Daughter Lauren and her partner Chris have a cat named Lorelei, which has begun to ape their dog Max. Lorelei has spotted that Max gets most of the privileges, and is determined to get in on the act. There they are together, in Max’s basket.
So she now wags her tail, instead of twitching it, and places her head on Lauren’s knee, and looks at her longingly. Hoping for more attention and petting.
Lorelei has always caught my attention, as a tough, self-contained creature, set on doing her own unique thing. A bit of a hard nut. Uncompromising. Maybe some parallels there with Britain 75 years ago. Not the world’s greatest power anymore, at the end of World War Two, but still sitting in at the top table, on its own merits, having fought heroically against the Nazi war machine.
Somehow, Lorelei, recently, and the UK, over a period of decades, have been persuaded not to be themselves.
Lorelei, to her credit, is at least looking to slip into the tenacious, energetic and alert ranks of border collies.
Britain is now rarely distinguishable from a US poodle, or, as Pamela Anderson said a few days ago, “America’s bitch”.
Now it stands at a crossroads. One choice is to roll over abysmally, yet again, to cosy up to the world’s bully, run by the world’s grossest politician. The other is to show some backbone, by refusing to allow Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States for what is essentially top-class journalism, in particular for exposing evidence of American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dragged by police out of the Ecuadorian embassy at the end of last week, after the South American country buckled to US pressure, Assange is accused by the US Department of Justice of conspiring with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to commit “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”. Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, including a video of civilians murdered from a helicopter in Iraq.
It is easy enough to search out this video, contained in the 17-minute film “Collateral Murder”, on the internet. Released by Assange and ‘co-leaker’ Chelsea Manning, it shows classified footage from 2007 of American helicopter crews slaughtering a group of 12 Iraqis. The dead included two Reuters reporters and a family in a car, containing children, which stopped to help a wounded person lying on the sidewalk.
It is the vilest thing I have seen in years. Please watch it, while remembering that Assange and Manning risked their freedom to make it available, and that the protagonists were participating in an illegal invasion and occupation, outside of international law. (In my professional writing, I always refer to the US-led invasion of Iraq, rather than the ‘Second Iraq War’).
The dialogue that you will hear between the helicopter gunship crew and their command centre illustrates beyond doubt that they had as much concern for human life as did those who were responsible for sending them to Iraq in the first place. Comments of “nice” at each death. “Look at those dead bastards.” And “we lit them up”. Standard operating procedure, for the US invaders.
It is a great aid for me to remember this film, when the human livestock journalists at the Daily Mail run a headline entitled “That’ll wipe the smile off your face” as Assange is taken away by police. “A soaring ego, vile personal habits, and after years in his squalid den, hardly a friend left,” says the Mail, unwittingly describing itself.
Shocking as the Iraqi footage is, it is one of countless horrors inflicted on Iraq and other sovereign Middle East nations, in the name of “freedom and democracy”. So for me, Assange’s Wikileaks does the world a huge service every time it publishes details of these and other horrors. His reward for that service has been growing media-inspired ridicule, and what looks like a deprivation of his human rights.
Theresa May has stressed that nobody is “above the law”. So presumably we can expect Tony Blair to be dragged, handcuffed, from his multi-million pound Georgian home in London. And sent to The Hague to stand trial. Under Nuremberg standards, Blair can be tried for the deaths of a million Iraqis. Assange’s ‘crime’ is journalism: holding the greedy and powerful to account, baring their lies and empowering the globe with facts.
Over many years, Wikileaks has consistently exposed not just war crimes but the slime-for-ethics in which many politicians and corporations wallow.
Hence, the Australia-born Assange’s honours and awards:
– 2008, The Economist New Media Award
– 2009, Amnesty International UK Media Awards
– 2010, TIME Person of the Year, Reader‘s Choice
– 2010, Sam Adams Award
– 2010, Le Monde Readers‘ Choice Award for Person of the Year
– 2011, Free Dacia Press Freedom Award
– 2011, Sydney Peace Foundation Gold Medal
– 2011, Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism
– 2011, Walkley Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism
– 2011, Voltaire Award for Free Speech
– 2011, International Piero Passetti Journalism Prize
– 2011, Jose Couso Press Freedom Award
– 2012, Big Brother Awards Hero of Privacy
– 2013, Global Exchange Human Rights Award, People‘s Choice
– 2013, Yoko Ono Lennon Courage Award for the Arts
– 2013, New York Festivals World‘s Best TV & Films Silver World Medal
– 2013, Brazilian Press Association International Human Rights Award
– 2014, Union of Journalists in Kazakhstan Top Prize
– 2019, Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize
These awards recognise Wikileaks’ role in bringing wrongdoing to light. In case anyone has forgotten, that is the key role of the press, or Fourth Estate, which is enshrined in the US Constitution’s First Amendment. Not to entertain, lie, dissemble or show political bias, but to hold power to accountability, and to seek and reveal truth. To never stop calling out power, irrespective of your political loyalties. Again and again, until the fuckers are so ashamed that they start to improve their behaviour.
Maybe Wikileaks influenced the 2016 election results in the US, as some say. Did voters take account of the exposé of Hillary Clinton as a backer and beneficiary of jihadism in the Middle East? There is no proof. But, if revealing truths about the corruption of Clinton and the Democrats somehow caused Trump to be elected, so be it. That process of revelation is what journalism is for, above all else. Electorates need facts to vote. Clinton reckons Assange “must answer for what he has done”, which is interesting.
Assange has consistently, deliberately and unashamedly spoiled the flower arrangements of the turds who sit at the top table. Like the detailed description of American ambassadors discussing how the governments in Syria and Venezuela might be overthrown. Good for him.
I have no idea what he is like as a man. Is he a rapist? If there is convincing evidence, and Sweden wants him, then send him for trial for that alleged offence, not to a kangaroo court in the same United States that tortured Chelsea Manning. Yet much of the corporate media writes of the second eventuality as if it is the way forward, like turkeys anticipating Christmas.
“If he is extradited to the US, that’s pretty much it,” said my mate Martin, also a journalist. “Journalism will become even more indistinguishable from PR, unless you risk breaking the law.”
One of the best independent political journalists, Glen Greenwald, was spot on in his observations. “The move is clearly a threat to the First Amendment, because it criminalizes core journalistic functions,” he highlighted.
Greenwald explained this clearly. “The Obama DOJ – despite launching notoriously aggressive attacks press freedoms – recognized this critical principle when it came to WikiLeaks. It spent years exploring whether it could criminally charge Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. It ultimately decided it would not do so, and could not do so, consistent with the press freedom guarantee of the First Amendment. After all, the Obama DOJ concluded, such a prosecution would pose a severe threat to press freedom because there would be no way to prosecute Assange for publishing classified documents without also prosecuting the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and others for doing exactly the same thing.”
If the Trump government is handed Assange on a plate by Britain, a precedent will be set for anyone in the world who publishes facts about the United States. That poses a greater threat to press freedoms than anything I have seen in this life.
Back to the crossroads, where the UK has the option to further disgrace itself by inserting its tongue even more deeply into the bright orange anus of Donald Trump. And fully become “America’s bitch”. The cat that wagged its tail. The has-been country that helped throttle the last vestiges of a free press. A little province in a big US-centralised empire, just like Australia, which has said nothing to protect its citizen.
Or we could show courage, mettle, independence and the spirit of fairness and justice for which Britain is still known internationally. Is that a myth? Or can we treat a top journalist and truth-teller with respect. It is not too late.
The pictures at the end of last week indicated that the decision may already have been made. Multiple policemen manhandling a sick journalist.