When I first learned about Julian Assange it was in the context of what his site, Wikileaks, was publishing about the Iraq war. As a young person whose first political issue was opposition to the Iraq war, Assange was a bit of a folk hero for me. I think that the first thing I saw that they published was either the Gitmo torture manuals or the release of a video that showed the US military gunning down a Reuters journalist. Assange was, and is, a passionate and unwavering man. Compromise is not a word that fits into his vocabulary, and thus the fact that he was taking on the US empire with that same degree of zeal was inspiring to me. By doing so, he angered the US foreign policy establishment to a profound degree, and that anger cannot be underestimated as a factor in his removal from the Ecuadorian embassy and his subsequent arrest. It is my view that the Neo-Cons in the Trump administration are responsible for getting the Ecuadorian embassy to push him out. The new government in Ecuador, that leans more in a Neo-Liberal direction, was almost certainly more open to being swayed by the Trump administration than the previous left-wing government. Whether implicit or explicit, money and better relations with the US were likely offered in return for expelling Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy.
I think that Assange is an American hero, even though he isn’t even an American, because he has showed tremendous bravery in standing up to the obvious corruption of America’s ruling elite. He has faced just about everything that one man can have thrown at him: false rape accusations, attempts to extradite him, having to live in a small room in a foreign embassy, always having to be worried about his communications being monitored, being accused of being a Russian agent—the list goes on. He has had everything thrown at him and he has endured and will endure if he is able to get a fair trial and beat these absurd charges. The US intelligence services and foreign policy elite have no end to their vindictiveness and are almost unrivaled in their ability to hold a grudge. They had Assange on a wall somewhere and they were not going to be happy till he was taken down. By hook or by crook, they were going to get the man who had embarrassed them. This arrest has nothing to do with justice or with Assange’s supposed violation of the law. Anyone who has read the joke of an indictment that was issued against him will know that much. This arrest is about repairing the fragile egos of war criminals and heads of intelligence in the US whose daily actions more closely resemble the Stasi East German police than they resemble anything within the American tradition. Evil men were angry about having some aspects of their evil revealed, and thus those evil men have taken their revenge.
It remains unclear what will happen to Assange from here. It seems unlikely that Assange would simply be “disappeared” to a CIA black site, given how high profile his case is. Though, give it a few weeks and once the media attention dies down, the CIA might find it more doable to disappear him. I certainly hope that that doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t put anything past the security state. Disappearing people is going to get more common as the institutions of the United States get less stable.
More likely is that Assange will be brought to the United States for a show trial and he will never be given a chance to fully represent himself. He may or may not be tried as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal or he might just be tried in a semi-open court where much of the evidence against him is kept secret for “national security” reasons. Either way, it is difficult for me to see how Assange will get a fair trial. These are the sorts of cases that would have gotten the Left highly activated in years past. The entirety of the Left was activated when the Nixon administration tried to silence the Pentagon Papers, but Assange said things that the Left doesn’t like, and, of course, he is supposedly a “Russian agent,” so all of that history goes out the window.
There are only a few people who have nailed the Russia conspiracy story from the start, and the Leftists who have been covering the Russia story correctly have done so by making the argument that it was pushing the Left in a more “right-wing” direction. What they meant by “right wing” is that the Russia story was pushing the Left in more of a Neo-Con direction, and they were right about that. Figures who, just ten years ago, were reviled and hated on the Left, like Max Boot, William Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Noah Rothman, John Podhoretz, and David Frum, have all been let back into polite society. Ten years ago it would have been laughable that the Washington Post would hire Max Boot, the most notorious war monger of the Bush years, to write for their website but it’s no longer laughable because he does, in fact, write for the Washington Post now. Why on earth would liberals embrace men like Max Boot and David Frum? It’s simple, these men tell certain parts of the Left what they want to hear about Trump and Russia. The Russia conspiracy theory and the first two years of Trump Derangement Syndrome on the Left have allowed some of the worst neocons to enter into liberal spaces. Thus for some liberals, if the word “Russia” can be dangled in front of their eyes along with some kind of accusation that links back to Trump, then that is all they need to be able to support even the most atrocious policies like war in Syria, ramping up tensions with Russia, characterizing political dissent as treason, and arresting journalists and whistle blowers. This is the narrative that Rachel Maddow spun on her show this week. The Left, on the whole, have utterly abandoned the issues that originally made me become a Leftist: opposition to US interventionism, opposition to the security and surveillance state, opposition to the power of massive corporations, support for workers over management, and so on. Very few people, people like Jimmy Dore, keep to the values of the Old Left, and it is only a matter of time before men like him get labeled “fascists” for not going along with the agenda of global capitalism.
This is a dark day for this country, but it is also an important day. This is the day that the security state marched an innocent man out of safety and into an American gulag. But this is also a moment where America could show its greatness on the issue of the First Amendment and press freedom. This is also a moment where Americans of all stripes could stand together to reject the imposition of totalitarian controls on speech. Julian Assange must be defended and defended robustly from all sides. We must make it clear to the people who run this banana republic of a government, to the Deep State and our representatives, that this type of activity will not be tolerated and that, just like during the Vietnam war with the Pentagon Papers, Americans will always stick by people’s right to print the Truth. Because if we don’t, it won’t be too long until you and I are sitting in prison cells right next to him.