Assange’s arrest shows that "free speech" and "assembly" is defined as whatever the U.S. rulers are willing to tolerate.
“The media in the U.S. is composed of corporate tools whose primary interest is the promotion of lies in the interests of power and profit.”
On Thursday, April 11th, Julian Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had spent over a half decade in virtual solitary confinement. The premier event of my co-authored book American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News-From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorhappened that same evening. The book was inspired in part by the work of WikiLeaks in lifting the veil of exceptionalism that has provided cover for U.S. war crimes since the War on Terror was declared in 2001. Assange’s arrest represents one of the darkest days for journalism in the history of humanity.His ouster from the confines of the Ecuadorian embassy and into the jaws of the imperial apparatus forces us to pick a side in the struggle in the war being waged on WikiLeaks through Assange.
This author, and this publication, is on Assange’s side, on WikiLeaks’ side, and on the side of the truth. The U.S. war on Wikileaks is a war to preserve American exceptionalism. The war began with WikiLeaks dumping a trove of documents exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Chelsea Manning, the heroic former military member who gave the war logsto WikiLeaks, was imprisoned to a life sentence under the Espionage Act in 2013 after spending over two years in military detention. The Obama Administration would pardon Manning prior to its departure. Not too long before Assange was arrested, Manning was again detained for refusing to testify to a secret Grand Jurythat was ostensibly formed to criminalize WikiLeaks.
“Assange’s arrest represents one of the darkest days for journalism in the history of humanity.”
For as long as we have been taught U.S. history, the ruling class has fed us the lie that the U.S. provides the right to “free speech” to all. Assange’s arrest shows that “free speech” and “assembly” has been defined historically as whatever speech the rulers of the U.S. are willing to tolerate. Forms of speech and activity deemed dangerous to the interests of the U.S. ruling class have been brutally suppressed and criminalized. Anarchists and communists faced deportation, assassination, and incarceration from the U.S. government during the Cold War period, as did Black political organizations. Black revolutionary political organizations and their allies faced intense repression in the 1960s, 1970s, and into the 1980s under the U.S.’ COINTELPRO operations. During this period, the U.S. intelligence apparatus murdered Apprentice “Bunchy” Carter, John Huggins, Fred Hampton and imprisoned Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, and countless others. Their crime? Speaking out and organizing against the U.S. imperial state responsible for the poverty, terror, and misery imposed on oppressed communities worldwide.
WikiLeaks emerged out of the creation of a mass surveillance dragnet that extended the repression of Black and radical organizations to the entire U.S. and global population. Assange and his team used their online platform against the U.S. military industrial complex. The ideology of American exceptionalism was at the time suffering from two terms of the George W. Bush presidency.Endless war and surveillance had proven widely unpopular with a large portion of the United States. The global capitalist crisis of 2007-2008 only added insult to injury. The election of Barack Obama was engineered to save American exceptionalism; not by eradicating the policies that so many opposed, but rather by conducting these policies in a “smarter” way. WikiLeaks’ journalism ensured that the truth about the U.S. warfare state was not buried under the myths of American exceptionalism during the Obama era.
“The election of Barack Obama was engineered to save American exceptionalism.”
WikiLeaks exposed the U.S. military gunning down civilians and U.S. journalistslike animals in Iraq. This example of real journalism angered the fake journalism conducted under the direction of corporate boardrooms. Yet WikiLeaks refused to waver from its commitment to the truth. During the 2016 elections, the source published tens of thousands of documents that implicated the Democratic National Committee in rigging the Democratic primaryagainst Bernie Sanders. Furthermore, the leaks also revealed that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) possessed the ability to impersonate cyber-attacksfound in other nations and then blame such attacks on the impersonated country. This revelation directly undermined the legitimacy of the shrieks from the Democratic Party that the U.S. presidential election in 2016 was determined by Russian hackers seeking to elect Trump.
For this, Assange and WikiLeaks were labeled enemies of every organ within the U.S. state. They especially angered the “deep state,” or the warfare state that operates free from public eye. This section of the warfare state, led by the seventeen intelligence agencies, has yet to take a breath in their campaign to lynch Assange by any means necessary. In a democratic society, one might think that such behavior would inspire the media to challenge the U.S. government in its dealings with journalists. However, the media in the U.S. is not composed of journalists at all. It is composed of corporate tools whose primary interest is the promotion of lies in the interests of power and profit. Thus, the corporate media has spent years demonizing Assange with the hopes that the day would come where he would face death at the hands of their paymasters.
“WikiLeaks’ journalism ensured that the truth about the U.S. warfare state was not buried under the myths of American exceptionalism during the Obama era.”
Corporate media outlets such as MSNBC and CNN refuse to call Assange a journalist. Tucker Carlson has been the lone voicein the corporate media who has defended Assange. The New York Timesand Vox has blamed Assange for his own arrest, claiming that his period in the Ecuadorian embassy was “self-imposed”and that his behavior was disrespectful. An interview with journalist Glenn Greenwald on NPRwas cut short after the interviewer claimed that Greenwald was a colleague of Assange and appeared dumbfounded when Greenwald asserted that Ecuador was in fact pressured by the United States to strip Assange of asylum. Indeed, as Greenwald suggested to the NPR host, a brief Google search provides all the evidence one needs to prove that the U.S. was the leading force in Assange’s arrest.
The plight of Assange not only exposes American exceptionalism as a myth, but also as a weapon of the ruling class in the propagation of the most heinous crimes against humanity. In its current stage of crisis, U.S. imperialism is only capable of producing war crimes. U.S. imperialism has nothing to offer the masses of people. The system is mired in its own contradictions, making it too weak on the international stage to arrest Assange alone. It needed an ace in the hole. That ace was Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno.
“The line in the sand has been drawn by the declining U.S. empire itself.”
Moreno was elected by the people of Ecuador to continue the progressive project of Rafael Correaand the PAIS alliance. This project included massive reforms to healthcare, education, and infrastructure as well as a commitment to Latin American integration over U.S. domination. The U.S. and U.K.-led capture of Assange confirms what had been known about Correa’s successor, with a first name “Lenin,” since he took office. Correa called president Moreno the “biggest traitor”in the history of Latin America for good reason. Not only did Moreno release Assange under U.S. pressure, but much of this pressure came in the form of International Monetary Fund (IMF) bribesworth 4.2 billion dollars. Such bribes possess a long history of impoverishing the Global South, something that Moreno has been doing in Ecuador against the wishes of the Ecuadorian people since he was elected in 2017.
There are two sides on the question of Assange: the side of truth and solidarity with the oppressed and the side of the U.S. empire. The line in the sand has been drawn by the declining U.S. empire itself. Assange has burst asunder any illusion that the U.S. protects “free speech” or dissent within its own borders or around the world. As Tulsi Gabbard explained,his arrest is a stark message to all journalists who seek to tell the truth about U.S. war crimes. Assange must be defended as a truth-teller and the U.S. state condemned as a perpetual liar in service of mass murder and profit. American exceptionalism is dead, but the empire continues to live on with the hopes that it can destroy all legitimate challenges to its rule. Which side are you on?
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing).He can be reached at [email protected].
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