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The persecution of Julian Assange

First, they came for the journalists, I don't know what happened next.

13 December 2021

A supporter of Julian Assange hangs a banner outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

In a recent discussion on the U S Supreme Court where a majority of justices were moved to gut abortion rights, Justice Sotomayor warned that such a blatant act would eat away the legitimacy of the court itself.

The decision by Britain's High Court to allow the extradition of Julian Assange also tears away at the fiction of legal neutrality and lays bare a conspiracy by two imperialist powers to seek revenge for the exposure of war crimes and to close down the fiction of journalistic independence. This conspiracy is underlined by the harsh conditions of solitary confinement and a recent stroke suffered by the reporter.

When one sifts through the judgement, it turns out to be eerily similar to the dismissal by Lord Denning of the Birmingham Six appeal in 1979. He argued that their innocence would prove corruption by the police and courts. This was such an "appalling vista" that it could not be accepted.

In the Assange case the line is the same.  The justices argue that, given the long and close cooperation on extradition, doubting the solemn assurances by the US would be to call into question the foundations of this arrangement. So Assange must be extradited.

They seemed to forget that teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunnís alleged killer, Anne Sacoolas, has been protected by both Trump and Biden and will not be extradited to Britain. The British authorities, aware of this contradiction,  have now announced that charges will be brought against Sacoolas in a British court.

At a more general level, reputable stories that the CIA, under the direction of Mike Pompeo, planned to kidnap and/or murder Assange in London, a stress on the close US/UK friendship, do not seem to have been taken into account in assessing the "long and close cooperation" with the US.

The extradition relationship between the US and UK reflects the dominance of the US. The US has simply to demand suspects but there are no reciprocal obligations. However it also reflects shared interests. Both powers have a recent bloody history that they are intent on wiping out - the proposed irish Troubles amnesty for British forces is part of this effort.

The reason for the long struggle to get Assange is that political action is expressly excluded from the treaty. The US had to invoke an outdated law to accuse him of espionage.

Assange's offences are quite well understood.  He reported on US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan involving mass murder of civilians, followed by coverup and impunity. The imperialists aim to punish him and silence future journalistic inquiry.

This long campaign has been marked by the failure of opposition. The press, guilty of exactly the same journalistic crimes as Assange, have been silent.  The National Union of Journalists has issued statements in support of Assange and provided speakers, but have launched no wider campaign. The Irish leadership have been largely inactive. Other unions have ignored calls by the NUJ to provide support.  Social democratic parties have run a mile from the case. The socialist groups have either given mild vocal support or gone into hiding. Earlier rape smears against Assange have been enough to terrify the woke.
We live in the era of the cosh. Capitalism is dumping much of the soft power of the state around claims of justice and fairness and instead relying on the "armed body of men" (sic) that Marx described as its core role. Traditional leaderships in unions and political parties have proved unequal to the task of resistance. However there are reasons for soft power. Reliance on brute force tears away the mask over capitalist rule and invites resistance.

This new turn is not to cover the past crimes of imperialism. It is to hide future crimes. Biden, much more than Trump, is committed to military aggression. He continues unprovoked attacks on Iran and builds a new coalition of Israel and Arab reaction. Defeat in Afghanistan is met with a policy of starvation.  Arms and advisors pour into Ukraine while a new military coalition advances in the South China sea. Britain trots behind the US, a trusty lapdog. The Johnson administration now has the most undemocratic laws of any of the major capitalist nations. Journalistic repression is already in place, with a placid and Conservative media skimming over the surface of scandal.

The new phase of aggression requires a new fightback.  Socialists can be to the fore in leading the defence of Assange and building on the growing anger at injustice and the growing disgust at the blatant corruption of our rulers.

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