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Washington prepares to sanction ‘un-sanctionable’ actors in Myanmar

The US has its sights set on Myanmar, just as conflict begins to slowly de-escalate.

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In September of this year, Myanmar instigated a programme to repatriate Rohingya Muslims, after many fled to Bangladesh during the course of the latest phase of a decades long, multifaceted conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The programme pursued by the government, has met with some opposition from local Rakhine Buddhists. However, it nevertheless represents a meaningful, however incomplete de-escalation of the conflict, which is part of a wider civil war in Myanmar, one that has raged since 1948 in what was then Burma.

As soon as the conflict started to slowly de-escalate, the US predictably withdrew material aid to Myanmar, along with issuing a threat of sanctions, in a move that confirms the underlying US modus operandi in Myanmar and South East Asia more widely.

Like with many other countries, the US has been desirous to upset the progress of Chinese and Russian economic cooperation with Myanmar. The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor seeks to integrate Myanmar into China’s One Belt–One Road network, something which would clearly enhance the relationship between Beijing and Naypyidaw. The US is all too aware of this and therefore, they have resorted to exploiting the ongoing conflict in Rakhine in an attempt to do what the US tends to do on all sides of One Belt–One Road: stir conflicts in order to delay China’s economic progress with current and future partners.

US troops in Europe and the Middle East are there to provoke China more than Russia or Iran

To hammer this point home, the US has devised a scheme to target individuals and groups allegedly responsible for violence against civilians with what amounts to individual sanctions. A spokeswoman for the US State Department has stated,

“We express our gravest concern over recent events in Rakhine State and the violent, traumatic abuses Rohingya and other communities have endured. It is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities, including non-state actors and vigilantes, be held accountable”.

This statement not only affirms Washington’s desire to effectively impose a sanctions regime on Myanmar, but it furthermore affirms the disjointed nature of the process (assuming the statement can be taken at face value).

Unlike many global conflicts which are proxy wars masquerading as civil wars, the Civil War(s) in Myanmar are genuine civil conflicts. If anything, the military is actually left with no clear options in Rakhine. One the one hand, if the military fired on one, some or all of the various armed factions, it could result in a bloodbath which would be followed by a more prolonged and wider ranging conflict. On the other hand, if the military did nothing, localised violence would ostensibly continue for the foreseeable future.

The military therefore has taken a role wherein it has attempted to target the most prominent armed factions and the success of this method has been mixed, although in recent weeks, things have in fact, improved.

Beyond this, it is not clear which individuals the US would sanction? Would it be an impoverished Buddhist armed with torches of fire and daggers? Would it be a Rohingya militant with a ramshackle machine gun and 10 loyal followers? In a conflict fought by anonymous, local and in many cases crudely armed individuals, methods such as sanctions simply don’t work. Even if such individuals could be identified, they are sanction-proof because of their poverty.

Thus, the only logical conclusion to such American schemes would either be an admission that they simply cannot be implemented, or otherwise, Washington will simply sanction Myanmar’s military leaders, effectively blaming them for the carnage caused by ‘un-sanctionable’ locals.

Given Washington’s appetite for sanctions, particularly when it comes to a country pivoting ever closer to China and Russia, the answer is self-evident. The unthinking narrative on the Rohingya crisis, has indeed been one where the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) and/or State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi are uniformly blamed for all of the ills in Rakhine and elsewhere in the country.

This narrative is as false as it is simplistic. The Tatmadaw and Aung San Suu Kyi are by no means heroes, but nor are they villains. If anything, they are guilty of not being able to clearly communicate the genuinely complex nature of the conflict, one which differs considerably from the straightforward  Syrian conflict where a secular, modern, tolerant government is at war with a myriad of savage jihadist groups and in the case of certain Kurdish factions, heavily armed ethno-nationalists with ties to Syria’s long-time state enemies.

Furthermore, the Tatmadaw and Aung San Suu Kyi are guilty of not being able to come up with a concrete plan to end the complex web of violence. To be fair though, no other international body has been able to come up with a plan either and judging by the remarks from the US State Department, Washington doesn’t even understand the nature of the conflict. The US merely understands that there is a burgeoning Chinese and Russian economic partner in the midst of conflicts that are ripe for exploitation.

Below are my earlier remarks on the nature of the conflict, reproduced in full: 

Understanding the Myanmar/Rohingya conflict is best achieved through understanding international non-alignment

It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war and while the Civil War in Myanmar (formerly Burma) has raged since 1948, recent flare ups of the conflict have given rise to the death of truths that pertain both to Myanmar specifically and to countries in Myanmar’s geo-political position more broadly. This is especially true of the present phase of the so-called Rohingya conflict.

In order to understand Myanmar’s present geo-political position and how various disinformation campaigns were inevitable in this context, it is first necessary to understand the prevailing narratives, many of which are mutually exclusive to one another.

  1. The Persecution of Muslims

Over the last four decades and since 9/11 in particular, many observers (irrespective of their faith or background) have come to feel that Muslims are being aggressively targeted the world over. According to this narrative, numerous acts of injustice against Muslims, often at the hands of the same actors, have led to an aggregate reality in which Muslims are brutally victimised throughout the world.

This theory when applied to the world as a whole is often true, although there are exceptions as there would be to any overly broad theory.

In Yugoslavia for example, extremist Sunni Muslims (among Bosnians and ethnic Albanians) as well as extremist Roman Catholics (primarily Croats) aggressively turned a political struggle to preserve secular Yugoslav statehood into a sectarian war of aggression against Orthodox Serbs.

In many ways however, Yugoslavia is an exception that has proved the rule, both in terms of factual realties and in terms of perception.

Far from this being a ‘Zionist conspiracy’, this is a phenomenon that Israeli leaders have openly exploited by their own admission. In 2008, Benjamin Netanyahu was reported as saying, “We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq”.

He went on to say that the aforementioned events helped sway public opinion in Israel’s direction. While Netanyahu’s thesis is certainly true in respect of the feelings of many in the west, the opposite is equally true. Many people in the west have inversely come to resent Israel for its callous exploitation of events, even while remaining unmoved by the Palestinian cause.

In this sense, it is easy to see why many feel that the Rohingya conflict is part of a wider neo-imperialist war against Muslims. This is a sentiment which for totally different reasons has been exploited both by those whose sympathies lie with Muslims and those whose sympathies lie with anyone but Muslims.

  1. The US backed Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to power and therefore she is a tyrant

Like the previous narrative, this theory, if one had to rely on precedent alone, would be a safe bet. The US has a history of backing objectively tyrannical leaders from Pinochet in 1973 to the present regimes in Saudi Arabia and Ukraine (post 2014 coup). These are but a few such examples of America backing tyrannical regimes.

However, America’s precedent for backing dangerous regimes does not automatically make this the case in respect of present day Myanmar, as shall be explained subsequently.

  1. A pro-China/pro-Russia regime is fighting ‘backward Muslims’

This narrative is not only the most deceptive, but it is the most dangerous. By all accounts, China and Russia have better relations with Muslim countries than most western powers could hope for. Russia has a substantial Muslim minority who are generally patriotic members of society whose faith is respected and cherished by the Russian state.

China’s alliance with Pakistan, its growing ties with Turkey and its good relations with Iran and the Arab world are proof positive that China, like Russia, does not for a moment share the western vendetta against certain Muslim societies. By the same token, both countries have good relations with non-Muslim countries. This is just an obvious reality of the pragmatic and realistic approach of Russian diplomacy and the non-ideological nature of Chinese commercial and geo-strategic interests.

  1. Innocent Buddhists are defending themselves from ISIS style militant Muslims

This narrative is not only simplistic, but is related to the view which is alternatively ‘alt-right’ or ‘Zionist’ which seeks to claim that in any conflict, Muslims, no matter who they are, are to blame. In the context of Myanmar, it is overly simplistic and if taken seriously, could only add fuel to a long  burning fire.

The realities:

In reality, the Rohingya conflict is part of a Civil War which began in 1948 as a legacy of the colonial map of what was then called Burma. This deeply flawed map was drawn by the British imperialists. Many Asian conflicts including the Jammu and Kashmir conflict, Sino-Indian border disputes, Afghan-Pakistan border disputes and the border disputes between Indonesia and Malaysia, can all trace their origin back to primarily British drawn colonial maps.

The conflicts in Myanmar are no different. It is also the case that in respect of the Rohingya conflict, there are armed factions on all sides and there are innocent civilians who have been dying for years over the course of the on and off conflicts, on all sides.

Geo-political expert Andrew Korbyko has introduced the nature of the conflict in the following way,

“The immediate post-independence period in Myanmar, called Burma until 1989, saw the many ethno-religious minorities of the country’s resource-rich periphery rebel against the central authorities in favor of federalization or, as the Rohingyas wanted, unification with the neighboring state that they more closely identified with (East Pakistan, but Bangladesh since 1971), thereby setting off the world’s longest-running and still-unresolved civil war.

Pertaining to Rakhine State, this conflict has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades, most recently climaxing in 2012, 2015 and just recently this summer, with the latest three escalations seeing reprisal violence by some of the hyper-nationalist Buddhist majority against the minority Muslim population. In response, the more impoverished Rohingya, who don’t have citizenship rights because most of them don’t qualify for such under the country’s pertinent laws, had little to leave behind in Rakhine State and would flee en mass to Bangladesh for safety.

It’s worthwhile here to point out that the Myanmarese military, known as the Tatmadaw, claims that its operations in their locales are triggered by the deadly attacks that Rohingya rebels — seen as terrorists by Naypyidaw and accused of having links to al-Qaeda and other such notorious groups — carried out against them and Buddhist villagers. The fog of war is such that civilians are obviously getting killed as a result, but it’s unclear whether this constitutes genocide, or who’s actually behind it all”.

Korbyko has further proffered possible solutions to the conflict in the following piece. My own view is that a cohesive model of deep and broad federalisation is the best resolution to the present conflict.

But while this explains the background and present realities of the conflict in Myanmar, it is equally important to understand why so many are susceptible to falling for the various false or simplistic narratives about the conflict which in no way correspond to the reality.

Much of the misunderstanding comes from a simplistic view of geo-strategic alliances shaped by an understanding of the Soviet Union’s relationship to fellow Warsaw Pact members, as well as America’s present relationship to its most subservient NATO dependants.

Instead, to better grasp the conflict in Myanmar, one ought to examine the history of Non-Aligned countries, both as it pertains to members of the Non-Aligned Movement of which Burma (as Myanmar was then known) was a founding member,  as well as among those who de-facto exercise a non-aligned geo-political position.

Non-Aligned Countries were/are technically neutral in respect of relations between leaders of the large geo-political blocs. During the Cold War, this meant neutrality in respect of the US bloc, Soviet Bloc and Chinese Bloc.

While the Non-Aligned Movement as an official bloc has less relevance than it did during the Cold War, the nature of being non-aligned is vastly more important than it has ever been in modern history. This is due to the fact that as old blocs and empires collapse, many nations find themselves in a de-facto non-aligned position.

 In this sense, attaining influence in a non-aligned nation is a kind of golden ticket for the super-powers and their client states.

But while many see the clearly advantageous position that super-powers have in attempting to woo, bribe or blackmail partnerships with non-aligned nations, analysts frequently ignore that the non-aligned states themselves are also looking to capitalise on opportunities by exploiting the potential and actual partnerships that all super-powers generally present to non-aligned nations over time. This is indeed one of the clearly implied advantages of being non-aligned.

In 1956 for example, the old/dying empires of France and Britain along with the neo-colonial Israeli power invaded Nasser’s Egypt. Here, both the USSR and USA told the invaders to withdraw as both were eager to compete for influence in Egypt. For the rest of the Cold War, Egypt maintained normal relations with both the US and USSR. In the 1960s and 1970s for example, Egypt was generally closer to the USSR while in the 1980s and 1990s, Egypt was closer to the US. Today, Egypt while maintaining good ties to both Moscow and Washington, appears to be slowly pivoting closer to Russia.

Like Egypt, Indonesia co-founded the Non-Aligned Movement and remains a member to this day. When Indonesia joined, it was ruled by the staunchly anti-imperialist President Suharto. Suharto was wooed equally by China, the Soviet Union and the United States, in spite of his left-wing ideology. In 1956, Suharto famously visited the United States and Soviet Union within a short period.

In 1965, the increasingly left-leaning Suharto was overthrown by Muhammad Suharto who embarked on an intense period of cooperation with the United States. However, during this period Indonesia still remained stridently non-aligned, a position it retains to this day even after normalisation following the resignation of Suharto in 1999.

While Philippines was not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement until 1993, President Ferdinand Marcos was also skilled at making sure her personally got much of what we wanted from the United States in return for guarantees that the US would retain its presence in Philippines. Marcos, for all his faults, was as skilled at manipulating the US as the US was at manipulating him. His dramatic fall from power owed much to the fact that the US became worried about his increasingly confident position. Marcos in this sense is an example of how great powers can discard a leader who has outlived his political usefulness, but usually not before various concessions are made on both sides.

India was an important co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement, but was considered by many to be something of a de-facto part of the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. In spite of this, India maintained relations with the US, which overtime had mixed results.

India’s long time Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was once described by Richard Nixon as someone who was “suckering us”. That is certainly one way to describe the nature of the mutual-opportunism which underlies non-aligned relations. In reality, Nixon understood the non-aligned movement better than any other US President. The fact that under Nixon, the US attempted and in many cases succeeded in extending its influence in non-aligned countries, is a testament to the fact that Nixon was as knowledgeable about the situation implicit in non-alignment, as he was doubtlessly ruthless in his exploitation of these realities.

India’s present day pivot towards the US as an attempt to gain economic/geo-strategic leverage against China, is a legacy of non-alignment. The fact that India continues to offer warm words towards Russia while threatening Russia’s partners China and Pakistan, is proof positive that non-aligned politics is not a game of choosing sides but a game of attempting to extract advantage from all sides whenever possible. Some do it better than others it must be said and in the case of India, Prime Minsiter Modi is an example of someone overplaying his hand.

Iraq which joined the Non-Aligned Movement upon the bloc’s inception in 1961, had an even more colourful relationship with various international blocs. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ba’athist Iraq was a Soviet ally while maintaining generally acceptable relations with the west.

In the 1980s, while Baghdad retained ties to Moscow, it became increasingly close to the United States and its European allies, all of whom encouraged and handsomely armed Saddam Hussein’s war against Iran (another non-aligned member state beginning in 1979).

In 1990, the US turned against Saddam and maintained an anti-Iraq stance which lasted until the US/UK invasion of the country in 2003.

In his expert analysis, Andrew Korybro warns that Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Councillor of Myanmar, might become a “South East Asian Saddam”. He is of course referring to the fact that she may violently fall from the graces of the US and wider US controlled west if Washington feels it can attain a specific advantage in doing so.

Extrapolating the Iraq analogy further, one could easily say that the Rohingya might become a South East Asian equivalent of the Kurds.

In Iraq, the US was happy to back Saddam Hussein’s Iraq against Iran. Paradoxically, shortly after that war ended, one of the justifications the US employed for the first Gulf War was Saddam Hussein’s treatment of the Kurds.

In 1988, during the course of the Iran-Iraq War, Iraqi planes dropped chemical weapons on Kurdish militants in the city of Halabja. There is no doubt that innocent civilians did perish in the attack, but what is often untold in pro-American academia and media is that Kurdish militants actively fought against Iraqi during the course of the war with Iran, in a calculated move to attempt to take advantage of Iraq’s distraction with Iran in order to engage in acts of illegal separatism.

By the late 1990s, Saddam Hussein made many concessions to Kurds in northern Iraq, so much so that they were enjoyed large amounts of autonomy long before the 2003 US/UK invasion.

Today, the US has expressed a desire to delay a Kurdish independence referendum in northern Iraq because of US vested interests in post-2003 Iraq. By contrast, the US was all too happy to covertly back Kurdish separatism against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and early 2000s.

At the same time, the US has often been weary and consequently inconstant in respect of backing Kurdish independence for fear of angering a fellow NATO ally Turkey. Now that Turkey is moving closer to Russia, China and Iran, America is backing the Kurds most strongly in Syria, a country in which America has no chance of gaining vested interests, except for in Kurdish regions. For similar reasons, the US also looks with intrigue towards Kurdish separatists in Iran.

It must also be said that the Kurds maintained good relations to both the Soviet Union and Israel at a time when the two countries were generally at odds. In this sense, Aung San Suu Kyi is as much the new Saddam as the Rohingya are the new Kurds.

The similarities are vast between the Kurdish issue in the Middle East and the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar are vast and telling, in terms of attempting to foresee a possible outcome.

In both cases, a semi-stateless group that has historic connections to the region are engaged in a conflict with the government as well as local non-Muslims. Throughout all of this, all sides are armed against one another and sadly, civilians are being killed on all sides, something which is not a new phenomenon in Myanmar nor in the Middle East.

The Rohingya seek autonomy and in some cases a form of separatism, something that the central government finds unacceptable as is generally the case with most governments.

Into this cauldron of violence with historical antecedents that are often dangerously brushed over, observers on all ideological sides are growing increasingly angry, distraught and confused.

The confusion stems not only from the complexities of Myanmar’s internal situation, but from something much simpler. Non-aligned states can quickly turn from heroes to villains in the eyes of an agenda driven press (both mainstream and alternative) depending on who such states are leaning towards at any given moment.

Right now, Myanmar is caught in a web which sees China and Russia on one side who offer economic opportunity and neutral but non-antagonistic political guidance, India which seeks to exploit a pro-government agenda/narrative in order to attain economic advantage over China and to a lesser degree Russia and finally there is the west, observing the entire thing while waiting to see whether it is in the west’s interest to describe the Rohingya crisis as an ethnic cleansing, a Muslim insurgency or what former UK Prime Minister Harold MacMillan may well have called “a little local difficulty”.

The US is now officially trying to exploit the local difficultly, just as it is on the verge of an uneasy de-escalation. Everything is not right, yet for the US, everything is going according to plan.

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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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