is the british establishment discomfited? i doubt it

Letter in Lancet: “End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”
Laura Tiernan, WSWS, Feb 18 February 2020

Outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

This week’s edition of the Lancet, the world’s pre-eminent peer-reviewed medical journal with 1.8 million subscribers, carries a letter from 117 medical doctors in 18 countries, renewing their call for urgent action to save the life of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. Their letter appears less than one week before the start of the Pindo extradition hearing in London that may decide Assange’s fate. The doctors’ two-page letter appears in the correspondence section of the Lancet under the heading “End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.” It was written by Dr Stephen Frost (UK), Dr Lissa Johnson, clinical psychologist (Australia), Dr Jill Stein (former leader of the US Green Party) and William Frost (UK). They write:

The case of Assange … is multifaceted. It relates to law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, journalism, publishing, and politics. It also, however, clearly relates to medicine and public health. The case highlights several concerning aspects that warrant the medical profession’s close attention and concerted action.

Nearly three months ago, on Nov 22, more than 65 doctors issued an open letter to the UK government challenging the illegal and arbitrary detention of Assange. A follow-up letter to the Australian government was issued on Dec 16. Neither government has responded. The letter’s authors describe multiple human rights violations by the Pindo, UK, Swedish, Ecuadorian and Australian governments against Assange, including nearly a decade of “illegal and arbitrary detention” and relentless state persecution amounting to “prolonged psychological torture.” Readers of the Lancet might be shocked to learn that doctors treating Assange in London have faced intimidation and state surveillance, being forced to report their identity to police, methods commonly employed by military dictatorships. the letter recounts:

There was … a climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care in the Embassy. Disturbingly, it seems that this environment of insecurity and intimidation, further compromising the medical care available to Assange, was by design. Assange was the subject of a 24/7 covert surveillance operation inside the embassy, as the emergence of secret video and audio recordings has shown. He was surveilled in private and with visitors, including family, friends, journalists, lawyers, and doctors. Not only were his rights to privacy, personal life, legal privilege and freedom of speech violated, but so too was his right to doctor–patient confidentiality. We condemn the torture of Assange. We condemn the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate health care. We condemn the climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care to him. We condemn the violations of his right to doctor–patient confidentiality. Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.

Doctors for Assange, as the doctors are collectively known, have launched a new website, and their letter to the Lancet links to this as they write:

We invite fellow doctors to join us as signatories to our letters to add further voice to our calls. Even as the world’s designated authorities on arbitrary detention, torture, and human rights added their calls to doctors’ warnings, governments have sidelined medical authority, medical ethics, and the human right to health. This politicisation of foundational medical principles is of grave concern to us, as it carries implications beyond the case of Assange. Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, whereby the medical profession can be manipulated as a political tool, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm. Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death. Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds. Mr Assange’s human rights to health care and freedom from torture must be upheld.Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Assange and ensure his access to the best available health care before it is too late. At this late hour, we call on you to act decisively. Our request to others is this: please join us.

Yesterday, Doctors for Assange sent copies of their letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Courage Foundation holds public meeting in NYC in defense of Assange
Fred Mazelis, WSWS, Feb 18 2020

An audience of about 150 heard a panel of speakers in NYC on Feb 15 at a meeting in defense of Julian Assange, currently being held under harsh conditions in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison pending the outcome of a request for extradition to Pindostan, where he faces up to 175 years in prison on trumped-up charges of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. Assange’s real crime is his courageous exposure of secrecy, corruption and imperialist war crimes. The extradition hearing in London is scheduled to begin on Monday Feb 24. A rally has been called at the British Consulate in NYC, at Second Avenue and 47th St, for 11 am on that day. The Feb 15 meeting, held at the CUNY Law School in Queens, was organized by the Courage Foundation. Other sponsors included the NYC chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. The panel of speakers included James Goodale, the former general counsel of the NYT during the Pentagon Papers case of 1971; Renata Avila, a member of the defense team for Julian Assange and a close friend of the journalist and publisher; Glen Ford, the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report; and Max Blumenthal, the editor of The Grayzone website. Several others appeared on video, including Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and Alice Walker.

The meeting opened with brief video greetings from Jennifer Robinson, a leading member of the Assange defense team, who stressed the international significance of the attempt to railroad the WikiLeaks publisher into an American prison. Robinson pointed to the recent attempt by the fascist government of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to bring charges against Glenn Greenwald that are virtually identical to those facing Assange. The first speaker, James Goodale, related the experience of the Pentagon Papers case, which was at first a civil action attempting to enjoin the NYT and the WaPo from publishing the classified government study of the quagmire facing Pindo imperialism in Vietnam. Goodale explained that Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, who was later jailed in the Watergate scandal, directed that the NYT and reporter Neil Sheehan be criminally prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for the publication of the Pentagon Papers, but the effort collapsed in the face of the deepening scandal and crisis that led eventually to Nixon’s resignation. Speaking of the indictment facing Assange, Goodale warned that if it is successful it means the end of investigative journalism. He said:

This is the case I have dreaded for 50 years. It is a case that we must all fight.

A high point of the meeting was the appearance on video of Daniel Ellsberg. He warned:

If thise prosecution succeeds, the public will know essentially what the government chooses to tell them, however untrue and however selective and misleading. It’s hard to call that a democratic republic.

Ellsberg explained that both Obama and Trump had used the Espionage Act to silence dissent. Along with the other speakers, he stressed the importance of coming to the defense of Chelsea Manning, who had already served seven years in prison when she was thrown back in jail last March, where she has been held in contempt for nearly a year after she refused to participate in the attempt to frame Assange. Noam Chomsky declared that the vendetta against Assange reminded him of Mussolini silencing the voice of Gramsci, who was imprisoned in 1926 and remained imprisoned there under brutal conditions until his death 11 years later at the age of 46. The second member of the panel to speak was Renata Avila, who brought greetings from Assange, declaring:

He’s one of us! He should be here! He has a very long list of enemies. His most important ally is the people.

Avila explained that most of the newspapers that had partnered with WikiLeaks in the publication and exposure of corruption and war crimes had now abandoned him. Assange was a political prisoner, she said, who had dedicated his life to the public interest, to resisting secrecy and censorship, rather than using his enormous talents to become wealthy. She warned that the extradition case could drag on until the summer of 2021, and that a powerful movement in defense of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning must be developed and strengthened during this period. Glen Ford declared:

Assange and Manning are being punished because the “Collateral Murder” video demolished the image of the Pindo military as a force for good in the world. They have contributed materially to the weakening of the Pindo war machine that claims the power, the right to police the world, imprisoning and killing anyone who opposes its global supremacy.

Ford also related the attack on Assange to “Russiagate,” the campaign to use alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election to portray Assange as an agent of a foreign power in order to frame him under the Espionage Act, while launching a campaign of censorship and other attacks on democratic rights. Ford declared:

While it lies about its concern for human rights at home and abroad, Pindostan meddles in the internal affairs of every nation on the earth. Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were put at the top of the empire’s hit list. Assange is of course not a Pindo citizen. He is Australian, but none of that matters.

The final speaker was Max Blumenthal. He spoke about the years of public demonization of Assange, speaking ironically of his portrayal as “a far-right libertarian, a far-left anarchist, a Russian asset wrecking the otherwise perfectly democratic Demagog Party. …” Blumenthal referred to the fact that the vicious persecution of Assange is now being ignored by the mainstream press and public officials, who are complicit in the attempt to silence and destroy him. The attack on Julian Assange threatens “the survival of critical, courageous, adversarial journalism.”

This author spoke from the floor in the brief question period after the speakers, stressing that the WSWS, the most widely read online socialist publication, has, along with the Socialist Equality Parties around the world, been in the forefront of the campaign in defense of Assange and Manning. In the past three months alone, more than 100 separate reports, statements and interviews on this campaign have been published by the WSWS. Earlier this month, the SEP held a meeting in defense of Assange in Montreal, and over the next two weeks a series of rallies are being held by the Australian SEP and the New Zealand SEG in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and Wellington. The British SEP is holding a meeting in London next Sunday, the day before the start of the extradition hearing there. The campaign in defense of Assange and Manning must be armed with a political strategy. Max Blumenthal, concluding his remarks on Saturday night, advanced the call for support for Bernie Sanders in the current Demagog Party presidential primary campaign, along with a pressure campaign to convince him to drop the charges against Assange once elected. Sanders, who has maintained a shameful silence on the question of Assange, is a defender of the interests of Pindo imperialism, as he spelled out so clearly last week, in his declaration to the NYT that he would support a preemptive strike against Iran or North Korea. Rather than strengthening, the promotion of illusions in Sanders and the Demagogs disarms the campaign in defense of Assange. It only assists the effort to trap the growing resistance to inequality, dictatorship and war within the framework of capitalist politics. As the WSWS has insisted from the outset, there is only one social force that can successfully lead the fight to free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. The defense of these political prisoners is part of the struggle of the international working class against the preparations for world war and dictatorship. The working class must be mobilized independently of and in opposition to the parties and representatives of the capitalist system to advance this struggle.

It is time for Julian Assange to be saved, not betrayed
John Pilger, Grayzone, Feb 17 2020

This Feb 22, there will be a march from Australia House in London to Parliament Square, the centre of British democracy. People will carry pictures of the Australian publisher and journalist Julian Assange who, on 24 February, faces a court that will decide whether or not he is to be extradited to the United States and a living death. I know Australia House well. As an Australian myself, I used to go there in my early days in London to read the newspapers from home. Opened by King George V over a century ago, its vastness of marble and stone, chandeliers and solemn portraits, imported from Australia when Australian soldiers were dying in the slaughter of WW1, have ensured its landmark as an imperial pile of monumental servility. As one of the oldest “diplomatic missions” in the UK, this relic of empire provides a pleasurable sinecure for Antipodean politicians: a “mate” rewarded or a troublemaker exiled. Known as High Commissioner, the equivalent of an ambassador, the current beneficiary is George Brandis, who as Attorney General tried to water down Australia’s Race Discrimination Act and approved raids on whistleblowers who had revealed the truth about Australia’s illegal spying on East Timor during negotiations for the carve-up of that impoverished country’s oil and gas. This led to the prosecution of whistleblowers Bernard Collaery and “Witness K” on bogus charges. Like Julian Assange, they are to be silenced in a Kafkaesque trial and put away. Australia House is the ideal starting point for Saturday’s march. Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, wrote in 1898:

I confess that countries are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world.

We Australians have been in the service of the Great Game for a very long time. Having devastated our Indigenous people in an invasion and a war of attrition that continues to this day, we have spilt blood for our imperial masters in China, Africa, Russia, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. No imperial adventure against those with whom we have no quarrel has escaped our dedication. Deception has been a feature. When Prime Minister Robert Menzies sent Australian soldiers to Vietnam in the 1960s, he described them as a training team, requested by a beleaguered government in Saigon. It was a lie. A senior official of the Department of External Affairs wrote secretly:

Although we have stressed the fact publicly that our assistance was given in response to an invitation by the government of South Vietnam, the order came from Washington.

Two versions. The lie for us, the truth for them. As many as four million people died in the Vietnam war. When Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, the Australian Ambassador, Richard Woolcott, secretly urged the government in Canberra to “act in a way which would be designed to minimise the public impact in Australia and show private understanding to Indonesia.” In other words, to lie. He alluded to the beckoning spoils of oil and gas in the Timor Sea which, boasted Foreign Minister Gareth Evans, were worth “zillions.” In the genocide that followed, at least 200,000 East Timorese died. Australia recognised, almost alone, the legitimacy of the occupation. When Prime Minister John Howard sent Australian special forces to invade Iraq with Pindostan and Britain in 2003, like Bush and Blair, he lied that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. More than a million people died in Iraq. WikiLeaks was not the first to call out the pattern of criminal lying in democracies that remain every bit as rapacious as in Lord Curzon’s day. The achievement of the remarkable publishing organisation founded by Julian Assange has been to provide the proof. WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes. It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists.

For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised Jihadism in the Middle East: terrorism. One email disclosed that Daesh was bankrolled by the Toads and the Thanis (of Qatar), from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”. Moreover, as sec state she approved the world’s biggest-ever arms sale to her Toad benefactors, worth more than $80b. Thanks to her, Pindo arms sales to the world doubled, for use in stricken countries like Yemen. Revealed by WikiLeaks and published in The NYT, the Podesta emails triggered a vituperative campaign against Julian Assange which was bereft of evidence. He was said to be an “agent of Russia working to elect Trump.” The nonsensical Russiagate followed. That WikiLeaks had also published more than 800,000 frequently damning documents about the Russian government was ignored. Clinton was interviewed on an ABC programme called Four Corners in 2017 by Sarah Ferguson, who began:

No-one could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at the inauguration. Do you remember how visceral it was for you?

Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, the fawning Ferguson described “Russia’s role” and the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange. Clinton replied:

He is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And he has done their bidding.

Ferguson said to Clinton:

Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr of free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him?

Again Clinton was allowed to defame Assange as a “nihilist” in the service of “dictators” while Ferguson assured her interviewee she was “the icon of your generation.” There was no mention of a leaked document prepared for Hillary Clinton and revealed by WikiLeaks called Libya Tick Tock, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of Daesh in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis. For me, this episode of Clinton’s interview, and there are many others, vividly illustrates the division between false and true journalism. On Feb 24, when Julian Assange steps into Woolwich Crown Court, true journalism will be the only crime on trial. I am sometimes asked why I have championed Assange. For one thing, I like and I admire him. He is a friend with astonishing courage; and he has a finely honed, wicked sense of humour. He is the diametric opposite of the character invented then assassinated by his enemies. As a reporter in places of upheaval all over the world, I have learned to compare the evidence I have witnessed with the words and actions of those with power. In this way, it is possible to get a sense of how our world is controlled and divided and manipulated, how language and debate are distorted to produce the propaganda of false consciousness.

When we speak about dictatorships, we call this brainwashing: the conquest of minds. It is a truth we rarely apply to our own societies, regardless of the trail of blood that leads back to us and which never dries. WikiLeaks has exposed this. That is why Assange is in a maximum security prison in London facing concocted political charges in Pindostan, and why he has shamed so many of those paid to keep the record straight. Watch these journalists now look for cover as it dawns on them that the Pindo fascists who have come for Assange may come for them, not least those on The Guardian who collaborated with WikiLeaks and won prizes and secured lucrative book and Hollywood deals based on his work, before turning on him. In 2011 The Guardian’s David Leigh told journalism students at City University in London that Assange was “quite deranged.” When a puzzled student asked why, Leigh replied:

Because he doesn’t understand the parameters of conventional journalism.

But it’s precisely because he did understand that the “parameters” of the media often shielded vested and political interests and had nothing to do with transparency that the idea of WikiLeaks was so appealing to many people, especially the young, rightly cynical about the so-called “mainstream.” Leigh mocked the very idea that, once extradited, Assange would end up “wearing an orange jumpsuit.” These were things, he said, “that he and his lawyer are saying in order to feed his paranoia.” The current Pindo charges against Assange centre on the Afghan Logs and Iraq Logs, which the Guardian published and Leigh worked on, and on the Collateral Murder video showing an American helicopter crew gunning down civilians and celebrating the crime. For this journalism, Assange faces 17 charges of “espionage” which carry prison sentences totaling 175 years. Whether or not his prison uniform will be an “orange jumpsuit,” Pindo court files seen by Assange’s lawyers reveal that, once extradited, Assange will be subject to Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMS. A 2017 report by Yale University Law School and the Center for Constitutional Rights stated:

SAMS is the darkest corner of the federal prison system, the brutality and isolation of maximum security units with additional restrictions that deny individuals almost any connection to the human world … The net effect is to shield this form of torture from any real public scrutiny.

That Assange has been right all along, and getting him to Sweden was a fraud to cover an American plan to “render” him, is finally becoming clear to many who swallowed the incessant scuttlebutt of character assassination. Nils Melzer, the United Nations Rapporteur on Torture, said recently:

I speak fluent Swedish and was able to read all the original documents. I could hardly believe my eyes. According to the testimony of the woman in question, a rape had never taken place at all. And not only that: the woman’s testimony was later changed by the Stockholm Police without her involvement in order to somehow make it sound like a possible rape. I have all the documents in my possession, the emails, the text messages.

Keir Starmer is currently running for election as leader of the Labour Party in Britain. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Director of Public Prosecutions and responsible for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). According to Freedom of Information searches by the Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, Sweden tried to drop the Assange case in 2011, but a CPS official in London told the Swedish prosecutor not to treat it as “just another extradition.” In 2012, she received an email from the CPS:

Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!

Other CPS emails were either deleted or redacted. Why? Keir Starmer needs to say why. At the forefront of Saturday’s march will be John Shipton, Julian’s father, whose indefatigable support for his son is the antithesis of the collusion and cruelty of the governments of Australia, our homeland. The roll call of shame begins with Julia Gillard, the Australian Labor prime minister who, in 2010, wanted to criminalise WikiLeaks, arrest Assange and cancel his passport, until the Australian Federal Police pointed out that no law allowed this and that Assange had committed no crime. While falsely claiming to give him consular assistance in London, it was the Gillard government’s shocking abandonment of its citizen that led to Ecuador granting political asylum to Assange in its London embassy. In a subsequent speech before the Pindo congress, Gillard, a favourite of the Pindo embassy in Canberra, broke records for sycophancy (according to the website Honest History) as she declared, over and again, the fidelity of Pindostan’s “mates Down Under.” Today, while Assange waits in his cell, Gillard travels the world, promoting herself as a feminist concerned about “human rights,” often in tandem with that other right-on feminist, Hillary Clinton.

The truth is that Australia could have rescued Julian Assange and can still rescue him. In 2010, I arranged to meet a prominent Liberal (Conservative) Member of Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. As a young barrister in the 1980s, Turnbull had successfully fought the British Government’s attempts to prevent the publication of the book, Spycatcher, whose author Peter Wright, a spy, had exposed Britain’s deep state. We talked about his famous victory for free speech and publishing and I described the miscarriage of justice awaiting Assange, the fraud of his arrest in Sweden and its connection with a Pindo indictment that tore up the Pindo Constitution and the rule of international law. Turnbull appeared to show genuine interest and an aide took extensive notes. I asked him to deliver a letter to the Australian government from Gareth Peirce, the renowned British human rights lawyer who represents Assange. In the letter, Peirce wrote:

Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions,… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.

Turnbull promised to deliver the letter, follow it through and let me know. I subsequently wrote to him several times, waited and heard nothing. In 2018, John Shipton wrote a deeply moving letter to the then prime minister of Australia asking him to exercise the diplomatic power at his government’s disposal and bring Julian home. He wrote that he feared that if Julian was not rescued, there would be a tragedy and his son would die in prison. He received no reply. The prime minister was Malcolm Turnbull. Last year, when the current prime minister, Scott Morrison, a former public relations man, was asked about Assange, he replied in his customary way:

He should face the music!

When Saturday’s march reaches the Houses of Parliament, said to be “the Mother of Parliaments,” Morrison and Gillard and Turnbull and all those who have betrayed Julian Assange should be called out; history and decency will not forget them or those who remain silent now. And if there is any sense of justice left in the land of Magna Carta, the travesty that is the case against this heroic Australian must be thrown out. Or beware, all of us.

The march on Saturday, 22 February begins at Australia House in Aldwych, London WC2B 4LA, at 12.30pm: assemble at 11.30pm

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