Archive for the ‘Heroism’ Category

Why Julian Assange matters

May 25, 2022

Julian Assange is a martyr to the defense of freedom of the press and the right of the people to know what their governments are doing in their name.

The Power of Lies by Craig Murray [Added 05/27/2022]

Defend Press Freedom, Defend Julian Assange by the Assange Defense Committee.

Book note: Muhammad Ali’s own story

May 19, 2022

THE GREATEST: My Own Story by Muhammad Ali with Richard Durham (1975)

I happened to pick up this book at a free neighborhood book exchange.  It is the autobiography of Muhammed Ali, born Cassius Clay, then the world heavyweight boxing champion at the height of his success.  I never was a boxing fan, but I liked this book at lot.

One thing I got from it was an appreciation of the discipline and dedication required to be a boxing champion.  Another was an appreciation of what it means to live a life of integrity.

Ali was a polarizing figure because of his boasting and insults, because of his adherence to the Nation of Islam, and because he refused being drafted during the Vietnam Conflict.

He was well-respected as a boxer for beating physically stronger opponents through speed and agility, intensive training, tactical thinking and determination to win at all costs.  

He may or may not have been the greatest, but he was world champion for a longer period of time, and won more title bouts, than anyone except Joe Louis and the Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, brother of the current champion.

In training and in the ring, Ali pushed himself to the limit of endurance.  He said he never started timing himself on running, hitting the punching bag, skipping rope or the like until he started to hurt.  He regarded a day in which he got through training feeling good as a day wasted.

After he was exhausted, he would enter the ring with sparring partners, who would be fresh.  This was to prepare himself for actual bouts, when he would be tired and in pain.  He was monk-like in the rigor of his training.  Of course, all the top boxers trained hard.

Boxers and trainers believed that avoiding sex was an important part of their training, he said.  Sexual intercourse leaves a man feeling mellow; the winning spirit comes from feeling angry and frustrated.

Aki’s little poems, taunting his opponents, were part of a calculated strategy.  It brought him publicity, and it made it harder for his targets to turn down his challenges.

He said he felt energized by the hostility of crowds.  The pain of defeat was that it caused him to be ignored. 

Born in 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky, Ali started training as an amateur boxer at age 12.  He won a gold medal in the light heavyweight division of the Summer Olympics in 1960 at age 18, and defeated Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight title in 1964 at age 22.  

In 1967, he was stripped of his title as punishment for refusing to be drafted.  He sued and won a reversal of that decision in 1970, but he’d been out of action and out of training during his prime fighting years.  He lost the title to Joe Frazier in 1971, but won it back by defeating George Foreman in 1974.  He held on to the title, except for a brief interval, until 1978.

The book tells of his great respect for Joe Frazier, which seems to have been mutual.  The book includes a long transcript of a fascinating conversation they had.  Each was the one the other most wanted to defeat.

Ali fought Frazier twice more, in 1974 and 1975, right before and right after he regained the championship.  The last was a technical knock-out after 14 rounds; the fight was so punishing that Ali said he was considering retiring.  He probably would have been better off if he had.  He was 33, which is old for a boxer.

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Navalny in prison, but his work goes on

April 21, 2022

Alexei Navalny and his Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) team are among the best investigative reporters of our time.

They have documented the extreme corruption of Russian politicians and oligarchs, which goes beyond anything I would have imagined. The one on Vladimir Putin’s billion-dollar palace, financed through graft, is just one example.

It is no wonder that Putin fears Navalny, and has railroaded him into prison on trumped-up charges.  

Russians are among the poorest people in Europe, the Russian government is among the most corrupt, and the gap between rich and poor is one of the highest of any advanced nation.

There is nothing more potentially explosive that showing the struggling Russian common people the extreme wealth and luxury in which their rulers live.

Of course rankings change year-by-year, and Ukraine also has extremes of poverty, corruption and inequality.  The point is that such conditions may become intolerable when Russians are asked to make more sacrifices for the sake of winning a war of choice led by their government.

Navalny started the FBK in 2011.  In 2013, he was indicted and convicted of embezzlement from his own foundation and given a suspended sentence.  Most human rights organizations regard the changes as bogus.

In 2020, he was poisoned and received treatment in Germany.  The FBK produced a documentary showing the Russian government was behind the poisoning.  He returned to Russia in January, 2021, and was arrested for parole violation.  He was tried in March on additional charges of embezzlement and sentenced to nine years in prison.  He is appealing that sentence.

Meanwhile the FBK had been shut down and some of its workers arrested on charges of extremism.  But it is continuing to produce videos, most of them with English subtitles, evidently from outside Russia.  The independent Meduza news service has relocated to Latvia and The Moscow Times to the Netherlands.

I worked on newspapers for 24 years, and I especially enjoy FBK videos as great examples of investigative reporting—the ingenuity with which the investigators track down the facts, their professionalism in document the facts, and the clarity and wit with which they present the facts.

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Julian Assange got married

March 25, 2022

Julian Assange got married in prison Wednesday. His friend Craig Murray wrote a moving account of it. I take the liberty of copying the highlights.

It was a cheap, white, trestle table, its thin top slightly bowed down in the middle, of the type made of a weetabix of sawdust and glue with a sheet of plastic glued on top and plastic strips glued to the sides, held up on four narrow, tubular, black metal legs. On it was a register. In front of it stood Stella Moris, looking beautiful and serene with delight. She wore a stunning gown in a light lilac, designed for her by Vivienne Westwood. It had a mild satin shimmer, and appeared both sumptuous and tightly tailored, with an expansively lapeled jacket section diving in to a wasp waist, that the apparently soft billows never intruded upon, no matter how she moved. 

Stella Moris

Close up, the details on the dress were extraordinary. The cloisonne buttons were uniquely designed and commissioned by Vivienne for this gown, and she had herself embroidered a message of solidarity, love and support on one panel. The long veil was hand embroidered, with bright multicoloured words striding across the gauze. These were words chosen by Julian as descriptive of the Power of Love, and they were in the handwriting of close friends and family who were not able to be inside the jail, including Stella’s 91 year old father. I am proud to say one of those handwritings was mine, with the word “inexorable”. It really was embroidered on looking exactly as I wrote it, as witness the fact nobody could tell what it said. Julian’s chosen motif for the wedding was “free, enduring love”.

By Stella’s side stood Julian Assange, whom she described to me as “simply the love of my life”, resplendent in a kilt, shirt, tie, and waistcoat, again specially designed by Vivienne Westwood in a purple based tartan, and featuring hand embroidery, lacing and cloisonne buttons. Unlike Stella’s dress, which she later showed us in detail, I have not seen the kilt but am told the design is relatively traditional.

There was a two minute delay at the start of the ceremony as Julian had no sporran, and his brother Gabriel, resplendent in full highland dress for the first time, removed his own sporran and put it on Julian. Both Julian and Gabriel are proud of their Scottish heritage, in each case through their respective mothers.

The British authorities had done everything they could firstly to prevent, and then to mess up, this wedding.  Permission to marry had first been formally requested of the prison service in 2020, and in the end was only granted by involving lawyers and threatening legal action.  There followed a whole list of antagonisms on which I shall not dwell, one minor example of which was banning me from the wedding and then lying about it.

But now, on the wedding day, the ordinary, working staff of the prison were delighted to be hosting such a happy event.  The searches of the bride were distinctly token and friendly.  At the security checks, Julian and Stella’s three year old son Max managed to tangle himself so comprehensively around the legs of one guard that he fell over, and the large guard and small boy then had a hilarious mock wrestle on the floor. The guards who conducted Stella through the jail did so as though they were the escort of a Queen.

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Julian Assange tortured for revealing crimes

November 2, 2021

Torture is worse than killing.  All of us must die sometime.  Torture is intended to destroy its victim mentally and spiritually while the body still lives.

The United Nations special representative on torture says Julian Assange is being tortured.  No-one in the USA or UK would have any doubt of this if a Russian dissident in a Russian prison were being subjected to what Assange is.

Julian Assange

Assange is being tortured because he and his friends are a genuine threat to state power.  Back when he was unknown, he came up with the theory that governments or other powerful institutions require secrecy in order to commit atrocities.

Revealing the atrocities threatens the legitimacy of governments.  The danger of the atrocities being revealed creates a breakdown in internal communications necessary for the criminal conspiracy.

When Assange put his theory into practice by revealing U.S. atrocities in Iraq, he really did threaten state power.  CIA director Mike Pompeo called Wikileaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” as if it were comparable to the Russian or Chinese intelligence services.

The long drawn-out torment he is suffering is an object lesson to others who might be tempted to commit the crime of truth-telling.

If someone can commit crimes in secret, and punish those who reveal the secret, there is no limit to their power.  Julian Assange’s crime has been to try to stand between us and absolute power.

LINKS

Conspiracy as Governance by Julian Assange (2006)

In Conversation with Julian Assange Part One and Part Two (2011)

Assange behind glass: Shards of a shattered life by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.

The experiment of total domination: Assange behind glass Part 2 by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.

The “sacred outcast”: Assange behind glass Part 3 by Patrick Lawrence for The Scrum.

Courage Beyond Doubt by John Pilger for The Scrum.  [Added 11/4/2021]

The legend of black lawman Bass Reeves

July 27, 2021

Bronze statue of Bass Reeves in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Here’s something interesting I came across the other day.

WHO IS BASS REEVES? July 1838 – January 12, 1910

By Dave Amis

Born a slave in 1830s Texas, Bass was owned by Colonel Reeves, who taught him to shoot, ride, and hunt, but would not let him learn to read.  Bass grew to be a strong, physically impressive, and determined man who ran away at the age of 20 to be free.

Pursued by slave hunters, he narrowly escaped into the Indian Territory where Creek Indian Warriors accepted him into their tribe.  Bass learned to speak Creek, Cherokee and Seminole.  It is believed that Bass fought in the Indian Territory during the Civil War with the Union Indian brigades. ​

The Indian Territory, at this time, was a cesspool of violence.  In 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant named Congressman Isaac Parker, Federal Judge at Fort Smith, with the mandate to “save Oklahoma.”  The “Hanging Judge,” as he was soon to be known, brought in 200 deputy marshals to calm the growing chaos throughout the West.

The Indian Territory, later to include the Oklahoma Territory, in 1890, was the most dangerous area for federal peace officers in the Old West.  More than 120 lost their lives before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. ​

Bass Reeves

One of the first of the deputies hired by Judge Parker’s court was former slave from Texas, Bass Reeves.

Bass was known as an expert with pistol and rifle, stood about 6 feet 2 inches, weighed 180 pounds, and was said to have superhuman strength.

Being a former slave, Bass was illiterate.  He would memorize his warrants and writs.  In the thirty–two years of serving the people of the Oklahoma Territory, it is said he never arrested the wrong person due to the fact he couldn’t read.

Bass had a reputation throughout the territory for his ability to catch outlaws that other deputies couldn’t. 

He was known to work in disguise in order to get information and affect the arrest of fugitives he wanted to capture.

Bass is said to have arrested more than 3,000 people and killed 14 outlaws, all without sustaining a single gun wound.

Bass escaped numerous assassination attempts on his life.  He was the most feared deputy U.S. marshal to work the Indian Territory.

At the age of 67, Bass Reeves retired from federal service at Oklahoma statehood in 1907.  As an African-American, Bass was unable to continue in his position as deputy marshal under the new state laws.

He was hired as a city policeman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he served for about two years until his death in 1910, at age 71, from Bright’s disease.

LINK

Was the Lone Ranger Black?  The Resurrection of Bass Reeves by Christian Wallace for the Texas Monthly.  This is the most reliable, most comprehensive and most readable article on Bass Reeves that I found on the Internet.  Many details of Reeves’ life are disputed, but there is no doubt that he was a remarkable individual who should be remembered.

The news blackout on Julian Assange

July 8, 2021

Julian Assange is in prison, and may spend the rest of his life there, for the crime of telling the truth about U.S. government atrocities and blunders. 

What’s at stake in the Assange case is whether the U.S. government has unlimited power of secrecy, which pretty much the same thing as unlimited power.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and make it a crime to reveal its crimes, then there is no limit to its power.  How can the citizens judge or vote on what they are forbidden to know about?

The video above gives background on legal issues in his case.  The articles linked below tell of recent developments, which have been ignored by most of the press.

LINKS

Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law by Chris Hedges for Scheerpost.

The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control by Caitlin Johnstone [Added 7/9/2021]

Assange’s Persecution Highlights U.S. and U.K. Hypocrisy by the Courage Foundation.

Key witness in Assange case admits to lies in indictment by Bjartmar Oddur Peyr Alexandrsson and Gunnar Hrafin Jónsson for Studin, an Icelandic magazine.  These reporters broke an important news story that hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream press.

The Weird, Creepy Media Blackout on Recent Assange Revelations by Caitlin Johnstone.

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart by Craig Murray.

Desperate to Get Assange, U.S. Promises Prison Time in Australia, not in U.S. Supermax  by Joe Lauria for Consortium News.

UK High Court grants US government right to appeal on Assange extradition by Laura Tiernan for the World Socialist Web Site.

Glenn Greenwald in Brazil

May 19, 2021

SECURING DEMOCRACY: My fight for Press Freedom and Justice in Bolsonaro’s Brazil by Glenn Greenwald (2021)

Glenn Greenwald’s new book tells the story of his latest exploit, the publication in 2019 of leaked information exposing corruption and abuse of power in Brazil, his adopted country.

His reporting on leaked information about abuses of power by President Jair Bolsonro and Justice Minister Sérgio Moro threatens their political power.

The risks he faces—prison and death—are possibly greater than in 2013, when he helped publish Edward Snowden’s leaked information about abuses of power by the NSA, CIA and Britain’s GCHQ.

I’ve long been an admirer of Greenwald, and Securing Democracy is doubly interesting to me because it tells something of his back story.

I started reading his blog, Unclaimed Territory, in the mid-2000s.  Its theme was the Bush administration’s abuse of power.

When Barack Obama succeeded George W. Bush, Greenwald held Obama to the same strict standard that he applied to Bush.  This won him a following across the political spectrum.

Greenwald was, and is, very lawyer-like.  His writing focused on the relevant law and facts, without any evident personal bias.  His judgments were without fear or favor.

In fact, I don’t know Greenwald’s political beliefs, beyond a general belief in democracy, freedom of speech and equal justice under law.

I followed Greenwald as his blog was picked up by Salon, then as he became a columnist for The Guardian.

I didn’t know at the time that he was (1) gay and (2) living in Brazil.

In the book, he told how, after quitting his job in a New York law firm in 2005, at age, he went to Rio de Janeiro to unwind on its famous Ipanema beach. 

A volleyball knocked over his drink, and a handsome 20-year-old man named David Miranda came up to apologize.

It was love at first sight, and they’ve been together ever since.  It is like an ideal love relationship out of Plato’s Socratic dialogues—a mature older man loving and mentoring a handsome and noble younger man.

Miranda grew up in a favela, one of the squatter shantytowns that have grown up around Brazil’s big cities. 

Favela residents typically live in shacks build of scrap wood, bricks and other scavenged materials.  They usually lack electricity, a public water supply or sewerage, although residents sometimes tap into the electrical grid illegally.

Drug gangs have more power in the favelas that the legal government does, Greenwald wrote.  They also are sometimes invaded by private militias financed by wealthy right-wing Brazilians.

Miranda was born in a favela to a poor woman who worked as a prostitute.  He never knew his father.  His mother died when he was five, and he was raised by an aunt, until he left home at age 13.

At first he slept in the street, but, by means of hard work, talent and charm, he had worked his way up to a stable job in offices at the time he met Greenwald.

After they met, Miranda got through junior high and high school, then got a degree in marketing from a top Brazilian university.

Miranda’s ambition was to design and promote video games.  Greenwald was unimpressed by that ambition, until Edward Snowden told him that he got his first ideas of duty, morality and purpose by playing video games as a child.

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Covid-19 deniers who have Covid-19

April 25, 2021

Bertrand Russell once wrote, “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact they do so.”

I thought of that when I read this Reddit thread of stories by physicians, nurses and other medical workers about treating (or trying to treat) Covid-19 patients who think Covid-19 in a hoax.

Doctors of Reddit: What happened when you diagnosed a Covid-19 denier with Covid-19?

Human nature can be unbelievably perverse and irrational.  Also, very noble.  My hat goes off to  medical practitioners who risk their own lives and health to treat people who think they are their enemies.

Excavator operator’s heroism goes unrewarded

April 9, 2021

Excavator operator helping free ship blocking Suez Canal

Business Insider India reported on how excavator operator Abdullah Abdul-Gawad risked his life and worked 21-hour days to free the Ever Given, the skyscraper-sized container ship stuck in the Suez Canal.

Then Abdul-Gawad was not only virtually ignored, but at the time of writing had not received his overtime pay..

Describing the scene that faced him at work [on March 23], Abdul-Gawad told Insider it was “really quite something.” “It was awe-inspiring,” he said.

The 28-year-old, who has been operating excavators since university, said he and his colleagues worked 21-hour days, barely sleeping – and still had not received their overtime pay.

Freeing the Ever Given was an international effort, with winches, dredgers, tugboats, and excavators all brought in.

But Abdul-Gawad was the man who was literally at the rock face of the problem. Once he got to the base of the ship, there was no choice but to start digging.

In his estimation, the Ever Given’s bow was lodged about six meters, or 20 feet, higher than where the ship ought to have been floating.  Its stern was also sitting on the opposite bank, and the sideways ship was blocking all traffic.

To approach the base of the vessel, he built a makeshift “bridge” from rubble he dug up, allowing him to get closer.

The image of the little excavator gave the world unparalleled meme fodder, but for Abdul-Gawad the situation was far less funny – it was dangerous.  Under the looming sides of the ship, he feared destabilizing the ship and having it topple onto him.

“The thing is, I was terrified that the ship might list too far to one side or the other,” he said. “Because if it fell onto its side on me, then it’s goodbye me, and goodbye excavator.

“If you see the size of the ship and you see the size of the excavator, it is absolutely terrifying.”

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For Julian Assange, truth really is a weapon

January 5, 2021

The U.S. government spent 10 years trying to capture Julian Assange, exerting pressure on the governments of Britain, Sweden, Ecuador and other countries in humiliating ways.

A British judge’s decision Monday, denying a U.S. request for extradition, may be the beginning of the end of Assange’s ordeal.  Let’s hope so.

What made Julian Assange such a theat?

It was his insight that truth can literally be a weapon, and a dangerous one.  He explained his philosophy in a blog post in 2007, shortly he and friends launched Wikileaks.

His insight was that conspiracies—whether criminal, terrorist, corporate or governmental—require the ability to communicate in secret.  A conspiracy, in his definition, is any action that requires secrecy in order to succeed.

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.  This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems.  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.

Source: IQ.ORG.

Criminal and terrorist conspiracies fall apart when conspirators fear that anyone they talk to may be an informer.  Corporate and governmental conspiracies fall apart when conspirators fear that anyone they talk to may be a whistle-blower.

The result of fear of leaks is that the conspirators either stop doing anything they fear being made public (unlikely) or that they become so concerned with not incriminating themselves that they stop communicating effectively.

Later on, in an interview, he presented a more hopeful view.  He said the fact that governments and powerful institutions persecute whistle-blowers is an indication that they are reform-able or at least vulnerable.  If they weren’t reform-able or vulnerable, they wouldn’t care what the public knows or thinks.

I have said before that censorship is always an opportunity. The signal that censorship sends off reveals the fear of reform, and therefore the possibility of reform. In this case, what we see is a clear signal that those structures are not merely hypocritical, but rather that they are threatened in a way that they have not been previously.

From this, we can see, on one hand, extraordinary hypocrisy from the entire White House with regard to the importance of the freedom of speech, and, on the other hand, a betrayal of those statements—an awful betrayal of the values of the US Revolution.

In spite of this, when such a quantity of quality information is released, we have the opportunity to rattle this structure enough that we have a chance of achieving some significant reforms. Some of those, perhaps, are just being felt, while others will take a while, because of the cascade of cause and effect.

Source: In Conversation with Julian Assange Part II

The third aim of Wikileaks was to create a unofficial historical record so journalists and historians would not have to rely on official sources.

Orwell’s dictum, “He who controls the present controls the past, and he who controls the past controls the future,” was never truer than it is now. With digital archives, with these digital repositories of our intellectual record, control over the present allows one to perform an absolutely untraceable removal of the past.

Source: In Conversation with Julian Assange Part I

When people like U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designate Wikileaks as a “hostile non-state intelligence service,” there’s something to it.  Assange and his friends really did try to disrupt the existing power structure, alone.  What was distinctive is that Wikileaks was facilitating spying not for a government or a political movement, but for we the people.

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A reminder: What we owe to Wikileaks

January 3, 2021

On Monday, a British court will decide whether or not Julian Assange will be extradited to the US, to face charges of espionage and cybercrimes.

Assange has been in jail since his arrest by the London Metropolitan Police on April 11, 2019 and as of today, has spent nearly a decade in confinement in one form or the other.

On Monday, Judge Vanessa Baraitser will decide whether Assange is to be extradited to the US to stand trial. Julian Assange faces 18 charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If extradited and convicted in the United States, he could face a jail term of up to 175 years.

If extradited, Assange would almost certainly be tried in northern Virginia, where 85 percent of the population is employed by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Department and the State Department.  Espionage cases are tried behind closed doors and on the basis of secret evidence.  Conviction is virtually certain.

Assange would almost certainly wind up in the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado.   He would be in permanent solitary confinement in a concrete box cell with a window four inches wide, with six bed checks a day and one hour of exercise in an outdoor cage.

Probably Judge Baraitser’s decision will be appealed, which means that Assange could remain where he is, in Belmarsh Prison.  Known as “Britain’s Guantanamo Bay,” Belmarsh is normally reserved for the most violent and dangerous offenders and is no better than the Colorado supermax prison.

Assange had been confined to his cell for 23 hours a day.  Since an outbreak of the coronavirus in his wing of the prison, he has been kept in his cell 24 hours a day.  He is in poor health, and has been denied requested medical care.

His supporters say his life is in danger.  Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, has said Assange’s treatment amounts to torture and asked for an end to his “arbitrary detention.”

The charges against Assange have to do with his work with whistleblower Chelsea Manning in exposing US war crimes and other atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, as Suzie Dawson reminds us in the video above (from 2018), Assange has done much, much more for the world than this.

The basic issue is clear.  Does the U.S. government, or any other government, have the legal authority to commit crimes and punish people for revealing those crimes?  If it does have such authority, then what is our supposed democracy worth?

LINKS

Verdict in Julian Assange’s extradition case to be delivered on Monday by the People’s Dispatch.

The Kafkaesque Imprisonment of Julian Assange Exposes U.S. Myths About Freedom and Tyranny by Glenn Greenwald on Substack.

Crown Prosecutors Submit Final Argument for Assange Extradition by Kevin Gosztola for ShadowProof.

Assange Legal Team Submits Closing Argument Against Extradition to the United States by Kevin Gosztola for The Dissenter.

For Years, journalists cheered Assange’s abuse – now they’ve paved his way to a U.S. gulag by Jonathan Cook on his blog.

In Russia, too, truth-telling can be a crime

October 12, 2020

] Historian Yuri Dmitriev at work (2008)

Oliver Rolin, writing in the New York Review of Books, told about  the Russian historian, Yuri Dmitriev and his effort to identify the remains of persons killed and thrown into mass graves during the Stalin era.

He told me how he had found his vocation as a researcher—a word that can be understood in several senses: in archives, but also on the ground, in the cemetery-forests of Karelia.

In 1989, he told me, a mechanical digger had unearthed some bones by chance.  Since no one, no authority, was prepared to take on the task of burying with dignity those remains, which he recognized as being of the victims of what is known there as “the repression” (repressia), he undertook to do so himself.  Dmitriev’s father had then revealed to him that his own father, Yuri’s grandfather, had been shot in 1938.

“Then,” Dmitriev told me, “I wanted to find out about the fate of those people.”  After several years’ digging in the FSB archive, he published The Karelian Lists of Remembrance in 2002, which, at the time, contained notes on 15,000 victims of the Terror.

“I was not allowed to photocopy.  I brought a dictaphone to record the names and then I wrote them out at home,” he said. “For four or five years, I went to bed with one word in my head: rastrelian—shot.  Then, I and two fellow researchers from the Memorial association, Irina Flighe and Veniamin Ioffe (and my dog Witch), discovered the Sandarmokh mass burial ground: hundreds of graves in the forest near Medvejegorsk, more than 7,000 so-called enemies of the people killed there with a bullet through the base of the skull at the end of the 1930s.”

Germans have bravely faced up to facts of the Nazi era, and we Americans are starting to face up to our history of slavery and repression of black people and our ethnic cleansing and dispossession of indigenous peoples

But Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not willing to face up to the truth about the Stalin terror.  The state’s response was to reailroad Dmitriev on trumped-up charges of sexually abusing his adopted daughter.

Not content to persecute and dishonor the man who discovered Sandarmokh, the Russian authorities are now trying to repeat the same lie the Soviet authorities told about Katyn, the forest in Poland where NKVD troops executed some 22,000 Poles, virtually the country’s entire officer corps and intelligentsia—an atrocity that for decades they blamed on the Nazis. 

Stalin’s heirs today claim that the dead lying there in Karelia were not victims of the Terror but Soviet prisoners of war executed during the Finnish occupation of the region at the beginning of World War II.  Historical revisionism, under Putin, knows no bounds.

LINKS

Yuri Dmitriev: Historian of Stalin’s Gulag, Victim of Putin’s Repression by Olivier Rolin for The New York Review of Books.

The Dmitriev Affair: The Life’s Work and Trials of Yuri Dmitriev.

Russian court extends prison sentence for historian of Stalinist terror to 13 years by Clara Weiss for the World Socialist Web Site [Added 10/26/2020]

The Assange case and freedom of the press

October 8, 2020

The Unprecedented and Illegal Campaign to Eliminate Julian Assange by Charles Glass for The Intercept.

Daniel Ellsberg on the Assange Extradition and Growing Fascism for theAnalysis.news.

Reporters Claim Facebook Is Censoring Information on Assange Case by Alan McLeod for Mint Press News.

The Assange case is an exceptional attack on press freedom––so why is the media largely ignoring it? by Patrick Cockburn for The Independent.

Julian Assange: the fate of enemies of the state

October 4, 2020

Julian Assange in the dock. [BBC News]

Julian Assange is accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 by revealing U.S. war crimes,  I didn’t understand how the U.S. government treats people convicted of political crimes until I started following the Assange extradition hearing. 

It is like the old Soviet Union.  Crimes against the state were treated much more savagely than ordinary crimes.  Here is what Chris Hedges had to say about where Assange is likely to wind up.

The U.S. created in the so-called “war on terror” parallel legal and penal codes to railroad dissidents and rebels into prison. These rebels are held in prolonged solitary confinement, creating deep psychological distress. They are prosecuted under special administrative measures, known as SAMs, to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media and people outside the jail.

They are denied access to the news and other reading material. They are barred from participating in educational and religious activities in the prison. They are subject to 24-hour electronic monitoring and 23-hour lockdown. They must shower and go to the bathroom on camera.

They are permitted to write one letter a week to a single member of their family, but cannot use more than three pieces of paper. They often have no access to fresh air and must take the one hour of recreation in a cage that looks like a giant hamster wheel.

The U.S. has set up a segregated facility, the Communication Management Unit, at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind. Nearly all the inmates transferred to Terre Haute are Muslims.

A second facility has been set up at Marion, Ill., where the inmates again are mostly Muslim but also include a sprinkling of animal rights and environmental activists. Their sentences are arbitrarily lengthened by “terrorism enhancements” under the Patriot Act. 

Amnesty International has called the Marion prison facility “inhumane.”  All calls and mail – although communication customarily is off-limits to prison officials – are monitored in these two Communication Management Units. Communication among prisoners is required to be only in English.

The highest-level “terrorists” are housed at the Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, known as Supermax, in Florence, Colorado, where prisoners have almost no human interaction, physical exercise or mental stimulation. It is Guantánamo-like conditions in colder weather.

Source: Chris Hedges: The Cost of Resistance

Here is how John Pilger describes Assange’s current treatment (slightly abbreviated).

In the Assange trial, the defendant was caged behind thick glass, and had to crawl on his knees to a slit in the glass, overseen by his guard, to make contact with his lawyers.  His message, whispered barely audibly through face masks, was then passed by post-it the length of the court to where his barristers were arguing the case against his extradition to an American hellhole.

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It’s the USA that’s on trial, not Julian Assange

October 1, 2020

If a government has the power to commit crimes and to punish those who reveal those crimes, there is no barrier to any form of tyranny.

In Wikileaks, Julian Assange created a means by which whistleblowers could reveal crimes and not be caught, and an example for others to follow.  He is one of the greatest heroes of our time.

By forgiving war criminals and prosecuting Assange, the U.S. government is acting like a dictatorship.  The governments of the U.K., Sweden, Ecuador and Australia are acting as if they are ruled by this dictatorship.

LINKS

The Idea Behind WikiLeaks: Julian Assange as a Physics Student by Niraj Lal on Consortium News.

The Stalinist Trial of Julian Assange: Which Side Are You On? by John Pilger.

CIA Torture Victim Backs Assange at Extradition Trial by Kevin Gosztola for Shadowproof.

Julian Assange US Extradition Show Trial of Journalism at the Old Bailey by John Kendall Hawkins for Antiwar.com.

Assange on Trial: Solitary Confinement and Parlous Health Care by Binoy Kampmark for Counterpunch.

The Guardian’s deceit-ridden new statement betrays both Julian Assange and journalism by Jonathan Cook.

Julian Assange is fighting for us all

September 3, 2020

Julian Assange is being abused and prosecuted and prosecuted for the crime of making the U.S. government’s crimes known.

If a government can commit crimes in secret and imprison or execute those who reveal its crimes, there is no limit to tyranny.

People like Assange stand between the public and absolute power.  That is why they are considered so dangerous.

LINKS

For Years, Journalists cheered Assange’s abuse | Now They’ve Paved His Way to a US Gulag by Jonathan Cook.  An important article.

The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange.  An important video.

A hero of the pandemic

April 2, 2020

Dr. Sara Cody

Nassim Nicholas Taleb once observed that we all honor heroes who save the day in emergencies, but the greater heroes—usually unknown and unsung—are those who prevent an emergency from arising in the first place.

In the coronavirus pandemic, the heroes of foresight are the public officials who take action before the virus becomes established, instead of waiting for the crisis to develop.

With infections doubling every few days, a delay of a week would mean the number  would be at least five times greater, or probably much more, because hospitals would be overwhelmed.

Ron Unz, editor of the online Unz Review, pointed out that one such hero is Dr. Sara Cody, public health officer for Santa Clara County.   She and other public health officers in the San Francisco Bay area issued a “shelter in place” order on March 16, as soon as the virus made its first appearance.

Los Angeles County followed a few days later, and Gov. Gavin Newsome extended the order to the whole state a few days after that.  Public health officials warned him that if he failed to act, 25 million Californiana could have become infected, resulting in up to 1 million deaths.

There was no precedent for the first lockdown.  Somebody had to have the courage to go first.

LINK

The Government Employee Who May Have Saved a Million American Lives by Ron Unz for The Unz Review.

Soleimani was one of history’s great commanders

January 8, 2020

I had only vaguely heard of General Qasem Soleimani prior to his murder last week.  But from what I’ve learned about his career, I think he will go down in history as one of the great commanders.

Qasem Soleimani

He came up from the ranks.  Even his enemies acknowledge that he was motivated by patriotism and not personal gain.

He won a long series of victories against enemies with greater firepower and resources than his.

He deserves the chief credit for the defeat of the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) and Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria.

He was not a terrorist.  He waged war against military forces, not unarmed civilians.

He led troops in foreign countries who welcomed his leadership.  He was not the kind of guerrilla leader who had to kill defectors and dissenters to keep his own side in line.

His enemies were unable to capture or kill him when he was in the field.  They had to resort to a treacherous assassination when he was on a peace mission.

I think his campaigns will be studied by military historians and strategists in years to come, the same way they study the campaigns of Stonewall Jackson.

His murder made him a martyr and enhanced his reputation.  It was his final contribution to his cause.

Added 1/20/2020.

I have added articles by Robert Fisk and Patrick Cockburn, two seasoned Middle East correspondents, on Soleimani’s ruthless side.  I recommend reading their articles for a more balanced view of his record and insight into the complexities of Middle East policies.

LINKS

The Shadow Commander by Dexter Filkins for The New Yorker (2013)

Who Was Iranian Maj. General Qassem Soleimani? by Nassir Karimi and Jon Gambrell for Huffington Post.

Instead of Assassinating Soleimani, Americans Should Have Built Him a Monument by Marko Marjanovic for Anti-Empire.

Millions Come into Streets for Slain Gen. Soleimani in Biggest Rallies in Iran’s History (And, No, They Weren’t Coerced) by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.

Iran’s Qasem Soleimani Was a Great General, One of the Very Few Our Era Will See by Gary Brecher, the War Nerd.

Was Qassem Soleimani a monstrous kingmaker or simply an enabler? The truth is as murky as Tudor history by Robert Fisk for The Independent.  [Added 1/20/2020]

Blundering Into War: Patrick Cockburn on what Trump doesn’t know about Iran for the London Review of Books.  [Added 1/20/2020]

‘When a deed is done for freedom…’

November 30, 2019

J.R. Lowell in 1844

THE PRESENT CRISIS

by James Russell Lowell

  When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast

Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west, 

And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb 

To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime 

Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time. 

  Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,

When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro; 

At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start, 

Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart, 

And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart. 

   So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill, 

Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill, 

And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God 

In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod, 

Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod. 

   For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along, 

Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong; 

Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame 

Through its ocean-sundered fibers feels the gush of joy or shame; 

In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim. 

  Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, 

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; 

Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,

Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, 

And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light. 

  Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand, 

Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?

Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ‘t is Truth alone is strong, 

And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng 

Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.

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U.S. treats Assange as Soviets treated dissidents

October 23, 2019

Americans and Britons have historically prided ourselves on the rule of law—the no-one is above being subject to the law and no-one is below being protected by the law.

Col. Rudolph Abel, the Soviet master spy who was apprehended in 1957, was defended in his trial by a top lawyer, James Donovan.  The accused Nazi war criminals tried at Nuremberg were given the opportunity to defend themselves and some actually got off.  All of them were treated humanely while awaiting trial.

The dissident publisher Julian Assange, who is accused of publishing secret information about U.S. war crimes, is being treated worse than any accused Nazi.  He has been kept in solitary confinement, denied needed medical care and restricted in the ability to conduct his own defense.

He appeared in Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday in a proceeding to schedule the hearing on whether he should be extradited from Britain to the United States on charges of spying.

Spectators saw that his physical and mental health is broken.  Of course it will be highly convenient to the U.S. national security establishment if he is unable to speak in his own defense and better still if he dies in prison.

He was barely able to understand what was going on.  He was like some Soviet dissident of the 1970s and 1980s who’d been subjected to psychiatric, or rather anti-psychiatric, drugs.

Here is what his friend Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, saw:

I was badly shocked by just how much weight my friend has lost, by the speed his hair has receded and by the appearance of premature and vastly accelerated ageing. He has a pronounced limp I have never seen before. Since his arrest he has lost over 15 kg in weight.

But his physical appearance was not as shocking as his mental deterioration. When asked to give his name and date of birth, he struggled visibly over several seconds to recall both.  [snip]

[H]aving attended the trials in Uzbekistan of several victims of extreme torture, and having worked with survivors from Sierra Leone and elsewhere, I can tell you that … … Julian exhibited exactly the symptoms of a torture victim brought blinking into the light, particularly in terms of disorientation, confusion, and the real struggle to assert free will through the fog of learned helplessness. [snip]

Everybody in that court yesterday saw that one of the greatest journalists and most important dissidents of our times is being tortured to death by the state, before our eyes. To see my friend, the most articulate man, the fastest thinker, I have ever known, reduced to that shambling and incoherent wreck, was unbearable.

Yet the agents of the state, particularly the callous magistrate Vanessa Baraitser, were not just prepared but eager to be a part of this bloodsport. She actually told him that if he were incapable of following proceedings, then his lawyers could explain what had happened to him later.

The question of why a man who, by the very charges against him, was acknowledged to be highly intelligent and competent, had been reduced by the state to somebody incapable of following court proceedings, gave her not a millisecond of concern.  [snip]

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How George Washington crossed the Delaware

July 4, 2019

If General George Washington had not led American troops across the Delaware River on Christmas, 1776, and defeated Hessian troops in Trenton, American secession from the British Empire probably would have failed, and the United States would not have become an independent nation when and how it did.

I recently finished reading Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, which tells the story of that victory— how it was achieved, what came after and why it mattered.

By describing events in fine-grained detail, drawing in letter, diaries and reminiscences of many individuals on both sides, he drew a vivid picture of what it was like to fight in that era, and also showed how differently the two sides viewed the war.

Fischer’s history begins with the British driving the Continental Army out of New York City in the summer of 1776, and then winning victory after victory until they occupied all of New jersey.  He ends with the turning of the tide in a way that showed how Americans would win ultimate victory.

In grade school, I was taught to think of the British redcoats as fools, who marched in formation while Virginia and Pennsylvania riflemen picked them off from behind trees and stone walls.

The fact was that the British troops who occupied New York City in the summer of 1776 were veterans of regiments who, a short time before, had won battles in every continent in the Seven Years War against the French Empire.  They were backed up by the British fleet , which commanded not only the high seas, but the waters around Manhattan island.

They out-fought and out-maneuvered the inexperienced American troops, driving Washington’s troops out of New York and south through New Jersey.

By Christmas, the British and their Hessian allies had every reason to think they had all but won.   Washington’s desperate plan to attack across the Delaware River involved coordinated crossings at three different locations.   Two of the crossings failed.  Washington failed to make his crossing on schedule or as planned, but he pressed on to the attack anyway.

He pressed on and won.  As a schoolboy, I also was taught that he caught the Hessian garrison hung over from a drunken Christmas Eve party the night before.  Not so!  The Hessians were tough and well-disciplined troops who put up a brave fight, but were defeated in the end.

Fischer gives a powerful account of what it was like fight in those days, marching and pushing wagons through knee-deep mud and freezing rain, and fighting on despite hunger, exhaustion and lack of adequate shoes or clothing.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like to march through mud that was literally knee-deep or worse.

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Will Julian Assange die before he is tried?

May 30, 2019

Julian Assange’s lawyer said that Assange is too sick to carry on a normal conversation, that his health has deteriorated since his arrest, and that he has been transferred to the health ward of Belmarsh prison.

His health had reportedly been failing even before his arrest, as a result of being cooped up in a windowless room for seven years and not being able to get medical care he needed.

There is now no good reason why he shouldn’t receive all the care he needs, and it is possible that he is receiving such care. I hope my suspicions are groundless, and maybe they are.

But the events of the past 15 or 20 years have left me unable to say, “Such and such is impossible because the British (or U.S.) government would never do such a thing.”

It would be much more convenient from the U.S. and British governments if he were to die before being put on trial.  And treating Assange as some sort of super-villain terrorist who requires extra isolation from human contact is one way to accomplish that.

LINKS

Statement of Kristin Hrafnsson, Wikileaks editor-in-chief.

Assange Is Reportedly Gravely Ill And Hardly Anybody’s Talking About It by Caitlin Johnstone.

The UN Torture Report on Assange Is an Indictment of Our Entire Society by Caitlin Johnstone [Added 5/31/2019]

New jeopardy for Assange and press freedom

May 24, 2019

The U.S. Department of Justice has indicated Julian Assange on new charges—violation of the Espionage Act of 1917—which carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison.

What he is accused of is publishing confidential information disclosing American war crimes in Iraq in 2010.

The previous indictment accused him only of aiding and abetting unauthorized access to computer files, which would have meant a maximum penalty of five years.

Violations of some sections of the Espionage Act carry a maximum penalty of death, but these involve giving military secrets to an enemy in time of war, which Assange is not accused of.

He would most likely wind up in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, and conceivably could spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement.

If he can be sent to prison for that, it means that the U.S. government has the power to commit crimes, up to and including murder, classify the evidence of those crimes as secret and send anybody who discloses those crimes to prison.

If he is sent to prison for that, it means that such freedom of the press as exists in the United States exists at the whim of whoever is in charge of the government.

So far as I know, the only prominent politician who has come to the defense of Julian Assange is Tulsi Gabbard.

In other news, Chelsea Manning is back in prison for refusing to testify against Assange.

And the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has rejected a resolution demanding that the President ask permission from Congress before attacking Iran.

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Ten things the world knows due to Wikileaks

May 1, 2019

Click on any of the images to enlarge them..

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