Above Photo: And Our Flags Are Still There. Mr. Fish.
This is a talk Chris Hedges gave in New York City at rally calling for the immediate release of Julian Assange on World Press Freedom Day.
The detention and persecution of Julian Assange eviscerates all pretense of the rule of law and the rights of a free press. The illegalities, embraced by the Ecuadorian, British, Swedish and U.S. governments are ominous. They presage a world where the internal workings, abuses, corruption, lies and crimes, especially war crimes, carried out by corporate states and the global ruling elite, will be masked from the public. They presage a world where those with the courage and integrity to expose the misuse of power will be hunted down, tortured, subjected to sham trials and given lifetime prison terms in solitary confinement. They presage an Orwellian dystopia where news is replaced with propaganda, trivia and entertainment. The legal lynching of Julian, I fear, marks the official beginning of the corporate totalitarianism that will define our lives.
Under what law did Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno capriciously terminate Julian’s rights of asylum as a political refugee? Under what law did Moreno authorize British police to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy — diplomatically sanctioned sovereign territory — to arrest a naturalized citizen of Ecuador? Under what law did Donald Trump criminalize journalism and demand the extradition of Julian, who is not a U.S. citizen and whose news organization is not based in the United States? Under what law did the CIA violate attorney-client privilege, surveil and record all of Julian’s conversations both digital and verbal with his lawyers and plot to kidnap him from the Embassy and assassinate him?
The corporate state eviscerates enshrined rights by judicial fiat. This is how we have the right to privacy, with no privacy. This is how we have “free” elections funded by corporate money, covered by a compliant corporate media and under iron corporate control. This is how we have a legislative process in which corporate lobbyists write the legislation and corporate-indentured politicians vote it into law. This is how we have the right to due process with no due process. This is how we have a government — whose fundamental responsibility is to protect citizens — that orders and carries out the assassination of its own citizens, such as the Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son. This is how we have a press which is legally permitted to publish classified information and our generation’s most important publisher sitting in solitary confinement in a high security prison awaiting extradition to the United States.
The psychological torture of Julian — documented by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer — mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” The Gestapo broke bones. The East German Stasi broke souls. We, too, have refined the cruder forms of torture to destroy souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. This is what they are doing to Julian, steadily degrading his physical and psychological health. It is a slow-motion execution. This is by design. Julian has spent much of his time in isolation, is often heavily sedated and has been denied medical treatment for a variety of physical ailments. He is routinely denied access to his lawyers. He has lost a lot of weight, suffered a minor stroke, spent time in the prison hospital wing — which prisoners call the hell wing — because he is suicidal, been placed in prolonged solitary confinement, observed banging his head against the wall and hallucinating. Our version of Orwell’s dreaded Room 101.
Julian was marked for elimination by the CIA once he and WikiLeaks published the documents known as Vault 7, which exposed the CIA’s cyber warfare arsenal which includes dozens of viruses, trojans and malware remote control systems designed to exploit a wide range of U.S. and European company products, including Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows and even Samsung’s Smart TVs, which can be turned into covert microphones even when they appear to be switched off.
I spent two decades as a foreign correspondent. I saw how the brutal tools of repression are tested on those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” From its inception, the CIA carried out assassinations, coups, torture, black propaganda campaigns, blackmail and illegal spying and abuse, including of U.S. citizens, activities exposed in 1975 by the Church Committee hearings in the Senate and the Pike Committee hearings in the House. All these crimes, especially after the attacks of 9/11, have returned with a vengeance. The CIA has its own armed units and drone program, death squads and a vast archipelago of global black sites where kidnapped victims are tortured and disappeared.
The U.S. allocates a secret black budget of about $50 billion a year to hide multiple types of clandestine projects carried out by the National Security Agency, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, usually beyond the scrutiny of Congress. The CIA has a well-oiled apparatus, which is why, since it had already set up a system of 24-hour video surveillance of Julian in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, it quite naturally discussed kidnapping and assassinating Julian. That is its business. Sen. Frank Church — after examining the heavily redacted CIA documents released to his committee — defined the CIA’s “covert activity” as “a semantic disguise for murder, coercion, blackmail, bribery, the spreading of lies and consorting with known torturers and international terrorists.”
Fear the puppet masters, not the puppets. They are the enemy within.
This is a fight for Julian, who I know and admire. It is a fight for his family, who are working tirelessly for his release. It is a fight for the rule of law. It is a fight for the freedom of the press. It is a fight to save what is left of our diminishing democracy. And it is a fight we must not lose.