Tag: Naomi Wolf

Assange’s stitch-up is a lesson for us all

By Daniel Margrain

December 7, 2010, was the day Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange lost his liberty following the accusation of rape against him in Sweden. Throughout the intervening six years, Assange has been willing to give a statement to the Swedish authorities, either by receiving officials in the UK or over telephone or video link, which is the routine method of carrying out questioning.

Ten months ago, the UN adjudged  that the effective imprisonment of Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London was unlawful. This legally binding judgement was a vindication of all those activists who have supported the quest of the Wikileaks founder to bring into the public domain the illegalities of Western power.

Upon the release of the UN ruling, one of the leading political gatekeepers of the said powers, then UK foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, did his utmost to publicly undermine the findings of the UN body – of which the UK government is a signatory – by attempting to deceive the British people. What was shocking was the extent to which Hammond was prepared to sink in order to attempt to justify the unjustifiable at the behest of his masters in Washington.

In what former UK diplomat, Craig Murray, described  as an “utterly astonishing” statement, Hammond said:

“I reject the decision of this working group. It is a group made up of lay people and not lawyers. Julian Assange is a fugitive from justice. He is hiding from justice in the Ecuadorian embassy.”

Hammond’s statement was a blatant lie. Every single one of the UN panel is an extremely distinguished lawyer. According to Edward Snowden, Hammond is writing “a pass for every dictatorship to reject UN rulings.” Craig Murray stated that, “Countries who have ignored rulings by this UN panel are rare. No democracy has ever done so. Recent examples are Egypt and Uzbekistan. The UK is putting itself in pretty company”, he said.

Previous rulings by the panel have gone against countries with some of the world’s worst human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Egypt. Recent cases where the UN has ruled in circumstances in which individuals have similarly been detained, include the Washington Post journalist, Jason Rezaian in Iran in December, 2015 and former pro-democracy president Mohamed Nasheed two months previously (both subsequently released).

On 30 November 2016, the United Nations rejected the UK’s attempt to appeal the UN’s February ruling in favour of Julian Assange. The decision made ten months ago therefore stands. The UN instructed that UK is once again required to immediately put an end to Assange’s arbitrary detention and to take immediate steps to ensure his liberty and enjoyment of fundamental human rights are re-established. Having reached the end of the legal road, the UK government is compelled to release Assange from his six years of illegal detention.

justice4assange.com provides some background to the case:

“Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been detained without charge in one form or another since 7 December 2010…In Sweden, Julian Assange is not charged with a crime. But in a highly unusual move, Sweden issued an Interpol Red Notice and a European Arrest Warrant, immediately after WikiLeaks began publishing a cache of 250,000 US Diplomatic Cables on 29 November 2010. Such warrants are usually issued for persons whose whereabouts are unknown. But Julian Assange’s whereabouts were known (he had given a press conference and hundreds of interviews in London). His lawyers were in communication with the prosecutor and had communicated that he was available to answer questions from the Swedish prosecutor through standard means.”

“Questioning people within European borders is a routine and uncomplicated process, which is standardised throughout the European Union. Sweden often uses these means to question people. In the initial ten days after 20 August 2010, the police opened the ’preliminary investigation’, it was assigned to three different prosecutors in quick succession. The penultimate prosecutor found that the case had no basis, and that there were no grounds to place Julian Assange under a criminal investigation.”

The final prosecutor however, Marianne Ny, took over on 1 September 2010 and reopened the investigation. The Swedish investigation has been frozen since 2010. In November 2014, Sweden’s Svea Court of Appeal ruled that the prosecutor had failed her professional duty to progress the investigation against Julian Assange.”

The context of the ruling vindicating the Wikileaks founder stems from the fact that he has never been charged with any offence. The UN findings confirm that his detention has been unlawful since his very first arrest in the UK in 2010 and that there has never been any genuine attempt by the Swedish authorities to investigate the allegations against him. For all those commentators who have been following the case closely, it has been obvious that from the outset the establishment have had it in for Assange. The rape allegations were the Casus Belli.

This was given credible weight early on by Naomi Wolf, a prominent American writer, feminist and social commentator, who argued that the allegations against Assange bore all the hallmarks of a set-up. This was further elaborated on by Craig Murray who thoroughly demolished the case against Assange. As John Pilger outlined, the reality is, there was no genuine judicial process in train against Assange in Sweden, a point that was advanced by Assange’s lawyers before the UK supreme court:

“The Assange case has never been primarily about allegations of sexual misconduct in Sweden – where the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, dismissed the case, saying, ‘I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape’, and one of the women involved accused the police of fabricating evidence and ‘railroading’ her, protesting she ‘did not want to accuse JA of anything’ – and a second prosecutor mysteriously re-opened the case after political intervention, then stalled it.”

Finne’s dismissal of the case against Assange has since been vindicated by the release of SMS records which appear to indicate that the Wikileaks founder was, as Stockholm’s Chief Prosector suggested, framed by the police. Indeed, the police themselves admit that the rape allegations were fabricated in what they concede was an elaborate plot against Assange.

Given the astounding level of misinformation, demonization, smears, deceptions and outright lies in the mainstream corporate media’s reporting of Assange, an observer unfamiliar with the case might reasonably form the impression that the man in question is the devil incarnate, who is using his work as a cover in order to avoid facing justice for the crime of rape.

Some of these commentators, it would appear, have seen fit to pronounce a verdict of guilty on the head of the whistle blower in advance of any hypothetical future trial. The self-appointed Witch finder General, Joan Smith from London Women against Violence, for example, virtually alluded to Assange’s guilt with a series of crass pseudo-psychologically-based observations and insinuations.

Much of the vitriol stems, not from the traditional right-wing of the media terrain, but rather from what many people consider to be the liberal-left of the political spectrum. Owen Jones, for example, who appears to be the latest poster boy for left wing opinion throughout the corporate media, penned, in August 2012, an article for the UK’s Independent newspaper, titled “There should be no immunity for Julian Assange from these allegations.”  But Jones’ inference that diplomatic immunity is a feature of the Assange case is, in reality, a red-herring since neither Assange, his supporters, legal team or anybody else outside the media bubble, have ever suggested that his case is predicated on a claim of immunity.

The lie was repeated by the legal expert, Joshua Rozenberg, presumably in an attempt to add a certain degree of gravitas to the claim. The truth is that all Assange has ever requested from the outset, is a guarantee from the Swedish authorities that if he agrees to travel to Sweden to answer the rape allegations made against him, he won’t be extradited to the United States. Assange’s request for this assurance from Sweden is supported by Amnesty International. However, the Swedish authorities have consistently failed to give Assange such an assurance.

Despite all this, the Sky News journalist and LBC stand-in presenter, Tim Marshall, implied that callers to his programme on February 5, 2016, who suggested that should Assange step foot outside the Ecuadorean embassy, he would ultimately be extradited to the U.S predicated on the trumped up charge of rape and subsequently be imprisoned, were mad conspiracy theorists. The incandescent, Marshall, is apparently unaware of the case of Chelsea Manning who was imprisoned for 35 years in 2013 for leaking information to WikiLeaks.

He is also seemingly unaware that, according to Edward Snowden, Assange is on a US “manhunt target list” or that the Independent revealed that both the Swedish and American governments’ have already discussed Assange’s onward extradition. If Marshall had bothered to avail himself of the views of Mats Andenas, the Norwegian chair of the UN Working Group for much of its investigation, he would have realized that the panel had to resist intense pressure from the US and UK to arrive at a decision contrary to the one they actually reached.

Marshall’s tone throughout was one of incredulity that the “liberal” Sweden would place Assange at risk of extradition to the US or for that matter that the latter under the liberal-progressive Obama, could ever preside over an administration that has imprisoned more whistle blowers than all his predecessors combined. In terms of the former (something else that Marshall is apparently oblivious to), is the subject matter of Amnesty International’s 2013 report which highlights Sweden’s damning record of extraditing people to other countries and its cooperation with the US in extraordinary renditions.

Jonathan Cook sums up just how far down the perilous road towards fascism our governments’ and their accomplices in the media are prepared to go in order to augment the interests of the powerful:

“The degraded discourse about the UN group’s decision does not just threaten Assange, but endangers vulnerable political dissidents around the world. The very fact that…[liberal media commentators]… are so ready to sacrifice these people’s rights in their bid to tar and feather Assange should be warning enough that there is even more at stake here than meets the eye.”

In a humane and fair world, it would be incumbent upon the media horde who have unjustly smeared Assange, to admit they were wrong and publicly apologize to him and his supporters, all of whom have been vindicated by events. But not only have no such apologies been forthcoming, the commentariate at the Guardian have actually continued with the smears.

 

United States: The Unmentionable Dictatorship

“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist” (1).

As US president Barack Obama became the latest in a long line of former US president’s in denial, by blaming China for the Copenhagen climate change talks fiasco (2) (3), many in the informed world looked on incredulously at the audicity of the man (4).

It was clear that no government in the world would have ceded to the unreasonable demands the US put on the table, particularly as they was offering nothing tangible in return (5).

But one would have had difficulty in arriving at this conclusion from reading the the vast majority of a compliant corporate media’s parroting of Obama who was clearly trying to convince the rest of the world of his innocence whilst deflecting blame on to China. 

Obama’s attempt at shifting the blame was therefore a conjuring trick – a deception.

The historical reality is the US’s role post WW2 has been one of imperialist overseer that characterizes and demonises all of its potential competitors and “enemies” as “dictatorships” (or derivations thereof) as the basis for its propaganda of control (6).

This has, for example, involved the US characterizing the Vietnamese nationalist struggle for self-determination and independence as “communist” (7).

Similarly, more recently, the US has characterized the resistance in Afghanistan under the umbrella term “Taliban”, and routinely attempts to undermine the legitimate results of democratic elections throughout the world if they happen not to coincide with global US geopolitical and economic strategic interests (8).

The Western media was up to its usual tricks in reproducing US government propaganda in their attempts to undermine China during the 2008 Olympic Games. During this time, the Western media sensationalized stories about pollution and the murder of a US citizen in Beijing (9), and then accused the Chinese of attempting to censor them (10). 

The media also focused a disproportionate amount of attention on Obama’s predecessors’ comments emphasizing China’s alleged human rights record whilst ignoring the US’s. Bush was widely reported as saying the following shortly before he arrived in Beijing for the Games:

“America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists. We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly, and labour rights not to antagonise China’s leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential” (11).

But what the media rarely highlights is the US’s close ties to the regime in Egypt, whose respect for “freedom of assembly and labour rights” is shown by its internal repression, and to the Saudi royal family, who ruthlessly crush the slightest flickering of democratic sentiment (12).

They also ignore, with the odd exception, the continuing scandal of the US gulag at Guatanamo Bay which remains intact under Obama with at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice (13). President Barack Obama speaks at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, on Tuesday.President Barack Obama speaks at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Also unmentionable in the media is the fact that since coming to power, Obama has opposed habeas corpus, demanded more secret government and excused torture. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist (14). ibid.

In Pakistan, the number of civilians killed by US missiles called drones has more than doubled since Obama took office, and all over the world America’s violent assault on innocent people, directly or by agents, has been stepped up. (15).

In Afghanistan, the US “strategy” of killing Pashtun tribespeople (the “Taliban”) has been extended by Obama to give the Pentagon time to build a series of permanent bases right across the devastated country where, says Secretary Gates, the US military will remain indefinitely (16). ibid.

In Iraq, the country that has been reduced to a river of blood, as many as 70,000 troops will remain “for the next 15 to 20 years” (17).

US criticisms of China are therefore hypocritical.

What the media hides from the public, is the fact that the world’s imperial power, albeit a rapidly declining one, is representative of brutal form of dictatorship that US author Naomi Wolf argues is characteristic of fascism (18).

Some dictatorships are overt and others less so. Some, like the ex-Stalinist USSR, was totalitarian in nature, whilst others rely on a compliant media as a way to convince the populace that they are free and therefore not living in a dictatorship (19).

In this way, the idea is that the powerful within society who control what Karl Marx termed the “means of production”, convince  people within “democracies” that they are free, worthy and deserving, by virtue of the fact that they have the right to vote for either Tweedledee or Tweedledum once every five years, whilst simultaneously reinforcing the idea that other people who live in what the democratic world deem as “dictatorships” are not free, not worthy and are thus undeserving (20).

This illustrates that populations can be, and indeed are, controlled and manipulated to act on behalf of the rulers whose interests they ultimately serve.

Within the unspoken US dictatorship, vast armies of wage slaves toil for giant Western corporations who profit from the cheap labour that the other major dictatorship, China, delivers.

In this way, the US benefits from its relationship with China.

So why all the fuss?

The answer is that China isn’t just any old dictatorship, it is now an imperial rival to the US (21).

China’s rapid economic growth is destabilising the existing global balance of power. Measured by market exchange rates, China’s share of global national income has risen from 2.6 percent in 1980 to around 6 percent today (22).

On another measure that is better at capturing the absolute size of national economies, China’s share is more like 11 percent (23). ibid.

This is still way below that of the US which, on the same two measures, accounts for 25 and 21 percent of global economic output. Nevertheless, China’s economic rise is reshuffling the relations between states. For example, Third World states producing raw materials needed by China no longer need to go cap-in-hand to the US-dominated World Bank for loans and accept intrusive “conditionalities” that require them to reshape their economy and policies along neoliberal lines (24).

This doesn’t mean that Chinese investment in Africa or Latin America is benevolent or disinterested. It is a highly state-controlled capitalist country securing its supplies of natural resources (25). ibid.

But the fact remains that a lot of the hullaballoo about China is motivated less by concern for human rights, or Tibet or the environment for example, but by fear of Chinese power (26). ibid.

Obama’s stance in relation to China, as evidenced by his attitude at Copenhagen, appears to be one of engagement, but the real hidden message seems to be also – remember who’s boss and don’t throw your weight around (27).

In all this, it seems to be that Western powers are in denial. They behave as if things are still as they were immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the US and its allies could do what they liked.

But things have changed. US power is now in decline. The West faces challengers increasingly confident of their own strength. If they’re pushed too hard, then, as the fighting in the Caucasus showed, they’ll bite back (28). ibid.

Vast swathes of central and South America are doing just that.

The days when the US could dismissively refer to central America as their back-yard to be exploited, are over.

A few years ago Donald Rumsfeld when describing Venezuela with all of the self-appointed arrogance of an imperial overseer, said: ” Why did God put our oil in other people’s countries?” No US politician will dare repeat such words.

Venezuela’s crime in the eyes of the US was that the people of that country democratically elected somebody who was prepared to stand up to US power and the economic imperatives and ideology that underpin it. The fact that the president of the country, Hugo Chavez, has been recalled for election on numerous separate ocassions and won every one of them, is largely unmentionable in the western corporate media.

Chavez, perceived by the US as a dictator, achieved his successive election victories despite a campaign of vilification within a privatized media largely controlled by oligarch’s sympathetic to US imperialism who openly backed a coup attempt against him in 2002 (29).

At the recent Summit of the America’s, Chavez, briefly came face-to-face with the devil who attempted to pursuade the rest of the world of his non-existence. During his brief meeting with Obama, Chavez proposed that the two men “work for peace” suggesting that they “get a team together to analyze the problem of the planned construction of US military bases in Colombia” (30).

The result of the meeting?

Obama plans to install seven military bases in that country (31). ibid.

In Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, Obama continues Bush’s policies of war, domination and subjugation. Meanwhile, poverty, unemployment and inequality that grow daily in the land of the free, are unmentionables. But despite this, a compliant media continue to feed the myth that it is only the official enemies of the US which are the dictatorships.

Hugo Chavez’s respone to the US accusation that he is a dictator?

“I laugh. I laugh. It is the empire calling me a dictator. I’m happy. And I remember Don Quixote, Quixote who was with Sancho, you know, and the dogs start to bark, and Sancho says, “They are going to bite us.” And Quixote wisely answers, “Take it easy, Sancho, because if the dogs are barking, it is because we are galloping.” I will be very sad and worried if the imperialist government was calling me a great democratic man. No, it is them, the empire, who attack those who are truly contributing to the real democracy (32). ibid.

References

1. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114814/quotes 

2. http://earthblips.dailyradar.com/story/dismal-outcome-at-copenhagen-fiasco/

3. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/politics/obama-accord-a-good-thing-amid-copenhagen-fiasco-20091221-l9yj.html

4. http://newsrealblog.com/2009/12/20/germans-blame-obama-for-copenhagen-failure/.

5. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/21/us_led_copenhagen_accord_decried_as

6. http://www.cdi.org/adm/Transcripts/923/

7. http://www.globalissues.org/article/402/media-propaganda-and-vietnam

8. http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=6.

9. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2008/aug/09/olympics2008.china3

10. http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/columns/story?id=3535638 

11. http://www.socialistworker.org.uk/art.php?id=15754

12. ibid.

13. http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=530.

14. ibid.

15. http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=530

16. ibid.

17. http://www.johnpilger.com/page.asp?partid=530

18. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/apr/24/usa.comment

19. http://www.wayneandtamara.com/manufacturingconsent.htm

20. http://www.medialens.org/alerts/07/071120_invasion_a_comparison.php

21. http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/0/7/0/9/5/p70953_index.html.

22. http://www.socialistworker.org.uk/art.php?id=15754

23. ibid.

24. http://www.socialistworker.org.uk/art.php?id=15754

25. ibid.

26. ibid.

27. http://www.socialistworker.org.uk/art.php?id=15754

28. ibid.

29. http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/listeningpost/2009/08/2009814105043427586.html

30. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/21/venezuelan_president_hugo_chavez_on_how

31. ibid.

32. ibid.