Julian Assange’s US lawyer Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights notes the irony of seeking asylum in Ecuador because he fears prosecution by a country whose laws are respected for giving asylum to people like Assange. He says, “the US has demonstrated its commitment to be a safe haven for those being persecuted for their political beliefs by recognising that journalists punished for expressing political opinions in places like China meet the criteria for asylum under the US’s own laws.”
The journalistic legacy of Wikileaks includes revealing Obama interfering in prosecution of Bush for war crimes and state-sponsored human rights abuses in Afghanistan and Iraq. While US officials deny any intention to extradite Assange, Ratner notes that a grand jury in Virgina has subpoenaed Wikileaks Twitter feeds as part of its task of investigating violations of the Espionage Act. An FBI agent testifying on the Bradley Manning trial confirmed Wikileaks is being investigated.
Ratner also goes on to note that the treatment of Manning, whose release of videos of US soldiers shooting civilians from a helicopter helped us to learn about US war crimes, is reason for Assange to be concerned. This so-called bastion of civil liberties kept Manning in solitary confinement for nearly a year, and then in torture-like conditions designed to get him to incriminate Assange. This included forcing Manning to stand nude before his interrogators.
Why, Ratner asks, is the US government more interested in pursuing a journalist than the war crimes that he helped to uncover? He concludes that it wishes to send a message to other people who try to expose crimes and hypocrisy by the government. This amounts to persecution for political expression.
Ratner notes that the foundations of a democratic society, freedom of speech and of the press, do not die when the information published would embarrass a government. He quotes Supreme Court Justices Stewart and White who said that “the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defence and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government”.
Clearly the intention of the US government, and that means Obama and company, is to keep us in the dark, because it inhibits their ability to act with impunity. Ratner again notes the irony of it falling to Equador to uphold the American principle of protecting the rights of those who challenge the powerful.
The U.S. should also be embarrassed that among Assange lawyers is an Spanish ex-magistrate who has attempted to pursue the crimes of the Franco and Pinochet regimes, both of which were tolerated and even aided by the U.S. government. (See the book Missing about the role of the U.S. is the Clilean coup d’etat).
So much for my president, the supposed lesser of two evils, and his administration, who are enemies of what many of us believe in. and are actively fighting. It cuts across everything from anti-war protests to the Occupy movement. They represent the 1 percent. They are evil scum.
And so it goes:
Today I read that Obama has once again given in to the merchants of death, this time declining to support the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and capitulating to the National Rifle Association. The blood is hardly dry from the massacre last week in a movie theatre that the NRA had an indirect hand in. But this is not even about freedom to carry guns by people who would take away others’ freedom, such as freedom to walk a US city street while black.
“There are more rules governing your ability to trade a banana from one country to the next than governing your ability to trade an AK-47 or a military helicopter” according to an Amnesty International spokesperson. And this is very much related to Obama’s most important clients: big business.
As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) says, “The NRA’s interest lies not only with individual gun owners, but also with the U.S. weapons manufacturers and exporters. The United States is the world’s largest weapons producer, exporter and importer. It is the regulation of this global flow of weaponry that most likely alarms the NRA, not the imagined prospect of the U.N. taking away the legally owned guns inside the U.S.”
Drones killing kids?
Baloney, we don’t do that!
Where’d you hear a thing like that?
We consider all adults killed to be militants
Unless proven otherwise
In the pocket of the NRA?
How dare you say that!, Obama says.
Merchants of death?
Everyone has to make a living, no?
Taking the whistle away from the whistleblowers
Well, they make too much noise,
They keep us from our work
Making Amerika safe for the war profiteers.
And if people don’t like it
(If Wikileaks didn’t exist, how’d they ever know, we ask)
They can always go protest
In a free speech zone
From everyone’s eyes
And let us get back to business
And so it goes….(with apologies to Kurt Vonnegut)
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