Imperialist hypocrisy marks Assange persecution 

The contrast of Western treatment and coverage of the cases of Julian Assange and Alexei Navalny typifies imperialist hypocrisy. There is a double standard in the way Washington officials and the corporate media discuss “free speech” and “freedom of the press,” or justify who they endorse and who they disparage.

WikiLeaks founder and journalist Julian Assange made his final appeal to the High Court of Justice of England and Wales (EWHC) in London against the U.S.-initiated extradition proceedings. At hearings on Feb. 20 and 21, Assange’s lawyers and advisers presented arguments to two judges. During that time, Assange’s supporters gathered outside the British courthouse to express solidarity. His spouse Stella Assange, among others, addressed the crowd.

Assange faces 17 charges under the U.S. Espionage Act. A citizen of Australia, he is the first journalist to face similar charges. He could be sentenced to 175 years in prison or worse. Assange’s defenders worry aloud that he will likely be killed if extradited to the U.S.

Reported to be in ill health, Assange was unable to attend the EWHC hearings. He remained incarcerated at Belmarsh maximum security prison in London, where he has been confined since 2019. The EWHC judges have delayed a decision, which is not expected before early March. This move is detrimental to Assange’s case, as well as to his health.

Why the imperialists hate Assange

Assange is being persecuted because through his organization, WikiLeaks, Assange was able to help release documents that exposed U.S. war crimes, particularly in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay prison. He released them to the corporate media, including establishment publications such as The Guardian in Britain, The New York Times in the U.S. and Der Spiegel in Germany.

Journalists all over the globe admire and respect Assange for showing how genuine journalism should be practiced. But exposing U.S. war crimes and human rights violations made him an enemy to U.S. imperialism.

The “Collateral Murder” video, one of the most famous WikiLeaks releases, contained rare footage filmed from a U.S. Apache helicopter that shows the U.S. helicopter crew gunning down 11 civilians in Iraq in 2007. Among those murdered by the careless slaughter was a journalist-photographer employed by Reuters.

Following the leak of the “Collateral Murder” video, the Reuters’ Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said: “What he (Assange) did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the U.S. military lied. … The U.S. knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military — they know that there [are] potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said. (The Guardian, June 14, 2020).

Why the imperialists loved Navalny

In stark contrast to Julian Assange, the late Alexei Navalny had been propped up by the Joe Biden administration and the U.S. corporate press as a pillar of “free speech.” Upon Navalny’s unexpected death in a Russian prison Feb. 16, U.S. officials and media pundits immediately cried foul and accused the Russian government of causing his death.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby prepared reporters for U.S. actions: “Whatever story the Russian government decides to tell the world, it’s clear that President Putin and his government are responsible for Mr. Navalny’s death.” (New York Times, Feb. 20) Then Washington announced 500 new sanctions against Russia a few days later.

In all their mourning and martyrdom of Navalny, neither the Biden administration nor the U.S. media bothered to mention the fact that Navalny was a xenophobic bigot who helped organize the white supremacist “Russian March” in the 2000s. Navalny collaborated with neo-Nazis in calling for the violent removal of oppressed people from Russia. In 2007, his fascist affiliations led to his expulsion from the moderate Yoblako opposition party.

Navalny was a proponent of privatization, union-busting and “free-market” capitalism, which is why he was a darling of the U.S. and other Western leaders who avoided mentioning his reactionary politics and instead portrayed Navalny as a “victim” and “political dissident.” Netflix even released a carefully crafted documentary about him in 2022.

The U.S. and the West ignored Navalny’s history as a Nazi sympathizer. Prior to the NATO-backed proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, Washington desperately needed a “hero” to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “villain,” and Navalny was the only one they could find.

U.S. officials are presenting a false narrative that portrays Navalny as a purveyor of free thought, while they seek to extradite an actual journalist for exposing their murderous war crimes.

Other examples of imperialist hypocrisy

There are thousands of actual political and class-war prisoners in the U.S. and around the world that the Biden administration and the corporate press refuse to discuss.

On Jan. 11, 2024, Chilean-American war commentator Gonzalo Lira mysteriously died at the hands of Ukrainian forces. Lira was a strong critic of the Kiev-based regime. He had been arbitrarily arrested at least twice following the Russian intervention of February 2022, and was never released after his second arrest in May 2023.

Lira’s father, Gonzalo Lira Sr., blames both the U.S. and Ukraine regimes for what happened. In an email announcing his son’s death, Lira Sr. wrote, “I cannot accept the way my son has died. He was tortured, extorted, held incommunicado for eight months and 11 days and the U.S. embassy did nothing to help my son.” (Helsinki Times, Jan. 13)

There are other examples of people who have been arrested without charge, and even assassinated in Ukraine for expressing opposition to the country’s President Volodynyr Zelensky and the U.S.-led proxy war against Russia.

Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich are another case in point. These Ukrainian brothers were wrongfully incarcerated since 2022 simply for being Communist youth leaders in Ukraine. The Kononovich brothers made an appeal to the World Federation of Democratic Youth in July 2023, which was reprinted in Workers World. In it, they declared that the Zelensky regime was planning their assassination.

U.S. politicians obsessively spew hatred against the Hamas Islamic Resistance movement, while refusing to acknowledge the genocide and war crimes being committed by the racist, Israeli government. There are nearly 3,000 Palestinian prisoners who are being held without charge, and no one from the Biden administration has mentioned a word about their wrongful detention. Since October 7, at least 10 Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli prisons. (tinyurl.com/4vj5pe7t)

Representatives of Washington have no right to talk about the conditions of prisoners in other countries. The U.S. has more prisoners than any other country in the world, even those with much larger populations. Among the workers incarcerated are political prisoners being held captive for their political convictions. Two of the most well-known U.S. political prisoners are Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier. Both Mumia and Peltier have been wrongfully incarcerated for over 40 years and suffer from severe health problems.

U.S. leaders only care about “free speech” and “freedom of the press” when it suits their narrative. Ruling-class surrogates and pro-imperialist propagandists who shed tears over Navalny’s death are the same ones who wish to silence political prisoners such as Mumia, Peltier and Assange for challenging their power and exposing their lies.

Otis Grotewohl

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Otis Grotewohl

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