Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Pilger answers Assange critics

Journalist John Pilger (L) and Julian Assange (R), founder of the WikiLeaks website, chat before addressing the crowd during the 'Antiwar Mass Assembly' organised by the Stop the War Coalition at Trafalgar Square on October 8, 2011 in London, England.


International journalist and renowned anti-war and anti-secrecy campaigner, John Pilger, has produced a swift answer to the spineless meedja and pro-empire bandwaggoners who have been attacking Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, and the Ecuadorian Government which granted him political asylum under siege in their London Embassy this week:

"The British government's threat to invade the Ecuadorean embassy in London and seize Julian Assange is of historic significance. David Cameron, the former PR man to a television industry huckster and arms salesman to sheikdoms, is well placed to dishonour international conventions that have protected Britons in places of upheaval. Just as Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq led directly to the acts of terrorism in London on 7 July 2005, so Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague have compromised the safety of British representatives across the world.

Threatening to abuse a law designed to expel murderers from foreign embassies, while defaming an innocent man as an "alleged criminal", Hague has made a laughing stock of Britain across the world, though this view is mostly suppressed in Britain. The same brave newspapers and broadcasters that have supported Britain's part in epic bloody crimes, from the genocide in Indonesia to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, now attack the "human rights record" of Ecuador, whose real crime is to stand up to the bullies in London and Washington.

It is as if the Olympics happy-clappery has been subverted overnight by a revealing display of colonial thuggery. Witness the British army officer-cum-BBC reporter Mark Urban "interviewing" a braying Sir Christopher Meyer, Blair's former apologist in Washington, outside the Ecuadorean embassy, the pair of them erupting with Blimpish indignation that the unclubbable Assange and the uncowed Rafael Correa should expose the western system of rapacious power. Similar affront is vivid in the pages of the Guardian, which has counselled Hague to be "patient" and that storming the embassy would be "more trouble than it is worth". Assange was not a political refugee, the Guardian declared, because "neither Sweden nor the UK would in any case deport someone who might face torture or the death penalty".

The irresponsibility of this statement matches the Guardian's perfidious role in the whole Assange affair. The paper knows full well that documents released by WikiLeaks indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters of civil rights. In December 2001, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammedel-Zari, who were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and "rendered" to Egypt, where they were tortured. An investigation by the Swedish ombudsman for justice found that the government had "seriously violated" the two men's human rights. In a 2009 US embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks, entitled "WikiLeaks puts neutrality in the Dustbin of History", the Swedish elite's vaunted reputation for neutrality is exposed as a sham. Another US cable reveals that "the extent of [Sweden's military and intelligence] cooperation [with Nato] is not widely known" and unless kept secret "would open the government to domestic criticism".

The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, played a notorious leading role in George W Bush's Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and retains close ties to the Republican Party's extreme right. According to the former Swedish director of public prosecutions Sven-Erik Alhem, Sweden's decision to seek the extradition of Assange on allegations of sexual misconduct is "unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate". Having offered himself for questioning, Assange was given permission to leave Sweden for London where, again, he offered to be questioned. In May, in a final appeal judgment on the extradition, Britain's Supreme Court introduced more farce by referring to non-existent "charges".

Accompanying this has been a vituperative personal campaign against Assange. Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover,has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal.The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a "damaged personality" and "callous". They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. On 20 August, Harding was outside the Ecuadorean embassy, gloating on his blog that "Scotland Yard may get the last laugh". It is ironic, if entirely appropriate, that a Guardian editorial putting the paper's latest boot into Assange bears an uncanny likeness to the Murdoch press's predictable augmented bigotry on the same subject. How the glory of Leveson, Hackgate and honourable, independent journalism doth fade.

His tormentors make the point of Assange's persecution. Charged with no crime, he is not a fugitive from justice. Swedish case documents, including the text messages of the women involved, demonstrate to any fair-minded person the absurdity of the sex allegations - allegations almost entirely promptly dismissed by the senior prosecutor in Stockholm, Eva Finne, before the intervention of a politician, Claes Borgstr? At the pre-trial of Bradley Manning, a US army investigator confirmed that the FBI was secretly targeting the "founders, owners or managers of WikiLeaks" for espionage.

Four years ago, a barely noticed Pentagon document, leaked by WikiLeaks, described how WikiLeaks and Assange would be destroyed with a smear campaign leading to "criminal prosecution". On 18 August, the Sydney Morning Herald disclosed, in a Freedom of Information release of official files, that the Australian government had repeatedly received confirmation that the US was conducting an "unprecedented" pursuit of Assange and had raised no objections. Among Ecuador's reasons for granting asylum is Assange's abandonment "by the state of which he is a citizen". In 2010, an investigation by the Australian Federal Police found that Assange and WikiLeaks had committed no crime. His persecution is an assault on us all and on freedom".

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Lunasa/August 24 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Julian Assange appears in public at Embassy


Having been granted political asylum by the Government of Ecuador, Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, the internet whistle blowers site, appeared on a balcony of the country's Embassy in London on Sunday to give a statement to scores of waiting Press and photographic journalists crowding outside along with a large crowd of Assange supporters who had also gathered to express solidarity with the controversial journalist.

With London Metropolitan Police officers standing only yards away, Assange called on President Obama to abandon what he called a "witch-hunt" against WikiLeaks. He said an alleged "FBI investigation" against his whistleblowing website should be "dissolved" and that the US should go back to its original "revolutionary" values.

"As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of our societies," Assange said, standing on a small balcony just above the pavement, and flanked by Ecuador's yellow, blue and red flag. He added: "I ask President Obama to do the right thing: the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks."
Assange also thanked Ecuador's social democrat president, Rafael Correa, for granting him political asylum. Correa's decision, announced last Thursday, has set off a growing international row. Assange also thanked several other Latin American countries for their support – implicitly warning Britain that any dispute with Ecuador could rapidly snowball into a conflict with the entire region.

More than 50 police officers had  surrounded the Embassy in Knightsbridge, south-west London, on Sunday, with a police helicopter in the skies above. Assange addressed  the crowd of supporters including Tariq Ali and former British ambassador Craig Murray making speeches from the street.

Assange spoke for 10 minutes. This was his first public appearance since he arrived at the Embassy two months ago and the latest surreal episode in a political circus that has seen him go from the High Court to house arrest in Norfolk and then to an embassy camp-bed in genteel Kensington and Chelsea.The 41-year-old Australian took refuge in the Embassy after the Supreme Court ordered his extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of "serious sexual misconduct" of dubious authorship. Assange stated his predicament was a universal one of free speech struggling to survive in a "dangerous and oppressive world". Britain says it is obliged to implement EU extradition law and will arrest Assange the moment he leaves the building. Speaking from the balcony in southwest London, Assange claimed that the Metropolitan Police had come close to storming the Embassy late last Wednesday. Britain sent a letter to Ecuador last week stating that it believes it is entitled to arrest Assange inside the building under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987. The claim has enraged the government in Quito, which says the 1961 Vienna Convention protects its – and others' – diplomatic territory.

Assange said: "Inside this embassy in the dark, I could hear teams of police swarming up inside the building through its internal fire escape." He said the only reason the UK "did not throw away the Vienna Convention the other night" was because "the world is watching". He also thanked embassy staff, "who have shown me hospitality and kindness, despite the threats we all received".

But, Assange's provocative balcony appearance, in which he praised "courageous Ecuador" while disparaging Britain, will have antagonised an already hostile Downing Street anxious, as ever, to please its Washington masters. Assange's supporters claim that if he is sent to Sweden he is in danger of being extradited to the US to be charged with espionage. Sweden has vehemently denied this.

On Sunday, Assange said: "Will the US return to and reaffirm the revolutionary values it was founded on, or will it lurch off the precipice, dragging us all into a dangerous and oppressive world?" He said there should be no "foolish talk" about prosecuting media organisations, mentioning not only WikiLeaks but also the New York Times, a paper Assange has previously bitterly criticised.

He also called on the US to end its "war on whistleblowers", and demanded that Bradley Manning, the US army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking information, be released.
Manning has been charged with transferring classified data and delivering national defence information to an unauthorised source. He faces up to 52 years in jail.
Assange called him a hero and "an example to all of us" – drawing cheers from WikiLeaks fans packing the Knightsbridge pavement. "On Wednesday, Bradley Manning spent his 815th day of detention without trial," Assange said. "The legal maximum is 120 days."
Assange also made mention of his children, "who have been denied their father". He said he hoped soon to be back with them and the rest of his family, adding: "Forgive me, we will be reunited soon."


The asylum decision was announced by the Foreign Affairs minister, Ricardo Patiño, in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and was watched live by Assange and embassy staff via a video link to the press conference.
Senor Patiño said the Ecuadorian government had conducted lengthy diplomatic talks with the British, Swedish and US governments. None would give the guarantees about Assange's future that the South American country was seeking and had shown "no willingness" to negotiate on the issue. US authorities were specifically asked if they had any intention to seek Assange's extradition so they could start legal proceedings against him, and what the maximum penalty was that he could face.
"The response from the United States has been that it cannot offer any guarantees. With these precedents in mind the Ecuadorian government, loyal to its tradition to protect those who seek refuge with us and in our diplomatic mission, have decided to grant diplomatic asylum to Mr Assange."
Senor Patiño called for Assange to be guaranteed safe passage to leave the embassy but the Foreign Office insisted this would not be offered.


Ecuador has secured an emergency meeting of the Organisation of American States over what Ecuador says is Britain's threat to invade its Embassy in London to arrest Assange, the Ecuadoreans are pushing for similar meetings of the Union of South American Nations, the ALBA association of Bolivarian states and the UN.On the agenda for the OAS meeting will be both Ecuador's claims that the UK has threatened the principle of "inviolable" status of its embassy in the UK and demands that the UK grant "safe passage" for Assange out of the UK. The OAS voted to hold a meeting Friday 24th following Ecuador's decision to grant political asylum to Assange. Assange has described the move as a "historic victory" 

The decision by the OAS to debate the affair follows a letter from the British Foreign Office to Ecuadorean authorities, warning it believed it had a legal basis to arrest Assange in the Embassy, interpreted by Ecuador as a threat to raid the building – although this has been denied by the UK which says it prefers a "negotiated outcome".

The US, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago opposed the resolution, but 23 members voted in favour of the meeting. There were five abstentions and three members were absent. OAS secretary general José Miguel Insulza said the meeting would be about "the problem posed by the threat or warning made to Ecuador by the possibility of an intervention into its embassy". He added: "What is being proposed is that the foreign ministers of our organisation address this subject and not the subject of asylum nor whether it should be granted to Mr Julian Assange. That will be discussed between Great Britain and Ecuador. The issue that concerns us is the inviolability of diplomatic missions of all members of this organisation."

Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, said in a radio interview on Friday that his nation was not trying to undermine Sweden's attempts to question Assange. He said: "The main reason why Julian Assange was given diplomatic asylum was because his extradition to a third country was not guaranteed; in no way was it done to interrupt the investigations of Swedish justice over an alleged crime. In no way."

The British whore press has mounted a smear campaign against Ecuador's President Rafael Correa calling him megalomaniac, dictatorial and unstable, parrotting Washington's
similar propaganda line against any Latin American leaders who fail to comply with US neo-colonialist demands. This is the main issue in this affair, not the allegations in Sweden
against Mr Assange. It should be remembered that these allegations were investigated by Swedish police and Mr Assange was told he could leave Sweden. Sometime later, a different Swedish prosecutor re-entered the case and demanded Mr Assange return to Sweden for "questioning". No criminal charges were ever brought to indictment. This has led to the reasonable suspicion that the second application was politically motivated. The subsequent attempts by Swedish authorities to have Mr Assange extradited from Britain were unjustified since he had already agreed to answer any questions from Swedish police at any time in London. The London High Court, in agreeing the extradition demand, went against majority precedent in European cases which do not allow extradition for mere "questioning" so this decision too, must be suspect of political motivitation. Those who insist
on making this a "feminist" issue are doing Washington's work either by default or by deliberate choice. It is the criminal acts of murder by the USA across the world which should be indicted and its subversion and interference in the internal affairs of countries hostile to US foreign policy which should be roundly condemned by all those who believe in Universal Human Rights and application of International Law to all countries, however powerful.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Lunasa/August 21 2012

Craig Murray speech outside Ecuador Embassy, London, 19.08.2012:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Britain threatens Ecuador on Assange asylum

                              Police outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Wikileaks 
                              founder, Julian Assange, arrived two months ago seeking political asylum.


In an extraordinary development today the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino,
released details of a letter he had received from the British Foreign Office in London and delivered through a British embassy official in Quito, the capital of the South American country.The letter said: "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the embassy." 

It added: "We need to reiterate that we consider the continued use of the diplomatic premises in this way incompatible with the Vienna convention and unsustainable and we have made clear the serious implications that this has for our diplomatic relations."

Last night, appeals were widely tweeted for Assange supporters to occupy the embassy to prevent British police from arresting Assange, and while there was a police presence outside the embassy, Scotland Yard insisted that officers were simply there to "police the embassy like any other embassy".

The dramatic development came two months after Assange suddenly walked into the Embassy in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he faces alleged trumped
up charges of sexual assault as a cover to force him to return to Sweden and be liable 
to be extradited to the USA with the connivance of the right-wing, pro-NATO government
in Sweden.

Senor Patiño said he was "deeply shocked" by the diplomatic letter. Speaking to reporters later, he said: "The government of Ecuador is considering a request for asylum and has carried out diplomatic talks with the governments of the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, today we received from the United Kingdom a written threat that they could attack our embassy in London if Ecuador does not give up Julian Assange.

"Ecuador, as a state that respects rights and justice and is a democratic and peaceful nation state, rejects in the strongest possible terms the explicit threat of the British official communication. "This is unbecoming of a democratic, civilised and law-abiding state. If this conduct persists, Ecuador will take appropriate responses in accordance with international law".

"If the measures announced in the British official communication materialise they will be interpreted by Ecuador as a hostile and intolerable act and also as an attack on our sovereignty, which would require us to respond with greater diplomatic force. "Such actions would be a blatant disregard of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations and of the rules of international law of the past four centuries. "It would be a dangerous precedent because it would open the door to the violation of embassies as a declared sovereign space." Under international law, diplomatic posts are considered the territory of the foreign nation.

Professor Julio Echeverria of Quito's Flasco University said Britain "has a long-established tradition in Europe of respecting diplomatic missions", which under international law are considered sovereign territory.

Assange denies the allegations against him, but, fears he will be sent to the United States if he goes to Sweden. An offer to the Swedish authorities by Ecuador for investigators to interview Assange inside the London embassy was rejected. Assange enraged Washington in 2010 when WikiLeaks published secret US diplomatic cables, has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 19 June. If Ecuador does give Assange asylum, it is difficult to see how the WikiLeaks boss could physically leave the closely watched Embassy and head to an airport without being arrested by British police.

The Ecuadorian Government will announce it's decision on political asylum for Mr Assange later today.

This latest development shows that the arrogance and hypocrisy of the aggressive NATO Alliance knows no bounds and considers, apparently, that International Law applies only to others and not to them. Threatening a sovereign country with invasion of it's Embassy is a scandalous affront to peaceful relations between nations and shows the colonial mentality
still survives in the British Foreign Office. Nevertheless, such an action would have severe consequences for British interests in Latin America as the majority of the countries on the Continent would show immediate solidarity with Ecuador. Already embroiled in a continuing conflict with Argentina over the disputed Malvinas Islands in the South Atlantic, such an aggressive move by Britain could have serious consequences for it's colonial outpost there.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Lunasa/August 16 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Muppets of Wall Street


Later this month one of the most awful spectacles of human debasement and sheer roguery, matched with nihilist neanderthal absence of intellect, ever seen on the planet will take place in the United States. This will be the 2012 Republican National Convention to be held in Tampa, Florida.

At this venue, the leading candidate for nomination as the Republican challenger to President Barack Obama in the November presidential election in the US, Mitt the Twit Romney, will present his "platform" along with his recently selected nominee for Vice-President, Paul the Git Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin. Twit Romney, so dubbed by the British press last month for his monumental gaffes in criticising the British capability for organising the Olympic Games just about to begin after his non-event visit to London and an embarrassing téte-a-téte with Brit Premier David Cameron, who couldn't close the door of Downing Street quick enough on the Twit and his bumbling gaffes. On to Poland and the Twit retained foot in mouth as he attempted to line up with former President Lech Walesa but, the meeting was snubbed by most of Walesa's former colleagues in the Solidarity Trade Union having found out about the Twit's union-bashing career as head of asset-stripper Bain Capital in the USA. Arriving in Israel, the Twit went so overboard in his praise for the Zionist leadership of Netanyahu that he managed to piss-off the entire Palestinian nation in one swoop.

Meanwhile, back in the USA, a torrent of negative comments in the press severely depleted national supplies of ink and left the Twit trailing behind the Obama Campaign by 7 points.
Thus it was that the Twit, having overstretched his limited brain-power, decided to attach the aforementioned Paul the Git Ryan to his campaign in order to divert some of the missiles heading his way on a daily basis from a scornful and probing media which won't let up on the Twit's failure to produce his tax records and his job destroying business record with Bain Capital which has put thousands of American workers on the dole. Even this announcement was gaffed as, foot still in mouth from his foreign travels, the Twit introduced Git Ryan as "the next President of the United States" apparently forgetting he himself was the presidential candidate!

Git Ryan has made a name for himself since arriving in the US Congress as a principal loudmouth of the Republican right advocating reducing the federal budget on health, education and welfare in favour of more tax breaks for the rich.

In his youth, Ryan enjoyed the out-of-doors activities of skiing, hiking and camping in the Colorado Rockies. While attending Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Ryan worked as a counselor at a summer camp until he landed the prestigious position as a “Hotdogger” for the Oscar Mayer Wiener Company, a job that permitted him to wheel around Ohio and Wisconsin in the now world famous Wienermobile promoting the sales of hot dogs, bacon and over twenty-five kinds of ‘lunchable’ meats including:  bologna (aka:  “baloney”).
When Ryan was not driving the Wienermobile and pushing loads of baloney, he majored in Economics and Political Science.  After driving the Wienermobile and serving up mountainous tons of baloney, Ryan became a prominent member of the Delta Tau Delta social fraternity.  After his graduation, Ryan was encouraged by his mother to accept a job as an economic analyst with former US Senator Bob Kasten.  In that capacity, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington.  

When Russ Feingold defeated Kasten, Ryan moved over to the staff of a right-wing  Republican think tank branded as ‘Empower America’ where he served as a volunteer speechwriter for Congressman Jack Kemp and two former Reagan officials:  UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, who defended the rape, torture and murder of three Catholic nuns by the Government of El Salvador in December, 1980; "I don't think the government (of El Salvador) was responsible. The nuns were not just nuns; the nuns were political activists. We ought to be a little more clear-cut about this than we usually are. They were political activists on behalf of the Frente and somebody who is using violence to oppose the Frente killed them."  Kirkpatrick said. The killers were hit squads of the Salvadorean dictatorship which was armed and financed by the Reagan government in Washington. Kirkpatrick was a supporter of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Argentinian dictator Leopold Galtieri. Obsessed with anti-Communism, Kirkpatrick, as Foreign Policy adviser to the Reagan Government, urged US support for any ratbag regime which would comply with US interests abroad.

Ryan also worked for Reagan's Education Secretary, William Bennett, who would be publicly dishonored as a gambling addict and racial profiler when he said on his talk show that the abortion of all African-American babies would "cause the crime-rate to go down". Ryan has aligned himself publicly with the extreme right-wing philosophy of Ayn Rand, a Russian-born petit-bourgoise, real name Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, who left the Soviet Union in 1926 after having a free university education at the expense of the Soviet workers, something which she would advocate denying to American workers in her eccentric philosophy of "Objectivism"; an introspective hodge-podge of untenable definitions of individualism as the only moral value and a false description of "realism" which studiously ignores the material basis of human life as the only source from which civilisation could develop. Addressing a memorial celebration of Rand in 2005, Ryan stated:  “The reason that I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand”. With this glorious pedigree, Paul the Git is offered to the US electorate as a worthy candidate for the Insanity Party when it meets in Florida in due course.

Ryan is the leading ideologue of the objectivist clique that only remains viable within the radical right-wing of the Republican Party/Tea Party.  In 1999, Ryan voted for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a keystone of depression-era legislation that prevented large-scale financial speculation and limited financial activities between commercial banks and security firms.  Many economists and financial analysts have argued that the repeal of Glass-Steagall initiated the process that led to financial instability and resulted in the Meltdown of 2008 as well as the ensuing Bush Recession. So, the advocate-in-chief of these already failed policies is proposing more of the same as the solution to the economic crisis in the USA.

In Congress, Ryan is most noted for his work on the federal budget.  Over the past three years, Ryan has proposed a mish-mash of ultra-conservative economic and reactionary tax reform.  For example, Ryan proposed a top US tax rate of 25%; a Consumption-Value Added Tax (VAT) of 8.5% and a voucher system for Medicare that would require beneficiaries to buy their own insurance from 2021 leaving them partially uninsured.  A creative Randian economist, Ryan has proposed opt-outs for taxpayers who could simply pay a flat tax rate of 10% up to $100,000 and 25% above that figure.

In 2010, Ryan introduced a more dramatic plan for long-term deficit reduction that would reduce tax rates across the board while eliminating income tax on capital gains, dividends and interest.  At his most reactionary extremes, Ryan proposes to abolish the corporate income tax and the estate tax as well as the privatisation of Social Security and Medicare that would convert these programs into vast private corporations.

The one thing about this development is that a clear choice is now being put before the electorate in the US; rabid right-wing extremism of Twit and Git, Tea-Party and Jesus-freak religious nutters of the Insanity Party supported by the rich elite and the lies of the Corporate Media of Murdoch and the rest or, the relatively moderate liberalism (in the European sense of the word) of Mr Obama and his vision of the US. 

 (Pics from Mario Piperni)

Not a choice that inspires confidence in the rest of us living on the planet.

Áth Cliath/Dublin
Lunasa/August 15 2012