency.

The Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, especially of populist left-wing governments that have rebelled against traditional and oppressive US hegemony in the region, has long grated with analysts and experts. Its especial venom has been reserved for left-wing figures like Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, democratically elected but official enemies of the US, rather than the region’s right-wing authoritarians beloved of Washington.

The Guardian has been vocal in the so-called “fake news” hysteria, decrying the influence of social media, the only place where left-wing dissidents have managed to find a small foothold to promote their politics and counter the corporate media narrative.

The Guardian has painted social media chiefly as a platform overrun by Russian trolls, arguing that this should justify ever-tighter restrictions that have so far curbed critical voices of the dissident left more than the right.

Heroes of the neoliberal order

Equally, the Guardian has made clear who its true heroes are. Certainly not Corbyn or Assange, who threaten to disrupt the entrenched neoliberal order that is hurtling us towards climate breakdown and economic collapse.

Its pages, however, are readily available to the latest effort to prop up the status quo from Tony Blair, the man who led Britain, on false pretences, into the largest crime against humanity in living memory – the attack on Iraq.

That “humanitarian intervention” cost the lives of many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and created a vacuum that destabilised much of the Middle East, sucked in Islamic jihadists like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State group, and contributed to the migrant crisis in Europe that has fuelled the resurgence of the far-right. None of that is discussed in the Guardian or considered grounds for disqualifying Blair as an arbiter of what is good for Britain and the world’s future.

The Guardian also has an especial soft spot for blogger Elliot Higgins, who, aided by the Guardian, has shot to unlikely prominence as a self-styled “weapons expert”. Like Luke Harding, Higgins invariably seems ready to echo whatever the British and American security services need verifying “independently”.

Higgins and his well-staffed website Bellingcat have taken on for themselves the role of arbiters of truth on many foreign affairs issues, taking a prominent role in advocating for narratives that promote US and NATO hegemony while demonising Russia, especially in highly contested arenas such as Syria.

That clear partisanship should be no surprise, given that Higgins now enjoys an “academic” position at, and funding from, the Atlantic Council, a high-level, Washington-based think-tank founded to drum up support for NATO and justify its imperialist agenda.

Improbably, the Guardian has adopted Higgins as the poster-boy for a supposed citizen journalism it has sought to undermine as “fake news” whenever it occurs on social media without the endorsement of state-backed organisations.

The truth is that the Guardian has not erred in this latest story attacking Assange, or in its much longer-running campaign to vilify him. With this story, it has done what it regularly does when supposedly vital Western foreign policy interests are at stake – it simply regurgitates an elite-serving, Western narrative.

Its job is to shore up a consensus on the left for attacks on leading threats to the existing, neoliberal order: whether they are a platform like WikiLeaks promoting whistle-blowing against a corrupt Western elite; or a politician like Jeremy Corbyn seeking to break apart the status quo on the rapacious financial industries or Israel-Palestine; or a radical leader like Hugo Chavez who threatened to overturn a damaging and exploitative US dominance of “America’s backyard”; or social media dissidents who have started to chip away at the elite-friendly narratives of corporate media, including the Guardian.

The Guardian did not make a mistake in vilifying Assange without a shred of evidence. It did what it is designed to do.

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Julian Assange after leaving Ecuadorian embassy
Jonathan Cook writes:

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, aGuardian 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 authorites 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 – 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”.
  • She 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 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 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.

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Julian Assange extradition update

Julian Assange in poor health
Stuart Littlewood writes:

Sure, your rights are protected. But you’ll just have to wait another four months before we listen to concerns that you might die from mistreatment in captivity…

I’ve received a reply from my MP Alister Jack (who is also Secretary of State for Scotland). I asked him to obtain an explanation from our Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP, on concerns about the proceedings to extradite Julian Assange to the US, since he is the person accountable. But Mr Jack’s response doesn’t make clear whether the response is his and, if not, where it actually come from.

I wanted to know…

  • Why Assange is held under the inhuman conditions reserved for terrorists when he’s a journalist.
  • How the Justice Department accounts for Assange’s poor physical and mental state.
  • Why the question whether political offences are excluded from extradition under Article 4 of the UK/US Extradition Treaty hadn’t been not been addressed before these expensive proceedings began.
  • Why Assange’s defence team hasn’t been given easier access and more time to prepare.
  • Why the high-security Belmarsh prison is chosen for February’s hearing, where the opportunity for public scrutiny is minimal.
  • And whether District Judge Baraitser will preside in February when, according to Craig Murray, she has already failed to behave impartially?

In particular I wanted to know why, according to witnesses, Assange’s physical and mental states have deteriorated so rapidly while in the UK justice system’s care.

There’s no attempt to answer most of these points. However, Mr Jack reminds me that Assange was jailed for 50 weeks on 1 May for breaching bail and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy.

“The UK’s criminal justice system is one in which rights are protected and in which, contrary to what Mr Assange and his supporters may claim, he and his interests will be protected,” writes Mr Jack, brimming with confidence.

But, he points out, the home secretary when signing an extradition warrant is limited in what he’s allowed to consider. For example, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 requires any judgement about human rights and health issues to be made in court.

The administrative hearing on 21 October ruled that Assange will face a five-day extradition hearing starting 25 February and, Mr Jack says, that’s when his human rights and poor health will be considered. It is for the judge to determine whether or not extradition would be a human rights breach and whether it would be oppressive and unjust on account of his state of health.

In other words, nobody in the UK justice system could give a toss about Assange’s wellbeing for another for months – an awful long time when you’re already in bad shape and worried sick that you’ll wind up in Guantanamo Bay for – for what, exactly?

Former ambassador Craig Murray, a friend of Assange, attended the October hearing and reported that he was distressed by how his appearance had deteriorated after long confinement, and by his rapid ageing and stumbling speech — “the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known” reduced to a “shambling and incoherent wreck”.

Some have expressed concern that Assange may not live to the end of the extradition proceedings.

From tomorrow MPs will cease to exist and Parliament will cease to function until after the General Election on 12 December. So nobody is representing anybody in the cesspit of Westminster for the next five or six weeks.

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Assange – Guardian deceit
Jonathan Cook writes:

In my recent post on the current hearings at the Old Bailey over Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, where he would almost certainly be locked away for the rest of his life for the crime of doing journalism, I made two main criticisms of the Guardian.

A decade ago, remember, the newspaper worked closely in collaboration with Assange and Wikileaks to publish the Iraq and Afghan war diaries, which are now the grounds on which the US is basing its case to lock Assange behind bars in a super-max jail.

My first criticism was that the paper had barely bothered to cover the hearing, even though it is the most concerted attack on press freedom in living memory. That position is unconscionably irresponsible, given its own role in publishing the war diaries. But sadly it is not inexplicable. In fact, it is all too easily explained by my second criticism.


Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookA journalist due to testify at Julian Assange’s extradition hearing makes a very pertinent point. This is the biggest attack on press freedom in our lifetimes. Why are UK editors not demanding to be heard at the Old Bailey? Where are they? Where is the Guardian?

Iain Overton@iainoverton · Sep 7And, I might be wrong, but I think I am the only editor who is giving evidence in his trial. I do not know where those who worked with him at the Guardian are. And frankly, some of them should be ashamed of themselves for that.Show this thread

That criticism was chiefly levelled at two leading journalists at the Guardian, former investigations editor David Leigh and reporter Luke Harding, who together wrote a book in 2011 that was the earliest example of what would rapidly become a genre among a section of the liberal media elite, most especially at the Guardian, of vilifying Assange.

In my earlier post I set out Leigh and Harding’s well-known animosity towards Assange – the reason why one senior investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, told the Old Bailey courtroom the pair’s 2011 book was “not a reliable source”. That was, in part, because Assange had refused to let them write his official biography, a likely big moneymaker. The hostility had intensified and grown mutual when Assange discovered that behind his back they were writing an unauthorised biography while working alongside him.

But the bad blood extended more generally to the Guardian, which, like Leigh and Harding, repeatedly betrayed confidences and manoeuvred against Wikileaks rather the cooperating with it. Assange was particularly incensed to discover that the paper had broken the terms of its written contract with Wikileaks by secretly sharing confidential documents with outsiders, including the New York Times.

Joseph@jmmos·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_CookMSM are slaves to the system!

WISE Up Action@WISEUpAction·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_CookSalient point in John Pilger’s scathing address yesterday – those sections of the media don’t care because they are safe, their job is not to challenge. https://twitter.com/letmelooktv/status/1302948832850907138?s=21…#JulianAssange

LetmelookTV@letmelooktv · Sep 7John Pilger @johnpilger Speaking about the miscarriage of justice outside The Old Bailey at the beginning of #JulianAssange extradition trial

Boney Bones Lee@McsporranJim·Sep 8Replying to @Jonathan_K_Cook and @medialensHow many so-called ‘journalists’ from the MSM even tried to get access to properly report on what can only loosely be termed a ‘trial’ (Stalin couldn’t have done it any better) ? #FreeJulianAssange

Jeremy Corbyn@jeremycorbyn·Dec 18“This crisis has exposed all the inequalities in the world.” I spoke to @jacobinmag about why I’m launching the Project for Peace and Justice.

Leigh and Harding’s book now lies at the heart of the US case for Assange’s extradition to the US on so-called “espionage” charges. The charges are based on Wikileaks’ publication of leaks provided by Chelsea Manning, then an army private, that revealed systematic war crimes committed by the US military.

Inversion of truth

Lawyers for the US have mined from the Guardian book claims by Leigh that Assange was recklessly indifferent to the safety of US informants named in leaked files published by Wikileaks.

Assange’s defence team have produced a raft of renowned journalists, and others who worked with Wikileaks, to counter Leigh’s claim and argue that this is actually an inversion of the truth. Assange was meticulous about redacting names in the documents. It was they – the journalists, including Leigh – who were pressuring Assange to publish without taking full precautions.

Tory Fibs@ToryFibs·20h54 Labour officers were suspended today across 27 Constituency Labour Parties. All were democratically elected by their members. They’re being suspended for holding democratic votes on motions that criticise the supreme leadership of Labour HQ. This is what fascism looks like.

RD Hale@RDHale_·21hJeremy Corbyn is the most abused person on Twitter, possibly the most abused MP we’ve ever had in the UK & he’s the least abusive human being I’ve seen in my life. Corbyn’s restraint & dignity are remarkable. And yet the MSM blame him for racism & bullying? Are you kidding me?

Brian Tweedale@BrianHTweed·18hCall me old fashioned if you like, but as a paid up member of the Labour Party, who has a PhD and two BA Hons degrees I don’t need to be told by the unelected General Secretary of my party what is ‘ competent business’ for me to discuss.

Chelley Ryan@chelleryn99·20hTo all those Labour members who’ve been suspended for standing up for democracy, freedom of speech, truth and Jeremy Corbyn, you have my full respect. Those who’ve kept quiet due to personal career ambitions, not so much.

Tom London@TomLondon6·8h“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark” – Thomas Paine Jeremy Corbyn educated millions Millions won’t forget what they have learned

Iain Overton@iainovertonReplying to @iainovertonAnd, I might be wrong, but I think I am the only editor who is giving evidence in his trial. I do not know where those who worked with him at the Guardian are. And frankly, some of them should be ashamed of themselves for that.


Gary MacLennan@GMacL114·8hAm I the only one who gets sick to the stomach when I see a tweet from @AngelaRayner? It doesn’t matter what she says. I cannot get beyond her shabby treachery.

Of course, none of these corporate journalists – only Assange – is being put on trial, revealing clearly that this is a political trial to silence Assange and disable Wikileaks.

But to bolster its feeble claim against Assange – that he was reckless about redactions – the US has hoped to demonstrate that in September 2011, long after publication of the Iraq and Afghan diaries, Wikileaks did indeed release a trove of documents – official US cables – that Assange failed to redact.

This is true. But it only harms Assange’s defence if the US can successfully play a game of misdirection – and the Guardian has been crucial to that strategy’s success. Until now the US has locked the paper into collaborating in its war on Assange and journalism – if only through its silence – by effectively blackmailing the Guardian with a dark, profoundly embarrassing secret the paper would prefer was not exposed.

In fact, the story behind the September 2011 release by Wikileaks of those unredacted documents is entirely different from the story the court and public is being told. The Guardian has conspired in keeping quiet about the real version of events for one simple reason – because it, the Guardian, was the cause of that release.

Betrayal of Assange and journalism

Things have got substantially harder for the paper during the extradition proceedings, however, as its role has come under increasing scrutiny – both inside and outside the courtroom. Now the Guardian has been flushed out, goaded into publishing a statement in response to the criticisms.

It has finally broken its silence but has done so not to clarify what happened nine years ago. Rather it has deepened the deception and steeped the paper even further in betrayal both of Assange and of press freedom.

The February 2011 Guardian book the US keeps citing contained something in addition to the highly contentious and disputed claim from Leigh that Assange had a reckless attitude to redacting names. The book also disclosed a password – one Assange had given to Leigh on strict conditions it be kept secret – to the file containing the 250,000 encrypted cables. The Guardian book let the cat out of the bag. Once it gave away Assange’s password, the Old Bailey hearings have heard, there was no going back.

Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookAssange’s lawyers are noting the long-known fact that Guardian journalists made the unredacted cables accessible through incompetence – they published the file’s password. The point is: If anyone should be in the dock (and no one should be!), it would be the Guardian, not Assange

Any security service in the world could now unlock the file containing the cables. And as they homed in on where the file was hidden at the end of the summer, Assange was forced into a desperate damage limitation operation. In September 2011 he published the unredacted cables so that anyone named in them would have advance warning and could go into hiding – before any hostile security services came looking for them.

Yes, Assange published the cables unredacted but he did so – was forced to do so – by the unforgivable actions of Leigh and the Guardian.

But before we examine the paper’s deceitful statement of denial, we need to interject two further points.

First, it is important to remember that claims of the damage this all caused were intentionally and grossly inflated by the US to create a pretext to vilify Assange and later to justify his extradition and jailing. In fact, there is no evidence that any informant was ever harmed as a result of Wikileaks’ publications – something that was even admitted by a US official at Manning’s trial. If someone had been hurt or killed, you can be sure that the US would be clamouring about it at the Old Bailey hearings and offering details to the media.

Second, the editor of a US website, Cryptome, pointed out this week at the hearings that he had published the unredacted cables a day before Wikileaks did. He noted that US law enforcement agencies had shown zero interest in his publication of the file and had never asked him to take it down. The lack of concern makes explicit what was always implicit: the issue was never really about the files, redacted or not; it was always about finding a way to silence Assange and disable Wikileaks.

The Guardian’s deceptions

Every time the US cites Leigh and Harding’s book, it effectively recruits the Guardian against Assange and against freedom of the press. Hanging over the paper is effectively a threat that – should it not play ball with the US campaign to lock Assange away for life – the US could either embarrass it by publicly divulging its role or target the paper for treatment similar to that suffered by Assange.

And quite astoundingly, given the stakes for Assange and for journalism, the Guardian has been playing ball – by keeping quiet. Until this week, at least.

Under pressure, the Guardian finally published on Friday a short, sketchy and highly simplistic account of the past week’s hearings, and then used it as an opportunity to respond to the growing criticism of its role in publishing the password in the Leigh and Harding book.

The Guardian’s statement in its report of the extradition hearings is not only duplicitous in the extreme but sells Assange down the river by evading responsibility for publishing the password. It thereby leaves him even more vulnerable to the US campaign to lock him up.

Here is its statement:

Let’s highlight the deceptions:

1. The claim that the password was “temporary” is just that – a self-exculpatory claim by David Leigh. There is no evidence to back it up beyond Leigh’s statement that Assange said it. And the idea that Assange would say it defies all reason. Leigh himself states in the book that he had to bully Assange into letting him have the password precisely because Assange was worried that a tech neophyte like Leigh might do something foolish or reckless. Assange needed a great deal of persuading before he agreed. The idea that he was so concerned about the security of a password that was to have a life-span shorter than a mayfly is simply not credible.

WikiLeaks@wikileaksIt is strictly false that the Guardian was told the password or file were temporary, hence the elaborate password handover method.11:06 PM · Sep 1, 2011226219 people are Tweeting about this

2. Not only was the password not temporary, but it was based very obviously on a complex formula Assange used for all Wikileaks’ passwords to make them impossible for others to crack but easier for him to remember. By divulging the password, Leigh gave away Assange’s formula and offered every security service in the world the key to unlocking other encrypted files. The claim that Assange had suggested to Leigh that keeping the password secret was not of the most vital importance is again simply not credible.

3. But whether or not Leigh thought the password was temporary is beside the point. Leigh, as an experienced investigative journalist and one who had little understanding of the tech world, had a responsibility to check with Assange that it was okay to publish the password. Doing anything else was beyond reckless. This was a world Leigh knew absolutely nothing about, after all.

But there was a reason Leigh did not check with Assange: he and Harding wrote the book behind Assange’s back. Leigh had intentionally cut Assange out of the writing and publication process so that he and the Guardian could cash in on the Wikileak founder’s early fame. Not checking with Assange was the whole point of the exercise.

4. It is wrong to lay all the blame on Leigh, however. This was a Guardian project. I worked at the paper for years. Before any article is published, it is scrutinised by backbench editors, sub-editors, revise editors, page editors and, if necessary, lawyers and one of the chief editors. A Guardian book on the most contentious, incendiary publication of a secret cache of documents since the Pentagon Papers should have gone through at least the same level of scrutiny, if not more.

So how did no one in this chain of supervision pause to wonder whether it made sense to publish a password to a Wikileaks file of encrypted documents? The answer is that the Guardian was in a publishing race to get its account of the ground-shattering release of the Iraq and Afghan diaries out before any of its rivals, including the New York Times and Der Spiegel. It wanted to take as much glory as possible for itself in the hope of winning a Pulitzer. And it wanted to settle scores with Assange before his version of events was given an airing in either the New York Times or Der Spiegel books. Vanity and greed drove the Guardian’s decision to cut corners, even if it meant endangering lives.

5. Nauseatingly, however, the Guardian not only seeks to blame Assange for its own mistake but tells a glaring lie about the circumstances. Its statement says: “No concerns were expressed by Assange or WikiLeaks about security being compromised when the book was published in February 2011. WikiLeaks published the unredacted files in September 2011.”

It is simply not true that Assange and Wikileaks expressed no concern. They expressed a great deal of concern in private. But they did not do so publicly – and for very good reason.

Jonathan Cook@Jonathan_K_CookComputer expert at Assange hearing calls the Guardian’s David Leigh ‘a bad faith actor’ over his publishing a Wikileaks password that opened the door to every security service in the world being able to access 250,000 encrypted cables


Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 14Monday was a frustrating day as the Assange Hearing drifted deep into a fantasy land where nobody knows or is allowed to say that people were tortured in Guantanamo Bay and under extraordinary renditicraigmurray.org.uk
10:49 AM · Sep 22, 2020

Any public upbraiding of the Guardian for its horrendous error would have drawn attention to the fact that the password could be easily located in Leigh’s book. By this stage, there was no way to change the password or delete the file, as has been explained to the Old Bailey hearing by a computer professor, Christian Grothoff, of Bern University. He has called Leigh a “bad faith actor”.

So Assange was forced to limit the damage quietly, behind the scenes, before word of the password’s publication got out and the file was located. Ultimately, six months later, when the clues became too numerous to go unnoticed, and Cryptome had published the unredacted file on its website, Assange had no choice but to follow suit.

This is the real story, the one the Guardian dare not tell. Despite the best efforts of the US lawyers and the judge at the Old Bailey hearings, the truth is finally starting to emerge. Now it is up to us to make sure the Guardian is not allowed to continue colluding in this crime against Assange and the press freedoms he represents.

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Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on The Guardian’s deceit-riddled new statement betrays both Julian Assange and journalism

Julian Assange – unlawfully detained

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahjem,Sr

www.lalkar.org

Political cartoons: Julian Assange's arrest

On the 5 February it emerged in the British press that Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks and celebrity virtual prisoner living inside the Ecuadorian embassy which is surrounded by British police, had won a victory of sorts against both the British and Swedish governments.

The UN had set up a panel to examine the situation and it found, by a three to one majority, that Mr Assange was indeed being subjected to ” arbitrary detention” and they called for him to be allowed to walk free. The victory at present remains a moral one only as both Britain and Sweden have turned deaf ears to the UN call and Assange remains exactly where he has been for the past 44 months since Ecuador granted him asylum in their Embassy in Britain .

Much of the history of Assange’s situation can be read in Proletarian issue 39 (December 2010) – ‘WikiLeaks strikes blow for truth on Iraq’ and Proletarian issue 49 (August 2012) – ‘Julian Assange: cyber-revolutionary or liberal do-gooder?’ Also Lalkar carries a good article in the January/February 2011 edition – ‘WikiLeaks: the double standards and hypocrisy of US imperialism.’

According to John Pilger writing online for Counterpunch – ‘Julian Assange: the Untold Story of an Epic Struggle for Justice’, any charges in Sweden can only be related to misconduct rather than rape, because both young women involved in the allegations have categorically denied that they were raped. Indeed one of the women is on record as saying that she only wanted Assange to take an HIV test but was steamrollered into making charges by the Swedish police. This makes it less understandable, in legal terms, for the Swedish authorities to have always refused to send an officer to interview Assange here in Britain as there is plenty of precedence for this course of action in other cases. It has been rumoured that this may now be done since both the press and public opinion in Sweden seem to have turned from being anti-Assange to a position of healthy distrust of their own government’s motives and most certainly of the hand of US imperialism ‘guiding’ the Swedish government.

A cursory glance at the sentences given to ‘whistle-blowers’ in the US, and the screams emanating from senior US politicians for whistle-blowers still at large to be hunted down and killed, explains instantly the reasoning behind the chief imperialist’s demand that Sweden use these charges to get its hands on Assange in the first place (so that he can then be extradited to the USA for ‘justice’!) and for Britain to hold Assange under siege until ill health or frustration cause him to come out and be packed off to Sweden.

The plans for the ‘legal’ vindictiveness that will be used against a captured Assange are not commonly known as they are considered a state secret and, if he is ever captured, the ‘trial’ will doubtless also be as secret as it will be free of any justice. What is certain is that a lot of money, much of it Swedish and English, has been spent so far (£12 million in Britain) on legal sleights of hand and diplomatic skulduggery in Sweden and what Pilger calls “The siege of Knightsbridge” over here.

Regardless of what crime, if any, Assange committed in Sweden or the known leaks that Assange has made of embattled nations’ secrets that have actually helped imperialism attack them, this case is only really about US imperialism wanting to punish someone who has upset them by showing them to be murdering, thieving liars who spy on the world, including their ‘friends’, as well as the desire of this putrid, rotting beast publicly to heap torment and never-ending punishment on one person as a warning to all others not to reveal the huge crimes against humanity and, indeed, all of nature, committed by imperialism. Under these circumstances we can only wish their intended victim, Julian Assange, the very best of luck and greater strength in resisting the hoary, cold claw of the vile poison-oozing entity we call US imperialism and repeat our call for all to join us in working to slay this and all the other imperialist leeches that cover so much of our planet with their toxic sickness.

Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Julian Assange – unlawfully detained

Free Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr
www.lalkar.org

assange

The renegade President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, has ordered the eviction of Julian Assange from his country’s embassy in London and a team of police was invited into the embassy to effect the eviction. Mr Assange was immediately arrested on 11 April on a charge of jumping bail, which is likely to lead to his being given the maximum prison sentence of one year, while plots are developed to facilitate his extradition to the United States where he would face the rest of his life in prison on trumped up espionage charges. Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who is alleged to have assisted Wikileaks in obtaining information about US war crimes, but who was recently released from jail, is now back in custody in the US for refusing to testify to a secret closed-door kangaroo grand jury.

Grand juries are secretive affairs. The public is barred from knowing what takes place, and individuals hauled before them aren’t even allowed to have attorneys present. Manning wasn’t told what the grand jury was investigating, and a hearing in which she raised objections to being forced to testify occurred in secret.

Grand juries are supposed to determine whether probable cause exists to return a criminal indictment. Originally, they were supposed to act as a check on prosecutorial power. Yet today, it’s commonly said that a prosecutor can get a grand jury to ‘indict a ham sandwich.’ As a result, grand juries are often used as fishing expeditions against political activists and social movements. Manning cited these very concerns when explaining her refusal to testify. In statement, she declared, ‘In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles’…” (Chip Gibbons, ‘Let Chelsea go’, The Jacobin, 27 March 2019).

It is safe to assume that in this case, too, the point of convening a grand jury is certainly not the pursuit of justice! This is supported by the fact that Chelsea Manning is, while in prison, effectively being tortured, i.e., kept in solitary confinement without access to the prison library. It is believed this is because the US authorities want her to say – which she never has – that Assange incited her to uncover secret information, while she has always claimed that she acted purely on her own account because of the moral outrage she felt about what was being done. What it is thought the US administration is trying to do is to set up Assange as being guilty of ‘espionage’ and thus liable to an extremely long prison sentence, rather than the mere 5 years to which he would be liable if found simply guilty of knowingly publishing classified information.

Every possible step must be taken to defend Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, who are being pilloried for doing what any decent human being would do, and indeed in the case of an investigative journalist like Assange it is their vocation to do, i.e., to uncover wrongdoing on the part of those who have responsibilities and are failing in their duties. People like Assange and Chelsea Manning, even if they do not share our political views, are doing an essential job in enlightening the masses of the people about the crimes of imperialism, conducting the exposures that will help us in mobilising the masses for revolution. We must defend them at all costs.

War crimes exposed

Thanks to Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning the public was made aware of some of the worst war crimes committed by our imperialist masters:

According to The Guardian, which itself profited hugely from publishing Wikileaks material, but is now hovering round the idea of joining the rest of the bourgeois media in condemning Assange, while apparently opposing his extradition to the US, but trying to have its cake and eat it: “’He (Assange) believes in publishing things that should not be published – this has long been a difficult divide between the Guardian and him. But he has always shone a light on things that should never have been hidden” (‘The Guardian view on Assange: it would be wrong to extradite him’, 9 April 2019). But, says The Guardian, it was wrong of him to avoid extradition to Sweden on the rape charges, but since these are now withdrawn they are irrelevant. It is difficult to believe that the editor of The Guardian has such a short memory that she cannot remember that the whole point of avoiding extradition to Sweden was that it was likely to end up in Sweden extraditing Mr Assange to the US!

John Pilger in Counterpunch reminds us of some of the “things” brought to light by Wikileaks which include: “ … the truth about the homicidal way America conducts its colonial wars, the lies of the British Foreign Office in its denial of rights to vulnerable people, such as the Chagos Islanders, the exposé of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East, the detailed description of American ambassadors of how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown, and much more. It is all available on the WikiLeaks site” (‘The Assange arrest is a warning from history’, 12 April 2019).

Nor is any of what Wikileaks published fake news:

“…the content of the leaked videos and documents is not in dispute. They are what they are purported to be. American soldiers did murder civilians and Reuters staffers who posed no immediate threat to them. Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff did screw Bernie Sanders out of the Democratic nomination and she did give contradictory information about her political positions depending on what she thought her audience wanted to hear” (Rob Urie, ‘Free Julian Assange and all political prisoners’, Global Research, 11 April 2019).

But it is of course deeply embarrassing to US imperialism that likes to portray itself, and its criminal wars in supposed pursuit of these aims, as the great defender of human rights and the principles of democracy! Therefore it is seeking to inflict cruel and unusual, to say nothing of lengthy, punishment on him if only to terrorise others into keeping quiet about the imperialist crimes to which they are witness. A secondary consideration is that the leaked materials prove that a great many ‘highly respectable’ individuals who run imperialist governments are provably guilty of war crimes, for which they should be convicted and severely punished. Of course, since imperialism controls the war crimes tribunals this will never happen, but it is embarrassing to the world rulers for this to have been so openly demonstrated.

The overwhelming majority of decent-minded people are capable of recognising that there was a moral duty on both Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange to make public the information brought to light by Wikileaks, and are completely opposed to the manner in which they are both being victimised for their courage and principled behaviour.

Attempts to incriminate Assange

In Julian Assange’s case at least, the bourgeois media are trying to undermine this popular support for the him by, on the one hand, claiming he is a rapist, and, on the other hand, that his behaviour towards the Ecuadorean embassy and government which gave him asylum was outrageously ungrateful.

With regard to the rape charges, there are several points to be made, starting with the insightful remarks of representatives of the organisation, Women Against Rape:

When Julian Assange was first arrested, we were struck by the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued for rape allegations.

“It seems even clearer now, that the allegations against him are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction. For decades we have campaigned to get rapists caught, charged and convicted. But the pursuit of Assange is political” (Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff, ‘We are Women Against Rape but we do not want Julian Assange extradited’, The Guardian, 23 August 2012). These ladies also correctly pointed out that the British government is not in the habit of showing concern for women who have been raped when it comes to deporting them to countries where it is all too likely to happen again.

Secondly, when the Stockholm public prosecutor was originally asked to open a rape investigation into Assange’s conduct, “She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, ‘I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.’ Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, ‘There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever’” (John Pilger, ‘Getting Julian Assange – the untold story’, 20 May 2017). Extraordinarily, the matter was then passed on to the Gothenburg chief public prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who was obviously ready and willing to pursue the matter.

However, it would seem that to proceed further she had to suppress evidence:

The war on Assange now [after he had left Sweden for London] intensified. Marianne Ny refused to allow his Swedish lawyers, and the Swedish courts, access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police had extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the ‘rape’ allegations.

Ny said she was not legally required to reveal this critical evidence until a formal charge was laid and she had questioned him. Then, why wouldn’t she question him? Catch-22.

“When she announced last week that she was dropping the Assange case, she made no mention of the evidence that would destroy it. One of the SMS messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, ‘but the police were keen on getting a hold on him’. She was ‘shocked’ when they arrested him because she only ‘wanted him to take [an HIV] test’. She ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ and ‘it was the police who made up the charges’. In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been ‘railroaded by police and others around her’.

“Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, ‘I have not been raped.’ The women were manipulated by police – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they, too, are the victims of this sinister saga” (ibid.).

Thirdly, when Sweden was seeking Assange’s extradition, no charges whatever had been laid against him, and, indeed, they still have not. What Sweden was asking for was that Assange be extradited to Sweden in order that he might be questioned in connection with an allegation of rape. The obvious question, since Assange was not refusing to be questioned, is why he could not be questioned by Swedish police in the UK? He was happy to go to Sweden to be questioned, too, but only if he received a guarantee that he would not be extradited to the US.

Fourthly, Assange was eventually questioned by Swedish authorities in the UK at the Ecuadorean embassy where he had taken refuge. The prosecutors must have been satisfied that his answers would not justify charges being laid because the case was then abandoned.

The bourgeois media, together with a whole host of British parliamentary toadies, are demanding that Sweden reopen the case, even though the Swedish authorities obviously decided that the case was not, through lack of evidence, worth bringing.

Finally, Assange remains happy to go to Sweden to be tried, confident in his defence that the sexual relations in question were entirely consensual, subject to an undertaking that he would not be extradited to any third country.

That undertaking, of course, would never be forthcoming since the whole point of the exercise is to get him extradited to the United States.

Assange’s behaviour at the Embassy

With regard to his supposed anti-social behaviour within the embassy, including alleged spying on Ecuadorean affairs of state, there is of course no evidence of this except what is forthcoming from staff who had been instructed by the Lenin Moreno government to make life as unpleasant for Assange as possible. The Financial Times admits that the new Ecuadorean ambassador appointed by the Moreno government “had been instructed to concentrate on revoking the WikiLeaks founder’s diplomatic immunity” (Helen Warrell, Jane Croft and Kadhim Shubber, ‘Julian Assange faces extradition to US after arrest in London’, 11 April 2019). To that end the embassy cut off Assange’s access to the internet and restricted his visitors. His lawyer has complained that he had no privacy whatever, and even lawyer-client confidentiality was not being respected.

Yet, in spite of the fact that he had lost virtually all contact with the outside world and was under constant surveillance within the embassy, the Ecuadorean government persisted in insisting he was spying on it, being, in particular responsible for “… the exposure of the president’s and his family’s involvement in a massive corruption scandal involving the funneling of millions of dollars in bribe money from a Chinese construction contractor into an offshore shell company named after the president’s three daughters.

“The publication of the so-called INA papers exposing this corruption was widely reported and prompted the initiation of a congressional investigation in Ecuador before WikiLeaks called attention to the scandal on its Twitter account last month. The Moreno government seized on the tweet to accuse WikiLeaks and Julian Assange personally—despite the intense surveillance and conditions approaching that of solitary confinement in the London embassy—of having hacked the phones and social media accounts of Moreno and his family to secure the evidence of corruption.

“Moreno cast himself as a victim of an invasion of privacy, expressing his ire over the publication of personal photographs, including one of himself eating a lobster dinner in bed at the same time that his government was ordering massive layoffs and austerity measures” (Bill Van Auken, ‘Ecuadorian police repress mass march demanding Julian Assange’s freedom’, WSWS, 18 April 2019).

The fact is that there are millions of angry Ecuadorean people to choose from if one were wanting to identify the real culprit of these leaks – leaks that certainly seem to be entirely in the public interest, as the livelihoods and wellbeing of the Ecuadorean masses have been very badly affected under the Moreno government by the latter’s decision to bow to the dictates of the IMF and impose an austerity regime in return for loans:

As part of a deal signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $4.5 billion in credits, the Moreno government is implementing a series of ‘structural adjustment’ measures that have included the gutting of labor laws, the layoffs of over 10,000 public employees, attacks on pensions and sharp cuts to government services” (wsws, op.cit).

The Moreno capitulation to the IMF

It does seem that Wikileaks (but not necessarily at Assange’s bidding or even with his knowledge) did publish information about the loan deal that Moreno was negotiating with the IMF, as well they might since they directly affected Julian Assange:

“In addition to the $4.2 billion IMF loan, Ecuador’s compliance with the US demand that Assange’s asylum status be revoked triggered the issuance of another $6 billion from other US-dominated global aid funds such as the World Bank. That’s a total of $10.2 billion in cash to a country in desperate need of economic CPR.

“The United States not only controls the largest share of the IMF, but pays for the bank’s overhead, a bill that amounts to over $164 billion annually…

“The information reported by WikiLeaks claimed that Ecuador’s ‘handing over Assange and dropping environmental claims against Chevron’ were two of the prerequisites put in place by the Trump administration” (Joe Wolverton, ‘Did US lean on Ecuador to hand over Assange in exchange for IMF loan?’, New American, 18 April 2019).

Lenin Moreno allows his country to be bullied by the US in a totally barefaced way (and we can be sure that Ecuador is only a small example of its imperialist bullying around the world):

For instance, last July, the US threatened Ecuador with ‘punishing trade measures’ if it introduced a measure at the UN that supported breastfeeding over infant formula — a stunning move that showed the international community the US’ willingness to use ‘economic weapons,’ even against allies. Ecuador, of course, immediately acquiesced under the threat of US retribution” (New American, op.cit.).

The future plans for the people of Ecuador are dire: in the 3 months from December 2018 to February 2019 alone, 11,820 people were fired from the public sector, and thousands more redundancies are in the pipeline. Fuel subsidies have been drastically cut, and a VAT hike is proposed, along with a cut in public sector wages.

It is with some trepidation that the imperialist world waits to see how the Ecuadorean masses will react:

Austerity is never easy. Further public-sector lay-offs, rises in regulated fuel prices and a planned reform to make labour contracts a bit more flexible may bring street protests” (‘Lenin Moreno’s new economic policy, The Economist, 11 April 2019), and one can be sure that these street protests will not be easy to suppress as workers are stripped systematically of the benefits they gained while Rafael Correa was president.

Fight or flight?

There is no doubt that Ecuador is suffering serious economic difficulties as a result of the drastic fall in the price of oil. Like Venezuela, it spent lavishly at the time when nobody thought that the oil price would ever fall in any significant way. This included borrowing money for major infrastructure projects when there was no reason at all, even by the standards of the most prudent management, to suppose that the loans would not easily be repayable. However, the price of oil has fallen drastically, leaving both countries with the problem of paying the debts incurred in the days of plenty and of maintaining the higher living standards that their progressive governments facilitated for the masses of the people.

In the face of US imperialist bullying and its attempts to seize control of their oil production, the Venezuelan government has stood firm, despite crippling sanctions. The Venezuelan masses under the Maduro leadership is prepared to stand up and fight, knowing that surrender would condemn the country to being bled dry in the interests of imperialist profitability. Lenin Moreno, on the other hand, has hoisted the white flag on behalf of the people of Ecuador. It remains to be seen whether they are as grateful as Moreno thinks they should be at having been saved the troubles that Venezuela is currently experiencing. It is quite likely, however, that the masses of Ecuador, who have already taken to the streets in large numbers to battle with the security forces over Julian Assange’s expulsion from the London embassy, will take the view popularised by Dolores Ibarruri (la Pasionaria) in the Spanish Civil War: “Más vale morir de pie que vivir de rodillas“- it’s better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees!

The British proletariat too has a duty to fight with all its might in defence of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. The blood-sucking ruling classes of the world cannot be allowed to terrorise the champions of truth and human decency and those who struggle to advance the anti-imperialist cause of the proletariat and oppressed peoples. Injustice and oppression will never be defeated unless at every turn it is resolutely resisted, whatever the cost.

Posted in Human Rights, Media, UKComments Off on Free Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange

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