Chris Hedges: The Execution of Julian Assange

He committed empire’s greatest sin. He exposed it as a criminal enterprise. And empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds.

(Original art by Mr. Fish)

By Chris Hedges

Let us name Julian Assange’s executioners. Joe Biden. Boris Johnson. Scott Morrison. Theresa May. Lenin Moreno. Donald Trump. Barack Obama. Mike Pompeo. Hillary Clinton. Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Justice Timothy Victor Holroyde. Crown Prosecutors James Lewis, Clair Dobbin and Joel Smith. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser. Assistant U.S, Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia Gordon Kromberg. William Burns, the director of the CIA. Ken McCallum, the director general of the U.K. Security Service or MI5.

Let us acknowledge that the goal of these executioners, who discussed kidnapping and assassinating Assange, has always been his annihilation. That Assange, who is in precarious physical and psychological health and who suffered a stroke during court video proceedings on Oct. 27, has been condemned to death should not come as a surprise.

The 10 years he has been detained, seven in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and nearly three in the high-security Belmarsh prison, were accompanied with a lack of sunlight and exercise and unrelenting threats, pressure, anxiety and stress.  “His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry,” his fiancé Stella Morris said of the stroke. 

His steady physical and psychological deterioration has led to hallucinations and depression. He takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. He has been observed pacing his cell until he collapses, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall. He has spent weeks in the medical wing of Belmarsh. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.”

The executioners have not yet completed their grim work. Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the Haitian independence movement, the only successful slave revolt in human history, was physically destroyed in the same manner, locked by the French in an unheated and cramped prison cell and left to die of exhaustion, malnutrition, apoplexy, pneumonia and probably tuberculosis.  

Assange committed empire’s greatest sin. He exposed it as a criminal enterprise. He documented its lies, callous disregard for human life, rampant corruption and innumerable war crimes. Republican or Democrat. Conservative or Labour. Trump or Biden. It does not matter.

April 5, 2010: Julian Assange addressing National Press Club in Washington about WikiLeaks’ release of “Collateral Damage” video showing the wanton killing of civilians by U.S. air attacks in Baghdad on July 12, 2007.  (Jennifer 8. Lee, Flickr)

The goons who oversee the empire sing from the same Satanic songbook. Empires always kill those who inflict deep and serious wounds. Rome’s long persecution of the Carthaginian general Hannibal, forcing him in the end to commit suicide, and the razing of Carthage repeats itself in epic after epic. Crazy Horse. Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm X. Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Sukarno. Ngo Dinh Diem. Fred Hampton. Salvador Allende.

If you cannot be bought off, if you will not be intimidated into silence, you will be killed. The obsessive CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, which because none succeeded have a Keystone Cop incompetence to them, included contracting Momo Salvatore Giancana, Al Capone’s successor in Chicago, along with Miami mobster Santo Trafficante to kill the Cuban leader, attempting to poison Castro’s cigars with a botulinum toxin, providing Castro with a tubercle bacilli-infected scuba-diving suit, booby-trapping a conch shell on the sea floor where he often dived, slipping botulism-toxin pills in one of Castro’s drinks and using a pen outfitted with a hypodermic needle to poison him. 

The current cabal of assassins hide behind a judicial burlesque overseen in London by portly judges in gowns and white horse-hair wigs mouthing legal Alice-in-Wonderland absurdities. It is a dark reprise of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado with the Lord High Executioner drawing up lists of people “who would not be missed.”

I watched the latest installment of the Assange show trial via video link on Friday. I listened to the reading of the ruling granting the appeal by the United States to extradite Assange. Assange’s lawyers have two weeks to appeal to the Supreme Court, which they are expected to do. I am not optimistic. 

Friday’s ruling was devoid of legal analysis. It fully accepted the conclusions of the lower court judge about increased risk of suicide and inhumane prison conditions in the United States. But the ruling argued that U.S. Diplomatic Note No. 74, given to the court on Feb. 5, which offered “assurances” that Assange would be well treated, overrode the lower court’s conclusions. It was a remarkable legal non sequitur. The ruling would not have gotten a passing grade in a first-semester law school course. But legal erudition is not the point. The judicial railroading of Assange, which has eviscerated one legal norm after another, has turned, as Franz Kafka wrote, “lying into a universal principle.” 

The decision to grant the extradition was based on four “assurances” given to the court by the U.S. government.  The two-judge appellate panel ruled that the “assurances” “entirely answer the concerns which caused the judge [in the lower court] to discharge Mr. Assange.” The “assurances” promise that Assange will not be subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) which keep prisoners in extreme isolation and allow the government to monitor conversations with lawyers, eviscerating attorney-client privilege; can, if the Australian his government agrees, serve out his sentence there;  will receive adequate clinical and psychological care; and, pre-trial and post trial, will not be held in the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado. 

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“There is no reason why this court should not accept the assurances as meaning what they say,” the judges wrote. “There is no basis for assuming that the USA has not given the assurances in good faith.”

And with these rhetorical feints the judges signed Assange’s death warrant. 

None of the “assurances” offered by Biden’s Department of Justice are worth the paper they are written on.  All come with escape clauses. None are legally binding. Should Assange do “something subsequent to the offering of these assurances that meets the tests for the imposition of SAMs or designation to ADX” he will be subject to these coercive measures.

And you can be assured that any incident, no matter how trivial, will be used, if Assange is extradited, as an excuse to toss him into the mouth of the dragon. Should Australia, which has marched in lockstep with the U.S. in the persecution of their citizen not agree to his transfer, he will remain for the rest of his life in a U.S. prison.

But so what? If Australia does not request a transfer it “cannot be a cause for criticism of the USA, or a reason for regarding the assurances as inadequate to meet the judge’s concerns,” the ruling read. And even if that were not the case, it would take Assange 10-to-15 years to appeal his sentence up to the Supreme Court, more than enough time for the state assassins to finish him off.

I am not sure how to respond to assurance No 4, stating that Assange will not be held pre-trial in the ADX in Florence. No one is held pre-trail in ADX Florence. But it sounds reassuring, so I guess those in the Biden DOJ who crafted the diplomatic note added it. ADX Florence, of course, is not the only supermax prison in the United States that might house Assange. Assange can be shipped out to one of our other Guantanamo-like facilities. 

Light projection plea for U.S. President Joe Biden to pardon Daniel Hale on East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, June 26. (Backbone Campaign, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Daniel Hale, the former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst currently imprisoned for releasing top-secret documents that exposed widespread civilian casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes, has been held at USP Marion, a federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, in a Communications Management Unit (CMU) since October. CMUs are highly restrictive units that replicate the near total isolation imposed by SAMs. 

The High Court ruling ironically came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced at the virtual Summit for Democracy that the Biden administration will provide new funding to protect reporters targeted because of their work and support independent international journalism. Blinken’s “assurances” that the Biden administration will defend a free press, at the very moment the administration was demanding Assange’s extradition, is a glaring example of the rank hypocrisy and mendacity that makes the Democrats, as Glen Ford used to say, “not the lesser evil, but the more effective evil.” 

Assange is charged in the U.S. under 17 counts of the Espionage Act and one count of hacking into a government computer. The charges could see him sentenced to 175 years in prison, even though he is not a U.S. citizen and WikiLeaks is not a U.S.-based publication.

If found guilty it will effectively criminalize the investigative work of all journalists and publishers, anywhere in the world and of any nationality, who possess classified documents to shine a light on the inner workings of power. This mortal assault on the press will have been orchestrated, we must not forget, by a Democratic administration. It will set a legal precedent that will delight other totalitarian regimes and autocrats who, emboldened by the United States, will gleefully seize journalists and publishers, no matter where they are located, who publish inconvenient truths. 

There is no legal basis to hold Julian in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, a foreign national, under the Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers. This fact alone invalidates any future trial.

Assange, who after seven years in a cramped room without sunlight in the embassy, has been held for nearly three years in a high-security prison in London so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, has testified, continue the unrelenting abuse and torture it knows will lead to his psychological and physical disintegration. The persecution of Assange is designed to send a message to anyone who might consider exposing the corruption, dishonesty and depravity that defines the black heart of our global elites. 

Dean Yates can tell you what U.S. “assurances” are worth. He was the Reuters bureau chief in Baghdad on the morning of July 12, 2007, when his Iraqi colleagues Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were killed, along with nine other men, by U.S. Army Apache gunships. Two children were seriously wounded. The U.S. government spent three years lying to Yates, Reuters and the rest of the world about the killings, although the army had video evidence of the massacre taken by the Apaches during the attack. The video, known as the Collateral Murder video, was leaked in 2010 by Chelsea Manning to Assange. It, for the first time, proved that those killed were not engaged, as the army had repeatedly insisted, in a firefight. It exposed the lies spun by the U.S. that it could not locate the video footage and had never attempted to cover up the killings. 

The Spanish courts can tell you what U.S. “assurances” are worth. Spain was given an assurance that David Mendoza Herrarte, if extradited to the U.S. to face trial for drug trafficking charges, could serve his prison sentence in Spain. But for six years the Department of Justice repeatedly refused Spanish transfer requests, only relenting when the Spanish Supreme Court intervened.

The people in Afghanistan can tell you what U.S “assurances” are worth. U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials knew for 18 years that the war in Afghanistan was a quagmire yet publicly stated, over and over, that the military intervention was making steady progress.  

The people in Iraq can tell you what U.S. “assurances” are worth. They were invaded and subject to a brutal war based on fabricated evidence about weapons of mass destruction. 

The people of Iran can tell you what U.S. “assurances” are worth. The United States, in the 1981 Algiers Accords, promised not to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs and then funded and backed The People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), a terrorist group, based in Iraq and dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian regime.

The thousands of people tortured in U.S. global black sites can tell you what U.S. “assurances” are worth. CIA officers, when questioned about the widespread use of torture by the Senate Intelligence Committee, secretly destroyed videotapes of torture interrogations while insisting there was no “destruction of evidence.” 

The numbers of treaties, agreements, deals, promises and “assurances” made by the U.S. around the globe and violated are too numerous to list. Hundreds of treaties signed with Native American tribes, alone, were ignored by the US government. 

Assange, at tremendous personal cost, warned us. He gave us the truth. The ruling class is crucifying him for this truth. With his crucifixion, the dim lights of our democracy go dark.  

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for 15 years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East bureau chief and Balkan bureau chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning NewsThe Christian Science Monitor and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show “On Contact.” 

This column is from Scheerpost, for which Chris Hedges writes a regular columnClick here to sign up for email alerts.

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12 comments for “Chris Hedges: The Execution of Julian Assange

  1. Aaron
    December 15, 2021 at 04:30

    And the family of Pat Tillman can also attest to the worth of such assurances.

    “As both wars droned on, Tillman, the picture perfect recruiting poster boy, evolved into somewhat of a wild card. With a Chomsky meeting on the horizon, there existed a very real possibility that Tillman might go public with his anti-war anti-Bush stance in the weeks leading up to the 2004 presidential election, dealing a fatal blow to the very foundation of the Bush administration’s propaganda pyramid. That day, however, never came. On April 22nd, 2004, Tillman was killed on patrol in Afghanistan by three American bullets to the head.” Professor Michael I Niman

    I think if he were still alive today, Pat would have really supported anything that revealed the lies that were going on to the public, regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with which he had become quite disillusioned. Tragically, it seems like the best way to succeed and get to “the top” in America is to be the best bullshit artist.

  2. Anonymotron
    December 15, 2021 at 04:26

    Always wondered how Bob Dylan’s “Heart attack machine” worked… Sad 2 discover its driven by psi-op power.

  3. Georgiaboy61
    December 15, 2021 at 03:00

    Re: “Crazy Horse. Patrice Lumumba. Malcolm X. Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Sukarno. Ngo Dinh Diem. Fred Hampton. Salvador Allende. If you cannot be bought off, if you will not be intimidated into silence, you will be killed. The obsessive CIA attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, which because none succeeded have a Keystone Cop incompetence to them”

    The author’s signals are severely crossed if he conflates figures like Che Guevara and Fidel Castro with Julian Assange. I suppose that since Chris Hedges is a “New York Times regular,” I ought not to be surprised he thinks communist revolutionaries are heroes, given that so many of that crowd think like that. Julian Asange is a patriot, whereas Castro and Guevara were butchers who beat men to death with baseball bats and tortured them for amusement before executing them. And Castro was no champion of the poor, either. He entered power in Cuba a relative pauper, and left a billionaire. Class struggle right there, folks!!

    And is he really trying to rehabilitate Fred Hampton? The Black Panthers styled themselves as advocates for black power, but they were actually communist revolutionaries not to mention cold-blooded killers who thought nothing of assassinating cops – as well as anyone else who got in their way.

    Is Hedges trying to become this era’s Walter Duranty, the Moscow Bureau Chief for the New York Times who was so spectacularly duped and played by Josef Stalin that he probably never cottoned to the fact. Duranty won a 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his feat of stunning gullibility and all-around stupidity in excusing the bloodstained regime of Stalin. So one supposes Hedges is in good company.

    And isn’t it so predictable how leftist reporters like Hedges go back fifty years or more into the past to dredge up dirty that fits their ideological frame of reference, but ignore the enormous crimes now being committed by communist fellow travelers in the Biden regime and all over this country.

    Hedges, wake up! You’re playing for the wrong team if you believe in justice or for that matter liberty. The communists believe in neither.

    • firstpersoninfinite
      December 15, 2021 at 10:17

      I didn’t know Joe Scarborough was from Georgia! Or else the narrative you have spun came from aping Joe Scarborough in front of a mirror.
      The subject is the naked US contumely in driving Assange to his death for no other reason than to stop real journalism from happening world-wide. When a nation makes the truth their enemy, we are all paper targets. The US government needs a bullseye to make its goals clear.
      Chris Hedges was fired by the NY Times many years ago for reporting the truth about the US in the Middle East, as well as for not supporting the empire narrative of the NY Times in reporting on Afghanistan and Iraq. Crying “Communist” now has nothing to do with the present reality of Hedge’s piece at all. The US has followed any and all of the Communist methods you described under multiple presidents from both parties to become just as rigid and authoritarian. We are now the enemy we once claimed must be toppled at any cost.
      The idea that Biden, or any Democrat for that matter, are “communist fellows” is a tin-foil hat observation. Both parties are now apparatchiks of American Empire. Justice and Liberty, as you describe them, have no context here at all, except as political party fodder. Neither does the word “communist” as you are using it.

  4. December 15, 2021 at 00:29

    If the American Empire get Assange to a Supermax ,he will be Murdered by Inches. Solitary Confinement, Brutal Treatment by his Steroid Addicted Guards, Sleep Deprivation, Low Temperatures,etc The whole Guantanamo, Abu Graib Playbook. Tested on
    Abu Zubeidah and KSM. Russia grew out of this Legalised Torture with Stalin and his Gulags. The American Empire has only been using Torture since George W.Bush Legalised it for his “Democracy”.

  5. Hans Meyer
    December 14, 2021 at 20:01

    Too many mean people want to see an end to Mr Assange”s work. Put bluntly, this is a criminal enterprise hidden behind a vail of “justice” and “government protocol”. These people are out of touch also (Clinton, for example, lost because of what she is. The new generations are more involved than they think, and her involvement in Ukraine, Libya and Honduras marked her as unelectable. But strangely, this is the fault of Russia and Julian Assange. this fable, as well the Smith of the supposedly “detestable” personality of Julian Assange (look on YouTube for idiotic title like “Even if you don’t like Assange, …”) must come to an end). They went to war on imaginary pretexts against the will of nations, they will do the sane with Mr Assange, against our will. The best, we could hope is that Mr Assange be detained in Australia and manage the situation from there. The so called US Democratic Party has some future problem in the near future to care about. They may count on their drone, but others can see that their narative does not coincide with their actions, not that different from the Republicans after all.
    The only hope left is that some pressure on the Australian government by people worldwide and other governments (The ONU seems to be a Jocke) end in a more humane treatment. Lack of flexibility had always killed empires, these people will never learn.

    Best wishes to Mr Assange and his family and friends.

  6. John Stanley
    December 14, 2021 at 18:11

    For the sake of Julian Assange we must keep alive the memory of his great sacrifice and his brutal murder. All those listed in the first paragraph of Chris Hedges article on the execution of Julian Assange must also be remembered and recorded for their crime. A fund should be set up to publicise that list and particular individuals on suitable occasions whether by a website by leaflets to student unions at universities, by leaflets to the families of this group of mafia indeed by any of the numerous forms of publicity that are available.
    They should be convinced that they like Julian Assange will never be forgotten. When any person goes to trial before any members of the mafia judiciary listed above there should be publicly stated grounds that for reasons of their psychopathology and proven prejudice against the Rule of Law they are not fit to participate in legal matters. President Biden, Boris Johnson and Scott Morrison should by their condoning of torture be recognised as torturers. The Republican party can maintain that Bidens mentality as a torturer makes
    him unsuitable to continue as President. Likewise with Johnson and Morrison. It will be my pleasure to participate in this vigil of reminders on the unsuitability of these mafia figures to participate in public life.

  7. Stephen Fry
    December 14, 2021 at 17:06

    I just sent this email to Joe Biden (on the White House site) and to congressman Dick Durbin [email protected] (who represents my closest US contact – [I live abroad]:

    Assange – a matter of ethics (yours)

    Dear Joe –

    I warmly congratulate you on your career, your presidency – and your reputation for ethics and American honesty.

    There is one thing that is, now, requiring you to exercise your ethics:

    There is no legal basis to hold >Julian Assange< in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, a foreign national, under the Espionage Act.

    The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security.
    This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers.
    This fact alone invalidates any future trial.

    I request and require, as a citizen, that in the name of MY NATION,
    you now take the ethical course:
    – order the Justice Department to abandon the charges (right now…).

    I want my nation to show ETHICS.

    Please actually read – this link – all of it – and act, in MY name and for OUR country:

    Stephen Berkeley Fry Proudly born New York, 1944

  8. December 14, 2021 at 15:53

    You may have forgotten Lord and Lady Arbuthnot, the “glaring conflict of interest couple,” on the list of Assange’s executioners (as I did momentarily the other day when typing up examples of legal misconduct in the Assange proceedings to send to AG Merrick Garland, Deputy AG Lisa Monaco, and Associate AG Vanita Gupta in the US Department of Justice – of course, they all qualify for the list as well).

    Sadly, at this rate, we may be adding Leonie Brinkema as well soon enough.

    • john stanley
      December 14, 2021 at 18:23

      I am collecting together for the benefit of international students thinking of studying in these pariah countries of the USA, UK and Australia some reasons why they should think carefully before committing themselves to living in three countries that are now beyond theRule of Law, have massive divisions of wealth by class, a dysfunctional education system that is also class ridden and so on.
      I would like to get some more details on the Lord and Lady Arbuthnot case which I know involved a current member of the British government,etc . I would much value any information you may have about which armaments company which Julian Assange pinpointed as being in a corrupt relationship with the Arbuthnots. This is a case which deserves more publicity. See my comment on Chris Hedges article above.

      • December 14, 2021 at 23:48

        Are you familiar with The Daily Maverick / Declassified UK’s coverage on the matter of the Arbuthnots?

        If not, that is probably a good place to start – better than any summary that I suspect that I could impart. I had the opportunity to meet Branko Brkic (editor-in-chief and founder of The Daily Maverick, known for breaking the story of the Marikana massacre) while I was in Johannesburg back in 2015, and I also highly respect the work of many of the journalists at Declassified UK (which was formerly hosted by the South African media outlet before branching out as it’s own site).

  9. John Zeigler
    December 14, 2021 at 15:20

    Hedges, as usual, sees deeply into the empire’s heart of darkness. Anyone who draws back the curtain on the bloody truths behind it runs the risk of persecution to the point of obliteration. Julian Assange’s case stands as one of the latest in state sponsored crucifixions, stretching back over millennia. Though truth stands on the scaffold, yet God keeps watch over God’s own for all eternity, notwithstanding.

Comments are closed.