The imprisonment, torture and slow-motion state-sanctioned murder of truth-telling Australian journalist Julian Assange is a live demonstration of the depths to which Western so-called “democracies” have sunk. Hypocrisy is now such an emblem of their everyday behaviour that I propose renaming their systems of rule as “hypocracy”.
Today, for example (June 1, 2023) I read in my daily news “feed” that the United States military is so troubled by allegations of war crimes committed by Australian troops in Afghanistan that US forces might be prevented from working with the accused unit – the Australian Special Air Service Regiment (SAS). Not that the warning from the US came this week: it was apparently delivered in mid-2021. But it was revealed this week by the head of Australia’s defence force, General Angus Campbell, to a Senate committee.
And on the same day I read that the US Federal Bureau of Investigations has renewed inquiries into America’s threadbare espionage allegations against Julian Assange.
How marvellous to think that the Americans might have suddenly rediscovered an abhorrence of war crimes. If only. As is usual with any of the processed pellets of “news” that are deposited daily into my feed trough from various information sources, this story needs to be viewed through a skeptical lens. What it might mean is that Big Brother America wants Deputy Sheriff Australia to put an end to accusations; to stop looking at or for war crimes and to follow the leader in ignoring such matters. Or at least that the Australian Defence Force wants that story in circulation. Just me wondering aloud, of course.
Remarkable timing too, having this warning pop into my feed trough on the very day that the Federal Court was due to deliver its judgement in the long-running and extremely expensive defamation case between former SAS soldier Ben Roberts-Smith and the Nine news organisation. Fascinating that it also suddenly occurred to the Australian Government on this very day to request that the court delay issuing its written judgement, to give the government time to black out anything in the judgement it might not want anybody to read. Naturally the court complied, before throwing the case out, effectively finding that the defamatory imputations in the news reports – allegations of very serious war crimes – were true. One imagines the ADF won’t be happy, nor perhaps the Americans who issued the warning about co-operating with Australian units tarnished by war crimes findings. Nor even the Australian media billionaire Kerry Stokes who reportedly provided millions of dollars in funding for Roberts-Smith’s case. Of course this is just a defamation case, not a formal finding in relation to war crimes. In theory, such charges might follow from the defamation judgement, but who knows whether they will?
As I read the apparent warning from the US military, sadly, it can’t really want an assurance that Australia will act firmly to prevent and punish war crimes committed by its personnel. We are entitled to deduce that, because one of the main reasons Julian Assange has been persecuted for more than a decade by various governments at the behest of the USA is that his Wikileaks website revealed that now-famous horrific footage of a US helicopter gunship crew mercilessly slaughtering unarmed civilians in Iraq. There was more, of course. Like revealing the extent to which the vast “security” apparatus of the US spies on ordinary people in their day-to-day lives. Like releasing troves of diplomatic cables revealing the dishonesty and cynicism at the heart of international relations. Who has been held accountable for any of the misdeeds revealed by Wikileaks? Almost certainly, nobody. Only the whistleblowers have been punished, massively.
If you want the real, unvarnished story of the disgraceful inter-government conspiracy to torture, defame and destroy Julian Assange and frighten other would-be investigative journalists into toeing the line, I recommend the book The Trial of Julian Assange, by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer. In this deeply upsetting book, Melzer describes how he was reluctantly drawn into the Assange story, despite being at first convinced by the blizzard of propaganda and disinformation in the media that Assange was a bad apple. He describes his unfolding horror at the lengths to which the governments of Sweden, the UK, Ecuador (after its initial strong support waned with a change of leadership), Australia and puppet-master USA were willing to go to achieve their desired result. The discarding of legal principles and practice, the calculated use of lies and distortions, the ludicrous legal contortions and, more than anything, the pure viciousness and shamelessness at the heart of it all convinced Melzer that justice for Assange is the most forlorn of hopes.
Melzer’s deep disenchantment with the lawless behaviour of the “democratic” governments and his profound fear about the implications of the Assange case for the future of all people living under those governments led to him concluding that writing a book on the subject was one of his only options to try to wake up the world to this extraordinary travesty. Buy it, read it and be enlightened and infuriated.
Meanwhile, back to our daily news pellets from the empire of hypocracy. Just when supporters of Julian Assange were beginning to feel that he might finally be freed from his arbitrary and unnecessary imprisonment after all these years, the FBI has apparently reopened inquiries. It is reported that novelist Andrew O’Hagan, who ghost-wrote an autobiography of Assange a decade ago, has been approached by FBI agents wanting to interview him about his experiences with Assange. To his great credit, O’Hagan told The Sydney Morning Herald that he “would not give a witness statement against a fellow journalist being pursued for telling the truth”. “I would happily go to jail before agreeing in any way to support the American security establishment in this cynical effort,” he said. “They are using the Espionage Act to victimise an organisation that sought to hold governments to account. I might have differences with Julian, but I utterly oppose all efforts to silence him.”
Silence him? The conspiring governments have utterly silenced him and are murdering him in slow motion. And they have the bottomless, shameless gall to talk about war crimes.
To quote Nils Melzer:
Our governments feel threatened by Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange because they are whistleblowers, journalists and human rights activists who have provided solid evidence for the abuse, corruption and war crimes of the powerful, for which they are now being systematically defamed and persecuted. They are the political dissidents of the West, and their persecution is today’s witch-hunt because they threaten the privileges of an unconstrained state power that has gone out of control.
The cases of Manning, Snowden and Assange and others are the most important test of our time for the credibility of Western rule of law and democracy and our commitment to human rights. In all these cases it’s not about the person, the character or possible misconduct of these dissidents, but about how our governments deal with revelations about their own misconduct.
How many soldiers have been held accountable for the massacre of civilians shown in the video “Collateral Murder“? How many agents for the systematic torture of terror suspects? How many politicians and CEOs for the corrupt and inhumane machinations that have been brought to light by our dissidents? That’s what this is about. It is about the integrity of the rule of law, the credibility of our democracies and, ultimately, about our own human dignity and the future of our children. Let us never forget that.