By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, June 14, 2019)
Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno capriciously terminate Julian’s rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law did Moreno authorise British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy — diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory — to arrest a nationalised citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Prime Minister Theresa May order the British police to grab Julian, who has never committed a crime?
Under what law did Donald Trump demand the extradition of Julian, who is not a U.S. citizen and whose news organisation is not based in the United States?
Ask the families of the Iraqis ripped to pieces by American high calibre guns, beaten, tortured and killed over the years of American occupation what they think of Julian Assange.
There is nothing like the boot of the oppressor on your neck to give you moral clarity. None of these war crimes would have been made public without Julian, Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks. That is the role of journalists—to give a voice to those who without us would have no voice, to hold the powerful to account, to give the forgotten and the demonised justice, to speak the truth.
We have watched over the last decade, as freedom of the press and legal protection for those who expose government abuses and lies, have been obliterated by wholesale government surveillance and the criminalising of the leaking and, with Julian’s persecution, publication of these secrets. The press has been largely emasculated in the United States. The repeated use of the Espionage Act to charge and sentence whistleblowers, has shut down our ability to shine a light into the inner workings of power and empire. Governmental officials with a conscience, knowing all of their communications are monitored, captured and stored by intelligence agencies, are too frightened to reach out to reporters.
The last line of defence lies with those with the skills that allow them to burrow into the records of the security and surveillance state, and with the courage to make them public, such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. The price of resistance is high not only for them, but for those such as Julian willing to publish this information. Julian is not being persecuted for his alleged vices. He is being persecuted for his virtues.
His arrest eviscerates all pretence of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. It presages a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by the global ruling elite will be masked from the public. It presages an Orwellian reality where journalism is outlawed and replaced with propaganda, trivia, entertainment and indoctrination to make us hate those demonised by the state as our enemies. This is almost certainly our future, and it is a future that Julian has fought courageously to prevent.
It is said the Gestapo broke bones and the East German secret police broke souls. Today, we too have refined the cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. This is why Julian, his physical and psychological health in serious decline, has been moved to a prison hospital. There has been a coordinated smear campaign against Julian by our Thought Police, one that is amplified by the very media organisations that published WikiLeaks material. The sole intent is to destroy Julian’s reputation.
This character assassination was championed by the Democratic Party establishment after WikiLeaks published 70,000 hacked emails copied from the accounts of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. The Podesta emails exposed the donation of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two of the major funders of Islamic State, to the Clinton Foundation. It exposed the US$657,000 that Goldman Sachs paid to Hillary Clinton to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe. It exposed Clinton’s repeated mendacity.
She was caught in the emails, for example, telling the financial elites that she wanted “open trade and open borders”, and believed Wall Street executives were best positioned to manage the economy, a statement that contradicted her campaign statements. It exposed the Clinton campaign’s efforts to influence the Republican primaries to ensure that Trump was the Republican nominee. It exposed Clinton’s advance knowledge of questions in the primary debate. It exposed Clinton as the principal architect of the war in Libya, a war she believed would burnish her credentials as a presidential candidate. Journalists can argue that this information, like the war logs provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, should have remained hidden, that the public did not have a right to know, but they can’t then call themselves journalists.
WikiLeaks has done more to expose the abuses of power and crimes of the American Empire than any other news organisation. In addition to the war logs and the Podesta emails, it made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency and their interference in foreign elections, including in the French elections. It disclosed the internal conspiracy against British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by Labour members of Parliament. It intervened to save Snowden from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow after he made public the wholesale surveillance of the American public by our intelligence agencies. The Snowden leaks also revealed that Julian was on a U.S. “manhunt target list”.
We must build popular movements to force the British government to halt the extradition and judicial lynching of Julian. We must build popular movements to force the Australian government to intervene on behalf of Julian. We must build popular movements to reclaim democracy and the rule of law. If Julian is extradited and tried, it will create a legal precedent that will terminate the ability of the press to hold power accountable. The crimes of war and finance, the persecution of dissidents, minorities and immigrants, the pillaging of the ecosystem and the ruthless impoverishment of working men and women to swell the profits of corporations and consolidate the global oligarchs’ total grip on power will no longer be part of public debate. First Julian. Then us.
The foregoing is an excerpt of a recent speech delivered by Chris Hedges in London. We publish it as part of a proposed series entitled “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you at night”.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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