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Empire’s mask slips at Julian Assange trial

by Pepe Escobar | Published: 00:00, Sep 21,2020

 
 

A billboard van calling for an end to extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange waits at traffic lights in Parliament Square in London, England, on September 14. — NurPhoto/David Cliff

THE concept of ‘history in the making’ has been pushed to extremes when it comes to the extraordinary public service being performed by historian, former UK diplomat and human rights activist Craig Murray.

Murray — literally, and on a global level — is now positioned as our man in the public gallery, as he painstakingly documents in vivid detail what could be defined as the trial of the century as far as the practice of journalism is concerned: the kangaroo court judging Julian Assange in Old Bailey, London.

Let’s focus on three of Murray’s reports this week — with an emphasis on two intertwined themes: what the US is really prosecuting, and how Western corporate media is ignoring the court proceedings.

Here, Murray reports the exact moment when the mask of Empire fell, not with a bang, but a whimper:

‘The gloves were off on Tuesday as the US Government explicitly argued that all journalists are liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act (1917) for publishing classified information.’

‘All journalists’ means every legitimate journalist, from every nationality, operating in any jurisdiction.

Interpreting the argument, Murray added, ‘the US government is now saying, completely explicitly, in court, those reporters could and should have gone to jail and that is how we will act in future. The Washington Post, the New York Times, and all the “great liberal media” of the US are not in court to hear it and do not report it, because of their active complicity in the “othering” of Julian Assange as something sub-human whose fate can be ignored. Are they really so stupid as not to understand that they are next?

Err, yes.’

The point is not that self-described paladins of ‘great liberal media’ are stupid. They are not covering the charade in Old Bailey because they are cowards. They must keep their fabled ‘access’ to the bowels of Empire — the kind of ‘access’ that allowed Judith Miller to ‘sell’ the illegal war on Iraq in countless front pages, and allows CIA asset and uber-opportunist Bob Woodward to write his ‘insider’ books.

 

Nothing to see here

PREVIOUSLY, Murray had already detailed how ‘the mainstream media are turning a blind eye. There were three reporters in the press gallery, one of them an intern and one representing the NUJ. Public access continues to be restricted and major NGOs, including Amnesty, PEN and Reporters Without Borders, continue to be excluded both physically and from watching online.’

Murray also detailed how ‘the six of us allowed in the public gallery, incidentally, have to climb 132 steps to get there, several times a day. As you know, I have a very dodgy ticker; I am with Julian’s dad John who is 78; and another of us has a pacemaker.’

So why is he ‘the man in the public gallery’?

‘I do not in the least discount the gallant efforts of others when I explain that I feel obliged to write this up, and in this detail, because otherwise the vital basic facts of the most important trial of this century, and how it is being conducted, would pass almost completely unknown to the public. If it were a genuine process, they would want people to see it, not completely minimise attendance both physically and online.’

Unless people around the world are reading Murray’s reports — and very few others with much less detail — they will ignore immensely important aspects plus the overall appalling context of what’s really happening in the heart of London. The main fact, as far as journalism is concerned, is that Western corporate media is completely ignoring it.

Let’s check the UK coverage on day 9, for instance.

There was no article in the Guardian — which cannot possibly cover the trial because the paper, for years, was deep into no holds barred smearing and total demonisation of Julian Assange.

There was nothing on The Telegraph — very close to MI6 — and only a brief AP story on the Daily Mail.

There was a brief article in The Independent only because one of the witnesses, Eric Lewis, is one of the directors of the Independent Digital News and Media Ltd which publishes the paper.

For years, the process of degrading Julian Assange to sub-human level was based on repeating a bunch of lies so often they become truth. Now, the conspiracy of silence about the trial does wonders to expose the true face of Western liberal ‘values’ and liberal ‘democracy’.

 

Daniel Ellsberg speaks

MURRAY provided absolutely essential context for what Daniel ‘Pentagon Papers’ Ellsberg made it very clear in the witness stand.

The Afghan War logs published by WikiLeaks were quite similar to low-level reports Ellsberg himself had written about Vietnam. The geopolitical framework is the same: invasion and occupation, against the interests of the absolute majority of the invaded and occupied.

Murray, illustrating Ellsberg, writes that ‘the war logs had exposed a pattern of war crimes: torture, assassination and death squads. The one thing that had changed since Vietnam was that these things were now so normalised they were classified below Top Secret.’

This is a very important point. All the Pentagon Papers were in fact Top Secret. But crucially, the WikiLeaks papers were not Top Secret: in fact they were below Top Secret, not subject to restricted distribution. So they were not really sensitive — as the United States government now alleges.

On the by now legendary Collateral Murder video, Murray details Ellsberg’s argument:

‘Ellsberg stated that it definitely showed murder, including the deliberate machine gunning of a wounded and unarmed civilian. That it was murder was undoubted. The dubious word was ‘collateral’, which implies accidental. What was truly shocking about it was the Pentagon reaction that these war crimes were within the Rules of Engagement. Which permitted murder.’

The prosecution cannot explain why Julian Assange withheld no less than 15,000 files; how he took a lot of time to redact the ones that were published; and why both the Pentagon and the state department refused to collaborate with WikiLeaks. Murray:

‘Ten years later, the US government has still not been able to name one single individual who was actually harmed by the WikiLeaks releases.’

 

Prometheus Bound 2.0

PRESIDENT Trump has made two notorious references to WikiLeaks on the record: ‘I love WikiLeaks’ and ‘I know nothing about WikiLeaks’. That may reveal nothing on how a hypothetical Trump 2.0 administration would act if Julian Assange was extradited to the US. What we do now is that the most powerful deep state factions want him ‘neutralised’. Forever.

I felt compelled to portray Julian Assange’s plight as Prometheus Bound 2.0. In this poignant post-modern tragedy, the key subplot centres on a deadly blow to true journalism, in the sense of speaking truth to power.

Julian Assange continues to be treated as an extremely dangerous criminal, as his partner Stella Moris describes it in a tweet.

Craig Murray will arguably enter history as the central character in a very small chorus warning us all about the tragedy’s ramifications.

It’s also quite fitting that the tragedy is also a commentary on a previous era that featured, unlike Blake’s poem, a marriage of hell and hell: the global War on Terror, under George W Bush, and Overseas Contingency Operations under Barack Obama.

Julian Assange is being condemned for revealing imperial war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet in the end all that post-9/11 sound and fury signified nothing.

It actually metastasised into the worst imperial nightmare: the emergence of a prime, compounded peer competitor, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

 

‘Not here the darkness, in this twittering world’

— TS Eliot, Burnt Norton

 

An army of future Assanges awaits.

 

Dissidentvoice.org, September 19. Pepe Escobar writes for Asia Times Online.

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