Assange to walk free: but US imperialism takes its pound of flesh

In the early hours of this morning, it was announced that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will finally become a free man. This news will of course be celebrated by all those who campaigned for his release. Yet in a final injustice, Assange is currently on a plane bound for Saipan, in the American-controlled Mariana Islands, to plead guilty to an espionage charge. Thus US imperialism, which has never forgiven Assange for exposing its crimes, exacts a final measure of vengeance.

A scandalous saga

The long-running fiasco of Assange’s case – which has demolished all pretensions about the US and its allies upholding ‘free speech’ – began in June 2010. Assange’s website WikiLeaks released over 470,000 documents related to the US’ criminal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These included horrifying footage of an Apache helicopter murdering civilians, including two Reuters journalists, in 2007.

The leaks also revealed that the US was violating the Geneva Convention in Guantanamo Bay by preventing prisoners from being attended to by Red Cross doctors. The leaks shattered illusions of America being a ‘guardian of human rights and democracy’. Instead, US imperialism was revealed in all its naked brutality.

Their dirty laundry exposed, the US ruling class needed to make an example of Assange. They hid behind the demonstrable lie that Assange had placed American agents in harm's way. James Clapper, former US director of national intelligence, even admitted that “a damage assessment at the time did not reveal any direct proof that assets in Afghanistan or Iraq who were helping the United States were exposed” by Wikileaks’ revelations.

Nonetheless, Washington called for Assange to be imprisoned for life on charges related to espionage. To facilitate this, the US leant on its reliable partners in Stockholm, seeking the issuance of a European Arrest Warrant for Assange over sexual assault allegations, which have since been dropped.

This failed as Assange had sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, starting in 2012. But in 2019, under pressure from the US, Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno agreed to hand Assange over to British police, allowing him to be dragged from the embassy in flagrant violation of Ecuadorian and international law. He has been languishing in Belmarsh maximum security prison ever since, where his health has seriously deteriorated.

What this saga reveals is a campaign of relentless harassment by the most powerful country on earth, targeting a single man, for the crime of revealing the truth.

An example made

indictment Image public domainAssange is currently on a plane bound for Saipan, in the American-controlled Mariana Islands, to plead guilty to an espionage charge / Image: public domain

We welcome the end of Assange’s ordeal, and hope he will be able to lead something of a normal life. This outcome will rightly be seen as a victory by the thousands of campaigners who have followed Assange’s case for years, protesting his incarceration, and demanding justice.

However, we must be honest: much of the damage has been done. After 12 years of confinement, Assange looked like a shell of a man at his last public court appearance. While the US state would have preferred to let him rot in prison for the rest of his life, they have nevertheless succeeded in making an example of him.

With the point made, and an election year underway, Biden and Trump are both probably happy to put this unedifying spectacle behind them. Similarly, with Labour’s victory in the British general election almost assured, the new administration will certainly be happy to see this case come to a quiet end. We recall that Labour leader Keir Starmer was head of the Crown Prosecution Service when it tried to dissuade Sweden from dropping Assange’s extradition.

To secure his release, Assange must plead guilty to “unlawfully obtaining and disseminating classified national defence information”. It has been agreed he has already served sufficient jail time for this.

Meanwhile, the real criminals – the US imperialists and their toadies – are under no obligation to admit any guilt for the blood on their hands, nor for spitefully wrecking a man’s life in the hope of deterring future whistleblowers.

The fight continues

In a final humiliation, Assange was refused a normal commercial flight to his home in Australia, and had to charter a private jet from Britain to the Pacific at a cost of $500,000 USD. As a result, Assange will exit captivity saddled with a huge burden of debt.

The crimes Assange exposed were not products of this or that malignant figure. They were the crimes of the imperialist capitalist system as a whole, which remains intact, and has managed to exact its final pound of flesh.

The stark truth is that until this system is brought down, there will be many more war crimes in service of the parasitic elites that call the shots. One only has to look at the appalling genocide in Gaza as proof. The battle to free Assange may be ending, but the war against the injustices he exposed continues.

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