You, Me, and Julian Assange
The case against not caring.
The case against Julian Assange is not just about Julian Assange. In important ways it’s about you and me.
Unfettered power in anyone’s hands is a threat to everyone's freedom. And unfettered governmental power is particularly dangerous. Government will not cede power willingly but rather, if allowed to, will expand its authority inch by inch until its citizens in a bewildered state simply notice that power is no longer theirs.
I’m not a “small government” person; the issue to me is not the size of government, but rather the purposes to which its power is applied. The purpose of government is to serve its citizens, including the legitimate right to a use of military power that guarantees our defense, security, or the protection of democracy. Untold suffering and countless deaths in Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan, however, are tragic reflections of American military power applied with no such higher purposes in mind. They were wars fought in service to political power and corporate profits, making them not only illegitimate but deeply immoral. War profiteering is a crime, not a business model. It shouldn’t be normalized because it’s “good for the economy.” Someone dying so someone else can sell arms, expand territorial authority, procure cheap oil, or look tough to voters, is hardly the legitimate use of military power; it is evil.
The Constitution does not just grant rights to the American people; it serves equally to limit the rights of government. We have the right to speak freely; government does not have the right to stop us. But we cannot afford for our rights to exist only on paper. They must exist in our hearts or they lose their emotional force. They are safeguarded not only by the Constitution, but also by our willingness to yell “Hell no!” when such rights are transgressed. The people themselves are the ultimate safeguards of our liberty.
Nothing is more naive than to consider our democratic rights a given. They must be tended to, and vigorously protected, or they will be gone. Government will take whatever authority it’s granted, and more than that; it will take whatever authority people don’t seem to notice it is usurping.
The defense industry is part of an oligarchic matrix of corporate power that finds genuine democracy inconvenient to its purposes. It prefers to inhabit a space outside the purview of our Constitutional rights, as pesky citizens asking questions, nosing around, wanting to know what really happened, and holding wrongdoers accountable, can slow down the wheels of industrial proficiency. Nothing is more patriotic than to stand firm for the idea that corporations and industries are here to serve us, and not the other way around. Particularly at a time when our government has shown itself willing to surrender its power to the dictates of corporate profitability, it’s imperative that we the people refuse to surrender ours.
The only part of America’s war machine that should go unquestioned is the bravery of the thousands of young men and women whose lives were sacrificed at the altar of defense industry profits. I can respect the troops without respecting the dark and impenetrable defense establishment - often referred to as “the blob” - that holds such sway in Washington. Our government and the US defense industry form an unholy alliance that literally threatens the world.
The US military today is less a branch of the government and more a branch of the US defense industry. Government serves mainly to fund their donor-monster, protecting it from interference by those who might question its hegemony. Instead of standing for the democratic freedoms of free speech, free press and the right to know - which it is government’s duty to protect - the US government now stands against those freedoms in order to protect the military-industrial-complex.
That is why the US government is trying to throw Julian Assange in prison for the next 170 years. This has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s emails (which came years later), or Assange’s personality, or whether or not he is a “publisher.” Such neoliberal obfuscation passes for justification among the pseudo-sophisticated or too-scared-to-speak-up, but it’s nothing but cover for the fact that our government is intent on making sure that the US military can do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, no questions asked.
When I was growing up, the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam was a source of national shame; today it would be the source of a massive cover-up.
As is true in any authoritarian regime, an unholy alliance between our Congressional duopoly and the military industrial complex is protected by secrecy. Too often, “classified information” is simply code for “what we’d rather they not know.” The classification system was not created to protect the criminal abuse of power, however; a document can be legally labelled classified only for reasons of national security. Yet millions of documents each year are classified, making it impossible for journalists to even try to research what they reveal, much less collate information and explain it to the public. Most mainstream American journalists are little more than stenographers now, taking down notes at Pentagon briefings like good little boys and girls - no serious, substantive, inconvenient questions asked.
That is where Julian Assange comes in. What Wikileaks exposed were war crimes. Atrocities. Torture. Murders. Thousands more civilian deaths than had been reported. And in a world where such things happen far too regularly - underreported if reported on at all, kept from the light of day in order to protect the ability of the military to keep doing what it’s been doing for as long as it chooses to do it - where does the freedom of the press come in? Where does freedom of information come in? Where does freedom of speech come in? And why is our government protecting criminality on the part of the military, rather than the rights of the journalist who exposed it? Why are the New York Times and the Washington Post so quiet about this attack on the freedom of the press? Why are more people even within independent media so quiet about it? Why are any of us willing to look the other way?
You know why.
Now please do something about it. Thursday night, 7:30-10:30pm ET. Join us in making a lot of noise.