Chris Hedges: Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law

June 11th, 2021

Julian Assange Feature photo

By Chris Hedges

Source

Chris Hedges gave this talk at a rally Thursday night in New York City in support of Julian Assange. John and Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s father and brother, also spoke at the event, which was held at The People’s Forum.

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.

This why we are here tonight.  Yes, all of us who know and admire Julian decry his prolonged suffering and the suffering of his family.  Yes, we demand that the many wrongs and injustices that have been visited upon him be ended.  Yes, we honor him up for his courage and his integrity. But the battle for Julian’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher.  It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era.  And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law.  They turn the law into an instrument of injustice.  They cloak their crimes in a faux legality.  They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality.  Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.

The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.

I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison.  There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.

The U.S. government directed, as Craig Murray so eloquently documented, the London prosecutor James Lewis.  Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser.  Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision.  It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible to access the trial online.  It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.

Now, I know many of us here tonight would like to think of ourselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries.  But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law.  It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary.  But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance.  This truth terrifies those in power.

The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are illegitimate.  Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape.  Prove this truth, as Julian, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints—the towering civil rights attorneys Len Weinglass and my good friend Michael Ratner, who I would later accompany to meet Julian in the Ecuadoran Embassy, met with Julian in a studio apartment in Central London.  Julian’s personal bank cards had been blocked. Three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage in route to London. Swedish police were fabricating a case against him in a move, Ratner warned, that was about extraditing Julian to the United States.

“WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political,” Weinglass told Assange. “As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher.”

“Come after me for what?” asked Julian.

“Espionage,” Weinglass continued. “They’re going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don’t think it applies to him because he’s a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don’t think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator.”

“Come after me for what?

That is the question.

They came after Julian not for his vices, but his virtues.

They came after Julian because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; because he exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo; because he exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime; because he exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, that they authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of U.S. citizens in Yemen, and that they secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians; because he exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform; because he exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party; because he exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

Julian exposed the truth.  He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite.  And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power.  “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”

We have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where we, as citizens, are nothing more than commodities to corporate systems of power, ones to be used, fleeced and discarded. To refuse to fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, is to bear the mark of Cain. Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian.  Politics is a game of fear.  It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.

The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip.  It cannot be reformed.  It has abolished the rule of law.  It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, “Off with their heads.”

Who Wags the Dog? Israel’s Friends in Washington Mean Constant War in the Middle East

Who Wags the Dog? Israel's Friends in Washington Mean Constant War in the Middle  East - Islam Times
Ph.D., Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

Philip Giraldi April 22, 2021

Biden, like presidents before him, is caught in the trap between an extremist-dominated Israel and the all-powerful domestic Israel Lobby.

Donald Trump, who was elected President of the United States in 2016, may have won due to voters attracted by his pledge to end many of the “stupid” wars that the American military was involved in worldwide. In the event, however, he ended no wars in spite of several attempts to withdraw from Afghanistan and Syria, and almost started new conflicts with cruise missile attacks and the assassination of an Iranian general. Trump was consistently outmaneuvered by his “experts” on the National Security Council and at the Pentagon, who insisted that it was too early to disengage from the Middle East and Central Asia, that America’s own national security would be threatened.

Trump did not have either the experience or the grit necessary to override his generals and national security team, so he deferred to their judgement. And as has been well documented he was under constant pressure to do Israel’s bidding in the region, which mandated a continued substantial US military presence to protect the Jewish state and to provide cover for the regular attacks staged by the Israelis against several of their neighbors. Motivated by the substantial political donations coming from multi-billionaires like casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Trump conceded more to Israel than any previous president, recognizing Jerusalem as the country’s capital as well as Israeli annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights while also giving the green light to settlement expansion and eventual incorporation of all of the occupied West Bank into Greater Israel.

President Joe Biden has already indicated that he will if anything out-do Trump when it comes to favoring America’s persistent “ally” and “best friend” in the Middle East. Biden, who has declared himself to be a “Zionist,” is responding to the same lobbying and media power that Israel’s friends are able to assert over any US national government. In addition, his own Democratic Party in Congress is also the home of most of the federal government’s genuine Zionists, namely the numerous mostly Jewish legislators who have long dedicated themselves to advancing Israeli interests. Finally, Biden has chosen to surround himself with large numbers of Jewish appointed officials as his foreign policy and national security team, many of whom have close and enduring personal ties to Israel, to include service in the Israeli Army.

The new Secretary of Defense, former Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin has recently returned from a trip to Israel, where he confirmed one’s worst fears about the direction the Biden Administration is moving in. It was a first visit to Israel by a Biden Administration cabinet member. Austin met with his counterpart Benny Gantz and also with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, both of whom warned him that Israel considered renewal of any nuclear arms limitation agreement with Iran to be a threat, only delaying development of a weapon. As Bibi expressed it, “Iran has never given up its quest for nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. I will never allow Iran to obtain the nuclear capability to carry out its genocidal goal of eliminating Israel.”

Austin responded by the usual two-step avoiding Israel’s expressed concerns, which might be considered a threat of an Israeli veto on Biden’s attempt to revert to the original 2015 JCPOA multilateral pact. He said that the Biden administration would continue to guarantee Israel’s “qualitative military edge” as an element in America’s “strong commitment to Israel and the Israeli people,” adding that “our bilateral relationship with Israel in particular is central to regional stability and security in the Middle East. During our meeting I reaffirmed to Minister Gantz our commitment to Israel is enduring and it is ironclad.”

Wrong answer general. The foreign policy of any country should be based on actual interests, not on political donations and effective lobbying, still less on what one reads in the Zionist mainstream media in the US. Netanyahu has stated that the Iran agreement is “fatally flawed” and has said recently that “History has taught us that deals like this, with extremist regimes like this, are worth nothing.” Israel, which uniquely has a secret nuclear arsenal in the Middle East, is one of the world’s leading violators of attempts to limit nuclear proliferation. It is also destabilizing to the entire Middle East region, an apartheid state – not a democracy – and its government is widely regarded as right-wing extremist. That Netanyahu should feel somehow empowered to talk down to the Iranians, and to the US, remains a mystery.

Beyond what goes on between Washington and Jerusalem, the real center of power, the Israel Lobby, consists of a large number of separate organizations that act collectively to advance Israeli interests. There is considerable corruption in the process, with cooperative congressmen being rewarded while those who resist are targeted for replacement. Much of the legwork on subverting Capitol Hill and the White House is done by foundations, which often pretend to be educational to obtain tax exempt status. “Experts” from the various pro-Israel groups are then seeded into the decision-making process of the federal government, serving as gatekeepers to prevent consideration of any legislation that might be objected to by Netanyahu.

One of the most active lobbying groups is the so-called Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) which is in fact closely tied to and takes direction from the Israeli Embassy in Washington. FDD is particularly focused on going to war with Iran and whenever there are discussions on Iran policy on Capitol Hill one can be sure that an FDD expert will be present and active.

And if you really want to know why America’s foreign policy has been so self-destructive, it has recently been learned that FDD was actually able to insert one of its employees into the National Security Council under Donald Trump. According to a report on Bloomberg, Richard Goldberg, an outspoken anti-Iran hawk and former associate of John Bolton, is leaving the council and would be returning “to [the Foundation for Defense of Democracies], which continued to pay his salary during his time on the National Security Council.”

The NSC exists to provide the president with the best possible intelligence and analysis available for dealing with problem areas, something that Goldberg, due to his conflict of interest, would have been unlikely to provide, particularly as he was still on the FDD payroll and was also being given generous travel expenses while working for the government. Whether he was also being paid by the NSC, which is referred to as “double dipping,” is not known. In any event, there is something very wrong about the appointment of a paid partisan who seeks war with a particular country to a vital national security position where objectivity is an imperative. Ned Price, former special assistant to President Obama on national security, commented “…we now know a White House point person on Iran policy was receiving a salary from and remained employed by an organization that has put forward some of the most extreme and dangerous pro-regime change policies.”

So Biden, like presidents before him, is caught in the trap between an extremist-dominated Israel itself and its demonic prime minister on one side and the all-powerful domestic Israel Lobby on the other. Unfortunately, one cannot expect the United States to get out from under the Israeli thumb no matter whom is elected president.

Sheikh Isa Qassim: New Constitution Sole Way out of Bahrain Crisis

20/4/2021

Sheikh Isa Qassim: New Constitution Sole Way out of Bahrain Crisis

By Staff, Agencie

Bahrain’s top cleric Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim stressed that “Drawing up a new constitution is the only way out of the political crisis in the protest-hit kingdom.”

He further called on urging the regime in Manama to pursue an agreement with the Bahraini opposition instead of increasingly suppressing the dissidents.

“Since the people do not find anything to persuade themselves to stop their protest movement and are witnessing a surge in the [regime’s] policy of repression, dictatorship and marginalization, they are pressing ahead with their uprising, whatever the cost may be,” Sheikh Qassim said in a statement released on Monday and carried by the Bahrain Mirror news website.

His Eminence further highlighted: “There would be no way out of the current situation unless the government reaches an agreement with the opposition to draw up a new constitution and found relevant institutions so as to protect the citizens’ rights and recognize their sovereign position in the country’s politics.”

The senior cleric pointed out that “Reforms must be undertaken at a pace satisfactory to the public and must guarantee the authority, dignity, comfort, security and interests of all.”

This comes as Bahrain’s crackdown continues in Ramadan as regime forces attack political inmates in Jaw prison.  “There is a serious political and legal crisis in Bahrain, the consequences of which will be dangerous for both the nation and the government itself,” he stated.

He denounced the Manama regime over the “absurd” policy of putting more people behind bars, saying such a practice will not even benefit the “unjust political goal” being pursued by the Al-Khalifah regime.

“If the purpose of populating prisons with thousands of inmates is to tone down the demands for political and civil rights to mere calls for the release of prisoners, the calls among the prisoners themselves for the nation’s rights [to be guaranteed] will definitely thwart such a conspiracy,” Sheikh Qassem confirmed.

“The people of Bahrain are well aware of the fact that the solution to the country’s crisis lies only in a genuine improvement of the situation and establishment of a political relationship between the nation and the government on the basis of new and viable principles,” His Eminence elaborated.


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