Assange David S. D’Amato human rights Media

The Future of Press Freedom Depends on Assange Case

The United States’ record of lies and broken promises makes Assange’s case particularly important not only to Americans, but to the entire world.
Julian Assange could be jailed for up to 175 years in the US [File: Frank Augstein/AP Photo]

By David S. D’Amato / Antiwar.com

The world awaits the decision of U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel in the case of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher who has been a political prisoner in London since his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2019. Last month, a British court sent the case to Patel, who is now charged with deciding whether to hand Assange to the United States – a decision that entails a judgment about whether the U.S. will kill him. Dozens of international human rights and press freedom groups – including Amnesty International, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders – have opposed extradition as a “grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad.”

The WikiLeaks revelations, described in greater detail elsewhere, laid bare the unspeakable horror of the United States’ war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and its torture of hundreds of people at its prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, among other grave human rights violations. The world learned, for example, that those detainees at Gitmo included a 14-year-old child and hundreds of innocent people, and that US military forces and their corporate agents wantonly killed tens of thousands of non-combatants, including innocent families with small children. We learned that the US government consistently lied to the public about these and other crimes, obstructing journalists’ attempts to uncover and share the truth.

Ultimately, what we really learned from these revelations is that there is nothing the United States foreign policy establishment says that can be taken at face value, without questions and close scrutiny. The hypocrisy of US claims that Assange’s actions present a threat to the safety of Americans is blindingly clear to students of American foreign policy. The problem for Assange is that his public service actually did serve the people – not the Washington, DC military and intelligence community, the political elite, and the arms manufacturers. 

The United States is arguably the world’s least trustworthy state actor; it is also among the worst offenders when it comes to waging aggressive wars of choice, attacking journalistic freedoms, torturing perceived enemies, and detaining prisoners indefinitely and without charges or due process. The United States has consistently flouted its obligations under existing nuclear nonproliferation agreements and, in 2019, withdrew from the Reagan-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. As Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, has said, “The US believes it can have non-proliferation globally without taking any responsibility to implement its own obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty.” Similarly and unsurprisingly, the US has also long rejected efforts to add accountability mechanisms such as inspections provisions to the Biological Weapons Convention, designed to prevent governments from developing and stockpiling bioweapons.

The United States’ record of lies and broken promises makes Assange’s case particularly important not only to Americans, but to the entire world. Were we not so desensitized by decades of focused, expertly-crafted propaganda, we couldn’t live with these facts without ourselves joining the Assanges of the world in a truth-telling mission to stop every organization that participates in these crimes. Americans simply do not live in the country they hear about on the news, the government again and again failing to live up to the high ideals expressed in its founding documents and its pretty PR.

We need more Julian Assanges, not less – more who are willing to sacrifice everything to cut through the fog of euphemism and propaganda that gives cover to the prevailing system: we call it “foreign policy,” but we are talking about war and imperialism. We call them “defense contractors” when what we mean is “war profiteers.” We now have the system of which President Eisenhower warned: we see the total, all-consuming, “economic, political, even spiritual” influence “of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.” We see the “disastrous rise of misplaced power” that has subordinated our “liberties and democratic processes.” We cannot hope to topple this system in favor of genuinely democratic institutions if we are not willing even to confront the truth, and we cannot confront the truth if no one is permitted to publish it. 

It is time for all Americans to have an honest conversation about the kinds of actions we permit our government to carry out around the world. The hope after Vietnam was that the conversation on the US Empire and its destructive role in the world had fundamentally changed, that Americans were no longer willing to tolerate endless wars that harm both ordinary Americans and the rest of the world. To be clear, this is not about Julian Assange or WikiLeaks, not really. Because when Assange is no longer with us, which could be tragically soon if the US government has its way, there will be others brave enough to bring the truth to the people, who believe that we deserve to see it and understand what’s being done in our names. 

Whatever your politics, whether you know it or not, Assange’s case affects you and your freedom to think, say, and write what you believe. It affects our collective ability – as a species – to live in societies in which information is not tightly controlled by a very small group of the rich and powerful. Again, some perspective is in order: Assange, like every one of us, will be gone soon, regardless of what the United States does with his case from here on. What we’re really talking about, then, is the future of the freedom to think, to inquire, and to publish, all of which are necessary conditions for anything that can appropriately be called a free society.

David S. D’Amato

David S. D’Amato is an attorney, businessman, and independent researcher. He is a Policy Advisor to both the Heartland Institute and the Future of Freedom Foundation. He has written in Newsweek, Investor’s Business Daily, RealClearPolitics, The Washington Examiner, and many other popular and scholarly publications, and his work has been cited by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, among others.

11 comments

  1. “Without Freedom of the Press, there can be No Democracy”
    Thomas Jefferson

  2. And that’s the rub =

    The hypocrisy of US claims that Assange’s actions present a threat to the safety of Americans is blindingly clear to students of American foreign policy.

    We are in a horror show, as in fact, each and every administration for the past 250 years, at least have been a direct threat to the safety of Americans and the world.

    But we are battered citizens, like battered spouses, and we continue to have systems that rape, pillage, destroy and pollute our families and villages, yet, the psychologists of America then force feed the citizens hope.

    That’s the issue, and it maybe an older essay, but, “Beyond Hope” by Derrick Jensen, sheds light on this psychological manipulation both we do to ourselves through religion and all those other false gods and false beliefs (exceptionalism; might makes righ; keep your head down and capitalism will take care of you; see/speak/hear no evil; we have the bestest constitution money can bribe/buy; we can buy ourselves out of this mess; if we don’t get it then the rest of the world will take it).

    This article lays it out, and it has been laid out a thousand times, the dispicable treatment of a free press, a free thinker, of a publisher, Julian. And, I know it sounds immature, but we (social justice warriors) need our own Blackhawks and Bombs to end the tyranny. And, I bet all those supporters of bombs, bullets and bioweapons for Ukraine would never ever approved of bombs, bullets and tanks for environmentalists, or pro-choice folk, or . . . . . The pacificists are beyond hope. And here we are, 250 years later, compliant, tied to mortgages, one missed payment away from foreclosure, eviction, etc. etc.

    Here, Jensen:

    To start, there is the false hope that suddenly somehow the system may inexplicably change. Or technology will save us. Or the Great Mother. Or beings from Alpha Centauri. Or Jesus Christ. Or Santa Claus. All of these false hopes lead to inaction, or at least to ineffectiveness. One reason my mother stayed with my abusive father was that there were no battered women’s shelters in the ’50s and ’60s, but another was her false hope that he would change. False hopes bind us to unlivable situations, and blind us to real possibilities.

    Does anyone really believe that Weyerhaeuser is going to stop deforesting because we ask nicely? Does anyone really believe that Monsanto will stop Monsantoing because we ask nicely? If only we get a Democrat in the White House, things will be okay. If only we pass this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. If only we defeat this or that piece of legislation, things will be okay. Nonsense. Things will not be okay. They are already not okay, and they’re getting worse. Rapidly.

    But it isn’t only false hopes that keep those who go along enchained. It is hope itself. Hope, we are told, is our beacon in the dark. It is our light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. It is the beam of light that makes its way into our prison cells. It is our reason for persevering, our protection against despair (which must be avoided at all costs). How can we continue if we do not have hope?

    We’ve all been taught that hope in some future condition — like hope in some future heaven — is and must be our refuge in current sorrow. I’m sure you remember the story of Pandora. She was given a tightly sealed box and was told never to open it. But, being curious, she did, and out flew plagues, sorrow, and mischief, probably not in that order. Too late she clamped down the lid. Only one thing remained in the box: hope. Hope, the story goes, was the only good the casket held among many evils, and it remains to this day mankind’s sole comfort in misfortune. No mention here of action being a comfort in misfortune, or of actually doing something to alleviate or eliminate one’s misfortune.

    The more I understand hope, the more I realize that all along it deserved to be in the box with the plagues, sorrow, and mischief; that it serves the needs of those in power as surely as belief in a distant heaven; that hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line.

    https://orionmagazine.org/article/beyond-hope/

    The reality is Julian is being murdered by the entire system, and there are culprits with blood on their hands. Many tens of thousands directly. Then, there are the ones who are candidates for Circles Number Eight and Nine in Dante’s hell — Fraud and Treachery. If only, if only.

    Reality = Those turncoats and devils in the media, they are there, Number Eight and Nine: US National

    Press Club Still Refuses to Defend Assange

    Consortium News has asked the National Press Club in Washington to join other leading press freedom organizations in calling for Julian Assange’s release.

    Ahh, the horror. The horror. Exterminate all the brutes. We are the brutes, Colonel Kurtz. We who fight for sanity, for a clean world, for socialism and collective engagement and democracy and education and health care and mitigating a hot house planet and a world without ice, we are up against some big and small evil.

    +–+

    Jensen, again: “Hope is, in fact, a curse, a bane. I say this not only because of the lovely Buddhist saying “Hope and fear chase each other’s tails,” not only because hope leads us away from the present, away from who and where we are right now and toward some imaginary future state. I say this because of what hope is.

    More or less all of us yammer on more or less endlessly about hope. You wouldn’t believe — or maybe you would — how many magazine editors have asked me to write about the apocalypse, then enjoined me to leave readers with a sense of hope. But what, precisely, is hope? At a talk I gave last spring, someone asked me to define it. I turned the question back on the audience, and here’s the definition we all came up with: hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless.”

  3. It is not only the future of Press Freedom depending on the outcome of the Assange travesty of justice!
    It concerns the very nature of those who unrestrainedly wield the power.
    And much more, it is about the accepted illegitimacy of Western legal malpractices, by that international elite clique of owners and operators, of the power structure itself.
    In the longer-term, it is even more crucially pertinent that the legitimacy and universal application of international law is applied even handedly across the board.

  4. Thank you for boldly telling the truth. We are on a collision course with global annihilation. The general public has been brainwashed, dumbed down and exhausted by the challenges of sheer survival. God willing, there are enough courageous truth tellers who hold our leaders accountable, to prevent mutually assured destruction.

  5. Does anyone actually believe we have a “free press” in the US?

    1. MSM is more disinforming, diversionary and frivolous every day, and the alternatives are mostly cowardly and gated. Americans are too scared to question, and too frightened want to know.

  6. Julian Assange still has a chance if people will organize and protest. It’s unlikely , but not a (Paul+Haeder/Derrick Jensen) false hope. Julian deserves freedom, even if he’s too disabled to work again. But at least Julian wasn’t shot in the head while reporting, and then had his funeral attacked by the IDF. He didn’t die in a mysterious suicide wherein he fatally shot himself in the head twice like Gary Webb.

  7. David ,appreciate your thoughts but lm afraid the train has left the station. Jullian has now been on Public Trial for over a decade.The outcome was never in doubt.It really is a Crucifixion in slow motion.
    Only a truly Satanic force could impose such suffering on a Human being, whose only crime was to tell the truth.(Not without precedence.? At least the Roman’s did it in a single afternoon.)

    Your comments on how it effects all of us is totally relevant however not enough people really care ,or are afraid to oppose such omnipotent powers. Assange has unfortunately discovered what dark forces he was really dealing with.
    His story is now being consigned to the book of Martyrs. Leaves all of us with a sense of shame.

  8. It would be more accurate to say that the persecution of Julian Assange shows that press freedom doesn’t exist in the U.S. Of course we should fight to change this, but it’s Pollyanaish to fail to recognize that press freedom hasn’t already been eliminated for all practical purposes.

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