Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Where are the Child Victims of the West?

It has been almost a year since the contorted body of little Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach, oblivious in death to the fact that he was to become the key pawn in a global media campaign seeking to cement public opinion in favor of intervention in Syria.

The UK's Guardian newspaper intoned at the time:

To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind. The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration.

A 2015 analysis on the 99.99998271% blog provided a detailed anatomy of the methods and aims of this form of propaganda with regard to Syria, concluding:

[T]he corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding 'good' and 'bad' dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention. Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government. Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).

[Note: see original article for detailed discussion and sources for these conclusions]

If at first you don't succeed: now it is the turn of another hapless child - this time thankfully alive.  The excellent OffGuardian news/analysis website demonstrates that another mass push for intervention is underway, with the corporate media content to use a terrorist-sympathizing 'media center' as the story's primary source:

The boy is allegedly five-year-old Omran Daqneesh. According to the AP report neither he nor the rest of his family sustained anything but superficial cuts and bruises.

Yet, in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people nationwide, the media wants us to believe this story is somehow unique and that the “horror generated” by a video of some people looking quite well but dusty and bloodstained will shock us more than the piles of corpses , “echo the anguished global response” to images of drowned A[]lan Kurdi and galvanise us all into “doing something” – ie supporting a NATO intervention to save the terrorists in eastern Aleppo.

If the sight of all the major outlets who cheer on western-backed slaughter every day,  running wall-to-wall op-eds and features about the tragedy of a little boy with a cut on his face,  simply because it serves the empire’s agenda, doesn’t convince you of the moral and intellectual blank they’ve become then keep reading. It gets better.

AP and other outlets tell us the vid was “filmed and circulated” by a group called the “Aleppo Media Centre.” Who/what are they? Well,the Graun links to their Twitter, which is in Arabic,and which boasts over 20,000 alleged followers,including several members of the western media, and a plethora of similar short and often murky vids beside this one. We can also quite easily find their Facebook page.

The Facebook page contains a post cheering on al-Nusra, the US-designated terrorist group, referring to them as 'rebels', not 'terrorists' and also calling the Syrian government a 'regime', the standard terminology of the corporate media when referring to Assad's administration.  Such phrasing destroys the Aleppo Media Centre as a neutral, credible source.

OffGuardian further notes that there are serious discrepancies about the timeline with respect to when the video was made and uploaded:

We’re also a bit curious about why the AP report claim the video was made Wednesday night, when it was uploaded to Twitter at 13:52 BST Wednesday afternoon, which would equate with 15:52 in Aleppo. Is this a time-zone anomaly? But then there’s the added confusion of the [t]weet itself, which seems to say pretty clearly that the vid was made on Sunday evening.

In a later article, Catte at OffGuardian noted:

After the recent revelation that almost every major news site has been promoting unverified video and eye-witness testimony originating in some of the most extreme, violent and debauched terrorist elements currently operating in Syria, we have to ask – is there any longer even a minimum of verification or investigative process required before news agencies and publications endorse a breaking story?

In the case of that notorious “Omran rescue vid”, for example, AP broke the story, but of the three journalists credited, one was in Beirut, one in Geneva and one in Moscow.

None of them were in Aleppo, or even in Syria. Given what’s now transpired about the discredited and even criminal nature of the source, we need to ask – how did they get word of this event and how did they verify it? Did AP talk to ordinary people on the spot, and directly interview the witnesses? Did they get this video direct from the terrorist-supporting “Aleppo Media Center”, or via an intermediary? Did they know about the terrorist-connections of both the AMC and the “photo-journalist” Mahmoud Raslan, and just not inform their readers, or did they genuinely not know who their sources were?

The media train wreck was made complete when it emerged that the Guardian had deleted 45% of reader comments below a related opinion piece to preserve its obviously bogus Syria narrative for those precious few readers still somehow unaware that their newspaper of choice is nothing but a shill for the arms industry and Western imperial interests:

This narrative has never really got much traction, mostly because it’s stupid, and right now it’s not going over at all. The latest serving of it,”The Guardian View on Syrian civilian casualties: Omran Daqneesh – a child of war” was published at 7:58pm on August 18 and remained open for comments for no more than two hours. In that time the BTL section erupted in outrage and was shredded by the moderators. The results are shameful. Of the 75 comments not entirely obliterated (which happens), 34 (45%) had their content deleted. And after all that not even all the remaining 55% were supportive of the ATL line.

The Guardian had to delete 45% of its own readers opinions, just to ma[i]ntain a bare semblance of its agenda.

No comment that mentioned the terrorist source of the video was allowed to remain. Every comment that identified the media “hero” of the hour, Mahmoud Raslan as a supporter of al Nusra or a friend of child-beheaders was removed. Many others that merely pointed out the gaps and absurdities in the narrative were likewise deleted.

There are lessons here.  First, if you want to be brazenly lied to or misled in a way that wins your support of Western bombing under the guise of 'humanitarian intervention' (and therefore arms sales) along with the furthering of Western geopolitical objectives in Syria, go no further than the corporate media; even - and especially - the self-described 'liberal-left' wing.  Second, if you want the truth - or at least honest people trying in good faith to get to the truth - you'll have to rely on unpaid bloggers and the credible independent media, especially those that publish source documents like WikiLeaks.  And third, no doubt should remain in anyone's mind of the depths of moral depravity to which the corporate media and its paid, indoctrinated stenographers will sink in order to achieve the objectives of their paymasters: namely, the utilization of images of injured or dead children in an attempt to bring about a state of affairs that will with certainty create many more such suffering souls.

Something important, however, is missing from MSM coverage of children in war zones.  For the fourth estate - the noble profession that speaks truth to power and holds it accountable - balance and fairness is a key ingredient of reporting, or so we are told in slogans like 'fair and balanced'.  With the corporate media probably too busy with this latest story, the 99.99998271% will humbly step into the breach and provide - for the purposes of that all-important balance - a list of child victims you haven't seen described in editorials written by hand-wringing, entitled liberals in the corporate media - and won't anytime soon.

Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.

[Note: The Washington Post link incorrectly states she was 15 years old when she died. Wikipedia link here.]

Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?

How did she survive?  "I pretended that I was dead when my brother's body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet."

A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men - Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz - testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala Yousafzai outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.

16-year-old Tariq Aziz.  Clive Stafford Smith from the Reprieve charity explains:

During the day I shook the hand of a 16-year-old kid from Waziristan named Tariq Aziz. One of his cousins had died in a missile strike, and he wanted to know what he could do to bring the truth to the west. At the Reprieve charity, we have a transparency project: importing cameras to the region to try to export the truth back out. Tariq wanted to take part, but I thought him too young.

Then, three days later, the CIA announced that it had eliminated "four militants". In truth there were only two victims: Tariq had been driving his 12-year-old cousin to their aunt's house when the Hellfire missile killed them both. This came just 24 hours after the CIA boasted of eliminating six other "militants" – actually, four chromite workers driving home from work. In both cases a local informant apparently tagged the car with a GPS monitor and lied to earn his fee.


The average age of the population of Gaza is 17, and half the population are under 16. According to the UN, more children than adult fighters were killed in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge attack by Israel.

Meanwhile in the city of Fallujah in Iraq, health studies have demonstrated that the use of chemical weapons by US forces - including depleted uranium - was followed by one of the most severe health crises in history:

Ever since two major US-led assaults destroyed the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, Fallujans have witnessed dramatic increases in rates of cancers, birth defects and infant mortality in their city. Dr Chris Busby, the author and co-author of two studies on the Fallujah heath crisis, has called this "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied".

To this day [25th October 2012], though, there has yet to be an article published in a major US newspaper, or a moment on a mainstream American TV news network, devoted to the health crisis in Fallujah. The US government has made no statements on the issue, and the American public remains largely uninformed about the indiscriminate harm that our military may have caused.

The report presented at the seventh session of the Human Rights Council gave anecdotal evidence gathered at the Fallujah General Hospital. It included a stomach-turning collection of pictures of babies born with scaly skin, missing and deformed limbs, and horrifying tumors. Two years later, Dr Busby and his team of researchers sought to verify the claims in this report. What they found was that, in addition to shocking increases in pediatric cancers, there had also been an 18% reduction in male births.

Dr Busby has been the most visible scientist behind these studies, and for that reason, a lot of criticism has been directed at him. He is considered by many to be a "controversial" figure, which only means that his research has often challenged official government positions. His studies on Fallujah have similarly earned the title of "controversial". Many journals were afraid to publish his second study because of "pressure" from "outside people". "Outside people" means types like Roger Helbig – a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force who is well-known for publishing online attacks on those who take a critical stance against uranium weapons – and pressure groups with similar agendas.

While these tragedies are often reported within the corporate media, especially when they lead to major misconduct cases that involve Western soldiers or officials, one never sees front page spreads with pictures of the victims chosen to maximise sympathy; one never sees open-ended live updates at the top of news feeds; and one certainly never sees a deluge of opinion pieces calling for censure of Western military forces or foreign policies.  We don't see news anchors breaking down in tears [Note: after a thirty-second Visa commercial at this location] on live TV or mawkish, melodramatic verbiage calling for 'something to be done' about Western brutality and war crimes.  These victims of Western foreign policy and all its associated evils are quickly buried and just as quickly forgotten.

Former UK Shadow Defence Secretary Hilary Benn - propelled to fame after his speech calling for air strikes on Syria was wildly lauded by the British political establishment - was challenged on Twitter the other day to 'make a powerful speech about how the bombing [in Syria] is progressing'.  In response, he wrote: 'Have you contacted Russian/Syrian embassies to ask why their governments did this'?  In asking this question, it logically follows - if he were an honest man - that he would also condemn with disgust the deaths of any children killed by UK/US/NATO/Israeli bombs and other military actions.

Readers are invited to find these condemnations as the 99.99998271% could not.

One could instead offer the following in response to Hilary Benn: 'All war represents a failure of diplomacy'.  Would he acknowledge the validity or wisdom of these words?  Would he recognise them at all?  Probably not.  They are from Tony Benn, his father.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Persecuting Assange: The Mainstreaming of Neoliberal Pathology

"Objective journalism is one of the main reasons that American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long" - Hunter S. Thompson

The non-profit journalistic and publishing organization WikiLeaks released on 22nd July 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments sent from or received by Democratic National Committee (DNC) personnel.   The emails exposed numerous instances of unprofessional, unethical and possibly illegal behaviour, including concerted attempts to undercut Bernie Sanders as well as clear favouritism toward Hillary Clinton.

Specifically the emails exposed - among thousands of other things - the DNC conspiring to create false Trump information and release it with Reuters; DNC Hillary supporters infiltrating the Sanders campaign; a super PAC paying young voters to push back online Sanders supporters; a mole working inside the Sanders campaign; bringing up Sanders' religion to scare southern voters; possible money laundering by moving money back and forth to bypass legal limits; a Politico writer sending his stories to the DNC before he sends them to his editor; feeding CNN the questions they want to be asked in interviews; and the DNC requesting the pull of an MSNBC commentary segment.

It will come as no surprise therefore that the US establishment has brought forth enormous pressure on the government of Ecuador to force Julian Assange - the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks - out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London, an act that would lead to his certain arrest at the hands of the UK authorities.  To its credit, Ecuador has reaffirmed its commitment to providing political asylum to Assange.

At the same time, after four years of stalling, Swedish prosecutors have this week expressed their intention to question Assange within the embassy, something they could have easily done at any time.  Indeed, those believing that (Swedish prosecutor) Marianne Ny really has at heart the best interests of the two women involved in the case must now ask themselves why she would therefore allow some of her investigations into allegations of sexual assault to be dropped - as they were last year - because the deadline for bringing charges expired.  Given that Sweden is now willing to interview Assange in the embassy, why could they have not done this sooner for the sake of the women involved?  The only possible conclusion is that this - as long stated by several serious analysts - is a purely political investigation and that Assange is right to fear for his security.

Along with a few other journalists, most notably John Pilger, The 99.99998271% has exposed on several occasions the farcical case against Julian Assange.  In June 2014, to mark the second anniversary of Assange's embassy refuge, this blog noted the following:

Readers who are open to the possibility that they may have been misled on this issue should first follow these links and read/watch in full:

A FAQ
here explains some of the general circumstances of the case.

This short animated
video also provides a clear, informative summary.

More:

Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the often hostile public reaction to the plight of Julian Assange is the assumption by so many of benign intent on the part of the US and its close allies, the UK and Sweden. Despite the mass intrusive surveillance apparatus exposed by Edward Snowden, under the umbrella of which strategies reminiscent of the East German Stasi have been laid out for the world to see; despite the long documented history of illegal, covert operations undertaken by agencies of the United States like COINTELPRO, Operation Mockingbird, Operation CHAOS and many others; despite dozens of illegal interventions and bombings of foreign sovereign nations; despite multiple CIA-sponsored coup d'etats that replaced democratically elected leaders with murderous dictators; despite the numerous fake FBI terror plots to justify the [] dedication of [vast] resources to the 'war on terror'; despite the quite insane double standards displayed in the 'intelligence' arena...despite all these documented realities, perplexing it is indeed that any serious person could assume any benign intent whatsoever. Indeed, given the above list, an intelligent person would surely assume the precise opposite.

One major PR strategy adopted by the Clinton campaign in response to the DNC leaks has been to blanket 'blame Russia'.  Given the extensive links to the major media organizations exposed within the leaks, it will come as no surprise that pet journalists and pundits have been parroting the same line.  This 'shock-and-awe' strategy is effective in that it feeds off the already strong anti-Russia feelings that have been whipped up in recent years on multiple fronts while simultaneously deflecting attention from where it belongs (the substance of the leaked emails) onto a tried and tested smear target: Vladimir Putin.

A notable aspect of this furore is the highlighting of the reflexive response of mainstream and establishment figures to actions that expose the endemic corruption of the system upon which they symbiotically depend to exist.  Corporate media journalists tend to make much of their 'objectivity' - the perceived lack of bias in their reporting.  At the same time, they deride other media organizations like Russia Today or TeleSur, especially when they carry stories that run counter to the official Western narratives that they personally sustain.

The standard tactic for enforcing this objectivity and lack of bias is to introduce a story in a calm, professional manner aided by high-quality graphics and studio designs along with - when necessary - ominous, breaking-news sound effects. Deeper analysis is then supplied with the help of two or more pundits or 'experts', some holding conflicting views.  In the case of the DNC leaks, for example, a Clinton campaign staffer could feature against a Trump spokesman.  In this way, the advertised and guaranteed objectivity ('fair and balanced') is upheld as two differing perspectives are aired.

To casual news viewers, this approach will (falsely) appear unbiased and objective.  In the DNC-leak scenario, while the two pundits may hold conflicting - even opposing - views, they will both nonetheless reside comfortably within the neoliberal consensus.  The Clinton side will blame (without evidence) Russia for the leak; the Trump side will say (correctly) that such an assertion is an attempt to deflect attention from the substance of the emails.  Neither side will ever address the deep corruption that exists in both of the main parties, and indeed at all levels of government; nor will they express any suggestion that there may be other ways of running democratic elections - or indeed societies - beyond the sick two-party duopoly; the utterly discredited status quo.

This is pseudo-journalism, in that it does not challenge power or hold it to account.  It merely discusses topics of current interest within a neoliberal framework that is never questioned.  On the rare occasions more radical voices do reach the mainstream, they are habitually smeared or simply sidelined or ignored.  This is further played out on social media, with even polite radical dissent or suggestions of alternative approaches met with scornful, derisive and sometimes contemptuous dismissals by mainstream journalists.

And all the while, ad revenues must be maintained with manufactured conflict and exaggeration.

News plus one - a slick product for sale.  A tool incapable of engendering progressive change; used instead to promote and entrench the aims and needs of profit and power.

This unshakable faith within the establishment/corporate media clique in its own objectivity and the contempt it holds for Russia Today and other Western-narrative-challenging outlets is laughable with several serious studies proving severe systemic bias.  Only this week a BBC Trust report found that '[t]he BBC has a “high dependency” on the governing party for statistics, with Conservatives representing nearly three-quarters of all statistics it cites from politicians, according to a report by the corporation’s governing body.  [The report] also said that the corporation’s journalism needed to do more to “go beyond the headlines” and be more wary of reporting figures “straight from a press release”.'  Other studies 'continually show a strong pro-Israeli bias' in reporting of the Middle East conflict within Western media.  Still more have found 'persistent' bias against Jeremy Corbyn at the BBC and other outlets.  And few supporters of Scottish independence will have fond memories of the coverage provided in the run-up to the referendum.

Ironic it is then that the media treatment of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks is such a fine example of this fake objectivity.  Although all react to accusations of bias or (self)-censorship with indignation or even anger, professing strong independence of their editors, and the certainty that they have the freedom to write what they like, corporate media journalists almost without exception trip over themselves to demean, ridicule and personally insult Assange and his plight, thereby doing a fine job for the instigators of the epic crimes exposed by WikiLeaks by deflecting attention from them to such an easy target.  While some journalists may express an acceptance of the need for organizations that protect whistleblowers, they nevertheless faithfully serve imperial interests by pushing the debate towards trivial matters of personal dislike: even a cursory internet search will yield hundreds of catty articles focusing on petty, personal concerns while ignoring the elephant in the room - the exposed criminality.

A simple thought experiment. A mysterious file containing the DNC emails is surreptitiously slipped onto the desk of a journalist (let's call him Jack Smith) at a major corporate media outlet like the New York Times.  How will Jack react when he picks up the file and discovers its contents?

Once verified as genuine, the first words entering our hero's head are likely to be: 'epic shitstorm on a galactic scale'.  Jack would realise instantly the implications of dropping a bomb like this into the middle of Hillary Clinton's campaign at such a crucial juncture; the enormous damage that could be caused to one of the most powerful and connected people in the world.  Does anyone seriously believe that Jack would go ahead and write an expose - the scoop of the year - all the while dreaming of Pulitzers?

First, he knows that he has to get past the bosses in full awareness of the fact that editors at the NYT don't get there by being political imbeciles.  Does he go rogue and write independently, finding an alternative publisher?  He's seen the contents - the emails contain clear, smoking-gun evidence of systemic corruption and favouritism at the DNC.  There is no question that this is in the public interest, particularly in light of the fact that Clinton is the clear bookies' favourite to win the presidency.  The people of America surely need to know what their potential president and her party machine have done to deliberately sabotage the only serious opposition, Bernie Sanders, who enthused and inspired millions of especially young people disillusioned with the neoliberal order.

Jack remembers why he entered journalism.  The people's right to know.  Truth to power, and holding it to account.  However, this is surely too much of a hot potato.  He has a mortgage, kids in private schools, medical bills, a great job at the most famous newspaper in the world...and he knows all too well what can happen to journalists who upset the wrong people.  A very early retirement to spend more time with the family and likely future blanket ostracism from corporate media is a real possibility...perhaps even worse.

No, Jack decides to pass this one on to his bosses and let them handle it...and then goes back to his detailed analysis of the outlandish pronouncements of Donald Trump.  After all, Jack reasons, the public also needs to know about the dangers of a Trump presidency.

Fortunately we don't need a thought experiment to know what NYT editors do with politically embarrassing information, especially if it could hamstring an establishment candidate, and even if the information is essential for public viewing before the election:

A column by New York Times public editor Byron Calame August 13 [2006] reveals that the newspaper withheld a story about the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic spying until after the 2004 election, and then lied about it.

On December 16, 2005, the Times reported that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to monitor thousands of telephone conversations and e-mails in the US without court approval. At the time, the Times acknowledged that it had, at the urging of the Bush administration, withheld publication of the story, saying it held its exposé back “for a year.” This time frame suggested that the newspaper made the decision to withhold publication of the story after the 2004 presidential election.

Such a delay was, in itself, unpardonable, and provoked angry criticism. Now we learn, from an interview with Executive Editor Bill Keller conducted by Calame, that internal discussions at the Times about drafts of the eventual article had been “dragging on for weeks” before the November 2, 2004, election, which resulted in a victory for Bush.

“The process,” the public editor notes, “had included talks with the Bush administration.” A fresh draft was the subject of discussion at the newspaper “less than a week” before the election.
Involved here is not a trivial sex scandal or some moral peccadillo committed by one or another of the major candidates. At issue was a major policy question—one that goes to the core of constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties and basic democratic rights.

The electorate had the right to know that the incumbent president was systematically breaking the law in order to secretly wiretap, without court warrants, the communications of American citizens. As the Times was well aware, similar illegalities—although on a smaller scale—were among the charges leveled against Richard Nixon in the second article of impeachment, entitled “Abuse of Power,” approved by the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives in July 1974, leading to Nixon’s resignation the following month.

Consider now what an independent journalist (John Smith) would do?  To a large degree it would depend on his courage, as John would publish this story knowing that revealing such information would trigger a deluge of smears and false accusations.  He would almost certainly face calls for criminal investigation for hacking, not to mention the inevitable accusations of 'working for the Russians'.  Charges of 'interfering in democracy' would be levelled.  Fellow journalists would run a mile, either refusing to comment or roundly denouncing him and his perceived motives, of which money will be prominently aired.  All evidence-free of course.  A brave journalist will go ahead anyway, or perhaps take a more prudent route and send the files anonymously to an organization like WikiLeaks.

This thought experiment demonstrates why WikiLeaks is so essential for true transparency and sometimes accountability...and why corporate media journalists stay exactly where they are, sometimes carving out glittering, prize-filled careers and automatic access to the rich, famous and powerful.

The John Smith scenario may sound familiar.  Julian Assange has experienced almost all these smears and false accusations since releasing the information, as a quick glance at the replies to the tweets on the WikiLeaks twitter feed will demonstrate.

Despite claims by US 'experts' to the contrary, there is no evidence that Russia is the source of the leak, and indeed no such evidence has been presented by the US, despite NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden recently commenting that it would be easy to provide.  Others accuse Assange of a personal vendetta against Clinton, and that he is using the leak to damage her campaign, thereby putting the 'objectivity' of WikiLeaks in jeopardy.

Assange has made no secret of the fact that he has no love for Clinton, and has openly admitted that the leak was timed for maximum impact. However, it is this second accusation that so clearly demonstrates the deep infection into the public consciousness of the neoliberal pathology.  Those making such an accusation have lost their perspective.  They instinctively grope for the fake objectivity requirement manufactured by and utilized by the corporate media for decades.  Here we have information that seriously puts into question the suitability of a major candidate for the highest possible office, from which she will wield vast executive power over 300 million plus Americans as well as significant influence over the lives of billions of people around the world.  But to these accusers, this information requires 'balance'.  Calls to hack Donald Trump's tax returns and bewilderment at why Assange is 'standing in the way of the one person who can stop Trump' abound among both the liberal commentariat and large numbers of ordinary citizens.

To any right-thinking person, it is self-evident that this information must be publicised before the election, and that it also must reach as many people as possible.  The best way to do that is to publish at a time when the eyes and ears of the world are fixed upon the subject of the leaks.  Balance has nothing to do with it.  It is source material that all are free to read themselves containing essential information that is clearly in the public interest.  Are Assange's accusers actually suggesting that he should have hung on to such explosive information until after Hillary is safely ensconced in the White House?

Those doing so should seriously consider a career in corporate journalism:

"Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip. But the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip". - George Orwell, 1944

These words of Orwell can, it seems, be applied not only to journalists, but now also to millions of 'consumers' of the corporate media.

For anyone who believes that Assange is a 'rapist' who is 'evading justice' and is 'holed up at the embassy' because he is a 'coward'; indeed, anyone who focuses on the actions and personality of Assange instead of the content of the leaks published by his organization...for you the message is this: You will not realise it (yet) but you have been successfully co-opted into the propaganda efforts to deflect attention from the numerous, horrific, documented crimes of imperial interests and the deep corruption of major institutions and their top officials.  The people responsible for disseminating this propaganda will laugh at how they have successfully transformed you into a pack of animals baying for the blood of one man whose 'crime' has been to shine a spotlight on the corruption they are paid well to obscure.  They will chortle with delight at your almost complete lack of interest in the decades upon decades of mass murder, torture, rapes, oppression and illegal coups that have been carried out in your name with your taxes and with the help of officials you have voted for, while you focus your ire instead on one of the most obvious set-ups (that of Assange) ever...along with all the other tried-and-tested distractions.  The only thing that may astound even them is how easy it has been to manipulate you.

In the internet age, ignorance really is a choice - the choice between being a manipulated dupe and a free thinker.  Quite literally, millions of lives depend on it.  What will it be?

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Anti-Semitism Allegations and the Sound of Silence

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake" - Napoleon Bonaparte

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the UK's Labour Party for 'bringing the party into disrepute' after making comments deemed by observers to be anti-Semitic. Livingstone has denied that he or his comments were anti-Semitic, alleging instead that there is a concerted smear campaign against a number of public figures who oppose and/or criticise the policies and actions of the Israeli government, commonly with regard to its treatment of the inhabitants of Gaza.

Livingstone, in a series of interviews given last week, made his views clear [Emphasis mine]:

She’s [Naz Shah] a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over-the-top but she’s not antisemitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.

It’s completely over the top but it’s not antisemitism. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.

...

The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians; and there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.

...

After Jeremy became leader I was having a chat with Michael and he said he was very worried because one of his friends who was Jewish had come to him and said ‘the election of Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the same as the first step to the rise of Adolf Hitler to power’. Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as antisemitic from the moment he became leader. The simple fact is we have the right to criticise what is one of the most brutal regimes going in the way it treats the Palestinians.

...

You’ve managed to dig out virtually every antisemitic comment that Labour members have made out of half a million people. I’ve never met any of these people. There’s not a problem. You’re talking about a handful of people in a party of half a million people. Jeremy Corbyn has moved rapidly to deal with them.

...

I’d simply say to John Mann go back and check. Is what I say true, or is it not? The BBC, you’ve got a huge team of researchers, it will take just an hour or two to go back and confirm. I was asked a question, I answered it. I have never in 45 years since I won my first election, I have never lied. I have always answered the question.

He was a monster from start to finish but it’s simply the historical fact. His policy was originally to send all of Germany’s Jews to Israel and there were private meetings between the Zionist movement and Hitler’s government which were kept confidential, they only became apparent after the war, when they were having a dialogue to do this.

What John Mann just said isn’t true – I’ve not said that Hitler was a Zionist, what I said was his policy in ‘32 was to deport Germany’s Jews to Israel. I condemn that. I never said it, what I said was that was his policy
.


It is clear from his own words that Livingstone is not anti-Semitic; that instead it is his belief that any attempt by high-profile figures to criticise Israeli policy is systematically smeared by a highly organized, rapid-response network, a network whose existence and misleading/dishonest methodology is beyond doubt, as demonstrated in a detailed, forensic analysis by Asa Winstanley:

[] An investigation by The Electronic Intifada has found that some of the most prominent stories about anti-Semitism in the party are falsified. The Electronic Intifada can reveal that a key player in Labour’s “anti-Semitism crisis” covered up his involvement in the Israel lobby. Most Labour members so accused are in reality being attacked for expressing opinions in favor of Palestinian human rights and particularly for supporting the boycott of Israel. Labour activists, many of them Jews, have told The Electronic Intifada that false accusations of anti-Semitism are being used as a weapon against Corbyn by the party’s right-wing. Corbyn has been active in the Palestine solidarity movement for more than three decades. In an interview with The Electronic Intifada last year, he endorsed key elements of the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israel. For example, he urged an end to weapons trading with Israel.

...

Charley Allan, a Jewish member of the party, and a Morning Star columnist, has described the current atmosphere in the press and Labour Party as a “witch hunt.” It has reached such an absurd volume that any usage of the word “Zionist” is deemed to be anti-Semitic – although tellingly not when used by self-described Zionists. Where real instances of anti-Jewish bigotry have come to light, the leadership and party machine have taken robust action.


One of many examples provided:

An “anti-Semitism scandal” erupted in the Oxford University Labour Club – an association of student supporters of the party. In a public Facebook posting Alex Chalmers, the co-chair of the club, resigned his position over what he claimed was anti-Semitic behavior in “a large proportion” of the student Labour club “and the student left in Oxford more generally.” But as evidence he cited the club’s decision, in a majority vote, to endorse Oxford’s Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual awareness-raising exercise by student groups which support Palestinian rights. This connection was clearly designed to smear Palestine solidarity activists as anti-Semites – a standard tactic of the Israel lobby. In fact, the similarity was no coincidence. The Electronic Intifada can reveal for the first time evidence that Chalmers himself has been part of the UK’s Israel lobby. Chalmers has worked for BICOM, the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre. Funded by the billionaire Poju Zabludowicz, BICOM is a leading pro-Israel group in London.

[Note: See original article for sources and further details of this and several other cases]

As for the historical case cited by Livingstone, Robert Mackey at the Intercept explains:

So what was Livingstone talking about? He appears to have been using “Hitler” as shorthand for the Nazi government and referring to a real instance of cooperation between Germany and the Zionist movement that began in 1933 — an episode Livingstone discussed at length in his 2011 memoir, “You Can’t Say That.” Just months after Hitler came to power, in 1933, the Zionist-led Jewish Agency in British-administered Palestine did strike an agreement with the Nazis to facilitate the emigration of about 20,000 German Jews to Palestine over the next decade. As the Israeli historian Tom Segev described it in his book, “The Seventh Million[]”[:]

The haavara (“transfer”) agreement — the Hebrew term was used in the Nazi documents as well — was based on the complementary interests of the German government and the the Zionist movement: the Nazis wanted the Jews out of Germany; the Zionists wanted them to come to Palestine.

Segev notes that the agreement, which remained in force until the middle of World War II, was a point of contention between the Zionist leadership in Tel Aviv and Jewish leaders in the United States, who still hoped in 1933 that an international economic and diplomatic boycott of Germany could “force the Nazis to halt their persecution, so that Jews could continue to live in Germany.”


Livingstone may well have made the error of oversimplification, but for any impartial observer it is obvious he is simply referring to the Haavara agreement - the existence of which is historical fact. It is a common pitfall for anyone who speaks with unprepared comments to say something that will ruffle feathers and be misinterpreted. It is also fertile ground for cynical propagandists - their dishonest methods long established and proven - to exploit for their own agendas:

But when he was asked why Shah’s use of the meme about Hitler was not anti-Semitic, Livingstone veered off-topic, into an over-simplified and misleading account of German history that enraged many of his own colleagues. “Let’s remember, when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel — he was supporting Zionism,” Livingstone claimed. “This was before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

Within minutes, as Livingstone’s comments were reported in shorthand as “Hitler was a Zionist,” senior members of his party, including Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate in next week’s London mayoral election, called for him to be expelled for what sounded like an absurd attempt to smear Israel by numbering history’s most infamous anti-Semite among the ranks of its supporters.


All this despite Livingstone explicitly stating [full quote above] that "I’ve not said that Hitler was a Zionist".

It is long-established practice in the field of propaganda to lift words out of context to smear opponents, as has been done to Livingstone here, or to falsely assign a rare instance of bad behaviour to a broad group that are guilty only by association. This case is no different. Vladimir Putin was recently smeared in this way as a tax cheat because a childhood friend was mentioned in the [now mysteriously absent] Panama Papers, despite the fact that his name appeared nowhere in the documents. Allies of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party are victims of a similarly clumsy campaign.

The key to deciphering whether mass condemnation in the media is bogus or not lies in the kind of truth-seeking journalism that (often unpaid) writers and bloggers produce. The highest quality independent sites and writers put the corporate media to shame, writing detailed analyses that contain numerous links for readers to follow for verification of claims.

However, the first signs of a dishonest or cynical campaign can be found in the calibre of its chief proponents. Iraq War supporter and apologist, Oliver Kamm, who writes for The Times as a columnist and once wrote 'George W Bush made the world a safer place' has enthusiastically jumped on the Livingstone smear bandwagon. [Kamm's 'credibility' is summed up in conclusive fashion by Edward S. Herman and David Peterson here.] Fellow Times columnist David Aaronovitch, who also supported the Iraq debacle, has enthusiastically joined the fray. James Kirkup - The Telegraph's Executive Editor (Politics) - described Livingstone as a 'cockroach', seemingly content in a senior position at a national newspaper of record to use the dehumanizing language of genocide to describe a person he disagrees with.

A whole coterie of corporate media writers along with public officials have lined up to pile on the condemnation. More than anything, the episode has been an instructive illustration of Glenn Greenwald's famous description of UK media journalists: "I've never encountered any group more driven by group-think and rank-closing cohesion than British journalists."

The real disgrace here is not Livingstone at all but the absolute silence of these same critics when Israel is accused of actual war crimes by credible human rights groups like Amnesty International while the US supplies it with arms:

The USA is by far the largest exporter of military equipment to Israel. According to data made public by the US government, its arms transfers to Israel from January to May 2014 included nearly $27million for “rocket launchers”, $9.3 million worth in “parts of guided missiles” and nearly $762,000 for “bombs, grenades and munitions of war”.

Since 2012, the USA has exported $276 million worth of basic weapons and munitions to Israel, a figure that excludes exports of military transport equipment and high technologies.

The news on 30 July that the USA had allowed the resupply of munitions to Israel came the same day the US government condemned the shelling of a UN school in Gaza which killed at least 20 people, including children and UN humanitarian workers.

“It is deeply cynical for the White House to condemn the deaths and injuries of Palestinians, including children, and humanitarian workers, when it knows full well that the Israeli military responsible for such attacks are armed to the teeth with weapons and equipment bankrolled by US taxpayers,” said Brian Wood.


The UK also plays its part:

The Government has been accused of failing to regulate arms sales to Israel following evidence that weapons containing British-made components are being used in the bombardment of Gaza.

Documents shown to The Independent reveal that arms export licences worth £42m have been granted to 130 British defence manufacturers since 2010 to sell military equipment to Israel. These range from weapons control and targeting systems to ammunition, drones and armoured vehicles.

Among the manufacturers given permission to make sales were two UK companies supplying components for the Hermes drone, described by the Israeli air force as the “backbone” of its targeting and reconnaissance missions. One of the two companies also supplies components for Israel’s main battle tank.

...

Israel is one of the biggest customers for British exports of so-called “dual-use” equipment capable of both civilian and military deployment in a trade worth more than £7bn last year.

But documents obtained by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) under the Freedom of Information Act reveal for the first time the full extent of sales of military-only equipment, along with the names of the companies granted export licences by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Of the £42m of so-called “military list” exports approved since 2010, some £10m has been licensed in the last 12 months.

The data reveals that dozens of highly specialised UK defence companies have secured deals with Israeli partners and the Israeli military, ranging from bulletproof garments to naval gun parts and small arms ammunition. The sales are entirely lawful and form part of Britain’s £12bn annual arms export trade.

But evidence exists that British-made components feature in weapons being deployed during Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military has been criticised for what some see as heavy-handed tactics during its assault on Gaza. Some 1,460 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died, alongside 63 Israelis, including three civilians.


The lesson is simple: the moral crusaders that spend days loudly condemning Livingstone for an ill-advised [in the insane modern media soundbite environment] comment that he later clarified in a way that made it clear that he was absolutely not being anti-Semitic utter nary a squeak when Israel bombs schools or murders children on a beach; remain silent in the face of the documented day-to-day atrocities of the Israeli government and its soldiers with Western-supplied equipment in Gaza, including the killings of pregnant women and children.

Misconstrued comments by a lifelong anti-racist: one, murdered children: nil. That there in a nutshell is the moral standing of Livingstone's critics. And if you're still assigning them credibility, it might be time to seek analysis elsewhere.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Panama Papers: Bear in the Woods

"Though the president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern – his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage. The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money – his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend." - Luke Harding - The Guardian [Source]

"The evidence for corruption at the Kremlin looks devastating, whereas Mr Cameron can fairly protest that the son is not responsible for the deeds of the father, especially not as he has taken some steps – such as banning the “bearer shares” that Cameron Sr’s fund long ago used – to protect the public interest." - Guardian editorial [Source]

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored" - Aldous Huxley

In what can only be described as a bike, car, train and plane crash of epic proportions, the global corporate media this month tried its hand at emulating WikiLeaks with the release of the Panama Papers:

The exposé of Panama-based Mossack Fonseca has been made possible by an unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents to German investigative newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The leak came from an anonymous source and was then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) which organised an investigation by news organisations around the world. The cache of documents includes emails, banking details and client records dating back 40 years and reveals the inner workings of a law firm famed for its secrecy.

No time was wasted in splashing pictures of Vladimir Putin all over the internet when the story first broke, despite the tiny problem that the Russian President is not actually mentioned in the documents. OffGuardian's Kit broke it down efficiently:

Luke Harding, a bastion of ethical journalism (and not at all a paranoid lunatic), has churned out 2 articles totaling over 5000 words, each using the word “Putin”, almost as often as they use the phrases “allegedly”, “speculation suggests”, “has been described as” and “may have been”.

Neither of his articles mentions by name any of the 12 world leaders, past and present, actually identified in the documents, nor do they mention David Cameron’s dad, who is also in there. No, they focus on a cellist friend of Putin’s, talk about his daughter’s marriage, and include an awful lot of diagrams with big arrows that point at pictures of...Vladimir Putin. This is, apparently, all evidence of...something.

...I’m not sure what, but it will probably be discussed at length in the “book” Luke Harding is probably planning to publish in a couple of weeks. That’s if the NSA don’t delete it all while he’s typing.

The only important, or even true, phrase Harding uses appears at the very top of this article:

"...the president’s name does not appear in any of the records..."


Indeed, the Guardian's decision to allow an alleged plagiarist and relentless critic of Russia like Luke Harding to write the first story, which condemns Putin for the crime of having a cellist friend mentioned in the documents, can mean only two things: that the Guardian's editorial staff are either indifferent to the desire of their readers for neutral, fact-based reporting...or simply incompetent. Or both. Whatever the reason, it was another slap in the face of its dwindling readership - an insult to the intelligence of those few readers who have not yet realised the tragic truth of the Guardian: a once proud newspaper now reduced to peddling weak propaganda for powerful Western interests.

The blanket smearing of Putin (and Assad) - both coincidentally current Western targets - with no direct evidence in the documents of wrongdoing on their parts was balanced on the US side by McClatchy Newspapers, who found four little-known Americans in the documents, all previously accused or convicted of financial crimes such as fraud and tax evasion.

Any reporting on this issue by corporate media has therefore been definitely proven as slanted and should henceforth be regarded as such. As correctly pointed out by WikiLeaks and others, full disclosure of the Panama Papers with a public, searchable database is the only way to actually call this a leak. As it stands, it is selectively exposed information that only tells us (apart from a few names) what we already know: that rich individuals and corporations everywhere are very often corrupt, and that they hide their money offshore.

The funding of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that has directed the reporting of this leak should also be a matter of concern to any observer familiar with recent history. ICIJ is funded by - among others - the George Soros-founded Open Society Foundations. This name crops up again and again when governments hostile to Washington are removed and replaced, a documented fact that instantly destroys the credibility of any ostensibly benign enterprise linked to him, with the modern US 'soft power' tactic of 'democracy promotion' long established and understood.

To the likely chagrin of those behind the selective reporting of the Panama Papers, the affair has backfired spectacularly, as the public quickly saw through the comically inept attempts to smear Putin and Assad and leapt on the information that has not been released. As many Western observers have justifiably pointed out: 'OK, so now we know there are some corrupt people in Russia and China - even though we already knew that. Now tell us about the ones in our own governments'. As a result, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior members of the Conservative Party have been put under extreme public pressure to provide full disclosure on their own tax affairs after Cameron's father's name was exposed, with thousands of protestors descending on Downing Street this weekend to demand the PM's resignation.

Missing from much of the reporting and analysis is what we already know about tax havens:

An estimated $21 to $32 trillion of private financial wealth is located, untaxed or lightly taxed, in secrecy jurisdictions around the world. Illicit cross-border financial flows add up to an estimated $1-1.6 trillion each year. Since the 1970s African countries alone are estimated to have lost over $1 trillion in capital flight, dwarfing their current external debts of 'just' $190 billion and making Africa a major net creditor to the world. But those assets are in the hands of a few wealthy people, protected by offshore secrecy, while the debts are shouldered by broad African populations.

Yet rich countries suffer too: in the recent global financial crisis, European countries like Greece, Italy and Portugal have been brought to their knees by decades of secrecy and tax evasion.

A global industry has developed involving the world's biggest banks, law practices and accounting firms which not only provide secretive offshore structures to their tax- and law-dodging clients, but aggressively market them. 'Competition' between jurisdictions to provide secrecy facilities has, particularly since the era of financial globalisation took off in the 1980s, become a central feature of global financial markets.


More:

According to a (highly recommended) website dedicated to providing information on this issue, there are 18,857 companies registered at one address in the Cayman Islands and 217,000 registered to a '1209 North Orange Street, Wilmington, Delaware', including Coca Cola, Google, Verizon, KFC, American Airlines and GM. We also learn that 83 of the largest 100 US companies use tax havens, as do 98% of the companies registered on the London Stock Exchange.

Aside from the fact that tax havens enable the rich to hide money that they are legally obliged to pay for the vital public services that societies need to survive, they also ultimately force the poor to pick up the tab. Tax havens further enable financial criminals to hide their booty; corrupt leaders or dictators to plunder the resources of poor and/or developing nations; and also allow banks to dodge financial laws. They create a private world of unaccountable power for the very rich, enabling them to do as they wish as the rest of the planet's inhabitants slide deeper and deeper into inequality, poverty and suffering.

Tax havens are a key means of escape for the rich and powerful from the rules that bind ordinary citizens, from the law of the land(s) itself. They enable rich people and companies to avoid paying their fair share for the very infrastructure they depend upon for their financial success: the roads that transport their products, the courts that protect and uphold their contracts, the education systems that prepare their work forces and the health systems that keep staff healthy.

And the police forces that protect their premises and persons from protestors.


[Note: a short video on the US itself as a tax haven here]

If the auspiciously named ICIJ and their partner journalists were actually interested in excising this offshore cancer for want of a better world, they would be demanding that all corporations and officials in positions of significant influence publish their tax affairs for ICIJ or public examination. It would be releasing all the Panama Papers: at the very least to independent journalists for them to report on or at best in a public database. While taxes may be private for ordinary citizens who have no choice but to pay and no means to avoid them, when a rich individual or company uses publicly funded infrastructure for their own benefit, tax affairs are by definition in the public interest.

The ICIJ would be demanding that all companies providing 'offshore services' be forced (in the public interest) to open their files to prosecutors and journalists in order to expose all who use such destructive and immoral entities. The Panama Papers, after all, concern just one such company: the tip of a very large, very dirty iceberg.

But the ICIJ is demanding no such exposure, and that can only mean one thing: that it is just one more of the thousands of organizations in the pockets of the rich and powerful. It means that it cannot be regarded as a neutral media organ; that it is merely another tool with an agenda.

The release of the Panama Papers has attracted enormous and welcome public scrutiny to an issue that has long been studiously ignored by the corporate media, providing a much-needed outlet for public frustration and anger with the dismantling of their public services for the benefit of the extremely wealthy while millions starve or live in misery. This atmosphere is a symptom of the deeper malaise gripping the planet: the utterly discredited capitalist (profit motive) con game that has enriched a tiny few at the expense of the planet's people, wildlife and environment. It is one more step along the road to radical systemic change.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bernie Sanders: Talking about a Revolution

"As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked - and rightly so - what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government." - Martin Luther King, Jr. [April 4th 1967 - Source]

With the US presidential primary season in full swing, the media spotlight is fixed on the campaigns like the Eye of Sauron. Beyond the GOP/Donald Trump freak show, there has been a great deal of analysis concerning the chances of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders seriously challenging Hillary Clinton, the natural choice of Wall Street and the US establishment. After he tied the popular vote in Iowa and trounced Clinton in New Hampshire, the hopes of his supporters went into the stratosphere.

Polling data for the forthcoming primaries show a solid lead for Clinton in most states. Much has also been said on the issue of so-called 'superdelegates', a deeply undemocratic element of the nomination process. The [recommended] Naked Capitalism blog provides an informative and balanced analysis:

While Sanders does have a modest 36-32 lead among elected delegates — those that are bound to the candidates based on the results of voting in primaries and caucuses — Clinton leads 362-8 among superdelegates, who are Democratic elected officials and other party insiders allowed to support whichever candidate they like.

If you’re a Sanders supporter, you might think this seems profoundly unfair. And you’d be right: It’s profoundly unfair. Superdelegates were created in part to give Democratic party elites the opportunity to put their finger on the scale and prevent nominations like those of George McGovern in 1972 or Jimmy Carter in 1976, which displeased party insiders.

...

The Democratic party’s nomination will ultimately be decided by more than 4,700 delegates at its nominating convention in the summer. Most of those delegates are allocated based on votes in each state’s primary or caucus. However, the party also assigns what are known as ‘superdelegates” – 700 or so people who aren’t elected by anyone during the primary process and are free to vote any way they want at the convention. They are made up of members of Congress and members of the Democratic National Committee – which is made up of much of the establishment that Sanders is implicitly running against.

Party elites who have announced who they are supporting have almost universally broken towards Clinton’s camp. A recent unofficial count put Clinton’s advantage at a staggering 355-14. And given how Sanders falls well outside the establishment compared with Obama in 2008, it’s hard to see how he can gain a significant number to make up for Clinton’s lead – meaning it’s more likely that superdelegates would at least want to tip the scales in favor of Clinton, even if he ends up winning more primaries.


That is not to say it is a foregone conclusion. If Sanders wins the popular vote by a significant margin - an outcome polls do not currently point to - superdelegates may switch to the Senator:

It’s hard to imagine that the superdelegates would outright steal the nomination from Sanders if he won the popular vote by, say, 10%. But it’s certainly possible to imagine them demanding a high and not at all metaphorical price for their support if the Sanders margin of victory was much smaller. (What would Big Pharma give, for example, to avoid a Sanders victory, or cripple his single payer initiative?) Nate Silver gives the most benign prediction:

What you’re likely to see in close cases like these is competing claims to legitimacy, with Democratic party elites showing their bias by interpreting the evidence in favor of Clinton.

It’s hard to know the exact point at which such claims go from laughable to credible, but my guess is that it’s somewhere around the 5 percentage point gap… So superdelegates do provide some advantage to Clinton: They’ll break a true tie in her favor, and perhaps anything that can reasonably be described as a tie in her favor also. It’s just not the massive advantage implied by the delegate count so far.

(And at this point I remember that Clinton has also been sharing fundraising money with the State parties, and Sanders small contributions have not been devoted to that, so a lot of those superdelegates may feel honor-bound to reciprocate for their walking around money. And I also remember that when the DNC took Michigan delegates away from Clinton and gave them to Obama, they violated procedural rules to do so; like changing the agenda during lunch, IIRC. So these are people not necessarily concerned with the niceties.)


The idea that this superdelegate system is entirely undemocratic is fueled by the words of none other than Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who said the following on CNN in answer to a question from Jake Tapper [Emphasis (bold) mine]:

Well, let me just make sure that I can clarify exactly what was available during the primaries in Iowa and in New Hampshire. The unpledged delegates are a separate category. The only thing available on the ballot in a primary and a caucus is the pledged delegates, those that are tied to the candidate that they are pledged to support. And they receive a proportional number of delegates going into the — going into our convention.

Unpledged delegates exist really to make sure that party leaders and elected officials don’t have to be in a position where they are running against grass-roots activists. We are, as a Democratic Party, really highlight and emphasize inclusiveness and diversity at our convention, and so we want to give every opportunity to grass-roots activists and diverse committed Democrats to be able to participate, attend and be a delegate at the convention. And so we separate out those unpledged delegates to make sure that there isn’t competition between them.


It is worth highlighting also that Clinton is a clear odds-on favorite to win the nomination, according to bookmakers.

Polls of course can be misleading and surprises occur. A major scandal engulfing Clinton, for one, would play into the hands of the Sanders campaign. What, in such an instance, could one expect from President Sanders?

The campaign website has set out a series of progressive goals such as the Rebuild America Act, which proposes 'a $1 trillion plan to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and put 13 million Americans to work'. This will be paid for 'by making corporations pay taxes on all of the “profits” they have shifted to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens, which the Congressional Research Services estimates may currently create losses that approach $100 billion annually, and other loopholes'. He also proposes 'making public colleges and universities tuition-free and substantially reducing student debt, in a plan that would cost about $75 billion a year' paid for by 'imposing a tax on Wall Street speculators that would generate about $300 billion in revenue'.

What's not to like? Three little words spring immediately to mind: 'Hope and Change'. Back when Candidate Obama was running in his first campaign, inspiring rhetoric literally gushed out. Marvel here at the young idealist's promises of more transparency and at these embarrassing clips on government spying before and after the Snowden disclosures.

If a voter is naive enough to believe that a politician - any politician - won't back down on pre-election promises once safely in power, it is extremely likely they will also be naive enough to think that the ruling elites of the United States would let Sanders get anywhere near their tax havens and various cash cows. A good and hopeful citizen, fed up of all the inequality, poverty and police violence (to name but three pressing issues in the US), may even believe that this time is somehow different, that Obama's broken promises will not be repeated under an integrity-driven Sanders presidency.

The sober reality, however, is that nothing can ever radically change within the establishment consensus, the unbreakable duopoly that represents the true government of the US. Princeton University Professor Martin Gilens and Northwestern University Professor Benjamin I. Page - hardly firebrand radicals - found in a 2014 study that the US is an oligarchy, not a democracy.

They concluded:

Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organisations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.

Why can nothing radically change as things stand? Historian William Blum explains:

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:

* Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.

* In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.

* The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.

* Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned [w]ages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” (Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015.)

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?


While the profit motive, the driving force and underlying principle of capitalism, remains intact in the US and the world in general, none of the social ills targeted for improvement or eradication by Sanders can ever be tackled. Like pouring a bucket of fresh water into a poisoned lake, the overbearing sickness will always return no matter what the short-term gains because all of the key public institutions in the US are compromised, controlled by the ruling classes, who will inevitably work to ensure their interests are served. Add to this the corporate ownership of the media and the result is a confused populace kept ignorant of reality, led around by the nose in whichever direction is ultimately beneficial to the aforementioned oligarchy.

Further evidence of lack of socialist credentials despite Sanders' claims to them is provided when one looks at his professed support not only for Israel, a nation engaged in a long-running campaign of brutalization against the Palestinian people, but also for the phony, imperialist war on terror, including drone strikes, in which 90% of all people targeted are innocent civilians. As evinced so perceptively by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the quotation at the head of this article, social justice for the poor within US borders can only occur when US violence abroad is terminated forever. In failing to acknowledge or extend this philosophy, Sanders betrays his true nature: that of a faithful establishment Democrat; most certainly not a socialist.

True social activism and awareness knows no boundaries and is only valid when applied to all people equally everywhere forever. In striving for this ideal, compromise - so often decreed necessary by tortured, 'nuanced' liberals - is self-defeating, as demonstrated by the adoption by millions of people of the cowardly, insipid and morally bankrupt 'lesser evil' argument, the oldest scam in the book since divide and rule; the means by which 'nicer' rulers have extended and entrenched the interests of the rich and powerful over ordinary citizens since the birth of democracy.

Bernie Sanders has captured and embodied the social mood of these dark times, has won the hopes and trust of many original supporters of the now safely co-opted Occupy movement. His supporters are good, ordinary people who want a better life for themselves and others and have latched onto what seems their only viable option. It is therefore vital that this massive movement for social justice is not co-opted into support for the Democratic party and its policies of maintaining the status quo. Their energy and passion must be channeled into grassroots protest and mass mobilisation.

Real revolution will never come about until the powers in control of the key institutions - national and global - are eradicated; until a system of government predicated on social justice and equality is implemented, one where the rich are removed and forever barred from unduly influencing politics. Bernie Sanders offers nothing even close to this, as journalist Chris Hedges concludes in a recent article:

This will be a long and desperate struggle. It will require open confrontation. The billionaire class and corporate oligarchs cannot be tamed. They must be overthrown. They will be overthrown in the streets, not in a convention hall. Convention halls are where the left goes to die.

No truer words. Do not be fooled again.

Written by Simon Wood

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

UN Ruling on Assange Exposes UK Lawlessness

"Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed" - Martin Luther King, Jr.

For any student of modern propaganda techniques, the ruling announced last week in favor of WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) has provided fertile ground for research. Indeed, the level of media frenzy sparked by the ruling can be regarded as a barometer of the power and extent of establishment forces ranged against him and his organization.

UNWGAD found that the predicament of Assange amounts to 'arbitrary detention', a legal term that is clearly defined, deriving from Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that both the United Kingdom and Sweden are signatories to. Article 9 states that 'no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile'. Arbitrary arrest or detention 'are the arrest or detention of an individual in a case in which there is no likelihood or evidence that they committed a crime against legal statute, or in which there has been no proper due process of law'. 'Due process' is defined as 'the legal requirement that the state must respect all legal rights that are owed to a person'.

Dr. Roslyn Fuller, a lecturer in International Law based in Ireland, has this to say about the ruling:

The Working Group stated they considered Assange’s case to fall under Category III, which covers cases where a trial does not comply with international human rights norms. The Working Group found that Sweden and the UK have pursued Assange in a disproportionate manner, given that the Swedish prosecutors could have questioned Assange at any point and he had declared himself willing to cooperate.

The two claims against Assange that were ‘dropped’ by the prosecutor last year were dropped because they were about to become time-barred. The prosecutor chose to allow this rather than to question Assange. One would think that if the prosecution had the interests of the alleged victims at heart, they may have chosen to pursue questioning in the UK – a common enough activity – rather than let the investigation lapse.

So while Assange may be holding out, so is Sweden, and nations have obligations to move the wheels of justice along as swiftly as practicable. The Working Group’s assessment is basically, “how hard can it be to conduct a preliminary investigation?” with the implication that if the prosecutor were serious, they would have gotten this wrapped up by now.

Furthermore, the Working Group found that “the grant itself and the fear of persecution on the part of Mr Assange based on the possibility of extradition, should have been given fuller consideration in the determination and the exercise of criminal administration, instead of being subjected to a sweeping judgment as defining either merely hypothetical or irrelevant”.

In other words, British and Swedish authorities should have considered that Assange’s fear of persecution might be founded and questioned him in the embassy, something it was perfectly possible to do with minimal effort in the interests of pushing their case forward. Questioning Assange at the embassy would not have jeopardized their case, whereas coming out of the embassy could have jeopardized Assange’s life. Thus, it would be disproportional to force him to do so when there was nothing to be gained by it. Assange’s interest in being protected from extradition to the United States outweighed the Swedish prosecution’s interest that he only be questioned in Sweden. Dismissing these concerns out-of-hand was arbitrary.


Even before UNWGAD's announcement, serious pressure will have been felt by members of the group not to rule for Assange, according to the former chair, Norwegian lawyer Mads Andenas, as he explains in this short radio interview. Although reluctant to provide specifics, he makes it clear that any ruling against 'big' nations like the UK or the US face considerable institutional resistance.

The media reported the ruling before its announcement, allowing the headlines to get the digs in early. This BBC article stated: 'Julian Assange is being "arbitrarily held", UN panel to say'. In casual speech, 'arbitrarily' is often used in a roughly synonymous manner to 'randomly', implying that the UK is randomly detaining Assange. Cue an avalanche of outrage and indignation on social media and elsewhere from casual news readers deeply offended at the suggestion that the UK is somehow behaving like a dictatorship and randomly applying justice, given that Assange is of course free to leave the embassy at any time and further given that through relentless media disinformation and misinformation for years, the average news consumer now believes that Assange must 'face justice'.

A Downing Street spokesman was on hand to supply fuel for the fire: "We have been consistently clear that Mr Assange has never been arbitrarily detained by the UK but is, in fact, voluntarily avoiding lawful arrest by choosing to remain in the Ecuadorean embassy."

This statement also employs the non-legal use of the term 'arbitrary'. Readers, the vast majority of whom have little or no knowledge of or concern about the details of the Assange case, are therefore given validation of an already misleading statement by an authority figure: classic psychological manipulation.

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond rejected the UN group ruling, condemning it as 'ridiculous'. Mr. Hammond, who has no legal expertise or background, further made the false claim that the group is made up of 'lay people, not lawyers' and that the ruling is 'flawed in law'. [Note: Former Guardian journalist Jonathon Cook expands on this point expertly here]

The corporate media was also on hand to deride and condemn the ruling. The Guardian's Marina Hyde, who has form smearing Julian Assange, wrote a rambling, vindictive, error-strewn article that has to be read to be believed. She then engaged in a smug, arrogant and self-congratulatory round of 'banter' [here and here] with like-minded journalist mates on Twitter, displaying a staggering level of contempt for a man described by the United Nations as deprived of liberty (add sunlight to that) for years as well as an embarrassing lack of awareness of her own gatekeeper role. It raises serious questions about editorial integrity at the Guardian, a newspaper of record, that a journalist with such obvious dislike for the subject of her article (with precedent) was permitted to write an analysis of a major story like this, particularly in light of the fact that Hyde usually covers showbiz and, by her own admission, has no detailed familiarity with the Assange case.

Social media lit up as soon everyone became an expert on international law and the qualifications and credentials of the members of UNWGAD. Comments below the line of articles all over the world slammed Assange with the usual tired and long discredited arguments.

The first wave of attack generally concerns the allegations of rape. It takes only a short period of research to find out the facts. [Note: anyone who believes they know what they are talking about with regard to the Assange case should read this FAQ here]

From the FAQ [emphasis (bold) mine]:

[] new information has emerged that both women explicitly deny having been raped by Mr. Assange. In a statement to the UK Supreme Court, the prosecutor acknowledged that the complainants wished only to ask the police for advice about HIV tests, having discovered they’d had both had sex with Mr. Assange. (There has never been an allegation Mr. Assange has HIV.) Neither of the women wished to lodge a formal complaint.

The woman of whom Mr. Assange is accused of the offence of "lesser rape" (a technical term in Swedish law) sent an SMS to a friend saying that she "did not want to accuse JA [of] anything" and "it was the police who made up the charges". The other woman tweeted in 2013 that she had never been raped. Both women’s testimonies say that they consented to the sex. A senior prosecutor already dismissed the ’rape’ accusation, saying that there were no grounds for accusing Mr. Assange on this basis. But a third prosecutor, lobbied by a politician who was running for attorney general, took over the investigation and resurrected the accusations against Mr. Assange. Due to the great number of incorrect reports [], it is best to rely on primary source documents in this matter, which are on the internet and the UK Supreme Court "Agreed Statements of Facts" agreed to by the UK, the Swedish authoritiesm and Mr. Assange’s legal team. (See here and here.)


The women themselves in their own words explicitly say they were not raped. The women themselves in their own words said they had no wish to lodge a complaint. Yet to the experts in the corporate media and on social media or below the line, Assange is apparently a 'cowardly rapist' who is 'holed up' in an embassy 'evading justice'. They occasionally even remember to write 'alleged' before 'rapist'.

The next line of attack concerns Assange's alleged evasion of justice. Yet Assange left Sweden on 27th September 2010 without impediment from prosecutor Marianne Ny, who had been assigned to the case from September 1st. It is worth noting that if this case was so serious that it became an international incident leading to the (very unusual) issuance of an Interpol Red Notice, and if the well-being of the alleged rape victims was such a priority for the prosecutor, the fact that Ny did nothing to question Assange before he left as a matter of urgency is highly suspicious.

It is also notable that Assange's Swedish lawyer, Bjorn Hurtig, made some very disturbing claims with regard to the two women involved:

Julian Assange's Swedish lawyer was shown scores of text messages sent by the two women who accuse him of rape and sexual assault, in which they speak of "revenge" and extracting money from him, an extradition hearing was told.

Björn Hurtig, who represents the WikiLeaks founder in Sweden, told Belmarsh magistrates court that he had been shown "about 100" messages sent between the women and their friends while supervised by a Swedish police officer, but had not been permitted to make notes or share the contents with his client.

"I consider this to be contrary to the rules of a fair trial," he said. A number of the messages "go against what the claimants have said", he told the court.

...

One message referred to one of the women being "half asleep" while having sex with Assange, Hurtig said, as opposed to fully asleep. "That to my mind is the same as saying 'half awake'." One of the women alleges that Assange had sex with her while she was sleeping.


Before destroying a man's reputation an objective, honorable or honest person would first look into the details and circumstances surrounding the case. Such considerations obviously do not apply to Assange.

One final line of attack is the idea that Assange is 'voluntarily' hiding in the embassy. It is insulting to the intelligence and legal abilities of the UNWGAD lawyers to think that they are incapable of correctly interpreting this unusual situation in legal terms. Anyone believing that they are in danger of political persecution, as Assange does, has the legal right under international law to seek protection on humanitarian grounds. From the FAQ:

International law says that a sovereign country has decided to recognise Mr. Assange as needing protection from political persecution on humanitarian grounds. Mr. Assange has a right to meaningfully exercise that protection through passage to Ecuador. Ecuador invoked a number of applicable conventions, including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. The United Kingdom and Sweden are also parties to the 1951 Convention and are obligated to recognise the asylum decision of Ecuador. While both states have been careful to avoid saying that they do not recognise the asylum, their actions can only be interpreted as a wilful violation of Mr. Assange’s right to ’seek, receive and enjoy’ his asylum. In international law, the obligation to protect persons from persecution under the 1951 Refugee Convention prevails over extradition agreements between states.

The United Kingdom says it has a treaty obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden even though he has not been charged with an offense. There is a conflict between the United Kingdom’s obligations to the 1951 UN refugee convention and its obligations under the European Arrest Warrant system. It is established law that these conflicts are to be resolved in favour of the higher obligation which is to the 1951 convention.

Rather than follow[] international law, the United Kingdom has chosen to interpret the conflict in favor of its geopolitical alliances. The United Kingdom has a history of breaking international law in this manner, for example, in its invasion of Iraq, its cooperation with US rendition operations, and its facilitation of global mass spying via its intelligence service GCHQ. Sweden is also a party to these last two violations.


Assange has reason to be concerned. A secret, long-running US investigation has been mounted against him, according to US Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd. "The grand jury is a serious business," said Michael Ratner, a human rights lawyer advising Assange. "They're all over this," he added. [Sources here]

Reason for concern indeed given the US approach to whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, who was tortured while awaiting trial, as well as the US's clear contempt for international laws and conventions, highlighted dramatically when it forced down the plane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales in the mistaken belief that Edward Snowden was aboard. That case also highlighted the powerful influence the US wields over European nations: France, Italy and Spain all denied airspace to Morales forcing the plane to land in Austria.

The UN ruling puts the UK and Sweden in a very sticky position as they recklessly try to play it both ways. In the past both nations have welcomed rulings by the same group when they benefited their geopolitical priorities, as this Crikey article explains:

What happens when the UN panel that you previously thought was excellent produces a verdict that you don’t like?

That was the problem facing UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (little-known outside the Tory Party and best known for having been a Goth in his younger days, not that there’s anything wrong with that) when the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in favour of Julian Assange’s complaint that he had been arbitrarily detained by the UK and Sweden.

...

But Hammond’s problem is the Cameron government had a very different view of the WGAD when it ruled that the Burmese regime’s ongoing detention of Aung San Suu Kyi was a breach of international human rights law. “As in its previous five ‘opinions’, the Working Group has found that the continuous deprivation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s liberty is arbitrary, and has requested the government of Myanmar to implement its previous recommendations and to remedy the situation,” Hammond’s predecessor William Hague said in calling for her release. Indeed, it’s been only a few months since the British government was happy to quote the WGAD in its guidance on handling particular types of protection and human rights claims about China.

China is a constant target of the WGAD. Unlike other UN bodies that might be criticised for obsessing about Western governments while ignoring the human rights abuses of dictatorships, WGAD focuses almost entirely on non-Western countries. In the years while Assange has been detained, the Working Group has ruled against China 14 times — with most rulings dealing with multiple detainees — and against Iran nine times, as well as ruling against Cuba and North Korea (again, often covering multiple cases) four times each. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the Palestinian Authority have also been among its targets. It’s in such company the UK and Sweden now find themselves.

The United States was also happy to cite the WGAD in the case of Alan Gross, who spent several years in a Cuban jail after travelling to the country to provide Cuba’s Jewish community with internet access. US politicians and the State Department were happy to cite WGAD’s finding that Gross was arbitrarily detained. The US Justice Department also cites WGAD decisions in its criticisms of the human rights records of other countries. And the WGAD ruled last August that Iran was holding US journalist Jason Rezaian arbitrarily as well; the State Department also invokes the WGAD’s decision about other imprisoned journalists.

In short, the WGAD is usually a reliable source for Western countries eager to criticise the human rights records of countries like China, Iran and Cuba. But the moment it looks askance at Western practices, it’s “ludicrous” and dismissed.


This episode teaches some lessons. Essential among them is the fact that analysis in the corporate media is now crippled beyond repair, its credibility a smoking wreck. If one desired an analysis of an aspect of astronomy or cosmology, would one read the opinions of a writer who still advocates the Ptolemaic Model of the solar system? The same applies to an analysis of the complicated legal case of Assange by obviously biased and prejudiced non-experts who are given a platform to speak to millions nonetheless. This further applies to much of foreign policy and other areas that require 'nuance' in the corporate media because advertisers are so touchy about what reaches the general public. The only meaningful analyses now come from independent journalists and writers who are free from corporate or government/lobby-group influence.

We also learn that corporate journalists not only act as gatekeepers in their day job, but even in their free time, gleefully towing the establishment line and seemingly oblivious to the deadly consequences of their obfuscations as they help to bring liberal, anti-war opinion over to the 'humanitarian interventionist' camp of the imperialist 'right to protect' doctrine.

Disturbingly we can also acquire a sense of the enormous power wielded behind the scenes by those who want Assange. If the UK and Sweden are willing to reject the findings of a United Nations panel of legal experts, a panel they never had complaints with in the past when they were condemning China etc., then we know that the stakes are as high as they get. The recklessness of this rejection is staggering, as explained by the Center for Constitutional Rights [Emphasis (bold) mine]:

In our briefs to the WGAD, we argued that someone is effectively detained when they are forced to choose between confinement and running the risk of persecution. That is the precise dilemma faced by Mr. Assange, who would lose the protection of his asylum if he stepped out of the embassy. The risk of extradition is the 'fourth wall' for the now repudiated claim that he is free to leave the embassy. As a result, it has been years since Mr. Assange has had access to proper medical care, sunlight, or the ability to see his family.

The WGAD's decision in Mr. Assange's case sets an important precedent for refugees. In our submissions we analogized the situation faced by Mr. Assange to that of asylum-seekers in detention facilities. States may claim that asylum-seekers held in subhuman conditions are not 'detained' because they are technically free to leave for their home country, but this is a non-choice, since the home country would persecute the asylum seeker.


In choosing to reject the UN ruling, not only are Sweden and the UK failing to live up to their treaty obligations because they do not suit their agendas - a working definition of an action of what Western nations traditionally call 'rogue nations' - but they are also putting their own citizens at risk by setting a dangerous precedent that will allow any evil dictator anywhere to also reject the findings of the UN in the future.

It is profoundly telling - a shocking demonstration of the power of media propaganda - that millions of people automatically side with governments who have lied time and time again on every issue imaginable, that have committed some of the most terrible crimes in history, against one man who has risked his freedom and life to expose some of those crimes. The idea that he might have been set up or has been persecuted is summarily dismissed despite the obvious motive for Western governments to do such a thing and despite the enormous amount of documented evidence demonstrating that this is precisely the case.

The Assange situation has long been a farce but now a ruling of the United Nations has been permitted to become a political football. This way utter lawlessness lies. The UK must immediately release and compensate Julian Assange as the UN ruling dictates. Failure to do this will only serve to confirm its status as a rogue nation and US lapdog.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

Facebook: here

Please also see my main blog.

My articles are written freely. If you appreciate them, Paypal donations can be made at my free book's website. Please feel free to re-blog or share these articles.

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