Monday, 15 April 2019

The war on freedom of expression: the arrest of Julian Assange

Julian Assange was arrested last week. He was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the police. According to Prime Minister Theresa May, he was arrested on the grounds of bail violation and an extradition request from the American government. Assange later appeared before a magistrates' court, where the district judge, demonstrating his impartiality, described Assange as a narcissist. The arrest of Julian Assange is part of a much larger war on freedom of expression, and especially, the war on any attempt to challenge official narratives.

The US charge against Assange does not even make sense. The US allege that Assange conspired with Bradley Manning (as he then was) to hack a US Department of Defence computer. This charge is undermined by the fact that Manning had first tried to release the documents to the New York Times and the Washington Post. Neither outlet was prepared to publish these damning documents. Manning only then provided WikiLeaks with the documents. This sequence shows that Manning was in possession of the documents before any contact with WikiLeaks, which disproves the allegation. Furthermore, the US charge would require Manning to give evidence against Assange, but it is clear Manning is unwilling to do so. Manning is in fact being held in indefinite detention precisely because he has refused to provide any such testimony. The imprisonment of Chelsea Manning (as she is now) should in itself be a scandal. Manning is being held in indefinite detention until she provides a US prosecutor with testimony to indict another person. When prosecutors can use such tactics, no one is safe.

It is clear that the US charge against Julian Assange is simply a trumped up charge designed to provide the verisimilitude of due process, when the motive is really revenge for his publication of evidential proof of US war crimes.

The US persuaded Ecuador to go along with this travesty by a mixture of money and diplomatic support. Following a visit by Mike Pence, Ecuador received ten billion dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international financial institutions dominated by the US. Ecuador also received ringing endorsements from western political leaders and much praise in the western corporate media. In return, Lenin Moreno revoked Assange's asylum and the Ecuadorian ambassador in London invited the police into the embassy to arrest Julian.

The British government went along with Washington's plan without any such obvious inducements. However, some members of parliament, whilst keen to participate in the persecution of Assange, were somewhat squeamish about being seen to be involved in such a blatant attempt to criminalise the publication of accurate information. Instead, they called for Assange to be extradited to Sweden on the basis of allegations of sexual misconduct, even though the Swedish prosecutor dropped the case years ago and there is no such extradition request. Whilst this move is patently absurd, it has not only the benefit of enabling them to pretend they are not persecuting Assange for journalism, it also enables them to attack Jeremy Corbyn as someone who is a supporter of sexual predators, an entirely new smear in the library of baseless smears against the Labour leader.

In the midst of all this propaganda, the facts that the documents WikiLeaks published revealed are silenced. The shocking images of helicopter gunship shooting down civilians are not shown in the television broadcasts on the story. This silence speaks volumes. Those who are participating in the persecution of Julian Assange are intent on silencing any and all challenges to the official narratives. They are engaged in a war on freedom of expression.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Soldiers shoot Jeremy Corbyn image

A video of British soldiers using an image of Jeremy Corbyn for target practice was posted on the Internet. The political media elite are outraged. The soldiers have been condemned by parliamentarians, government ministers and journalists. The Ministry of Defence issued an immediate statement. The ministry stated that the action was a clear violation of its standards and was unacceptable. There have been calls for the soldiers to be disciplined for conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.

This incident exemplifies the warped values of the elite. They send our soldiers to foreign lands to fight illegal wars of aggression and celebrate. But when a few paratroopers in Kabul fire wax bullets at an image of a politician, they jump up and down with moral outrage. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, declaimed he was horrified. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, condemned the behaviour as unacceptable. Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, assured parliament that the incident was being investigated. Apparently, shooting an inanimate object is beyond the pale.

Whilst the hypocrisy of the elite is beyond belief, the howls of excoriation also reveal a complete lack of empathy. These British soldiers were sent to a foreign land to fight an illegal war of aggression. They were told they were going to protect the people. But they found the people do not want them. Indeed, they found some of the people were trying to kill them. They found little in the way of recreation - because people were trying to kill them. So they decided to make target practice a little more interesting by shooting the image of the VIP rather than the images of the assailants - for a laugh; a touch of light relief in the midst of a sea of boredom punctuated by moments of stress, fear and anger. And the political media elite demand an investigation, although they have already judged the behaviour to be completely unacceptable.

This rush to condemnation means it will be impossible for these soldiers to be treated justly. They are already publicly accused by the Ministry of Defence of conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. This is a charge that the witch-finders would have well appreciated: it is an accusation that is itself proof. Indeed, it is an outrage that this military law still even exists. What is and is not contrary to good order and military discipline is clearly a subjective judgement. There is no way a soldier can defend himself from such a charge when it is made by the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary, the Ministry of Defence, a general in the field and a host of corporate journalists. The accusations prove that the behaviour is contrary to good order and military discipline. It is legal equivalent of a tautology.

The values of the elite are so warped as to defy rational explanation. How can shooting an inanimate object by worse than illegally invading and occupying a foreign country? If anyone knows the answer, do tell.