There are chilling parallels between the suffering of Julian Assange and Gaza civilians — RT World News

There are chilling parallels between the suffering of Julian Assange and Gaza civilians — RT World News

By locking away one journalist and abetting the misery of an entire people, the West combines oppressive structure with disregard for law

Recently, two of the defining injustices of the contemporary West have been the object of legal proceedings. And while one involves mass murder and the other the torture but not murder of a single victim (at least not yet), there are good reasons to juxtapose the two systematically. The suffering involved is different, but the forces that cause it are intricately linked and, as we will see, reveal much about the nature of the West as a political order.

In The Hague, the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) – also known as the World Court – has held extensive hearings (involving 52 states and three international organizations) on Israel’s post-1967 occupation – or de facto annexation – of Palestinian territories. These hearings are connected to, but are not the same as, the genocide case against Israel also currently proceeding at the ICJ.

All of this is happening against the backdrop of Israel’s relentless genocide of the Palestinians by bombing, shooting (reportedly including small children, in the head), blockade, and starvation. As of now, the constantly growing – and conservative – victim count stands at about 30,000 killed, 70,000 injured, 7,000 missing, and at least 2 million displaced, often more than once, always under horrific conditions. 

In London, the Royal Courts of Justice have been the stage for Julian Assange’s fight for an appeal against Washington’s demand to extradite him to the US. Assange, an activist and publisher of investigative journalism, has already been in confinement – of one kind or the other – for more than a decade. Since 2019, he has been held in the Belmarsh high security prison. In fact, what has already happened to him is the modern equivalent of being locked away in the Bastille by royal “lettre de cachet” in absolutist, pre-revolutionary, Ancien régime France. Multiple observers, including a UN special rapporteur, have argued compellingly that Assange’s treatment has amounted to torture.

The essence of his political persecution – in reality, there is no good-faith legal case – is simple: Through his WikiLeaks platform, Assange published leaked materials that exposed the brutality, criminality, and lies of the US’ and UK’s (and, more generally, the West’s) post-9/11 wars. While leaking state secrets is not legal – although it can be morally obligatory and even heroic, as in the case of Chelsea Manning, who was a major WikiLeaks source – publishing the results of such leaks is legal. Indeed, that principle is an acknowledged pillar of media freedom and independence. Without it, media cannot fulfil any kind of watchdog function. Yet Washington is obstinately and absurdly trying to treat Assange as a spy. If it succeeds, “global media freedom” (for what it’s worth…) is toast. 

This is what makes Assange objectively the single most important political prisoner in the world.

If extradited to the US, whose highest officials have at times plotted his assassination, the WikiLeaks founder will definitely not get a fair trial and will die in prison. In that case, his fate will irreversibly turn into what Washington and London have been working on for over a decade, namely making an example of him by delivering the most devastating blow imaginable against free speech and a truly open society. 

That Gaza and Assange have something in common has occurred to more than one observer. Both stand for a plethora of political pathologies, including merciless cruelty, politicized “justice,” mass media disinformation, and, last but not least, that old specialty of the “garden” West, peak hypocrisy. 

There also is the grotesquely arrogant American sense of global entitlement: The Palestinians’ rights or, indeed, humanity count for nothing if Israel, Washington’s closest and most lawless ally, wants their land and their lives. Assange, of course, is an Australian citizen.

Assange and Gaza also connect in concrete ways: While there is a Russia Rage (aka “Russiagate”) subplot to Washington’s revenge campaign against the WikiLeaks founder, what he is hated for the most is that he dared show the world just how callous and bloodthirsty the US and its allies have been in waging their wars in the Middle East, the same region in which Washington is now at least an indispensable accomplice, if not a co-perpetrator in the genocide of a population that is largely (though not exclusively) Muslim and “brown.”

Yet there is another aspect of the Gaza-Assange complex that we should not miss. Together, these two great state crimes reveal a pattern, a syndrome that points to what kind of real political order is now developing in the West.

A few things are obvious: First, while always more of an aspiration than reality, the rule of law (national and international) is compromised in an especially flagrant manner. It is as if the West wants us to know that it does not give a damn about the law.

Just consider two facts: Even after the ICJ issued instructions (here called “preliminary measures”) to Israel that would have, in effect, ended most its genocidal attack if obeyed, Israel simply has not complied. And its partners in the West have joined it demonstratively in this defiance, among other things by helping Israel disrupt UNRWA, thus making the starvation blockade of Gaza even worse. As for Assange, his wife Stella, who is a lawyer, has stated it best by noting that all the egregious abuse of her husband is “on the public record and yet it continues.”      

Second, the West is not, actually, an orderly “garden” but quite a fierce “jungle” of cooperating but also rival interest groups and establishments. It is rhetorically obsessed with celebrating not only its so-called “values,” but also its unity. Yet, in reality, that is an indication of how precarious that unity really is. So is the West’s escalating use of scare campaigns, massively exaggerating or even inventing threats from outside (Russia and China are the main targets of this technique) and, at the same time, denying even the possibility of diplomacy and compromise.

At the same time, this is the same West whose members have now reached the stage of blowing up each other’s vital infrastructures and cannibalizing each other’s economies. Not to speak of spying on each other and, certainly, also blackmailing each other with the compromising information produced by that spying. 

Third, while bending and breaking its own laws – not to speak of the professed “values” and “rules” – somehow the West is still also capable of acting and doing damage as one vast, if not always well-coordinated, machine, when it is asserting its rapacious – if often also ill-conceived – interests.  

What kind of political order is this? I believe our best bet to size up this wild yet colluding, lawless yet institution-based West is to go far back into the past, to the key concepts of two early and brilliant analysts of Nazi Germany, Franz Neumann and Ernst Fraenkel. Neumann’s key to understanding the violent mess that was the Third Reich was to imagine it as a Behemoth in the sense of the English political philosopher and natural born pessimist Thomas Hobbes. Unlike Hobbes’ almost perfectly authoritarian “Leviathan,” his “Behemoth,” Neumann explained, stood for a state that was really a “non-state, a situation characterized by complete lawlessness.” Fraenkel suggested a different model. For him, Nazi Germany could function, despite its inner chaos, because it was both a state that still had laws (if often very unjust ones) and a state that imposed measures, free of legal restraint.

Of course, the current West is not literally the equivalent of the Nazi Reich. Although if you consider that it is complicit in Israel’s ongoing genocide, you will realize that not quite matching the Nazis is a rather low bar – and scant consolation for a Palestinian father or mother whose child has just deliberately and slowly been starved to death, for instance. In another wrinkle, Neumann rejected Fraenkel’s theory as, in essence, still according too much of a system to the German monster state. But then, academics will academic.

The larger, really important point is that it is impossible not to see striking and disturbing tendencies in the contemporary West that resonate with both Neumann’s “Behemoth” and Fraenkel’s state of laws and measures, or, if you wish, of rules and arbitrariness. Shocking? Of course. Far-fetched? Those who keep telling themselves that are in for a very rude awakening if they ever find themselves where both the Palestinians and Assange are, in their different ways: On the very dark side of what is probably the most dishonest and unreliable political order on the globe at this point.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Source link