Julian Assange, by Mahn Kloix
(Image by Jeanne Menjoulet) Details DMCA
The slow-motion execution that the U.S. empire is subjecting Julian Assange to, where Washington's satellite state the U.K. is depriving him of the conditions necessary for a sound physical and mental state, is an external version of how the empire's internal settler state creates political prisoners. Within the borders of the U.S. occupier regime, African liberation fighter Kevin Rashid Johnson and indigenous liberation fighter Leonard Peltier continue to be unjustly imprisoned. Should Assange be convicted, the empire will expand the arbitrary incarceration powers it exercises upon its internal subjects to a global scale, with the added effect of making war-crimes journalism criminally prosecutable throughout this expanded range of tyranny.
In the hyperlinks on the names of these three political prisoners, I've attached petitions to free them, which I hope you click on and sign. But overcoming this global dictatorial force will require more than signing petitions, or protesting, or any other kind of action that won't necessarily bring the empire's full fury upon you. It will require taking the same kinds of actions that have brought this fury upon Assange, Johnson, Peltier, and others. To understand why these sacrifices will be necessary, we need to understand that the fight against imperialism is a war, one that is escalating in its scope and in the number of its participants.
This reality becomes apparent from studying the story behind how Assange got where he is now, and behind how U.S. imperialism became the kind of beast it is now. Namely: a beast that's eating its own tail in the face of its weakening.
"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality."
This statement was made in 2004 by a Bush administration official whose identity is unconfirmed, but is likely Republican propaganda strategist Karl Rove. It was said in the context of referring to journalists, whom the speaker derisively described as being part of the "reality-based community" and as therefore not understanding the flexibility with which the empire's key officials treat reality. The speaker's claim that the United States is an empire "now" was made for the sake of bluster, because the U.S. has in fact been an empire since its founding upon illegally annexed indigenous land. But the statement's internal logic makes room for this fact, since as it clarifies, facts are malleable as far as the imperialists are concerned.
In the face of the Downing Street Memo, the additional evidence that the government had lied to justify invading Iraq, and the photographs of torture at Abu Graib, a strategy for making facts malleable was exactly what the imperialists needed. This strategy went beyond the promotion of misleading narratives that its propagandists put forth, like the idea that waterboarding isn't torture or the 2008 CIA hoax about Syria having had a nuclear reactor.
The torture of the U.S. empire's War on Terror prisoners has continued, and Washington was able to partner with Israel to bomb the "reactor." But in the face of international backlash for Washington's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the reemergence of Russia as a power that defies Washington, the unanticipated strength of anti-American guerrilla struggles in Washington's new wars, and the rise of China throughout the 2000s, the imperialists needed to do more than lie. They needed to keep their operations, which would rapidly expand amid these manifestations of imperial decline, increasingly concealed.
Washington normalized this growing policy of secrecy with its narrative handling of AFRICOM, the avenue for African military occupation the empire created in 2007 to preemptively counter China. Washington's ambitions for AFRICOM were to create a new secret war with Africa, one that couldn't be publicly acknowledged as a war and whose activities couldn't be reported on too frequently. As reporter Trisha Marczak wrote in 2012, when this war's nature had become apparent to outsiders, concealing AFRICOM's costs to civilian lives would prove essential for maintaining lack of public scrutiny:
In many cases, the extremists the U.S. is now attacking through drone wars are the very people once funded by the government to bring about the change America sought. In March, a coup, led by an officer who received training in the U.S., to overthrow Mali's military went awry. While deemed a success, the events that followed created lawlessness and a hotbed for al-Qaida and other Islamist extremists who have since taken over. Now, the U.S. government is targeting those whom they helped overthrow the previously existing government. What Panetta did not address was how the U.S. would strive to carry out a drone campaign that didn't endanger the lives of innocent civilians. In Pakistan, where the U.S. has carried out heavy handed drone operations to wipe out terrorist operatives, it has taken the lives of more than 880 civilians since 2004, according to statistics gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. If the goal of increased operations in Africa is to break down terrorist cells, the killing of innocent civilians could prove counterproductive to its mission, inciting more violence among those affected by the death of innocent civilians.
Keeping this vile underbelly of U.S. foreign policy unnoticed was vitally important in the emerging era of 21st-century great-power competition. So when WikiLeaks exposed this underbelly, they reacted with the maniacal fury of a threatened dictatorship.
This geopolitical context was why the empire put Manning in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day without even the ability to exercise, and why it then forced Assange into a nearly-as-atrocious confinement in London's Ecuadorian embassy. It was also why the empire subjected these two to such fates before Manning had even been convicted of any crime, and when the sexual assault charges that caused Assange to seek asylum were lacking in any true basis.
As Slate summarized, the documentation Manning provided to WikiLeaks revealed a litany of abuses, corruption, and blatant lies on the part of the U.S. government, with the following war crimes being the most damaging imperialist secrets to have been shown:
During the Iraq War, U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape, and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers... There were 109,032 "violent deaths" recorded in Iraq between 2004 and 2009, including 66,081 civilians. Leaked records from the Afghan War separately revealed coalition troops' alleged role in killing at least 195 civilians in unreported incidents, one reportedly involving U.S. service members machine-gunning a bus, wounding or killing 15 passengers... In Baghdad in 2007, a U.S. Army helicopter gunned down a group of civilians, including two Reuters news staff... During an incident in 2006, U.S. troops in Iraq executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence. The disclosure of this cable was later a significant factor in the Iraqi government's refusal to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution beyond 2011, which led to U.S. troops withdrawing from the country.
When this was the severity of the empire's public relations crisis, and when the empire was increasingly desperate to avoid such crises, an unprecedented war on journalism was the only conceivable response. And this war was to intensify as Washington's geopolitical challenges grew.
"Civil wars don't start with gunshots, they start with words."
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