The Arrest of Julian Assange
Truth in Chains
By CHRIS FLOYD
December 07, 2010 -- 'Counterpunch" -- London. --Well, they got him at last. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the target of several of the world’s most powerful governments, turned himself into British authorities today and is now at the mercy of state authorities who have already shown their wolfish – and lawless – desire to destroy him and his organization.
It has been, by any standard, an extraordinary campaign of vilification and persecution, wholly comparable to the kind of treatment doled out to dissidents in China or Burma. Lest we forget, WikiLeaks is a journalistic outlet – just like The New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel, all of whom are even now publishing the very same material – leaked classified documents -- available on WikiLeaks. The website is also a journalistic outlet just like CNN, ABC, CBS, Fox and other mainstream media venues, where we have seen an endless parade of officials – and journalists! – calling for Assange to be prosecuted or killed outright. Every argument being made for shutting down WikiLeaks can – and doubtless will – be used against any journalistic enterprise that publishes material that powerful people do not like.
And the leading role in this persecution of truth-telling is being played by the administration of the great progressive agent of hope and change, the self-proclaimed heir of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama. His attorney general, Eric Holder, is now making fierce noises about the “steps” he has already taken to bring down WikiLeaks and criminalize the leaking of embarrassing information. And listen to the ferocious reaction of that liberal lioness, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who took to the pages of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal to call for Assange to be put in prison – for 2,500,000 years:
So there you have it. Ten years for each offense; 250,000 separate offenses; thus a prison term of 2.5 million years. Naturally, tomorrow the same newspaper will denounce Feinstein for being such a namby-pamby terrorist-coddling pinko: “Why didn’t she call for Assange to be torn from limb to limb by wild dogs, as any right-thinking red-blooded American would do!?”
Meanwhile, corporate America and its international allies continue to do their bit. Joining PayPal and Amazon, who had already cut off their services to WikiLeaks, most of the remaining venues through which the internet journal is funded are also freezing out the organization -- MasterCard, Visa, and a Swiss bank that WikiLeaks used to process donations. All of these organizations are obviously responding to government pressure.
What is perhaps most remarkable is that this joint action by the world elite to shut down WikiLeaks – which has been operating for four years – comes after the release of diplomatic cables, not in response to earlier leaks which provided detailed evidence of crimes and atrocities committed by the perpetrators and continuers of Washington’s Terror War. I suppose this is because the diplomatic cables have upset the smooth running of the corrupt and cynical backroom operations that actually govern our world, behind the ludicrous lies and self-righteous posturing that our great and good lay on for the public. They didn’t mind being unmasked as accomplices in mass murder and fomenters of suffering and hatred; in fact, they were rather proud of it. And they certainly knew that their fellow corruptocrats in foreign governments – not to mention the perpetually stunned and supine American people – wouldn’t give a toss about a bunch of worthless peons in Iraq and Afghanistan getting killed. But the diplomatic cables have caused an embarrassing stink among the closed little clique of the movers and shakers. And that is a crime deserving of vast eons in stir – or death.
But before Assange was taken into custody, he fired off one last message to the world, in The Australian, a newspaper in his native land. With supreme irony, he tied WikiLeaks’ operation to the roots of the Murdoch media empire, which began by speaking truth to murderous and wasteful power – and now, of course, is one of the most powerful and assiduous instruments of murderous and wasteful power itself. Assange writes:
These, of course, are the defenders of Western Civilization, that pinnacle of human progress, that bulwark against savagery like murder and torture, that bastion of temperance and reason. But in his piece, Assange once more gives the lie to the ferocious canards of Feinstein, Holder, Obama and Palin about the “great harm” the leaks have done:
Yes, how many thousands of people, how many tens of thousands, have been killed by our bipartisan Terror Warriors in the four years of WikiLeaks’ existence? How many millions have been “harmed” not only by the direct operations of the Terror War, but by the ever-widening, ever-deepening violence, hatred and turmoil it is spreading throughout the world? (Not to mention the accelerating collapse of American society, which has been financially, politically and morally bankrupted by the acceptance of aggressive war, torture, elite rapine and authoritarian rule.)
But none of the perpetrators of these acts, past or present, are in jail, or have even been prosecuted, or investigated, or inconvenienced in any way. Yet Assange is in a British prison tonight – and it is certainly not for the “sexual misconduct” charges that were filed against him in August, which then became the basis of an unprecedented worldwide arrest order of the type ordinarily reserved for war criminals – for those, in fact, accused of aggressive war, torture, elite rapine and authoritarian rule. The judge refused to grant bail, saying that Assange had “access to financial means” and could flee the country – perhaps a bitter joke on milord’s part, aimed at a man whose means of financial support are being systematically shut down by the most powerful government and corporate forces in the world. Journalist John Pilger and filmmaker Ken Loach were among those who appeared in court ready to stand surety for Assange, but to no avail.
WikiLeaks will doubtless try to struggle on. And Assange says he has given the entire diplomatic trove to 100,000 people. By dribs and drabs, shards of truth will get out. But the world’s journalists – and those persons of conscience working in the world’s governments – have been given a hard, harsh, unmistakable lesson in the new realities of our degraded time. Tell a truth that discomforts power, that challenges its domination over our lives, our discourse, our very thoughts, and you will be destroyed. No institution, public or private, will stand with you; the most powerful entities, public and private, will be arrayed against you, backed up by overwhelming violent force. This is where we are now. This is what we are now.
Chris Floyd is an American writer and frequent contributor to CounterPunch. His blog, “Empire Burlesque,” can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.