Thursday, September 6, 2012

Socrates Jesus Denisovich

The role of individuals in determining the course and effectiveness of social movements is, I believe, enormously overstated.  It’s convenient to conflate those who come to be identified as the leaders of group action with the group or the action themselves, but for every August Spies, Rebecca Edelsohn, or Big Bill Haywood in the history of American dissidence, there were countless others, faceless workers and sufferers, who not only shaped movements but, if they were to have any lasting effect, created a living organism that could not be simply steered by those at the front of the throng.  The phenomenon extends to what I’d call the anti-social movements:  e.g., Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan et al. should be thought of not as initiators or creators of what flowed from their positions of power but as of mere expressions of the narrow, largely similar, corporate and institutional interests that they served and were served by.  All that said, sometimes specific persons do do something of overwhelming significance.  Julian Assange will likely go down in the history books – not the ones that the victors write, of course – as the most important political figure of his generation.

I am not going to bother making the case for why Assange and WikiLeaks are astonishingly meaningful – if you don’t understand why the most comprehensive global effort to reveal what our elected and unelected governments are doing is valuable, then 1) I pity you; 2) I kind of envy you in the way that I envy the simplicity of purpose in a dog or junkie; and 3) fuck you.  No, what I am going to suggest is that the fate of Julian Assange is pretty much sealed and has been for some time:  He will ultimately rot away in a US prison for the rest of his life, and he has lived his last free day on this Earth.

I’ll caveat that by noting that what will happen with Assange, like any other US policy decision waiting to be carried out, is not necessarily a foregone conclusion in that it is somewhat dependent on the actions of, mainly, the American public.  While the US certainly isn’t a democracy – which explains the irrelevance of the public’s views on a host of important domestic and international issues being far to the left of both political parties, which are more accurately described as factions of the same, business party – there is at least some democratic quality to our servitude, and if the public is able to make the costs of state action outweigh the gains of such action yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah… Assange is going to die in a US prison.

Those beautifully, tragically optimistic souls who think it’ll be any day or even any year that Assange gets on a plane bound for Quito to a waiting gaggle of human rights/government transparency groupies may like to point out that, of course, Assange has committed no crime.  Well, yea.  As if the failure to commit a crime is a defense to indefinite detainment and torture in the US.  But what Assange has done is far worse in the eyes of the Behemoth, for it strikes at the heart of the empire; it reveals the currency of US diplomacy:  contempt for democracy, annoyance with the rule of law, and the use of force to achieve its aims.  It is true that no legitimate secrets came out of the WikiLeaks disclosures, and while none of the revelations were particularly surprising, a wide swath of important information has nonetheless been released.  For only one of many examples, we now unequivocally know, rather than just sensibly assuming, that before the Obama administration effectively supported the military coup in Honduras that kicked out the democratic government and put in what amounts to a military-backed government, the US embassy in Honduras had presented a detailed analysis concluding the coup was unconstitutional and illegal.  What angers the US so much about the release of such information is that it lays bare the mafia-style violence and intimidation employed to advance its interests; it illuminates the shadowy proclaimed support of democracy as little more than a diaphanous shawl to keep the obedient client states all fuzzy and warm; it confirms to the poor citizens of the world that it really is us versus them in the often unspoken scheme by the few to appropriate the resources of the many.  Ultimately, the disclosures have struck a major blow on behalf of democracy and government accountability while discrediting the US and making it just a bit more difficult to carry on the ruthless grift.  And for that, Assange will pay the ultimate price.

The seriousness with which the powers that be view acts of defiance can be understood from their response to them.  Glenn Greenwald, one of the few brave American journalists writing honestly about WikiLeaks, has detailed  Obama’s fanatical attack on whistleblowers, and WikiLeaks, as the mother of all whistleblowers, has generated a particularly viscous response.  WikiLeaks supporters have been targeted with invasive harassment, the twitter accounts of WikiLeaks associates have been subpoenaed, and despite never being charged with a single crime, WikiLeaks itself has had its financial accounts frozen across the globe, and credit card companies and payment processing sites have blocked essentially all means of donating to them, largely crippling the financial abilities of the organization.  It is far easier to donate to the KKK than WikiLeaks.  Focusing on whether the instructions from the US to these financial institutions were explicit or merely implicit would seem to ignore the specter of US ire hanging above it all. 

But the real venom has been reserved for Assange, and it is his head that will be the prized trophy on the mantle of US tyranny.  A congressman has called for his assassination, but indefinite detainment with maybe a bit of torture mixed in will serve US goals, which include a stark warning to other dissidents out there (see, e.g., the lessons being learned by potential whistleblowers), just as well while limiting the impact of his martyrdom.  Sweden, which had initially dropped the sexual assault case against him – he was not ever and still has not ever been charged with a crime in Sweden or anywhere else in the world – reinstated it after the intervention of a Swedish politician close to American diplomats.  Swedish prosecutors, who could easily travel to Britain to interrogate Assange, and who would certainly do just that if, hypothetically, Assange had instead leaked Russian documents revealing important information that Moscow wanted to conceal from the public, have nevertheless demanded his return to Sweden.  In the hypothetical, Sweden would be praised for its principled stand, and Assange would be praised for performing a public service.  However, Sweden, reminiscent of its cooperation with the Nazis during World War II, is fairly obviously taking its cues from the world hegemon and, whether there is a Swedish cultural affinity for service to power or just a pragmatic desire for stability and comfort, Sweden has clearly determined on which side its interests lie.  Similarly, the UK made a quite conscious and explicit decision following World War II, facing the prospects of disappearing global influence, to become what is euphemistically called in planning documents as a “junior partner” to the US, but what can be more accurately described as a lapdog.  It explains their tail-wagging forays behind the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a host of other actions, including but not limited to its perverse and highly illegal refusal to not allow Assange passage to Ecuador, where he has appropriately been granted asylum. 

The US has not gone to these lengths, and exerted this much diplomatic capital and whatever else it uses to get relatively more democratic nations to do its bidding, for just no reason.  It is not going to pack up and go home just because Rafael Correa has courageously entered the fray.  The vast reach and power of the US over supposedly sovereign states to support if not prompt illegal conduct has been made clear not only by the very documents published by WikiLeaks, but also in the machinations of the global banking community as well as the diplomatic/legal gymnastics of Sweden and the UK.  While the US builds its “case” against Assange, it orchestrates the actions of Sweden and the UK, and it patiently awaits his shipment to Sweden followed by a quick extradition to the US.  Ecuador has thrown a monkey wrench in the plans, but it’s of little consequence.  If Assange chooses to live out the rest of his life in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, then, perhaps, so be it.  But there’s really only one end to this story.

Addendum:  Greenwald has already made a pretty convincing case as to why Assange should fear extradition to Sweden, and why Assange's parents shouldn't expect him home anytime soon.


Dipu said...

I think we know how Manning and Assange will be portrayed in the movie version of the time when a treasonous PFC maliciously disseminated highly classified national cables and secrets to a serial rapist, subverting US agents and covert operations while compromising diplomatic and military missions throughout the world. Perhaps you should pre-empt that, focus some filming efforts that way.

Also, no words for (in my opinion) the real hero in this episode, Bradley Manning? This KID, who must have known what the repercussions to his actions would be, certainly smart enough to know whom he could trust not just with the content but also in its revelation while withholding nothing. In solitary, a punishment so cruel that it is normally used for inmates who have committed infractions (and that only for a relatively short, finite period of time) or for prisoners so dangerous they pose a safety risk to the other murderers, gangstas, and psychopaths, Manning's mental state is probably the stuff of horror stories. He has been in there for a year plus, going on forever. That's what you get for freedom of speech.

imbroglioh said...

yea, ive written about manning before ( he's an absolute hero who is being punished as viciously as humanly possible. it's remarkably sad and tragic.