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Julian Assange & the empire of illusions

By Adam Henry - posted Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Since 1945, the US has overthrown governments, funded wars, corrupted the media, manipulated politics, invaded sovereign nations, supported torturers, death squads and dictators. This has all been done, as we are repeatedly told, in the defence of freedom and democracy. This is the crusading role that conservative and liberal American political elites all believe the US, and the US alone, has been chosen to undertake. For the United States itself is a shared faith, it is the religion of exceptionalism , for which US conservatives and liberals kill, maim, destroy and devastate cloaked in the rhetoric of noble intent. Noble intentions wash away the blood and tears of the displaced, impoverished, and the dead. There are no American war criminals.

The policies of the US government have killed millions directly and indirectly through its violence or economic measures since 1945. The most hawkish of all US elites are now corporate democrats, who have quickly forgotten Afghanistan or Iraq, and clamor for war against Russia or China. For the true believers of US hegemony, particularly those that embrace the rhetoric of US exceptionalism, they burn with a fundamentalist faith. Unlike other western nations, the US nation-state is more like a civic religion. Only the United States represents the true and final revelation of human history. Only the United States is truly free, only the United States can decide what is truly moral and just. The US government is always committed to kill for their faith, and for others to perish. They can sacrifice almost any number of foreigners to safeguard the cult of US exceptionalism.

The international rules-based system is not difficult to understand. The rules apply to others, not Americans. International laws do not bind the US government, or its corporations, as they would other nations. The US presumes the right to dominate the global system, all of it, everywhere and anywhere. There are indeed many rotten countries in the world, places full of corruption, cruelty and injustice. Most often, they are allied with the US and Washington is committed to their infinite protection. An endless conveyor belt of arms and US money known as foreign aid will be funneled to gangsters and criminals of all stripes.  These nations can do as they please, so long as they do not challenge US power. Those that are not allied, the US aims to overthrow or destroy. Despite all of this, the US government remains steadfast in its desire to lecture the world about morality, justice and freedom. There is no nation-state more committed to self-delusion than the United States. The historic gaffe recently made by former President George Bush junior, while condemning Vladimir Putin, being an obvious example. The gulf between American rhetoric and its actions are gargantuan.


In terms of its core rhetorical values, such as freedom of the press, or free speech, the US pursuit of Julian Assange should end all illusions about American liberalism . In response to exposing misdeeds, financial and political corruption, war crimes, how the CIA spies on the world with support from corporations, or the way the US conducted its immoral wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Assange has been destroyed in body and spirit. This has not been any fair or transparent attack, all means have been used to deny Assange any semblance of justice, procedural or natural. Kidnapping and even assassination were considered. In carrying out this operation against Assange, the Americans have been supported by other governments such as Sweden, Ecuador and crucially the UK. With this support from London, the US desires a new and historical precedent, namely the extradition of a foreign national, a publisher/journalist no less, to the United States to face charges of espionage. Assange is an Australian citizen, who was living and working in the UK. The US will have the ability to prosecute any journalist, anywhere in the world, who writes, or publishes anything damaging to the US state. To this point, Australian politicians and officials have stood by dutifully in almost abject silence about Assange. There have been a few notable exceptions. When the Australian government has spoken, it has meekly indicated its faith in the fairness of Assange’s treatment. UN experts have stated that Assange has been subjected to inhuman conditions and psychological torture.  With the election of a new Labor government in Australia on 21 May 2022, there are some signs that Australia might do something for Assange. However, actions will speak louder than words. It is now or never.

In all the debate about Assange, one simple fact is overlooked, no one attacks the accuracy of what Wikileaks has published, no one suggests these documents are not real, they are real. In the interests of transparency and conscience, numerous people have bravely provided information to Wikileaks. Wikileaks have given up not one source. Major newspapers such as the New York Times and the Guardian benefited greatly from Wikileaks before ruthlessly turning on Assange. They mocked his fears of US extradition and US government manipulations. They were wrong.

The world revealed by Wikileaks is an ugly world, of corruption, lies, deception, criminality, and manipulations. We are not supposed to see this world. In essence, Assange is being punished by the US government to send a message, namely, the US deep state will not tolerate being embarrassed. It is also a lesson in US exceptionalism. The fate of Assange is irrelevant, the right of the US to pursue any or all means to secure its objectives is paramount. The protection of US exceptionalism is therefore a noble and just cause, there can be no limits on its reach. This is more important than the life of Assange, journalism or freedom of expression. To protect US exceptionalism in its totality, it matters not if Assange commits suicide, or dies in prison, it matters not that the very principles of journalistic freedom will be trashed, the god of US exceptionalism must be placated. For those who have stood by in silence, or those in the media who used Assange only to later throw him to the wolves, one day they might be next. Other nations will follow the US precedent, and no journalist, blogger, or media outlet, will ever be safe again. In using all means to destroy Assange, the US has revealed itself. The consequences of its vengeance will reverberate, and like emerging from a dream, we must reconnect with reality. As shown by its actions against Assange, we now see the US government in its true form, an empire of illusions.


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About the Author

Adam Hughes Henry is the author of three books, Independent Nation - Australia, the British Empire and the Origins of Australian-Indonesian Relations (2010), The Gatekeepers of Australian Foreign Policy 1950–1966 (2015) and Reflections on War, Diplomacy, Human Rights and Liberalism: Blind Spots (2020). He was a Visiting Fellow in Human Rights, University of London (2016) and a Whitlam Research Fellow, Western Sydney University (2019). He is currently an Associate Editor for The International Journal of Human Rights (Taylor and Francis).

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