activism Chris Hedges Original

Chris Hedges: Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law

Chris Hedges gave this talk at a rally Thursday night in New York City in support of Julian Assange. John and Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s father and brother, also spoke at the event, which was held at The People’s Forum.
[Illustration by Mr. Fish]

By Chris Hedges / Original to ScheerPost

A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.

This is why we are here tonight.  Yes, all of us who know and admire Julian decry his prolonged suffering and the suffering of his family.  Yes, we demand that the many wrongs and injustices that have been visited upon him be ended.  Yes, we honor him up for his courage and his integrity. But the battle for Julian’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher.  It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era.  And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law.  They turn the law into an instrument of injustice.  They cloak their crimes in a faux legality.  They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality.  Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence. 

The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.

I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison.  There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.  

The U.S. government directed, as Craig Murray so eloquently documented, the London prosecutor James Lewis.  Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser.  Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision.  It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible to access the trial online.  It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.  

Now, I know many of us here tonight would like to think of ourselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries.  But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law.  It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary.  But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance.  This truth terrifies those in power.  

The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are illegitimate.  Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape.  Prove this truth, as Julian, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints—the towering civil rights attorneys Len Weinglass and my good friend Michael Ratner, who I would later accompany to meet Julian in the Ecuadoran Embassy, met with Julian in a studio apartment in Central London.  Julian’s personal bank cards had been blocked. Three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage in route to London. Swedish police were fabricating a case against him in a move, Ratner warned, that was about extraditing Julian to the United States.

“WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political,” Weinglass told Assange. “As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher.”

“Come after me for what?” asked Julian.

“Espionage,” Weinglass continued. “They’re going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don’t think it applies to him because he’s a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don’t think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator.”

“Come after me for what?

That is the question.

They came after Julian not for his vices, but his virtues.

They came after Julian because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; because he exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo; because he exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime; because he exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, that they authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of U.S. citizens in Yemen, and that they secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians; because he exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform; because he exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party; because he exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps. 

Julian exposed the truth.  He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite.  And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power.  “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”

We have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where we, as citizens, are nothing more than commodities to corporate systems of power, ones to be used, fleeced and discarded. To refuse to fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, is to bear the mark of Cain. Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian.  Politics is a game of fear.  It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.

The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip.  It cannot be reformed.  It has abolished the rule of law.  It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, “Off with their heads.”

[Chris Hedges writes a regular original column for ScheerPost. Click here to sign up for email alerts.]

Copyright 2018 Chris Hedges


  1. If legislators financed by capitalist pigs are writing and enforcing the Rules of Law, then what Mr. Hedges?

  2. Dear Mr. Hedges,
    A while back I came across a doc that unveiled the fact or possiblity that Assange never tried to mess with Israel as a country let the MOSAD dice him up. But otherwise he messed with every country he could possibly mess with. The documentary even exposed his shumminess with some of the British MSM!!! When he was asked the reason, he claimed he like their work in the past. I personally liked the doc. From that point on my sympathy against his suffering lessned to a grreat extent.
    I love your work. Can you please shade some light on that aspect in one of your future articles. Also, hardly anybody speaks about Shelscea Manning any more. Last I read about her is she is at Leavenworth for refusing to testify against Assange. Can you please update us on her wellfare, health and general situation.


    Most Sincerely🙏💐👏👏👏,

  3. Boycotts work. Begin with voting boycotts by the Bernie wing. As it becomes more viral go on to JP Morgan Chase, Exxon, Apple, Facebook, …

  4. Edit:
    This why we are here tonight.
    Should be:
    This is why we are here tonight.

  5. I believe Eric Arthur Blair would be AMAZED that Julian Assange is still alive. So… perhaps there is hope.

  6. I am truly sorry Chris Hedges, but this country and it’s people are broken. I often speculate to myself on exactly how we got so broken, but the fact that we are is undeniable. The people are simply incapable of resistance. The left in America was eradicated long ago and if revolution ever does come it will be from the right. I see no daylight at all.

    1. JustAMaverick,

      Please do not assume that somehow you have the authority (or intellect) to speak for an entire nation.

  7. ” . . . the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets” Len Weinglass. Same as it ever was.

  8. I breath a little lighter after reading one of your articles. It would have been really something if the civil work we did in the 60’s produced all we tried for. Instead I feel set up and betrayed, especially after the corporate fraud of 2008. And later as more revelations were aired a concerted offensive against journalist/whistleblowers was put into play; to first censor , then to undermine and finally criminalize any of these type of disclosures.

    Now I read (in a the newsletter ) that a law was passed to override the FDIC banking protections for all banking customers. The new law allows banks to simply request that a bank bailout be authorized , and all deposits/savings/liquid/assets are there for their use.
    Even trade agreements are being leverage through ISDS clauses to override governmental rule of law-regulations, so now any national legal change affecting environmental behavior of businesses can be ’cause’ to sue for lost profits.
    All these ‘in-camera’ changes leave little to respect, when tax time comes around. Voting means nothing as both parties practice to have equal outcomes with no discernable difference: just more in taxes, less in services and programs (if not hollowed out already) -so private corporations can continue to reap more profits and control over domestic economies. Not a much to hope for as a future at this rate of democratic decline? Take care.

  9. I did note that your ‘subscription’ block is not working as it should.

  10. Thanks Chris.
    Psychopaths only fear one thing:
    If they think it’s coming for them, they’ll stop at nothing to destroy it.
    They may as well piss into a hurricane.

  11. Julian Assange is the antithesis of what his fans claim him to be. He is a petty, small minded, greedy, self-possessed egomaniac who single handedly afflicted the United States, and thus the globe, to four years of rule by one of the few persons alive today who is even more despicable than Assange.

    I rejoice at his current affliction.

    1. Dave massive name calling with no substantive argument refuting the crimes that Assange exposed let alone all that Chris has done in this article to explain the bipartisan support of corruption, lies, war mongering, and protection of corporate greed, malfeasance, and their control of government.

    2. Dave Templeton,

      Is your “current affliction,” the habit of posting vaguely worded defamatory replies intended to compensate for a lack of serious objective research?

    3. I am not convinced that WikiLeaks’s document drop elected Trump, considering how lousy a candidate HRC was. Trump voters had legitimate grievances, though I believe their faith in Trump was misplaced. Trump could have won, even if Wikileaks hadn’t overshadowed the Access Hollywood tape, given that his supporters really don’t buy any criticism of him. Trump’s popularity seems to feed off such negative energy and inexplicably makes him even more popular with his base. It’s my opinion that an HRC presidency could have been just as bad as the Trump presidency, given her awful flaws.

    4. It was the wholesale abandonment of lower- and middle-class Americans by the Democratic Party (with a critical assist from targeted voter-roll purges by Republican secretaries of state in 2016) that brought Trump to power. The abandonment began in earnest under Bill Clinton; it dutifully continued under Obama; Hillary promised more of the same; and it continues to this day under Biden. Assange may have confirmed some concrete instances of the hypocrisy and betrayal (not for Democrats or American politicians alone), but American voters would have figured it on their own simply from observed results: millions of high-wage manufacturing jobs offshored and replaced by low-wage service jobs and precarious gig work; mass foreclosures; dramatically higher housing costs; the skyrocketing cost of education; the “poverty draft”; increasingly unaffordable healthcare with no dip in the over half a million medical-bill-induced bankruptcies each year; the effective elimination of the “fresh start” in personal bankruptcy (championed by the Senator from MBNA, Joe Biden, albeit signed into law by Dubya); and an unarrested increase in wealth and income inequality. And even with Assange and Trump now effectively muzzled, mark my words: if Biden fails to deliver on his promised $15 minimum wage, public health-insurance option, and significant student-debt relief, and fails to arrest the impending wave of post-COVID foreclosures and evictions, there’s a very good chance the bottom 51% of voters will figure out by 2024 just how little the Democrats have done for them.

      1. Peter in Seattle,

        The only way that the 51% of voters, to whom you refer, will EVER develop any type of conclusion is if, and WHEN, it’s fed to them by the captured military-industrial-entertainment complex… or out of the lying mouthpieces employed by AstroTurf organizations funded by the same multi-billionaires recently proven to have paid no federal tax over the course of multiple years.

        If you’re waiting for political change in a post-Citizens United U.S., then you really need to wake up!

  12. Chris writes,

    “Politics is a game of fear. It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.”

    Yes, and we must first identify what those in power fear the most. They fear most those ideas they’ve worked hardest to crush: unity among the 99% powerless, and personal autonomy.

    Historically, the elites have murdered those who worked hardest for peace, love and unity. JFK avoided nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis by reaching out to Kruschev and secretly agreeing to withdraw missiles from Turkey. There’s no doubt that secret concession was known by the CIA and its allies that murdered him. He promised to scatter the CIA to the wind, and this would have stripped the elite of power. He had issued an executive order preparing for US withdrawal from Vietnam, which LBJ quickly countermanded. He was the first to die. Malcolm X was acceptable as long as he was faithful to Elijah Muhammed and his divisive ideology, but when Malcolm went on Hajj he saw the true meaning of Islam and the brotherhood of all humanity. On return, he broke with the divisive ideology and preached brotherhood. He was the next to go. Martin Luther King, Jr, was acceptable as long as he limited his work to civil rights for the talented tenth of blacks. When he spoke out against the Vietnam War and began organizing a color blind “poor people’s march” on Washington, he became dangerous to the elites and they took him out with collusion of the government, confirmed by evidence presented to a jury in a civil trial. Fred Hampton worked to bring together the Black Panthers, Young Lords (latino) and Young Patriots (poor whites) of Chicago, so he was murdered by Chicago police with the help of the FBI.

    Continuing this tradition today, US elites have captured the Democratic Party, academic institutions and the media and used that “cultural hegemony,” to replace the forces of unity with divisive identity politics. They’ve used academia to adulterate, with identity, Gramsci’s “Critical Theory,” creating divisive ideologies like Critical Race Theory, “toxic masculinity” and militant trans ideology. Though obfuscated by its academic adherents, the practical implications of CRT are that individuality is replaced by “equity” among group identities and an “intersectional” hierarchy of grievance. All whites are scapegoated as “privileged” oppressors no matter how poor, particularly “toxic” males who are members of the “cisgendered, heterosexual white patriarchy.” They are blamed for all society’s ills, while members of all other identity groups are excused as victims with no agency of their own, not accountable for their own self-destructive actions and even criminality.

    The backlash among many whites who hear this nonsense, embrace the tribalism and accept their assignment to the superior tribe is predictable, hoped for by the elites as part of the divide et impera strategy, and severely punished. Those who reject the tribalist nonsense and insist they are individuals who treat others as individuals rather than “others” are accused of “fragility” and canceled, along with those who embrace the “white supremacy” thrust upon them. The brainwashed acolytes of CRT, who harm those they claim to be helping along with the rest of the 99%, are excused for violent riots and evil policies as members of the financial, political, academic and media elites.

    As this ideology percolates from academia into corporate management and K-12 education, children and young adults are taught that whites are loathsome oppressors and others blameless victims. It is taught as revealed Truth rather than a theory that can be challenged and debated. If whites attempt to assert their personal autonomy by objecting that they as individuals are not racist, the acolytes of this theory reply that they can’t see the water because they swim in it. The theory becomes unfalsifiable. If they don’t object, they are doomed to self-loathing, while the “victims” are elevated to superiority. The proof of guilt is in the accusation and the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character or the balance of their life actions. Thus, critical thinking as an individual is futile and abandoned as otherwise honest people give in to save their jobs.

    A similar process is underway regarding the planpanic. Even YouTubers who tell their subscribers to use their critical thinking skills, do their own investigation and come to their own conclusions are given strikes. Critical thinking is replaced by group think, censorship of dissenters (even scientists and physicians) and unquestioned acceptance of “experts” in positions of authority in the elite hierarchy.

    So, do what the elites fear the most. Think for yourself. If you believe you are a worthless racist, wallow in your guilt. You are no real threat to the growing cohort of individuals, of all races and genders, who object to CRT, but cancel ye not lest ye be canceled. If you believe you must participate in a vast experiment using vaccines with an unknown safety profile rather than vitamin D and off-patent drugs that vastly improve you chances of survival, then go for the poke. But don’t give up your personal autonomy by refusing to first seek out alternate opinions available at Bitchute, Odysee, Substack, Locals, Rokfin and other alternate sources, and don’t try to force your opinions on other people. If the vaccine does as claimed, it will protect you from Covid-19 and you need not fear the un-vaccinated. If you do not believe in these elite narratives, do not be silent. If you don’t have the resources to fight in court or the media, at least don’t remain silent when the opportunity to dissent comes up in conversation.

    1. Great Post, William.
      Right on. I personally never bought into the races war thing. I always was aware that the only true war there is is the war between Us the 99% and the 1%. That’s it.
      The 1% are composed of various races, religions, ethnicities, etc. (they have their own 1% I read)but we don’t see them trying to kill one another for one pretext or the other. Instead they are feeding off, of aall of us and making billions of $’s on our backs while laughing it all the way to the bank.
      As far as “vaccine”, it’s a euphemism for you fill in the blank. If it was A vaccine, why are they desperately trying to bribe the populace into taking it?!?! Do we really need a”vaccine” for something that has a kill rate of less than .26%?! and off those .26% 99.99% are elderlies? The late Rosa Koire mentioned the fact that this fake vaxx does not pass the 5 criterias a vaxx should clear. I don’t remember all of the 5 But one of them and the most important one I think is the fact it does not prevent one from catching covid. The so called experts themselves admitted it only lessens the symptoms?!?!? are you kidding me?!?!? and not only that. I read numerous people who took this phony vaccine contracted COVID-19!!!

      Thank you so much for a great educational post.

  13. The article mentions something called “capitalist democracy.” What is that supposed to mean? Isn’t capitalism the rule of capital? Isn’t democracy the rule of the people? How can you have both of these at the same time?

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