Death of a war criminal; lies on Assange

3 Jul

Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties
Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise

Bob Dylan – Hurricane

Did you know a key witness in the US case against Julian Assange confessed, in an interview last week with an Icelandic bi-weekly, that he’d lied on matters of material significance to the kangaroo court presided over by British magistrate, Vanessa Baraitser?

You did know? Well we sure as hell can’t blame corporate media for that!

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We are ruled by gangsters, though few see it. Yes, many joke about the rogues and/or idiots in charge but they’re letting off steam; an exercise permissible in the West, where plunders past and present of the global south underwrite forms of class rule sufficiently secure to allow free speech so long as the real levers of opinion manufacture remain in safe hands.

Chomsky …

Media are big corporations selling privileged audiences to other big corporations. Now the question is: what pictures of the world would a rational person expect from this?

… Chomsky again …

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

… and again, in 1996, as the BBC’s Andrew Marr denies that he, Marr, self censors:

I do not say you are self censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you say. But what I am saying is that if you believed something different you would not be sitting in that chair.

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Mostly the opinion manufacturers simply ignore truths threatening to class rule, but more active lying is still called for. As it happens, events this past week furnish textbook examples of both. Let’s start with the death of a powerful man whose extended stay on this earth tells us, as if we needed telling, that life is no morality tale.

Donald Rumsfeld lived a long life of freedom while Julian Assange wastes away in Belmarsh Prison. The world doesn’t work the way we were taught in school. The very worst bad guys are not locked away by the good guys who run things, because the very worst bad guys are the ones who run things. Caitlin Johnstone

Also on the subject of Mr Rumsfeld, here’s Anthony Dimaggio, yesterday in CounterPunch:

Rehabilitating Rumsfeld, Erasing Empire …1

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s death was met with the apologies for state crimes we expect from worshippers of US militarism – The New York Times being the most obvious case in point. Its profile on Rumsfeld’s life reflects that he was widely regarded as “the most powerful defense secretary since McNamara”. The paper weighs in on his management of the war in Iraq, which it deemed:

“A costly divisive war that destroyed his political life. But while McNamara offered mea culpas in a 2003 documentary, ‘The Fog of War,’ Rumsfeld acknowledged no serious failings and warned in a farewell valedictory that quitting Iraq would be a terrible mistake, even though the war had been based on a false premise – that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, had weapons of mass destruction.”

“Costly.” “Divisive.” “Failings.” “Mistake.” “Based on a false premise.” … NYT could have used other descriptions: Illegal. War crime. Deception. Lies. Immoral. Mass murder. 2

Illegal, and a War Crime: the UN Charter outlaws force unless authorized by the Security Council (Article 48), or in self-defense against ongoing attack (Article 51). The US could claim neither with Iraq. Its invasion was a blatant violation of not only the UN but the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal created to punish Nazi officials for “the planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances,” and “participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of such acts”. 

Deception, Lies: sycophants to power use euphemisms like “based on a false premise” rather than face the reality that presidents and administrations lie to pursue criminal wars. There were two types of lies pursued with Iraq: blatant lies, and lies that existed in a grey area of plausible deniability, in which their public rhetoric did not at all match what they were saying in private.

… in blatant lies the administration claimed Iraq might provide nuclear weapons or technology to terrorists, projecting fears into the public mind. This propaganda was contradicted by what the administration had been told by international and national weapons and counter-terror experts. The claim that Iraq wanted to secure uranium from Niger had been publicly debunked, and the International Atomic Energy Agency said claims that Iraq had aluminum tubes suitable for enriching uranium to weapon-grade level were false. The administration knew all this and lied about it … 

Full piece here

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The cops said “a poor boy like you could use a break
We got you for the motel job and we’re talkin’ to your friend Bello
You don’t wanta have to go back to jail, be a nice fellow”

Bob Dylan – Hurricane

My second example is last week’s admission by a pivotal witness in the Assange Hearings that he lied to inject substance into a risible FBI case; one a supine British court bent over backwards in its efforts to allow before denying it on all the wrong grounds to leave Julian Assange, after all he has endured, still banged up in a hell hole pending US appeal.

Here’s Craig Murray, on June 29:

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart

Sigi Thordarson was always the most unreliable of witnesses. It seems impossible to believe FBI cooperation with him was [not] deliberate fabrication of evidence.

On the final day of the Assange extradition hearing, magistrate Vanessa Baraitser refused to accept an affidavit from Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce, on the grounds it was out of time. The affidavit explained that the defense had been unable to respond to the new accusations in the United States government’s second superseding indictment, because these wholly new matters had been sprung on them just six weeks before the hearing resumed on Sept. 8, 2020.

The defense had to gather evidence from Iceland, but had virtually no access to Assange to take his evidence and instructions, as he was effectively in solitary confinement. An adjournment request to give time to address the new accusations had been refused.

Baraitser now refused to accept Gareth Peirce’s affidavit setting out these facts.

The hearings in January 2020 were not going well for Washington. Political extradition is banned by the UK/US treaty, and the argument that the publisher was not responsible for Chelsea Manning’s whistleblowing appeared to be strong. The US Justice Department had to discover “crimes” less noble than the Manning revelations.

The FBI turned to an informant in Iceland, Sigi Thordarson, willing to testify that Assange had been involved with him in hacking bank information and tracking Icelandic police vehicles. This was easier to portray as crime, so the second superseding indictment was produced based on Thordarson’s story, elaborated with Thordarson by an FBI team.

But Thordarson was hardly a reliable witness. Convicted in Iceland for stealing $50,000 from Wikileaks, and impersonating Julian Assange online, he is a registered sex offender with under-age boys. The FBI team was expelled from Iceland by its government, which viewed its use of Thordarson as wholly illegitimate.

Nevertheless, in June 2020 the US government, 18 months after extradition proceedings had begun and 6 months after opening arguments had been heard by the court, was allowed to change the charges and grounds for extradition in a superseding indictment.

I recommend reading Craig’s post in full but here’s its penultimate paragraph:

It is now five months since extradition was refused. No US government appeal has yet been accepted by the High Court, yet Julian remains confined to the UK’s highest security prison. The revelation that Thordarson’s allegations are fabricated – which everyone knew already, Baraitser just pretended she didn’t – is one more illegality the Establishment will shimmy over in its continued persecution of Assange.

Emphasis added. For its part the Stundin article of June 26 contains this:

[Thordarson] admitted to fabricating key accusations in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. The witness, who has a documented history with sociopathy, and convictions for sexual abuse of minors and for financial fraud, made the admission in a newly published interview in Stundin where he also confessed to having continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution.

Emphasis again added. Baraitser allowing US lawyers a second bite at the cherry is outrageous in itself, compounded by her denying Julian’s team time to respond and – though I’m spoiled for choice here 3 – by the fact a Spanish Security firm bugged Julian at the Ecuador Embassy and delivered the A/V files to the CIA. (This last alone should have seen the US case thrown out.)

But Baraitser’s boss is another political animal, higher up the food chain, and with a more direct stake.

Also outrageous has been the fourth estate’s stony silence. The persecution of Julian Assange – besides exemplifying a growing threat to what little is left of critical journalism, and showing a US Empire which deems its Writ sans frontières – trashes that hallowed principle of democracy, the separation of executive from judicial power. 4 Yet corporate media hugely abetted this man-hunt by first traducing its target, and second looking the other way until that was no longer an option. At which point they gave the scantest cover they could get away with as Julian stood in the dock. 5 Now they revert to their see-no-evil stance. For the why of that read my posts, this for instance, on a business model which ensures media compliance on matters of vital import to the powers that be …

.. as though their interests, exemplified by Lady Arbuthnott and her well connected hubby, were as one with yours and mine. Or for that matter with truth.

And as though the exposure of darkest evil were an evil darker yet.

Meanwhile, for Guardian and BBC, WashPo and CNN, the Stundin article never appeared. Sigi who? To all intents and purposes this man, his hour of usefulness spent, never existed.6

And Caitlin is quite right: the criminals are indeed running things – and hiding the evidence in plain sight.

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  1. All extracts presented in this piece are abridged.
  2. To give the Guardian its due on Rumsfeld, as opposed to Assange, Richard Wolffe’s July 1 piece on the war criminal, though saying much I disagree with – such as that the war on Iraq was “baffling” – pulls no punches in its assessment of this odious man, while calling Iraq “an illegal aggressive war”. Inevitably for a Guardian piece, it treats Rumsfeld as egregious – just as the Graun had treated Trump as aberrant: though his urbane predecessor had destroyed Libya, locked up whistle-blowers, bailed out post Lehmans Wall Street and evicted the black/hispanic victims of junk mortgages – but let it not be said it is soft on that other Donald.
  3. See Craig Murray’s blogs from the courtroom for a fuller account of travesty piled on travesty in the extradition hearing of Julian Assange.
  4. Insofar as law courts and police both fall within the criminal justice system, another example of how easily the separation of powers may be set aside was given by Tony Blair halting a Serious Fraud Office investigation of Saudi arms bribes. (The House of Saud is not only a big buyer of British weaponry. Its Faustian Pact with Washington is as vital as Israel’s – some say more so – to US control of the middle east. In each case a deeply unpopular presence is held in place by US support. And in each case serious exposure of the evils of that presence is off-limits, however damaging such protection is to the facade of democracy, whether at home or in a vassal state whose “mother of parliaments” claims ring ever more hollow.)
  5. Contrast the detailed reporting of the extradition hearings by Craig Murray with that of BBC, Guardian etc. Given the gravity of what was at stake, the latter’s minimalistic and token coverage speaks volumes.
  6. Two excellent pieces on corporate media’s total blackout on the Stundin bombshell come from Media Lens – A Remarkable Silence … and WSWS – Corporate Media Blacks out … See also Caitlin Johnstone’s post of July 3 on “the-horrifying-rise-of-total-mass-media-blackouts-on-inconvenient-news-stories”

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