13 December 2010. A World to Win News Service. Seldom has the essence of the Western powers been more evident than in the persecution of WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange.
It is amazing to see how most of the Western powers and the mainstream political leaders within those countries have united in hounding him. The assault is being led by the U.S., the chief guardian of the current world order, but even powers that have bristled against American predominance have joined in.
In the U.S., a lust for vengeance against Assange has united most of the political spectrum from the far right to the liberals, bringing together the otherwise bitter rivals of the Republican and Democratic parties. The tone was set by President Barack Obama's Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called WikiLeaks' publication of U.S. diplomatic cables "an attack on the international community, the alliances and partnerships, the conventions and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity."
U.S State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley put it even more bluntly: "In our view, he has done substantial damage to the interests of the United States and the interests of other countries."
In this context, the calls from fascist forces like Fox News television and ex-Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin for Assange to be assassinated have been legitimized as simply more naked expressions of the same rage at the potential damage to the empire. This is extremely revealing about the dominant political atmosphere in the U.S., where the Obama Justice Department has officially taken the position that the government can assassinate people abroad when it deems American interests are at stake.
It should be remembered that when an American diplomat challenged the claims that Iraq was purchasing the raw materials for atomic weapons, a lie Obama's predecessor George W. Bush used to justify invading Iraq, in retaliation a top Bush aid leaked the fact that the diplomat's wife was a CIA agent. Interests and not diplomatic secrecy or even the protection of the lives of American agents is what the attack on WikiLeaks is about.
Once Assange was declared an enemy of those interests, Obama's government set out to find some law to get him on, whether treason, espionage or some ostensibly non-political charge. This assertion that the U.S. can prosecute a non-U.S. citizen for acts committed outside U.S. jurisdiction is simply an extension of the concept that the interests of the empire come before any legal considerations.
While Clinton has revelled in criticizing rival powers like China for not respecting the freedom of the Internet, her State Department sent out a letter that was taken as a threat to prosecute any company providing services to WikiLeaks. Subsequently, Amazon turned off the organisation's U.S.-based server, and bank card and financial companies cut off channels for supporters to send WikiLeaks money. It has been pointed out that Visa and Mastercard can be used to contribute to organisations supported by the Ku Klux Klan or groups that advocate violence against abortion providers and homosexuals, but not WikiLeaks. WikiLeak's domain name (Internet address) was shut down, making it inaccessible.
WikiLeaks turned to Switzerland but there, too, the government tried to shut them out, although they did find a Swiss server to host their site, a new Web address (wikileaks.ch) and a bank card processing company. France banned them from using French servers.
Assange had been forced to go on the run. Australian government threats meant that he could not return to his homeland, while other countries turned down his request for a residency permit. When he turned up in London, the British government arrested him. Assange was sent to a nineteenth-century London prison, locked in the same cell where the writer Oscar Wilde was once held. UK government prosecutors argued that he be kept in jail pending extradition to Sweden. He will appeal that decision.
The U.S. was out to get Assange for a long time before the December release of the diplomatic cables. For the first few years after his organisation's founding in 2006, when it focused on posting secret documents from China, the former Soviet bloc and some third world countries, it was lauded by the Western establishment. WikiLeaks even received an award from the conservative Economist magazine. But this changed as it began to shift its x-ray eyes westward.
WikiLeaks has posted a secret March 2008 U.S. government document discussing how to destroy the organisation, especially by discrediting its moral authority in the eyes of the public. These efforts were stepped up after April 2010, when WikiLeaks released a video filmed from a U.S. attack helicopter in Baghdad that recorded the deliberate killing of two news reporters and more than a dozen other civilians and the wounding of two children. U.S. soldiers at first tried to treat the children and were then ordered to abandon them. (See AWTWNS100802. Video at collateralmurder.com)
Shortly after, a 22-year-old U.S. Army technician stationed in Iraq, Bradley Manning, was arrested. He has been kept isolated in a U.S. military prison ever since. Manning is commonly believed to be the source of this and perhaps the subsequent WikiLeaks. The New York Times, one of the media outlets that WikiLeaks gave these documents, lent its respectability to a slander campaign to portray Manning as a psychologically disturbed misfit whose motivation was anything but political, and Assange as a bizarre paranoid with obscure motives.
The Washington Post reported 1 August 2010 that American authorities had embarked on an accelerated campaign to locate Assange and infiltrate his group.
Later that month, when two Swedish women went to the Stockholm police to complain about Assange's conduct with them during a visit there, an on-duty prosecutor decided that he should be charged with rape. The chief prosecutor immediately ordered the case dropped, but a month later another prosecutor reinstated it. Assange was not informed of the accusations against him, although all sorts of details about alleged sex acts have been leaked through the media with no concern whatsoever for the privacy of the two women involved or the rights of the accused.
Sweden's initial request for an Interpol arrest warrant was turned down as too vague about the charges, but as word got out that WikiLeaks was planning the massive release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, Interpol put out a "red notice", making him one of the planet's most wanted men. An arrest order was issued in the name of the collectivity of European states.
This warrant and the initial judicial decision to deny him release on bail are highly unusual because so far the case against him has remained at the stage of allegations, and no formal and definitive charges have been filed. Swedish authorities explain that for now they just want to extradite Assange for questioning. His solicitors emphasize that he had remained available to the police six weeks before leaving Sweden with the prosecutor's permission, and that they offered to allow him to be questioned in the UK. Assange turned himself in to the British police expecting that this would be the result. They also point out that while the U.S. could seek his extradition from Britain, it might be easier to do that in Sweden. "Sweden is not the end game," they warned.
Anyone who argues that this persecution has been motivated by a concern for women should read the reaction of top U.S. officials. Obama's (and formerly Bush's) Defence Secretary Robert Gates hailed the UK's arrest of Assange as "good news". Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen said that Assange's real crime was that he had "blood on his hands" (this from the man in charge of two wars of aggression). Obama's Attorney General Holder vowed to find more charges to bring against him, and former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey remarked that "When one is accused of a very serious crime it's common to hold him in respect of a lesser crime... while you assemble evidence of a second crime."
Or they could just consider how criminally hypocritical it is for the Swedish government to express any concern for the oppression of women when it is a partner, along with the U.S. and the UK, in the rape of Afghanistan.
In fact, Afghanistan helps reveal what the persecution of Assange is really about from several different angles.
One is that it helps bring out what the U.S. and its allies are afraid of. The official U.S. State Department letter warning people not to cooperate with WikiLeaks termed it a threat to "ongoing military operations". What the rulers of this world are worried about is not just people like Assange, but also people like the soldier Manning and others who may follow their example. In other words, the lie-covered legitimacy of the wars they are waging in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq, where WikiLeaks has brought some of their crimes into the light of day.
The other is what the West is really trying to accomplish in these wars. It invaded and occupied Afghanistan to install a warlord-based, Islamic regime that is incontestably one of the world's most blatantly anti-women governments. Now that Karzai is not living up to their expectations for a stable imperialist-dominated Afghanistan, the solutions they are considering include bringing in some of the same Taliban elements whose overthrow was supposed to be their greatest achievement. (See AWTWNS 101129)
For the U.S. and Nato (including what Assange calls its "covert member" Sweden), what matters is not the kind of society they maintain in Afghanistan but simply turning back a kind of Islamic fundamentalism that threatens to disrupt the current global order, a configuration in which specific powers sit atop a world system where a handful of countries fatten on global exploitation and the domination over the vast majority of the world's peoples. This is the "economic prosperity" that Clinton feels is threatened by the leakage of the truth and the prospect of more disloyalty from within the empire.
The persecution of Assange also helps reveal the monopoly capitalist dictatorship that really characterizes all the imperialist powers. This seldom-precedented manhunt has been driven by a determination to preserve that system. His defence should be an opportunity to bring out not only the hypocrisy and lies being spread, but the interests at stake.
Demonstrations in support of WikiLeaks and Assange have been reported so far in Madrid and several other Spanish cities, the Netherlands, Colombia, Argentina, Mexico and Peru. Supporters are expected to gather at the London court where his appeal to be released during extradition proceedings was to be heard 14 December. Many prominent figures have said they will be on hand to support Assange's appeal and offer to put up their own money for his bail.