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March 10, 2012
The Dirty War on WikiLeaks
By John Pilger
Media smears suggest Swedish complicity in a Washington-driven push to
punish Julian Assange
Source: The Guardian
War by media, says current military doctrine, is as important as the
battlefield. This is because the real enemy is the public at home, whose
manipulation and deception is essential for starting an unpopular colonial
war. Like the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks on Iran and Syria
require a steady drip-effect on readers' and viewers' consciousness. This is
the essence of a propaganda that rarely speaks its name.
To the chagrin of many in authority and the media, WikiLeaks has torn down
the facade behind which rapacious western power and journalism collude.
This was an enduring taboo; the BBC could claim impartiality and expect
people to believe it. Today, war by media is increasingly understood by the
public, as is the trial by media of WikiLeaks' founder and editor Julian
Assange will soon know if the supreme court in London is to allow his appeal
against extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual
misconduct, most of which were dismissed by a senior prosecutor in
Stockholm. On bail for 16 months, tagged and effectively under house arrest,
he has been charged with nothing. His "crime" has been an epic form of
investigative journalism: revealing to millions of people the lies and
machinations of their politicians and officials and the barbarism of criminal
war conducted in their name.
For this, as the American historian William Blum points out, "dozens of
members of the American media and public officials have called for [his]
execution or assassination". If he is passed from Sweden to the US, an
orange jumpsuit, shackles and a fabricated indictment await him. And there
go all who dare challenge America.
In Britain, Assange's trial by media has been a campaign of character
assassination, often cowardly and inhuman, reeking of jealousy of the
courageous outsider, while books of perfidious hearsay have been
published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or resuscitated
on the assumption that he is too poor to sue. In Sweden this trial by media
has become, according to one observer there, "a full-on mobbing campaign
with the victim denied a voice". For more than 18 months, the salacious
Expressen, Sweden's equivalent of the Sun, has been fed the ingredients of
a smear by Stockholm police.
Expressen is the megaphone of the Swedish right, including the
Conservative party, which dominates the governing coalition. Its latest
"scoop" is an unsubstantiated story about "the great WikiLeaks war against
Sweden". On 6 March Expressen claimed, with no evidence, that WikiLeaks
was running a conspiracy against Sweden and its foreign minister Carl Bildt.
The political pique is understandable. In a 2009 US embassy cable obtained
by WikiLeaks, the Swedish elite's vaunted reputation for neutrality is
exposed as sham. (Cable title: "Sweden puts neutrality in the Dustbin of
History.") Another US diplomatic cable reveals that "the extent of [Sweden's
military and intelligence] co-operation [with NATO] is not widely known", and
unless kept secret "would open up the government to domestic criticism".
Swedish foreign policy is largely controlled by Bildt, whose obeisance to the
US goes back to his defence of the Vietnam war and includes his leading role
in George W Bush's Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He retains close
ties to Republican party extreme rightwing figures such as the disgraced
Bush spin doctor, Karl Rove. It is known that his government has "informally"
discussed Assange's future with Washington, which has made its position
clear. A secret Pentagon document describes US intelligence plans to
destroy WikiLeaks' "centre of gravity" with "threats of exposure [and]
In much of the Swedish media, proper journalistic scepticism about the
allegations against Assange is overwhelmed by a defensive jingoism, as if
the nation's honour is defiled by revelations about dodgy coppers and
politicians, a universal breed. On Swedish public TV "experts" debate not
the country's deepening militarist state and its service to NATO and
Washington, but the state of Assange's mind and his "paranoia". A headline
in Tuesday's Aftonbladet declared: "Assange's moral collapse". The article
suggests Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' alleged source, may not be sane, and
attacks Assange for not protecting Manning from himself. What was not
mentioned was that the source was anonymous, that no connection has been
demonstrated between Assange and Manning, and that Aftonbladet,
WikiLeaks' Swedish partner, had published the same leaks undeterred.
Ironically, this circus has performed under cover of some of the world's most
enlightened laws protecting journalists, which attracted Assange to Sweden
in 2010 to establish a base for WikiLeaks. Should his extradition be allowed,
and with Damocles swords of malice and a vengeful Washington hanging
over his head, who will protect him and provide the justice to which we all
have a right?