The Assange case is a centerpiece of an emerging, global challenge to U.S. dominance that did not exist in 2010 when the U.S. began its legal pursuit of the publisher, says Joe Lauria.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
The world has changed dramatically since the United States began its legal pursuit of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, bringing new risks to the U.S. if it persists in pursuing him to the end.
The geo-strategic situation and the state of the media are today nearly unrecognizable from 2010, when the U.S. empaneled a grand jury to indict Assange. Conditions have changed significantly since even 2019, when he was dragged from the embassy and the indictment was unveiled.
The United States is in the midst of suffering its third major, strategic defeat since the process against Assange began, bringing potentially significant consequences for the U.S., the world and possibly Assange.
In just the past three years, the United States has experienced humiliating defeats in Afghanistan, Ukraine, and now Gaza.
Afghanistan hurt Americans’ sensitivities about their precious “prestige,” which American elites care so much about. The rest of the world takes it into its geo-strategic calculations.
The U.S. instigation of war in Ukraine, intended to weaken Russia and bring down its government, has instead turned into a debacle for the United States and Europe of world historical proportions.
A new commercial, financial and diplomatic system has emerged in opposition to the U.S.-dominated West. This had been slowly developing but was accelerated by Washington’s provocation in Ukraine. It is a way more serious problem for the United States than the mere loss of “prestige.”
Add to this the worldwide disapproval and condemnation the U.S. is facing for its blatant complicity in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza during a war the U.S. and Israel are not winning. The result is U.S. legitimacy has significantly weakened around the world. And at home.
Is this the moment to bring a journalist to the United States in chains to stand trial for publishing truthful material that exposed earlier crimes by the United States?
The risks of doing so at this moment — a very different moment from 2010 — are serious for the U.S, at home and abroad. Domestically the Bill of Rights is at risk. Internationally the bully is losing credibility.
This is seen in the forthrightness of some world leaders, particularly in Latin America, who in the spirit of this new, non-U.S. world, have confronted the United States on its treatment of Assange and have demanded his release.
The established media, which by definition runs cover for the U.S. to commit crimes and abuses wherever its interests are challenged, is suffering its own precipitous loss of legitimacy. The spectacular growth of both social and independent media’s influence since 2010 has helped create a worldwide movement in defense of Assange and the basic principle of a free press.
The question is how aware is the Biden administration of this new world and how will it react?
At a certain point U.S. hubris and intransigence would seem to be headed for collapse. But until then, Washington will no doubt double down in denial and in vengeance. It’s not giving up in Ukraine nor in Gaza — the neocon grip on power in Washington over the realists remains. Will the extremists remain ascendant on Assange too?
In December 2010, Vice President Joe Biden told the television news show Meet the Press that the Obama administration could only indict Assange if they caught him red-handed stealing government secrets and not receiving them passively as a journalist. The Obama administration concluded he was acting as a journalist, even if they refused to call him one, and didn’t indict him.
So what changed for Biden? Why does he persist in this prosecution begun by his mortal enemy Donald Trump and Trump’s C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo?
The indictment until today still only deals with events in 2010. Nothing has changed legally. But everything changed politically for President Biden, the head of the Democratic Party, with the 2016 DNC leaks, and the C.I.A. Vault 7 releases the following year.
Biden would have hell to pay from the DNC and the C.I.A. if he dropped the case.
Still, he’s probably not so foolish to want a shackled journalist showing up on U.S. shores to stand trial in the midst of his re-election campaign. The High Court here in London has been good at dragging things out and could easily do so until after November.
The Assange case is a centerpiece of this global challenge to U.S. dominance that did not exist in 2010.
To the extent that U.S. leaders are aware of what is happening to U.S. standing in the world, their propensity is to lash out with the only argument they have left – lethal force. In Assange’s case it is legal force, with lethal consequences.
Leniency towards Assange would win back some respect the United States has lost, which would mean it couldn’t suffer another blow and had finally woken to the new world it inhabits. Crushing him would be yet another step towards its demise.
The U.S. does not really need him. It has enough blood on its hands.
This is the text of an address Joe Lauria made by video on Monday to a conference in Sydney, Australia.
Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette, the London Daily Mail and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times. He is the author of two books, A Political Odyssey, with Sen. Mike Gravel, foreword by Daniel Ellsberg; and How I Lost By Hillary Clinton, foreword by Julian Assange. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe