WSWS for apr 21

The WaPo’s phony campaign on Uyghur “genocide”
Peter Symonds, WSWS, Apr 21 2021

Gulchehra Hoja during a meeting with Pompeo in Mar 2019. (Photo: D A Peterson/State Dept)

It is just three months since Pompeo, during his final day in office, branded China’s actions against the Muslim Uyghur minority in western Xinjiang as genocide. He provided no evidence for the accusation and made no attempt to justify the use of the term “genocide” which implies a deliberate policy of extermination applied to Uyghurs. Indeed, as ForeignPolicy.com reported in February, lawyers involved in a US State Dept review during the final weeks of the Trump administration concluded that there was insufficient evidence to designate the Chinese Communist Party’s measures in Xinjiang as genocide. The lawyers warned:

Wielding the g-word without a solid legal basis also carries the risk of politicising and eroding the power of the designation.

All of these objections were rapidly swept aside by Pompeo, then the Biden administration as it came to office. Indeed, during the presidential election, Biden attacked Trump for being too soft on China, including on so-called human rights. His campaign team issued a statement in Aug 2020, concluding that the unsubstantiated claims of mass internment of Uyghurs constituted “genocide,” a designation subsequently confirmed by Blinken. With astonishing speed, the US media has swung into action churning out a growing deluge of propaganda with lurid horror stories of life in the detention camps in Xinjiang, calls for the US to boycott the Winter Olympics in Beijing, and demands for tougher measures against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime. The hue and cry about Uyghur “genocide” is aimed at stampeding public opinion behind the Biden administration’s escalating confrontation with China and its military build-up for war. A commentary published on Monday in the WaPo entitled “China is intensifying the third phase of its genocide denial” exposes the lack of substance to the US allegations. After dismissing out of hand Beijing’s denials, the WaPo baldly asserts a litany of claims without a shred of evidence: one million in brutal camps, mosques destroyed, women sterilized, Uyghur children sent to state institutions. It declared:

The Chinese Communists are attempting to wipe out a culture, a way of life, a people.

Undoubtedly, the CCP regime in Beijing uses police state measures to suppress opposition in Xinjiang, as it does throughout China, particularly against the working class. For two decades, it has carried out its own “war on terrorism” against Uyghur separatists who have perpetrated violent attacks inside China. Beijing did so with the support of Washington, initially by the Bush 43 administration, which was looking for international support for its own criminal activities under the banner of the “global war on terror.” No one, however, should give any credence to US claims to be concerned about the democratic rights of the Uyghurs, or anyone else for that matter. Washington has a long history of turning on and turning off “human rights” to fit the strategic interests of US imperialism. With the support of the Bush 43 administration, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a Uyghur separatist group, was designated as a terrorist organization. Last year, as the Trump administration ramped up its propaganda on “Uyghur rights,” the State Dept quietly removed the ETIM from its terrorist list. What then is the basis for the WaPo’s list of atrocities? It declares:

We know this thanks to Radio Free Asia reporter Gulchehra Hoja and her colleagues, to a few dogged academics and to dozens of survivors and exiles who have bravely given testimony.

Nothing else. No evidence is provided. Nothing is substantiated. The remainder of the article is devoted to the glorification of Hoja, who, it claims, has been designated “a terrorist” and whose family in China has suffered as a result of her activities. None of the basic questions are asked, let alone answered. Who is Gulchehra Hoja? For two decades, she has worked for Radio Free Asia, a propaganda arm of the US State Dept, after leaving China where she worked as a journalist for the state-run media. She is intimately connected to Uyghur exile groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and the American Uyghur Association, which call for the formation of an independent East Turkestan. Hoja is clearly trusted, and feted, at the highest levels of the US state apparatus. In Mar 2019, she was the hand-picked Uyghur exile who met with Pompeo as a representative of those whose family members are detained in Xinjiang camps. In Nov 2019, she was given the Magnitsky Human Rights Award for her reporting on “the human rights crisis” in Xinjiang and has been included in Jordan’s list of the world’s 500 most influential Muslims. What is Radio Free Asia? RFA was set up and funded in the 1950s by the CIA to beam American propaganda throughout Asia. The same essential function is played by RFA today, even though with the exposure of the CIA’s dirty operations around the world, it was placed under the State Dept and while nominally “independent” is funded and supervised by the US Congress.

The RFA and Hoja operate in close collaboration with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), established in 1983 as a means of continuing activities vital to US imperialism that had been tarnished by the CIA’s notoriety. The NED quickly developed a notoriety of its own for funding right-wing, pro-US outfits around the world and for engineering the so-called “colour revolutions” in the former Soviet republics. The NED has funnelled millions of dollars into the World Uyghur Congress since its inception in 2004, and the American Uyghur Association established in 1998. Both are part of an interconnected network of Uyghur exile organisations in the US, Europe and Asia backed by Washington and its allies aimed against China. A significant base of operations is Turkey, with which the Turkic-speaking Uyghurs have a historic affinity. The AUA reportedly has connections to Turkey’s fascistic National Movement Party (MHP) and its Grey Wolves paramilitaries, which espouse a pan-Turkic nationalism that encompasses the Turkic-speaking ethnic groups of Central Asia. It is this fetid right-wing milieu in which Gulchehra Hoja operates and functions as a useful tool for US imperialism. Significantly, even as the WaPo holds up Hoja as “proof” of China’s “genocide” and oppression of the Uyghurs, it is forced to acknowledge that Chinese officials earlier this month released a video of her mother and brother showing they were free, not detained. The WaPo however, does not miss a beat, dismissing the video as propaganda, and declaring that no one can doubt the hell in which Uyghurs suffer in the Xinjiang detention camps, citing as proof another lurid account by a Kazak exile in the New Yorker.

There is every reason to doubt all aspects of the self-interested accounts of a small number of well-connected and often wealthy Uyghur exiles. A word should also be said about the WaPo’s “few dogged academics,” the most prominent being Adrian Zenz, a right-wing German commentator and born-again Christian, who has declared he has been “led by God” to his work on Chinese minorities. He is associated with a network of right-wing, anti-communist European and American think tanks including the far-right Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Yet Zenz’s highly tendentious research forms a large component of the so-called evidence for allegations of Uyghur detentions, forced labour and sterilization of Uyghur women. His research is widely quoted, including in official US documents, he has given testimony in the US Congress, and is associated with right-wing Republicans and Uyghur exiles. When the Chinese government last month threatened legal action against him for damages to Chinese companies in Xinjiang, the WaPo came to the defence of this “dogged academic” on whom the claim of Uyghur genocide largely stands or falls.

The rapidly escalating US-led campaign on “Uyghur genocide” recalls the “big lie” exploited by the US and its NATO allies to initiate the murderous bombing of Serbia in 1999. The Clinton administration justified its “humanitarian intervention” as a mission to prevent the massacre of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population by the new “Hitler,” Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. A thoroughly pliant and corrupt American and international media immediately fell into line with sensational stories of Serbian atrocities. Lurid claims that 100k ethnic Albanians had been slaughtered proved utterly false in the aftermath of the war. The actual death toll was around 2k and most of those killings were committed by the armed separatist group, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Washington had previously branded the KLA as a terrorist organisation due to its ties with Al Qaeda, but rapidly reversed course, provided money and arms, and declared it to be the sole legitimate representative of Kosovo’s population. KLA head Hashim Thaçi, who became the head of the US-backed Kosovo mini-state, is currently facing charges of war crimes in the Hague. The NATO war on Serbia was part of the efforts of US imperialism and its allies to take advantage of the break-up of Yugoslavia along ethnic and religious lines.

On a far broader scale, the US campaign on “Uyghur genocide” is aimed at weakening and breaking up China along ethnic lines as part of the determined efforts by American imperialism to prevent China from challenging US global dominion. In the past, Washington’s focus has been on the Dalai Lama and allegations of Chinese oppression of the Tibetan population. The switch to the Uyghurs has nothing to do with concern for their democratic rights, but rather is determined by the strategic position of Xinjiang, adjacent to Central Asia and its energy supplies and essential to China’s Belt and Road Initiative linking the Eurasian landmass with roads, rail, pipelines and telecommunications. As in 1999, the media has fallen into line. It is as if an orchestral conductor tapped his baton, and all the instruments have sounded in turn. The White House has declared that what is happening in Xinjiang is “genocide” and the media across the political spectrum is blaring out the same allegations in lockstep, in a manner that closely resembles the Stalinist police state in Beijing they claim to be opposing.

“Vaccine diplomacy” fuels rising US-China tensions
Benjamin Mateus, WSWS, Apr 21 2021

First CoronaVac vaccine doses arrive in Sao Paulo, Nov 2020 (Credit: GOVESP)

Nearly 900m doses of the COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide since vaccination campaigns began in earnest at the end of 2020. Despite a massive upsurge in production, a comparison of vaccination rates by continent starkly demonstrates that vaccines have not been distributed based upon need nor in the pursuit of equity, but rather according to economic hierarchy. North America has provided a vaccine to 39% of its population, Europe 23%, South America 14%, Asia 8.6%, Oceania 3.7% and Africa just over 1%. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted recently that one in four persons in high-income countries has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, only 1 in 500 has gotten the jab. As the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe is shifting to more impoverished regions of the world, vaccine inequity raises significant concerns. A surge in cases in mid-March in the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea, its first since the start of the pandemic, saw its inadequate health-care system collapse in a matter of days, with hospital beds fully occupied and medicinal oxygen running out. India is facing a massive wave complicated by a variant with a double mutation that has driven daily case counts over a quarter million, and the death count has begun to soar. The current pace of new infections had caught up with the previous highs during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere, when Europe and the US remained the epicenters of the pandemic. Though they still have the highest disease burden, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands are seeing current infections surging fastest. Additionally, the health-care systems of countries like Poland, Ukraine and Turkey are facing a deluge of patients. While still suffering under a “maximum pressure” US sanctions regime, Iran is coping with a fourth and more extensive surge.

The world’s rich income countries have used their vaccination campaigns to ensure their populations are vaccinated first and foremost. The aim is to get the working class back into the factories to generate profits and to diffuse social tensions, a by-product of utter neglect of the welfare of the population during the worst of the pandemic. The paradox remains that the pandemic has been an enormous boon to financial capital, as evidenced by the rise in the indexes of stock exchanges, even as the death toll and mass misery have continued to grow. Meanwhile, international tensions have only escalated as a result of the pandemic. Global relations increasingly resemble the pre-WW1 years, with rival nation-states hell-bent on securing control over world resources and markets. China’s more than 18% expansion in the first quarter of 2021 is seen as an existential threat by US and European imperialism. Given these developments, the current and emerging COVID-19 vaccines are being promoted for prosecuting the ongoing geopolitical brinkmanship that is pitting the US and Europe against China and Russia in a struggle for the division of the globe’s resources. This struggle has the potential to rapidly escalate into open military conflict, posing an existential threat to life on this planet.

It is essential to take account of the state of the current global vaccine campaign. Beijing has announced that it is committed to vaccinating 40% of China’s population by June. Last week, China had administered nearly 190m doses of COVID-19 vaccines to its population, translating to approximately 13 doses for every 100 people. The seven-day average has remained steady between 3m to 5m daily jabs, far short of the 11.5m doses a day to meet the stated goal. Though vaccine acceptance remains exceptionally high, the urgency to seek vaccination remains low. Since Jan 31, the country has reported less than 1k cases of COVID-19, of which the majority are imported. Since Apr 17 2020, only six people have died from COVID-19. By all accounts, the coronavirus has been eradicated within the country. Still, national health officials and epidemiologists are concerned that they will not be able to maintain strict border controls forever. As a whole, the population remains biologically naïve to the coronavirus, and any outbreaks would create a severe public health crisis. Thus far, China has exported close to 115m doses of its COVID-19 vaccines (accounting for 42% of all the COVID-19 vaccines it has produced) to more than 30 countries. It has gone primarily to low- and middle-income nations, especially in Latin America, where China has increasingly supplanted the US as the region’s leading source of trade and investment. Additionally, it is providing vaccine aid to dozens of countries. However, as Beijing is refocusing on its domestic vaccination campaign, it will need to produce 1.1b doses to meet current commitments to other nations.

The US has administered 207m doses of the 210m COVID-19 vaccines it has manufactured to its own population. This accounts for 38 doses for every 100 people. India has produced 173m doses and exported 37%, while the EU has made close to 157m doses and exported 41%. The UK has provided over 22m doses domestically. Russia’s Sputnik V COVID vaccine has yet to be approved by Europe’s Emergency Medicines Agency (EMA). However, many European countries are turning to Moscow out of frustration over the EU’s slow rollout. As of Mar 2021, the Russian Direct Investment Fund has licensed production in India, China, South Korea and Brazil. By the end of March, Russia had manufactured at least 30m vaccine doses, and 5% were exported. By comparison, the WHO-led COVAX facility, created to provide equitable vaccine access to low-income countries, has supplied only 40m doses to the world’s poorest nations and is far from its goal of delivering 2b doses. According to the WSJ:

The COVAX division meant to help countries prepare for vaccine rollouts has received only around $600m in contributions, leaving a gap of $7.3b for this year, and the World Bank has committed just $2b of a $12b financing package meant to help countries buy and distribute vaccines and strengthen health systems.

Due to “incredibly tight” global supplies, Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, told Reuters it would be unlikely that the COVAX dose-sharing facility would be able to procure more supplies this year. The ambitious goal of delivering 2b doses by the end of 2021 to participating countries, including 92 low-income countries, is severely hampered by lack of funding, vaccine nationalism and export restrictions on supplies. These developments are most certainly the consequence of strategies to employ the COVID-19 vaccines as weapons in great power struggles. The White House has predicted that the US will reach herd immunity sometime during the mid-summer. It intends to position itself to challenge China’s present lead in global vaccine distribution. Politico noted back in February:

Chinese-made vaccines had rolled out quicker than COVAX and even European vaccines earmarked for EU countries. China is providing vaccines for 19 African countries, for Serbia, Colombia, and many places in between.

According to the purportedly independent multimedia organization, the China-Africa Project (CAP):

If the US really wants to make an impact and present a legitimate alternative to Chinese vaccines in places like Africa, it only has about 6-9 months left. China alone, not to mention India, may be able to satisfy much of the demand. Last week, Zheng Zhongwei of the National Health Commission said that Chinese vaccine output in 2021 would reach 3b doses. By the end of next year, that number will rise to 5b. Those are probably conservative estimates. And with local production deals already in place in Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas, Chinese vaccine output will increase even more.

The high-income nations that are leaving poorer nations in the lurch have primarily taken up the supply of high-priced Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. According to Duke University, rich countries had collared 5.4b of the 7.8b doses purchased globally. China has positioned itself to fill this gaping void. Its vaccines have used traditional technologies, making storage and shipping easy. If the World Health Organization (WHO), which is currently reviewing supporting documentation for COVID-19 vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac, provides these products emergency use listing, it will bolster China’s global role. WHO-Europe vaccination expert, Siddhartha Datta, told journalists:

We are in touch with them to review the dossiers that both vaccine manufacturers have submitted. We will be hearing about a decision on the emergency use listing in April or early May, so please keep an eye on that.

Currently, the WHO has issued emergency listings only for Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The WHO’s emergency listing is a prerequisite for any vaccine manufacturer for purchase by the COVAX facility, which would extend their portfolio of vaccines to deliver shots to poorer countries. As Washington has opted to hoard the COVID-19 vaccines for its own needs, the US corporate bourgeois media is working diligently to tarnish China’s vaccine initiatives. The language used in its reporting is characterized by unabashed nationalism and anti-Chinese provocations. The WSJ, WaPo and NYT have been direct conduits for Washington’s anti-Beijing rhetoric. Allies have utilized their press against China as well. Canada’s CTV News recently stated:

China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19 vaccines to grow their international soft power by giving doses to desperate countries in order to have more political influence over them.

Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Latin American program at the Wilson Center in Washington, told CTV News:

It’s never encouraging to see the world’s largest dictatorships taking most advantage of this diplomatic opportunity.

On Apr 5, Blinken announced the appointment of former Obama administration official Gayle Smith as the coordinator of Washington’s global COVID-19 response and health security. Smith, who led the US response during the Ebola crisis, was asked to join the Biden administration to coordinate vaccine diplomacy efforts against those pursued by Chinese and Russian authorities. In announcing Smith’s appointment, Blinken said:

We have a duty to other countries to get the virus under control here in the US. But soon, the US will need to step up our work and rise to the occasion worldwide because, again, only by stopping COVID globally will Americans be safe for the long term.

Aside from its unvarnished appeal to nationalism, Blinken’s statement betrays concerns within the US ruling elite over both social tensions within its own borders created by the homicidal response to the pandemic, as well as Washington losing its grip over hearts and minds globally because of its failure to provide significant aid in the fight against the pandemic. While vaccine diplomacy serves as an auxiliary of Chinese foreign policy in pursuit of bilateral agreements with poorer nations, China’s long-term efforts to produce and distribute its vaccines remain on unsteady footing. It faces similar issues with vaccine supplies as many other manufacturers. Constraints placed by the Biden administration through the Defense Production Act on the export of critical raw materials impede the world’s ability to produce COVID-19 vaccines. Dave Lawler of Axios put it succinctly:

Few countries other than the US have the capacity to manufacture vaccines at scale, and most lack the resources to buy their way to the front of the line for imports. That’s led to a scramble for whatever supply is available.

Many Latin American nations rely on the limited supplies from China and Russia to begin their vaccination campaigns. Numerous concerns have been raised regarding the performance of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine, CoronaVac. Specifically, data from Brazil in January placed the vaccine’s efficacy barely above 50%, the threshold needed for regulatory approval. However, recent real-world data from Chile, covering 10.5m people, demonstrated that it was 67% effective at preventing symptomatic infections. The data also showed the vaccine to be 85% effective in preventing hospitalizations and 89% effective in preventing ICU admission. Prevention of death was at 80%. The Western media, however, has cynically latched onto the low efficacy after a single jab of the two-dose vaccine regimen to besmirch its effectiveness. It should be noted that many in Chile had not heeded public health warnings or comprehended that the completion of the vaccine series was critical to providing maximal benefit and that continued public health measures needed to be implemented, leading many to become infected. Still, the real-world data is far more compelling as to the function of the vaccine, which has proved effective in protecting the elderly, making the surge less deadly for them. Dr Rodrigo Cornejo, head of the ICU at the University of Chile’s hospital, told the WSJ that several of his close colleagues had died of COVID-19 infections early in the course of the pandemic. But since the medical staff has been completely vaccinated, he had not heard of any physicians dying from the contagion. On Apr 9, the ODNI published its annual threat assessment, stating:

In the coming year, the US and its allies will face a diverse array of threats that are playing out amidst the global disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and against the backdrop of great power competition. Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, and Pyongyang have demonstrated the capability and intent to advance their interests at the expense of the US and its allies, despite the pandemic. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to strain governments and societies, fueling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition as countries, such as China and Russia, seek advantage through such avenues as ‘vaccine diplomacy.’

The pandemic has already claimed the lives of more than 3m people without any significant international measure to bring it to a stop. Without a doubt, millions more will perish. The economic fallout and instability portend long-term financial instability and humanitarian crises that will plague developing nations for decades. High food insecurity doubled from 135m in 2019 to 270m in 2020. By year’s end, the US threat assessment projects the figure will rise to 330m. For the working class, vaccines are necessary to save lives. For the ruling elites, they are seen as weapons as deadly as bullets in the drive toward global war.

Navalny vs Assange, or the geopolitics of selective outrage
Thomas Scripps, WSWS, Apr 21 2021

Left: Alexei Navalny, Right: Julian Assange (Photo: Matt Dunham)

The hearts of political leaders in the US and its imperialist allies are bleeding for imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Jailed on Feb 2 this year, after returning from Germany where he received treatment for an alleged poisoning by the Russian state, Navalny has since gone on hunger strike. The outrage over Navalny’s imprisonment and resulting health crisis is an object lesson in imperialist cynicism and intrigue. Those most passionately invoking his democratic rights are the architects of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s continuing and vastly more severe persecution. There is nothing remotely comparable between the two men, and the differences are not in Navalny’s favour. Assange is a heroic journalist who played a leading role in the exposure of some of the worst imperialist crimes of the 21st century, from covered-up details of the brutal occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan to US torture camps and extraordinary renditions. Navalny is a right-wing, nationalist politician, who has referred to migrants from the Caucasus as “cockroaches” that should be killed. He represents a wing of the Russian oligarchy opposed to Putin and in favour of opening Russia up more widely to Western imperialism. It is this difference which underpins their night and day treatment.

The WikiLeaks founder’s work was a spur to global antiwar sentiment and contributed to popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. He is being made an example of as retribution for the damage he inflicted to imperialist interests. The same interests mandate support for Navalny, who offers himself up as a tool for realising their designs on Russia. The contrasting treatment tears apart claims by the likes of Biden and Johnson to be supporting Navalny on human rights grounds while pursuing Assange on supposedly legal ones. Assange’s persecution began more than a decade ago when Sweden launched a politically manufactured sexual assault investigation to secure his extradition. This would have been a staging post to the US. Assange was forced, in 2012, to claim political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he was kept arbitrarily detained by British police for the best part of seven years.

Following his illegal seizure and arrest in Apr 2019, he has spent the past two years in Belmarsh maximum security prison, on the charge of skipping bail for 25 weeks, on remand while the US pursued an extradition request for over a year, and since then for close to four months while the US appeals a ruling against extradition on health grounds. His politically motivated case is a litany of abuses of legal and democratic rights, carried out alongside a slander campaign involving the world’s media and pseudo-left groups, designed to blacken his name and psychologically destroy the WikiLeaks founder. Were Assange to be sent to the US, he faces a sentence of 175 years on charges under the Espionage Act. Every government in the world lined up behind this imperialist conspiracy to have Assange, denounced as a “high-tech terrorist” by Biden, “face justice,” in the words of Johnson. Merkel summed up the stance of the European powers with regard to Assange in 2019:

His case is a matter which doesn’t concern Germany and is in the hands of British justice.

Australia, Assange’s home country, washed their hands of him. In contrast, when Navalny was arrested this year, also for violating parole, in connection with a 2014 embezzlement case, and sentenced to two years and eight months’ imprisonment, this gang of criminals miraculously discovered their democratic sensibilities. Johnson praised the “brave” Navalny and said the Russian ruling “fails to meet the most basic standards of justice.” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan condemned the “violation of human rights.” Merkel declared the Navalny verdict “far from any rule of law standards.” Macron stated:

Respect for human rights such as democratic freedom are not negotiable.

Especially severe condemnations were made of the “outrageous attack on his life,” referring to his alleged poisoning by the Russian state. Yet nothing was said when an investigation into Spanish security firm UC Global, which provided surveillance for the Ecuadorian embassy, revealed a CIA plot to either kidnap or poison Assange. As Navalny’s health has deteriorated due to his hunger strike, these officials have reiterated calls for his freedom, citing the danger to his life. Biden called Navalny’s treatment “totally unfair and totally inappropriate,” while his administration warned of “consequences” if he were to die. Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for foreign affairs, demanded:

Russian authorities must grant him immediate access to medical professionals he trusts.

The UK’s Foreign Office said the same in its statement:

Mr Navalny must be given immediate access to independent medical care.

This is precisely the demand made by campaign group Doctors for Assange and UN rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, but which was disparaged by the British government. Assange has been repeatedly denied bail despite the serious risk posed to his life by COVID-19 and by his own mental health. UK Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against his extradition to the US solely on the grounds that to do so would endanger his life and might lead to his suicide. The response of the Biden administration was to insist, as Trump had previously:

We continue to seek his extradition.

The criminal agenda of the ruling class is echoed by their paid chorus in the media, who have been working overtime to fabricate progressive credentials for Navalny while leaving Assange to rot. Since January this year, the Guardian, Britain’s leading nominally liberal paper, has published 78 articles and videos on Navalny. It published 16 on Assange, with just one since February. It only belatedly adopted a for-the-record opposition to Assange’s extradition in a Nov 2019 editorial, after waging a decade-long smear campaign against him. It wrote another in Dec 2020 and then again in January this year. It has written three on Navalny this year alone. Amnesty International refused to acknowledge Assange as a prisoner of conscience for years, but was so quick to apply the label to Navalny that they were forced into an embarrassing retreat in acknowledgment of his record of “hate speech” a few months later. US Democrat Party Senator Bernie Sanders has maintained near total silence on Assange, issuing a single tweet opposing his indictment in May 2019 that succeeded in not mentioning the WikiLeaks founder by name. He tweeted this Monday:

Make no mistake about what is happening here: activist Aleksei Navalny is being murdered in front of the world by Vladimir Putin for the crime of exposing Putin’s vast corruption. Navalny’s doctors must be allowed to see him immediately.

Phrases like “human rights” and “democratic freedom” turn to ash in the mouths of Sanders, Biden, Johnson and their ilk. Their support for the politically filthy Navalny is a calculated provocation against the Russian state. They hope to use his fate as a pretext for a further escalation of military aggression against Moscow. Assange has had his democratic rights eviscerated with the consent of all the major powers to suppress opposition to this imperialist war drive. The only real constituency for democratic rights in the world today is the international working class, which can only defend those rights through a combined struggle against the imperialist governments, their stooge Navalny and the Russian oligarchy represented by Putin. The demand for the immediate release and unconditional freedom of Julian Assange must be placed at the centre of that struggle.

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